Shi`i Islam

Andrew A. Newman

in Islamic Studies

ISBN: 9780195390155
Published online December 2009 | | DOI:
Shi`i Islam

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Shiʿi Muslims believe that after the death of the Prophet Muhammad in 632 ce his cousin and son-in-law ʿAli (died 661) inherited Muhammad's spiritual and political authority over the umma (Muslim community). Thus, generally speaking the Shiʿa dispute the legitimacy of the succession of the first three of Muhammad's successors (titled khalifah, or caliph) until ʿAli himself became caliph (656–661). After ʿAli's assassination, the Shiʿa believe, the succession lay with the male descendants of ʿAli and his wife Fatima (died 632). These men are called “Imams,” and their statements and actions are held to have authority equivalent to that of the Prophet himself. However, different groups understand the imamate to have been passed on through different individuals among these descendants. By the early 9th century, some forty different Shiʿi groups were said to have come into being. Today, however, there are three main Shiʿi groups and a few smaller ones. At present about 10 to 15 percent of the world's 1 billion Muslims are Shiʿites.

Article.  9140 words. 

Subjects: Islam

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