Al-Maliki was born in 1950 in Twaireej, south of Baghdad for a religious Shia Muslim father. The father was a prominent poet and one of the participants in the 1920 revolution gainst the British rule. His father became a minister for a short time in 1925.
Al-Maliki joined the underground al-Dawa al-Islamiya Party in 1970. In 1973 he earned his degree in Islamic Studies from Usul al-Din College in Baghdad. Dawa Party stepped up its operations inside Iraq in late 1970s. The Iraqi authorities launched an arrest campaign against the party's members. Al-Maliki fled the country in 1979 shortly before he was sentenced to death in absentia.
Until the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, al-Maliki spent his years between Syria and Iran. His first breakthrough into the world of politics was in 1989, when he left Iran to Syria and became the Syrian Branch of Dawa party.
he returned to Iraq in 2003 after the removal of Saddam Hussein. He was a senior advisor to the Dawa secretary-general Ibrahim al-Jaafari.
Opponents from within and outside UIA criticised al-Jaafari positions but he refused to give up his claim for a second term, until UIA suggested Dawa Party's second man Nouri al-Maliki as a compromise solution.
Al-Maliki assumed power just months after the bombing of al-Askari Shrine in Samara. Shia parties and militias launched a cleansing campaign against thier fewllo Sunni, who they considered to be responsible for the bombing. Al-Maliki was accused of tolerating Shia militias -especially al-Sadr militia- attacks on Sunni.
On the other side, al-Qaeda attacks on Iraqi and US forces in Iraq started to get stronger, blodier and more devastating. A Sunni tribal militia known al-Sahwa (the Awakening) emerged to drive al-Qaeda from Sunni areas. It succeeded in bring al-Qaeda's influence and strength down.
At this point al-Maliki turned to fight Shia militias. A massive arrest campaign against al-Sadr militia was launched and Muqtada al-Sadr, the militia leader fled the country.
Security situation started improving. Al-Maliki launched a massive public relation campaign to strengthen his popularity among tribal leaders.
Security did not stay for long though, massive and organised attacks returned to hit Baghdad in August 2009. Several government departments were hit after that date wiping out al-Maliki's security gains.
Al-Maliki raised the slogan of national reconciliation shortly after he assumed power.
Very little has been done in this regard and up to this day, there is no national reconciliation initiative announced officially.
But al-Maliki stresses that he managed to remove the sevctarian effect from Iraqi government and society, and regard that a major breakthrough in the way to the national reconsiliation.
In an interview with the Egyptian daily al-Ahram on December 19, 2009, he said: "I feel proud that I managed to reveal the ugly face of sectarianism. I made every Iraqi feels ashamed when he sectarianism is mentioned."
But al-Maliki's opponents label him as "sectarian". Adnan al-Dulaimi, an Iraqi politician had often accused al-Maliki of being sectarian and dictatorial.
He said: "He is a sectarian person. He wants to exclude any party does not work according to his own agenda."
Several US senators expressed concerns over al-Maliki's 'sectarianism'. The then Democrat senator Hilary Clinton urged the Iraqi parliament to fine a "less divisive and more unifying" person than al-Maliki.
One of al-Maliki's electoral campaign slogans is the end of quota system, which Iraqis see as the main instigator for sectarianism in Iraq.
The reconstruction of Iraq is just another issue where al-Maliki and his opponents fall in sharp disagreement. Al-Maliki's opponents say the government has done very little for reconstructing the country. On the ground, there is a lot of resentment over the lack or poor basic services.
But Al-Maliki consider his battle to restore law and order was more crucial for the country. In
After forming a new government, his task will be to curb growing sectarian violence and rein in the Shia militias that have been accused of infiltrating Iraq's interior ministry and operating unchecked under Jaafari.
Al-Maliki will also have to tackle Iraq's largely Sunni-based insurgency as well as take steps to pull the country out of economic crisis.
The Dawa party, founded in the 1950s, is the oldest of Iraq's Shia political parties and took up arms against former president Saddam Hussein in the late 1970s.
When Saddam initiated a crackdown, al-Maliki fled to Iran in 1980.
Al-Maliki has a Baghdad University master's degree in Arabic and served as an education official in his hometown of Hilla, 120km south of the capital.
From 2003-2004 under the US occupation, Maliki served on a de-Baathification committee to rid the country's government and civil service of Saddam supporters.
However, the committee quickly earned the reputation of being overzealous and it purged thousands of people who had only joined Saddam's Baath party in order to climb up the career ladder.
In April 2004, the then top US official in Iraq Paul Bremer conceded the de-Baathification committee had overstepped its boundaries and moved to install teachers and military veterans to their old jobs.
Al-Maliki has been vocal in condemning attacks on Iraq's Shia majority population and served in parliament's security committee. He was an architect of tough counter-terrorism legislation that entered into force last year.
He is married, and has a son and three daughters.