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Title: Twelver  
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Subject: Schools of Islamic theology, Assembly of the Republic (Portugal), Islamic schools and branches, New Century Forum, Fiqh
Collection: Shia Islam, Twelvers
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Twelver Shi'a Islam or Imamiyyah (Arabic: اثنا عشرية‎, Athnā‘ashariyyah or Ithnā‘ashariyyah; Persian: شیعه دوازده‌امامی‎, pronounced ) is the largest branch of Shi'a Islam. The term Twelver refers to its adherents' belief in twelve divinely ordained leaders, known as the Twelve Imams, and their belief that the Mahdi will be the returned Twelfth Imam who disappeared and is believed by Twelvers to be in occultation.

Twelvers share many tenets of Shī'ism with related sects, such as the belief in Imāms, but the Ismā'īlī and Zaydī Shī'ī sects each believe in a different number of Imāms and, for the most part, a different path of succession regarding the Imāmate. They also differ in the role and overall definition of an Imām.

People of the Twelver faith form majorities in Iran, Iraq, Azerbaijan and Bahrain; a plurality in Lebanon; and significant minorities in Kuwait, India,[1][2][3][4][5] Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Qatar, UAE and Saudi Arabia.[6] Smaller minorities also exist in Oman, Yemen, Egypt, and Uzbekistan.

Alevis in Turkey and Albania and Alawis in Syria share belief in the twelve Imams with Twelvers.


  • Alternative names 1
  • Overview 2
  • Theology 3
    • Sharī'ah: Religious law 3.1
    • Main doctrines 3.2
    • The concept of Imams 3.3
  • List of Imams 4
    • The role of Imam al-Mahdi 4.1
  • Comparative jurisprudence: Twelver–Sunni 5
    • Shahada: Declaration of faith 5.1
    • Taqlid: Accepting a scholar's verdict 5.2
    • Prayer 5.3
    • Khums: One-fifth tax 5.4
    • Mut'ah: Temporary marriage 5.5
  • Calendar 6
  • Martyrdom of Imam Husayn 7
  • Notable scholars 8
    • Historical 8.1
    • Contemporary 8.2
      • India 8.2.1
      • Iran 8.2.2
      • Iraq 8.2.3
      • Lebanon 8.2.4
      • United Kingdom 8.2.5
      • Pakistan 8.2.6
    • Guardianship of the Jurisprudent 8.3
  • Criticism 9
  • Footnotes 10
  • See also 11
    • Further reading 11.1
  • References 12
  • External links 13

Alternative names

The Twelvers are also known by other names, each connoting some aspect of the faith.

  • The Shī'ah (or Shi'a) is commonly used as a synonym for "Twelvers" since this branch comprises the majority group of Shī'ī Islam.
  • Ja'farī refers to Twelvers to the exclusion of the Ismā'īlī and Zaydī ("Fivers"). This term refers to the majority Twelver school of jurisprudence (a minority school, the Akhbarī, also exists). It is attributed to Ja'far al-Sadiq, who the Twelvers consider to be their Sixth Imām. The founders of the Sunni Hanafi and Maliki schools of jurisprudence narrated hadith from Ja'far al-Sadiq.
  • Imāmī is a reference to the Twelver belief in the infallibility of the Imāms. Though the Ismā'īlī also accept the concept of Imāms, this term is used specifically for the Twelvers.


Twelvers believe that the descendants of the Islamic prophet Muhammad through his daughter Fatimah and his son-in-law 'Alī are the best source of knowledge about the Qur'an and Islam, the most trusted carriers and protectors of Muḥammad's Sunnah (traditions) and the most worthy of emulation.

In particular, Twelvers recognize the succession of 'Alī, Muḥammad's cousin, son-in-law, the male head of the Ahl al-Bayt or "people of the [Prophet's] house" and the father of Muḥammad's only bloodline, as opposed to that of the caliphate recognized by Sunni Muslims. Twelvers also believe that 'Alī should have been successor to Muḥammad.

