During decades of turmoil, war, and regime change in Iraq, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has played a critical, often overlooked role—steering Iraq away from sectarian conflict, promoting civic democracy over direct theocracy, and quietly seeking to calm regional tensions.

On this episode of Order from Ashes, Century International fellow Sajad Jiyad explains how Sistani has appealed to a majority of the world’s millions of Shia Muslims with his indirect model of clerical authority, a stark contrast to the competing model of direct clerical rule advanced by his compatriots in Iran.

Jiyad has published a new political biography, God’s Man in Iraq: The Life and Leadership of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, which offers the first comprehensive account of Sistani’s legacy and draws on original sources and hundreds of interviews during decades of fieldwork inside Iraq.

Observers of Iraq and of Shia power will find God’s Man in Iraq an incomparable appraisal of Sistani’s legacy—and an invaluable guide to the perilous transition that will follow his tenure.

You can learn more and order copies on the book’s homepage. God’s Man in Iraq is also available in Arabic.



  • Sajad Jiyad, fellow, Century International
  • Thanassis Cambanis, director, Century International