The head of the office of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Hojjatoleslam Mohammad Mohammadi Golpeygani, has said that Iraq would have fallen into the hands of Islamic State had it not been for a fatwa issued by Ayatollah Ali Sistani, Iraq's highest-ranking Shi'ite cleric, calling on Shi'as to fight.
In June, Sistani issued the fatwa, which was aimed at mobilizing Iraqi Shi'as against the Sunni-led Islamic State, amid fears that Islamic State jihadis would destroy Shi'ite shrines in Iraq.
Golpeygani said that the fatwa, together with the “zeal and devotion” of Shi'as, had prevented Iraq from falling to Islamic State militants.
Golpeygani slammed Islamic State’s extremism and said that the group were "Kharijites" -- a term used to refer to a sect of Muslims who rejected the succession of the Caliph Ali ibn Abi Talib. In particular, the Kharijites were reputed to declare other Muslims to be unbelievers and to therefore deserve the death penalty.
Sunni opponents of Islamic State, notably some Jabhat al-Nusra members, have accused the group of being Kharijites.
In September, Islamic satellite channels, including some in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, aired an awareness campaign titled "ISIS: The Ignorance of the Kharijites and Penetrating the Intelligence," which warned of “extremist ideology and Kharijite beliefs in particular."
-- Joanna Paraszczuk