Although 'Alī is widely accepted by Muslims in general to be the fourth successor to the Caliphate after Uthman, for the Shī'ah, however, he is the first divinely sanctioned "Imām", or divinely appointed spiritual leader after the Prophet Muḥammad. The seminal event in Shī'ah history is the martyrdom in 680 CE of 'Alī's son Husayn, who led an uprising against the, illegitimate to them, caliph. For the Shī'ah, Husayn came to symbolize resistance to tyranny.

Regardless of the dispute about the Caliphate, Twelvers recognize the religious authority of the Twelve Imams, also called Khalīfah Ilāhi.


Sharī'ah: Religious law

The Ja'farī derive their Sharia, or religious law, from the Qur'an and the Sunnah. The difference between Sunni and Shīʻa Sharia results from a Shīʻa belief that Muhammad assigned ʻAlī to be the first ruler and the leader after him (the Khalifa or steward). Moreover, according to Shīʻa, an Imam or a Caliph can not be democratically elected and has to be nominated by God. Sunnis believe that their Caliphs were popular and had greater vote so they were made caliphs. This difference resulted in the Shīʻa:

  1. Following hadith from Muħammad and his descendants the 12 Imāms.[7]
  2. Not accepting the "examples", verdicts, and ahādīth of Abu Bakr, Umar and Uthman ibn Affan (who are considered by Sunnīs to be the first three Caliphs).
  3. Attributing the concept of the masūm "infallibility" to the Twelve Imāms or The Fourteen Infallibles (including Muhammad and his daughter Fatimah) and accepting the examples and verdicts of this special group.

Main doctrines

Twelvers believe in the Five Pillars of Islam, as do Sunnis, but categorize them differently. Twelver beliefs include the following:

Principles of Faith (Usūl al-Dīn)

  • Tawhid (Oneness): The Oneness of God.
  • ʻAdālah (Justice): The Justice of God.
  • Nubuwwah (Prophethood): God has appointed perfect and infallible prophets and messengers to teach mankind the religion (that is, a perfect system of how to live in "peace" ("submission to God")).
  • Imāmah (Leadership): God has appointed specific leaders to lead and guide mankind — a prophet appoints a custodian of the religion before his demise.
  • Qiyāmah (The Day of Judgment): God will raise mankind for Judgment - the Day of Resurrection.

Ancillaries of the Faith (Furū' al-Dīn)

  • Salat (Prayer) – meaning "connection", establish the five daily prayers, called namāz in Persian and Urdu.
  • Sawm (Fasting) – fasting during the holy month of Ramadhan, called rūzeh in Persian.
  • Zakat (Poor-rate) – charity. Zakat means "to purify".
  • Khums ("Fifth" of one's savings) – tax.
  • Hajj (Pilgrimage) – performing the pilgrimage to Mecca.
  • Jihād (Struggle) – struggling to please God. The greater, internal Jihad is the struggle against the evil within one's soul in every aspect of life, called jihād akbār. The lesser, or external, jihad is the struggle against the evil of one's environment in every aspect of life, called jihād asghār. This is not to be mistaken with the common modern misconception that this means "Holy War". Writing the truth (jihād bil qalam "struggle of the pen") and speaking truth in front of an oppressor are also forms of jihād.
  • Commanding what is just.
  • Forbidding what is evil.
  • Tawalla – loving the Ahl al-Bayt and their followers.
  • Tabarra – dissociating oneself from the enemies of the Ahlu l-Bayt.[8]

The concept of Imams

Imam Husayn Shrine in Karbala, Iraq, where the Battle of Karbala took place
Conference poster relating to Mahdaviat

The Twelve Imams are the spiritual and political successors to Muhammad, in the Twelver or Ithna Ashariya branch of Shia Islam.[9] According to the theology of Twelvers, the successor of Muhammad is an infallible human individual who not only rules over the community with justice, but also is able to keep and interpret the Sharia and its esoteric meaning. The prophet and imams' words and deeds are a guide and model for the community to follow; as a result, they must be free from error and sin, and must be chosen by divine decree, or nass, through Muhammad.[10][11]

