(CNSNews.com) – Tuesday was a day of mourning in Lebanon for Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah, a senior Shi’ite cleric who was sometimes described as Hezbollah’s spiritual mentor.
The 74-year-old, a harsh critic of U.S. policies in the Middle East, died in a Beirut hospital on Sunday.
Hezbollah said in a statement the death of a scholar like Fadlallah left “a void in Islam that nothing can fill.”
“Grand Ayatollah Fadlallah stood in face of the Zionist enemy as he audaciously supported the Resistance and the heroic Mujahideen, as the world witnessed his defiance and resistance to the occupation and its criminal actions and the price he paid for his stances as he expressed his rejection to the conspiracies of arrogant states,” it said.
Born in Najaf, a Shi’ite holy city in Iraq, Fadlallah moved to Lebanon in the 1950s and became that country’s most important Shi’ite leader.
After the Iranian revolution in 1979, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) helped to set up Hezbollah in Lebanon in the early 1980s. Suicide bombings attributed to Hezbollah targeted U.S. and French troops in 1983, killing 362 people, including 220 U.S. Marines.
In 1985, a massive car bomb exploded near Fadlallah’s house in the Lebanese capital. Although he escaped unscathed, more than 80 people were killed. Fadlallah initially blamed Israel and its “internal allies,” and later the CIA, for what was assumed to be an assassination attempt.
During Israel’s month-long war with Hezbollah in 2006, Israeli planes bombed Fadlallah’s house, although he was not there at the time.
While in Lebanon to monitor parliamentary elections, former President Carter met with Fadlallah last June.
On Monday, messages of condolence poured in from around the Islamic world.
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri said the country “has lost a great national and spiritual authority,” while Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei praised Fadlallah for his sponsorship of Hezbollah and his loyalty to the Islamic Republic.
Hamas’ Damascus-based leader Khaled Meshaal sent the family a letter called Fadlallah “one of the greatest symbols and scholars defending the choice of resistance and jihad against the occupation, in support of the Palestinian strife and our people’s right to freedom, liberty and liberation.”
“With his death, the Islamic nation loses one of the most prominent Islamic figures, who played a great role in supporting the Islamic solidarity,” the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) said in a statement.