Authority to be followed. Highest-ranking authorities of Twelver Shii community, who execute shariah. The term is usually applied to between four and eight high-ranking jurists (ayatollahs) locally or nationally; on the world scale, it is applied to only one or two jurists. The position is informally acquired and depends on patterns of loyalty and allegiance and the perceived conduct of the jurist. Two major ayatollahs holding this status after 1970 were Ayatollah Khomeini and Ayatollah Abu al-Qasim al-Khoi. Their followers included most Arabic-speaking Shiis in Iraq, the Gulf states, Lebanon, and Syria, and the majority of Shiis in India, Pakistan, East Africa, and Iran.