It is believed in Shi'a Islam that 'Aql, a divine wisdom, was the source of the souls of the prophets and imams and gave them esoteric knowledge, called Hikmah, and that their sufferings were a means of divine grace to their devotees.[9][12][13] Although the Imam was not the recipient of a divine revelation, but has close relationship with God, through which God guides him, and the imam in turn guides the people. The Imamat, or belief in the divine guide is a fundamental belief in Shi'i Islam and is based on the concept that God would not leave humanity without access to divine guidance.[14]

According to Twelvers, there is always an Imam of the Age, who is the divinely appointed authority on all matters of faith and law in the Muslim community. Ali was the first Imam of this line, and in the Twelvers' view, the rightful successor to the Prophet of Islam, followed by male descendants of Muhammad(also known as Hasnain's) through his daughter Fatimah. Each Imam was the son of the previous Imam, with the exception of Husayn ibn Ali, who was the brother of Hasan ibn Ali.[9] The twelfth and final Imam is Muhammad al-Mahdi, who is believed by the Twelvers to be currently alive, and in hiding.[14]

List of Imams

Number Modern (Calligraphic) Depiction Name
(Arabic/Turkish)[15] !! Date of
(CE/AH)[16] !! Importance !! Place of birth !! Reason & place of death
and place of burial[17]
1 Ali ibn Abu Talib
علي بن أبي طالب
Abu al-Hasan
أبو الحسن
Amir al-Mu'minin
(Commander of the Faithful)[18]


(The Beloved)

Birinci Ali[19]
23(before Hijra)–40[20]
The First[21] Imam[22] and the rightful Successor of Muhammad of all Shia; however, the Sunnis acknowledge him as the fourth Caliph as well. He holds a high position in almost all Sufi Muslim orders (Turuq); the members of these orders trace their lineage to Muhammad through him.[18] Mecca,
Saudi Arabia[18]
Assassinated by Abd-al-Rahman ibn Muljam, a Kharijite in Kufa, who slashed him with a poisoned sword while he was praying.[18][23]
Buried at the Imam Ali Mosque in Najaf, Iraq.
2 Hasan ibn Ali
حسن بن علي
Abu Muhammad
أبو محمد

(The Chosen)

İkinci Ali[19]
He was the eldest surviving grandson of Muhammad through Muhammad's daughter, Fatimah az-Zahra. Hasan succeeded his father as the caliph in Kufa, and on the basis of peace treaty with Muawiya I, he relinquished control of Iraq following a reign of seven months.[26] Medina,
Saudi Arabia[24]
Poisoned by his wife in Medina, Saudi Arabia on the orders of the Caliph Muawiya, according to Twelver Shiite belief.[27]
Buried in Jannat al-Baqi, Medina, Saudi Arabia.
3 Husayn ibn Ali
حسین بن علي
Abu Abdillah
أبو عبدالله
Sayyid ash-Shuhada

(Master of the Martyrs)

Üçüncü Ali[19]
He was a grandson of Muhammad and brother of Hasan ibn Ali. Husayn opposed the validity of Caliph Yazid I. As a result, he and his family were later killed in the Battle of Karbala by Yazid's forces. After this incident, the commemoration of Husayn ibn Ali has become a central ritual in Shia identity.[28][30] Medina,
Saudi Arabia[28]
Killed and beheaded at the Battle of Karbala.[28]
Buried at the Imam Husayn Shrine in Karbala, Iraq.
4 Ali ibn Husayn
علي بن الحسین
Abu Muhammad
أبو محمد
al-Sajjad, Zayn al-'Abidin

(One who constantly Prostrates, Ornament of the Worshippers) [31]

Dördüncü Ali[19]
658/9[31] – 712[32]
Author of prayers in Sahifa al-Sajjadiyya, which is known as "The Psalm of the Household of the Prophet."[32] Medina,
Saudi Arabia[31]
According to most Shia scholars, he was poisoned on the order of Caliph al-Walid I in Medina, Saudi Arabia.[32]
Buried in Jannat al-Baqi, Medina, Saudi Arabia.
5 Muhammad ibn Ali
محمد بن علي
Abu Ja'far
أبو جعفر
Baqir al-Ulum

