Sources close to Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani's Office in Iran say the Iraqi-Iranian Shiite religious leader has donated at least $1.5 million for the treatment of COVID-19 patients in Iran, particularly in Qom.
According to the government news agency IRNA, the Office of Grand Ayatollah Sistani in Qom said the money has been used to procure medical equipment required for the treatment of corornavirus patients. The equipment was delivered to the Iranian Health Ministry and coronavirus patients, the report said without further details but added that more aid is to be provided soon to Iranians to battle COVID-19.
Grand Ayatollah Sistani's office in Qom is responsible for receiving the religious duties – or religious taxes -- paid by his Iranian followers. The monies paid by the devout are used for running charities, building hospitals and mosques, giving financial support to families in need as well as funding seminaries and seminary students' education.
The Office of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani is currently building a hospital in Qom which will be the city's biggest and best-equipped when completed. The first phase of the hospital is scheduled to be completed in 18 months. The hospital called Noor (Light) Hospital will have 350 beds with an ultra-specialized cancer center benefiting from nuclear medicine technology, the IRNA report said.
The 90-year-old Sistani (Al-Sistani in Arabic) who is one of the highest religious authorities in the Shiite world was born in Mashhad in northwest Iran and studied in Qom. In 1952 he traveled to Iraq to study in Najaf at the age of thirty-one where he has remained to this day.
In March 2019 Sistani granted a rare audience to the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. He had refused to meet with Rouhani's predecessor, hard-line Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, during his 2008 visit to Iraq.
Grand Ayatollah Sistani is also known to have refused to receive an envoy of the Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.