Other Spellings / Synonyms :
Shiah, Shiite, Shiah Islam, Shiites, Shi`ism
About Shia :
Shiah Islam or Shi`ism is the second largest denomination of the religion of Islam. Shiah Muslims adhere to the teachings of the Islamic prophet Muhammad and his Ahlul Bayt (family). Thus, Shiahs reject the rule of the initial three Sunni Caliphs as Sunnis reject the Imamate of the Shiah Imams. "Shiah" is the short form of the historic phrase shi`at `Ali, meaning "the advocates of Ali". Sunni and Shiah sources trace the term to Muhammad himself. The phrase Shiah of Ali was historically a title given by Muhammad and later by his descendants in praise of Ali's followers and that of the Ahlul Bayt.
Shias believe that Muhammad's family (the Imams) were the best source of knowledge about the Qur'an, Islam, and Emulation (the best-qualified teachers of Islam after Muhammad), and the most trusted carriers and protectors of Muhammad's Sunnah (traditions) due to many emphasized sayings by him. Ali was Muhammad's cousin, son-in-law, and father of his only descendants and the male head of the Ahlul Bayt (people of the house). After Muhammad's passing, Ali claimed succession in religious and political authority, supported by his family and followers. Shiahs believe that by Muhammad's direct order he appointed him successor on many occasions, that he was the rightful leader of the Muslims after Muhammad's passing, and that to follow Muhammad's true Sunnah one must support Ali's successorship.
Shiahs refuse to accept the rule of the initial three Sunni caliphs, who proclaimed leadership after Muhammad's passing, believing them illegitimate and inferior to Muhammad's family in all respects. The caliphs are followed by Sunni Muslims, who believe Muhammad did not choose a successor, and that the caliphs were elected according to what they consider Muhammad's instruction of consultation (Shura). Thus they reject what they called dynastic rights to religious authority that Shiahs attribute to Muhammad's family.
Shiah Denominations :
The Shiah of the present day are divided into denominations based on their beliefs regarding the sequence and recognized number of the Imams. Most Shiah are Twelvers - they recognize twelve imams.
- Ali ibn Abu Talib (600-661), also known as Ali Amir al Mo'mineen
- Hasan ibn Ali (625-669), also known as Hasan al Mujtaba
- Husayn ibn Ali (626-680), also known as Husayn al Shaheed
- Ali ibn Husayn (658-713), also known as Ali Zainul Abideen
- Muhammad ibn Ali (676-743), also known as Muhammad al Baqir
- Jafar ibn Muhammad (703-765), also known as Jafar as Sadiq
- Musa ibn Jafar (745-799), also known as Musa al Kazim
- Ali ibn Musa (765-818), also known as Ali ar Ridha
- Muhammad ibn Ali (810-835), also known as Muhammad al Jawad(Muhammad at Taqi)
- Ali ibn Muhamad (827-868), also known as Ali al-Hadi
- Hasan ibn Ali (846-874), also known as Hasan al Askari
- Muhammad ibn Hasan (868-), also known as Muhammad al Mahdimahdaviat Shiah twelver also called mahdaviun.
Twelvers believe that the twelfth Imam, the Mahdi ("the guided one"), has been hidden away by God. They believe he is still alive, and will return. There are three schools of Twelver Shia -: the Usuli (to which the majority of Twelvers belong), the Akhbari and the Shaykhi.
It is estimated that some 77% of the world's Muslims are Sunni and approximately 23% are Shiah. Some sources estimate that approximately 85% of the world's Muslims are Sunni and approximately 15% are Shia.
Regional Spread :
A large portion of the world's Shiah live in the Middle East. They constitute a majority or a plurality in countries such as in Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Azerbaijan, Lebanon and Bahrain.
Marriage Preference :
Amongst Shias the selection of a marriage partner is normally determined by customary preference, economic circumstances, and geographic considerations. Besides, there is a distinct preference for marriage within extended kin networks, and a high incidence of marriages among first and second cousins exists.