(The Revealer of Knowledge) [33]

Beşinci Ali[19]
Sunni and Shia sources both describe him as one of the early and most eminent legal scholars, teaching many students during his tenure.[33][34] Medina,
Saudi Arabia[33]
According to some Shia scholars, he was poisoned by Ibrahim ibn Walid ibn 'Abdallah in Medina, Saudi Arabia on the order of Caliph Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik.[32]
Buried in Jannat al-Baqi, Medina, Saudi Arabia.
6 Ja'far ibn Muhammad
جعفر بن محمد
Abu Abdillah[35]
أبو عبدالله

(The Honest)

Altıncı Ali[19]
Established the Ja'fari jurisprudence and developed the theology of Twelvers. He instructed many scholars in different fields, including Abu Hanifah and Malik ibn Anas in fiqh, Wasil ibn Ata and Hisham ibn Hakam in Islamic theology, and Geber in science and alchemy.[36][37] Medina,
Saudi Arabia[36]
According to Shia sources, he was poisoned in Medina, Saudi Arabia on the order of Caliph Al-Mansur.[36]
Buried in Jannat al-Baqi, Medina, Saudi Arabia.
7 Musa ibn Ja'far
موسی بن جعفر
Abu al-Hasan I
أبو الحسن الاول[38]

(The Calm One)

Yedinci Ali[19]
Leader of the Shia community during the schism of Ismaili and other branches after the death of the former Imam, Jafar al-Sadiq.[40] He established the network of agents who collected khums in the Shia community of the Middle East and the Greater Khorasan. He holds a high position in Mahdavia; the members of these orders trace their lineage to Muhammad through him.[41] Medina,
Saudi Arabia[39]
Imprisoned and poisoned in Baghdad, Iraq on the order of Caliph Harun al-Rashid, according to Shiite belief.
Buried in the Kazimayn shrine in Baghdad, Iraq.[39]

Ali ibn Musa
علي بن موسی
Abu al-Hasan II
أبو الحسن الثانی[38]
ar-Rida, Reza[42]

(The Pleasing One)

Sekizinci Ali[19]
Made crown-prince by Caliph Al-Ma'mun, and famous for his discussions with both Muslim and non-Muslim religious scholars.[42] Medina,
Saudi Arabia[42]
According to Shia sources, he was poisoned in Mashad, Iran on the order of Caliph Al-Ma'mun.
Buried in the Imam Reza shrine in Mashad, Iran.[42]
9 Muhammad ibn Ali
محمد بن علي
Abu Ja'far
أبو جعفر
al-Taqi, al-Jawad[43]

(The God-Fearing, The Generous)

Dokuzuncu Ali[19]
Famous for his generosity and piety in the face of persecution by the Abbasid caliphate. Medina,
Saudi Arabia[43]
Poisoned by his wife, Al-Ma'mun's daughter, in Baghdad, Iraq on the order of Caliph Al-Mu'tasim, according to Shiite sources.
Buried in the Kazmain shrine in Baghdad, Iraq.[43]
10 Ali ibn Muhammad
علي بن محمد
Abu al-Hasan III
أبو الحسن الثالث[44]
al-Hadi, al-Naqi[44]

(The Guide, The Pure One)

Onuncu Ali[19]
Strengthened the network of deputies in the Shia community. He sent them instructions, and received in turn financial contributions of the faithful from the khums and religious vows.[44] Surayya, a village near Medina,
Saudi Arabia[44]
According to Shia sources, he was poisoned in Samarra, Iraq on the order of Caliph Al-Mu'tazz.[45]
Buried in the Al Askari Mosque in Samarra, Iraq.
11 Hasan ibn Ali
الحسن بن علي
Abu Muhammad
أبو محمد

(The Citizen of a Garrison Town)

