Connect to share and comment

Women mourn loss of enigmatic Shiite cleric

Ayatollah Fadlallah both supported women's rights and inspired militant groups.

Some young men along the procession were waving a Hezbollah flag. They said Khamenei was their marja but had come because they respected Fadlallah’s religious teachings.

Among the white turbans of clerics, which floated like froth on the black sea of mourners, were ones with red centers, which indicates a Sunni sheikh.

“Fadlallah was a source of emulation for all Muslims,” said one.

As the last prayer notes fell from the minaret, the thousands of mourners dissipated into the streets of Southern Beirut. The billboards of his image will eventually be taken down, replaced by advertisements or the oft-seen posters of martyrs in the war with Israel.

Assessing the legacy of this multi-faceted figure — the war-supporting preacher of tolerance, who spent years in seminaries and told people to work out their own arrangement with God, who supported Khomeini but questioned the theological underpinnings of the Islamic Republic — will never be easy.

But Ali Mohtadi offered an epitaph. “He believed,” he said, “that we have to say new things.”