Grand Ayatollah Yusuf Saanei (b. 1937, Neekabad, Isfahan Province, Iran) is a prominent cleric, considered as the spiritual leader of the Iranian opposition. Hewas born to a clerical family and entered the Isfahan Seminary in 1946 and the Qom Seminary in 1951. He joined the circle of the Ayatollah Khomeini's pupils in the same year. Ayatollah Saanei also attended the courses given by such illustrious seminarians as Grand Ayatollah Boroujerdi, Grand Ayatollah Mohaqeq Damad and Grand Ayatollah Araki. Sheikh Saanei at the age of 22 reached to the rank of Ijtehad (the authority to judge independently in matters related to religious affairs) in 1959. In 1975 he began his formal career as a lecturer in divinity.