Onbirinci Ali[19]
For most of his life, the Abbasid Caliph, Al-Mu'tamid, placed restrictions on him after the death of his father. Repression of the Shiite population was particularly high at the time due to their large size and growing power.[47] Medina,
Saudi Arabia[46]
According to Shia, he was poisoned on the order of Caliph Al-Mu'tamid in Samarra, Iraq.
Buried in Al Askari Mosque in Samarra, Iraq.[48]
12 Muhammad ibn al-Hasan
محمد بن الحسن
Abu al-Qasim
أبو القاسم
Hidden Imam,[50]

(The Guided One, The Proof)

Onikinci Ali[19]
According to Twelver Shiite doctrine, he is an actual historical personality and is the current Imam and the promised Mahdi, a messianic figure who will return with Christ. He will reestablish the rightful governance of Islam and replete the earth with justice and peace.[53] Samarra, Iraq[52] According to Shia doctrine, he has been living in the Occultation since 872, and will continue as long as God wills it.[52]
Names of all 12 Imameen (decedents of Imam Ali) written in the form of Arabic name على 'Ali'

The Shi'a Imams are seen as infallible. It is an important aspect of Shia theology that they are not prophets (nabi) nor messengers (rasul), but instead carry out Muhammad's message. While Sunni Muslims view all religions and groups that accept prophets or messengers after Muhammad to be heathen or heretical, Shi'a Muslims do consider the Imams to be higher in rank than all the prophets and messengers except Muhammad.[54][55][56]

The role of Imam al-Mahdi

In Twelver eschatology, Muhammad ibn Hasan ibn ʻAlī, or al-Mahdi (مهدي transliteration: Mahdī, also Mehdi, "Guided One"), is the twelfth Imam and the Mahdi, the ultimate savior of mankind and prophesied redeemer of Islam. Twelvers believe that the Mahdi has been hidden by God (referred to as The Occultation) and will later emerge to change the world into a perfect and just Islamic society alongside Jesus (Isa) before the Yaum al-Qiyamah (literally "Day of the Resurrection" or "Day of the Standing").

Other Shi'a schools, such as Zaidi, Ismaili and Bohra, adhere to different Imam successions and do not consider Muhammad ibn Hasan the Mahdi as Imam.

Comparative jurisprudence: Twelver–Sunni

(This list is not exhaustive nor representative of the Sunni/Shia dispute on religious jurisprudence)

Shahada: Declaration of faith

  • أشهد أن] لا إله إلاَّ الله و [أشهد أن ] محمداً رسول الله ]
  • [ʾašhadu ʾan] lā ilāha illā l-Lāh wa [ʾašhadu ʾanna] Muḥammadan rasūlu l-Lāh
  • [I testify that] there is no god (ilah) but Allah and [I testify that] Muhammad is messenger of Allah.

In usage the occurrences of ʾašhadu ʾan "I testify that" are very often omitted.

Another rendering current among some English-speaking Muslims, but without a historical tradition, is "(I bear witness that) there is none worthy of worship except God, and (I testify that) Muhammad is the messenger of God."[57] This version relies on a translation of (ilah) as being "worthy of worship", something which is correctly said in Arabic but does not translate well into English syntax.

Twelvers, along with Sunnis, agree that a single honest recitation of the shahādah in Arabic is all that is required for a person to become a Muslim according to most traditional schools.

A vast majority of Twelvers often add ʻAlīyun waliyu l-Lāh (علي ولي الله "Ali is the vicegerent of God") at the end of the Shahādah. This testifies that ʻAlī is also the Leader of the Believers along with God and Muhammad, proof of which Shi'a theologians find in the Qur'an.[Quran 5:55]

Though this form of the Shahādah is recited daily by other Shīʻa sects such as the Nizari Ismailis, Twelvers view it as Mustahabb (recommended), but not Wajib (obligatory).

Taqlid: Accepting a scholar's verdict


There are minor differences between Sunnis and Twelver Shīʻa in how the prayer ritual is performed. During the purification ritual in preparation for prayer (which consists of washing the face, arms, feet, etc. and saying of some prayers), the Shīʻa view wiping the feet with wet hands as sufficient, as opposed to some of the Sunnis who consider complete washing of the feet necessary. Also, Shīʻa do not use their fingers to clean inside the ears during the ablution ritual. A prerequisite for purification is that one has to be clean before performing the purification ritual.

