In Lebanon, Imam Mousa al-Sadr represented a distinct phenomenon in its religious and cultural giving, as well as its political and social dimensions.
He reportedly spared no effort in defending Lebanon’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and advocating its national issues. In this regard, he had honorable positions that the history of Lebanon records with pride.
Who is Mousa al-Sadr?
Imam Mousa al-Sadr, son of the Grand Ayatollah Sadr al-Din, was one of the scholars in the Jabal Amel region in southern Lebanon.
His great-great-grandfather S. Salih b. Muhammad Sharafeddin was a Lebanese high-ranking cleric from the Chehour village near Tyre, who had to flee the country after an eventful anti-Ottoman uprising.
Mousa al-Sadr was born in the Iranian city of Qom in 1928 and completed his primary and intermediate studies there.
He then studied Islamic sciences and jurisprudence while also studying law at Tehran University, where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in economic rights.
Relocating to Lebanon
After the death of Ayatollah Sharaf al-Din, the supreme Shiite authority in Lebanon, on December 30, 1957, the Shiites of Lebanon sent an invitation to Mousa al-Sadr, asking him to come to Lebanon to handle their sect matters.
He hence traveled to Lebanon in 1959 and settled in the city of Tyre where he started delivering Islamic orientations and providing social services.
Establishment Of The Supreme Islamic Shiite Council
From Tyre, he started a comprehensive movement against poverty in the villages of Jabal Amel, Baalbek, and Hermel.
He also participated in social revivals and charitable initiatives such as helping humanitarian institutions and cultural organizations.
He revived the “Al-Bir wal-Ihsan” association, which had been founded during the days of the late Sharaf Al-Din, and put in place new programs and a new system for it.
He also sought to form a special council for the Shiites.
Representatives of the Shiites in the Lebanese parliament submitted a legal regulation to the parliament to allow Shiites to establish a council called the Supreme Shiite Islamic Council. The Lebanese Parliament and the then-President ratified it on May 16, 1967.
On May 23, 1969, Imam Mousa al-Sadr was elected head of the Supreme Islamic Shiite Council.
Establishment Of The Lebanese Resistance Regiments (Amal Movement)
On January 20, 1975, on the occasion of Ashura, Mousa al-Sadr gave a speech in which he called on the Lebanese people to form teams of military resistance to confront the Zionist enemy.
He stated in this speech: “Defending the homeland is not only the duty of the government, but it is the duty of all the people, and everyone must defend their country, land, and homes.”
In a press conference held on 6/7/1975, he announced the birth of an armed group called the “Lebanese Resistance Regiments”, now called the Amal Movement, in Lebanon.
His Disappearance In Libya
In 1978, Mousa al-Sadr announced: “I will go to Libya to meet Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, the head of the Libyan government.” His visit to Libya was reportedly by invitation from Muammar Gaddafi.
On 25 August 1978, he left for Tripoli (Lybia) with two companions.
However, the Libyan media did not publish the news of his arrival in Lybia, nor the days that he stayed there, nor did they mention any reference to his meeting with Colonel Gaddafi or the rest of the Libyan officials.
Al-Sadr used to reportedly call his family and the Supreme Islamic Shiite Council on every trip but there was no contact from him during his visit to Lybia, which was unusual.
His communication with his family and the council was suddenly cut off. The Imam and his travel companions were reportedly seen for the last time on August 31, 1978, in Libya.
The Libyan government then made an official announcement, saying that the Lebanese Shiite leader had left Libyan territory with his two companions on an Italian plane that headed from west Tripoli (Libya) to Italy on the night of August 31, 1978.
The bags of Imam Mousa al-Sadr and Sheikh Muhammad Yaqoub were reportedly found at the Holiday Inn Hotel in Rome.
However, after comprehensive investigations supervised by the Assistant Public Prosecutor in Italy, the Italian judiciary found that Imam al-Sadr and his traveling companions did not enter Italian territory at all.
Investigations led to the conclusion that Mousa al-Sadr and his companions never left the Libyan borders.
This was announced by the Public Prosecutor of the Court of Appeal in Rome on 12/6/1979.
For decades, his family and community have struggled to know his whereabouts; his family even visited Pope Francis in the Vatican in 2019 seeking his help in following up with the case.
There have been books written about the “vanished Imam” and many speculations surrounding his disappearance, including him being imprisoned in a Lybian jail, which has kept the hope of his community and family alive.
The disappearance of Imam Mousa al-Sadr remains a total mystery to date.