Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani’s prime influence comes from his status as Shi’ism’s leading marjah al-taqlid. Born in Mashad, Iran, the young Ali began studying the Koran as a youthful prodigy at the age of five. Sistani was said to be of the “quietist” school of Islamic tradition. The Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani is undoubtedly now the most powerful man in Iraq. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani Biography and Profile.