Name Prescribed time period (waqt) Voluntary before fard Fard/Obligatory Voluntary after fard
Sunni Shi'a Sunni Shi'a
Fajr (فجر) Dawn to sunrise 2 Raka'ah 2 Raka'ah 2 Raka'ah - -
Dhuhr (ظهر) After true noon until Asr 4 Raka'ah 8 Raka'ah (4 + 4 Asr ) 4 Raka'ah 2 Raka'ah -
Asr (عصر) See footnote 4 Raka'ah See Above 4 Raka'ah - -
Maghrib (مغرب) After sunset until dusk 3 Raka'ah 3 Raka'ah 2 Raka'ah 4 (2x2) Raka'ah
Isha'a (عشاء) Dusk until dawn 4 Raka'ah 2 Raka'ah (is sitted and that will be 4 Raka'ah) 4 Raka'ah 2 Raka'ah
Salat al-Layl:
8 raka'ah (4x2 Raka'ah)
+ 3 Raka'ah Witr
or depending on madhaahib
+2 Rak'at Shafe'
+1 Rak'at El Witr
1 Raka'ah,
Salat al-Layl:
8 raka'ah (4x2 Raka'ah)
+2 Rak'at Shafe'
+1 Rak'at El Witr
  • Sunni often pray two Raka'ah Nafl after Dhuhr, Maghrib and Isha'a.
  • ^A According to Shia Muslims, these are to be performed in sets of two raka'ah each.
  • ^B Prayed daily by Muhammad (Sunnis).
  • ^C Mustahab (praiseworthy) to do everyday (Shias). Wajib (almost to the level of obligatory) (Hanifiyyah). Sunnah Mu'akkadah (voluntary but highly stressed) (Maliki, Shafi'i, Hanbali).
  • ^D Replaced by Jumu'ah on Fridays, which consists of two raka'ah.
  • ^E According to Abū Ḥanīfa, "Asr starts when the shadow of an object becomes twice its height (plus the length of its shadow at the start time of Dhuhr)." For the rest of Sunni Imams, "Asr starts when the shadow of an object becomes equal to its length (plus the length of its shadow at the start time of Dhuhr)." Asr ends as the sun begins to set.
  • ^F According to Shia Muslims, 'Asr prayer and 'Ishaa prayer have no set times but are performed from mid-day. Zuhr and 'Asr prayers must be performed before sunset, and the time for 'Asr prayer starts after Zuhr has been performed. Maghrib and 'Ishaa prayers must be performed before midnight, and the time for 'Ishaa prayer can start after Maghrib has been performed, as long as no more light remains in the western sky signifying the arrival of the true night.
  • ^G According to Shia Muslims, this prayer is termed nawafil.

During prayer, it is the Jaʻfarī view that it is preferable to prostrate on earth, leaves that are not edible or wood, as these three things are considered purest by Muhammad in hadith specifically mentioning Tayammum. Hence many Shīʻa use a turbah, a small tablet of soil, often taken from the ground of a holy site, or wood during their daily prayers upon which they prostrate.

In the Jaʻfarī view, the hands are to be left hanging straight down the side during the standing position of the prayer, while the Sunni schools of thought (except for the majority of Malikis) hold that they should be folded. The Jaʻfarī consider the five daily prayers to be compulsory, though the Jaʻfarī consider it acceptable to pray the second and third prayer, and the fourth and fifth prayer, one after the other during the parts of the day where they believe the timings for these prayers to overlap. The other three Sunni schools allow this consolidation of daily prayers only while travelling or under some other constraint.

Khums: One-fifth tax

Khums (خمس) is the Arabic word for one fifth (1/5). In Islamic legal terminology, it means "one-fifth of certain items which a person acquires as wealth, and which must be paid as an Islamic tax".[58] According to Shi'a, the items eligible for khums are referred to as Ghanima (الْغَنيمَة) in the Quran. The Arabic word Ghanima has two meanings

  • "spoils of war" or "war booty"
  • gain or profit

The Sunni translate this word exclusively as "war booty" or "spoils of war".[59] The Twelvers hold the view that the word Ghanima has two meanings as mentioned above, the second meaning is illustrated by the common use of the Islamic banking term al-ghunm bil-ghurm meaning "gains accompany liability for loss or risk".[60][61]

Also, in a famous supplication, the supplication after the noon prayer, the person asks God to bestow on him His favors, one of those favors which the person asks is the benefit or gain from every act of righteousness, the word used here is al-ghanima (وَالْغَنيمَةَ مِنْ كُلِّ بِر ) this is in accordance with the second meaning of the word.[62]

Mut'ah: Temporary marriage

Nikāḥ al-Mut'ah, Nikah el Mut'a (Arabic: نكاح المتعة‎, also Nikah Mut'ah literally, "marriage of pleasure"),[63] or sighah, is a fixed-time marriage which, according to the Usuli Shia schools of Shari'a (Islamic law), is a marriage with a preset duration, after which the marriage is automatically dissolved. It has many conditions that can be considered as pre-requisite, similar to that of permanent marriage. It is the second form of Islamic marriage (Nikah). However, it is regarded as haram (prohibited) by Sunnis. This is a highly controversial fiqh topic; Sunnis and Shi'a hold diametrically opposed views on its permissibility. But some of the Sunni Muslims recognizes Nikah Misyar. Mutah existed during the time of the Prophet Muhammad, and during his time it was not prohibited. On this principle, Shias believe that anything that was allowed during the time of the Prophet should remain allowed after.


Twelver Shi'a, celebrate the following annual holidays:

The following holidays are observed by Twelvers Shi'as, unless otherwise noted:

  • The Mourning of Muharram or Remembrance of Muharram and Ashurah (عاشوراء) for Shia commemorates Imam Husayn ibn Ali's martyrdom in the Battle of Karbala. Imam Husayn was grandson of Muhammad, who was killed by Yazid ibn Muawiyah,the second Caliph of the Umayyad Caliphate (and the first one by heredity).One group of Sunni Scholars have deemed Yazeed to be a kaafir(e.g. Sunni Scholar Ibn Jauzi in Wafa al-Wafa), another has stated he was a fasiq (transgressor), a fajir (one that commits debauchery) and a drunkard.Yazeed considered nikah (marriage) with mothers and sisters to be permissible and drank alcohol". Ashurah is a day of deep mourning which occurs on the 10th of Muharram. Sunnis also commemorates Imam Husayn ibn Ali's martyrdom, but little different from Shi'as.
  • Arba'een (Arabic word for forty(40)) commemorates on 40th day of Imam Husain's martydom( 40th day is an auspious day for any deceased as per Islam) remembering the suffering of Imam Husayn and his household, the women and children. After Husayn was killed, they were marched over the desert, from Karbala (central Iraq) to Shaam (Damascus, Syria). Many children (some of whom were direct descendants of Muhammad) died of thirst and exposure along the route. Arba'een occurs on the 20th of Safar, 40 days after Ashurah.
  • Milad al-Nabi, Muhammad's birth date, is celebrated by the Shia on the 17th of Rabi' al-awwal, which coincides with the birth date of the sixth imam, Ja'far al-Sadiq.
  • Mid-Sha'aban is the birth date of the 12th and final imam, Muhammad al-Mahdi. It is celebrated by Twelvers on the 15th of Sha'aban. Many Shia fast on this day to show gratitude.
  • Eid al-Ghadeer celebrates Ghadir Khum, the occasion when Muhammad announced Ali's imamate before a multitude of Muslims. Eid al-Ghadeer is held on the 18th of Dhu al-Hijjah.
  • Al-Mubahila celebrates a meeting between the Ahl al-Bayt (household of Muhammad) and a Christian deputation from Najran. Al-Mubahila is held on the 24th of Dhu al-Hijjah.

Martyrdom of Imam Husayn

The death of the grandson of Muhammad and the son of Ali, Husayn ibn Ali on the Tenth of Muharram - known as Ashura - plays a significant role in Twelver theology. This day is annually commemorated with grief and sorrow; some participate in ritual beating of their chests, as some believe this is a form of expressing the helplessness that comes from a practical inability to have helped Husayn and his small troop of 72 family and supporters. Some hit themselves as a form of emotional and love for the ahlulbayt and their sacrifice and martyrdom. In most nations with significant Shia populations, one can observe large crowds in processions grieving over Husayn's death. The events of Ashura tell a story of a leader fighting against an oppressive tyrant, Yazid, who seized power and had committed atrocities against the people of the empire that he had inherited.

Notable scholars



Guardianship of the Jurisprudent

Traditionally Twelver Shi'a Muslims consider 'Ali ibn Abi Talib and the subsequent further eleven Imams not only religious guides but political leaders, based on a crucial hadith where Muhammad passes on his power to command Muslims to Ali. Since the last Imam, Muhammad al-Mahdi, went into "occultation" in 939 and is not expected back until end times, this left Shi'a without religiously sanctioned governance. In contrast, the Ismaili Imams did successfully gain political power with the Fatimid Caliphate. After the fall of the Fatimid Caliphate Ismaili Shi'asm started to lean towards secular thought.

The first Shi'a regime, the Safavid dynasty in Iran, propagated the Twelver faith, made Twelver's law the law of the land, and patronized Twelver scholarship. For this, Twelver ulema "crafted a new theory of government" which held that while "not truly legitimate", the Safavid monarchy would be "blessed as the most desirable form of government during the period of awaiting" for Muhammad al-Mahdi, the twelfth imam.[64]

In general, the Shi'a adhere to one of three approaches towards the state: either full participation in government, i.e., attempting to influence policies by becoming active in politics, or passive cooperation with it, i.e. minimal participation, or else most commonly, mere toleration of it, i.e. remaining aloof from it.[65] Historically, Zaidi and Ismaili Shi'a imams functioned as both religious and political leaders, but later after the fall of the Fatimid Caliphate the Ismaili imamate became a secular institution. In general, Twelver Shi'a historically remained secular.

This changed with Iranian Revolution where the Twelver Ayatollah Khomeini and his supporters established a new theory of governance for the Islamic Republic of Iran. It is based on Khomeini's theory of guardianship of the Islamic jurist as rule of the Islamic jurist, and jurists as "legatees" of Muhammad.

While not all Twelver Shi'a accept this theory, it is uniquely Twelver and the basis of the constitution of Iran, the largest Shi'a Muslim country, where the Supreme Leader must be an Islamic jurist.



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See also

Further reading

  1. The book "Durr-e-Mansoor dar Halaat-e-Ulama-e-Zangipur"
  2. The book "MATLA-e-ANWAR" (By Maulana Murtaza Husain Sadrul-Afazil)
  3. The book "KHURSHEED-e-KHAWAR" (By Maulan Saeed Akhtar Gopalpuri)
  4. The thesis on "Life of Jawad-ul-Ulama" research work of Dr.Inayet Ali (Aligarh Muslim University)
  5. The booklet "Haqnuma" published Jamia-Imania, Banaras.


  • Martin, Richard C. Encyclopaedia of Islam and the Muslim world; vol.1. MacMillan.  
  • Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East and North Africa. Gale Group. 2004.  
  • Momen, Moojan (1985). An Introduction to Shi'i Islam: The History and Doctrines of Twelve. Yale University Press.  

External links

  • A brief introduction of Twelve Imams
  • A Brief History Of The Lives Of The Twelve Imams a chapter of Shi'a Islam (book) by Muhammad Husayn Tabatabaei
  • The Twelve Imams Taken From "A Shi'ite Anthology" by Muhammad Husayn Tabatabaei
  • A Short History of the Lives of The Twelve Imams
  • Ithna 'Ashariyah An article by Encyclopædia Britannica online
  • - Ahlul Bayt Digital Islamic Library Project
  • Twelver Media Source
  • Imamia Mission Shia Organisation in United Kingdom
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