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The most lengthy and authoritative contemporary overview of Shi'ism; a commonly-assigned college textbook. Includes biographies of prominent historical figures. Not yet formatted.
This is an unformatted version of the text from Ocean. A scan of the published version can be partly read online at google books.

See also a 1/4-length summary of this book, momen_introduction_shii_sumary, and a short encyclopedia version, momen_encyclopedia_shii_islam.

An Introduction to Shi'i Islam:
The History and Doctrines of Twelver Shi'ism

by Moojan Momen

Oxford: George Ronald, 1985
single page chapter 1 next chapter

Foreword by Prof. Alessandro Bausani. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xi
Preface. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  xiii
A Note on Transliteration, Pronunciation, Technical Terms . . . . . . . . . . . . . xv
Glossary. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  xix
1. An Outline of the Life of Muhammad and the Early History of Islam  . . . . . . .  1
2. The Question of the Succession to Muhammad. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  11
3. The Lives of the Imams and Early Divisions among the Shi'is . . . . . . . . . .  23
4. Early History of Shi'i Islam, AD 632-1000. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 61
5. Shi'i Islam in the Medieval Period, AD 1000-1500. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  86
6. Shi'i Islam in Modern Times, AD 1500-1900. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  105
7. The Imamate. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  147
8. The Twelfth Imam, His Occultation and Return. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 161
9. Doctrines, Ritual Practices and Social Transactions. . . . . . . . . . . . . .  172
10. Shi'i jurisprudence and the Religious Hierarchy. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 184
11. Sufism, 'Irfan and Hikma. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  208
12. Schools within Twelver Shi'ism. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  220
13. The Popular Religion. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  233
14. Contemporary Shi'ism. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  246

   Appendix I. Chronology of Political and Religious Events in Shi'i History. . .  300
   Appendix II. Shi'i Dynasties. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 304
   Appendix III. Biographies of Prominent Ulama. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 310
   Notes. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  324
   Select Bibliography. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  345    
   Index. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  363
This book is dedicated to all those who have died for the 
cause of Truth in Iran

[Page viii is intentionally blank.]


                          List of Illustrations

 1 Muhammad and 'Ali destroying idols in the Ka'ba
 2 Muhammad appoints 'Ali as his successor at Ghadir Khumm
 3 Najaf: Shrine of the First Imam, 'Ali
 4 Karbala: panoramic view
 5 Karbala: Sarcophagus of Imam Husayn
 6 Panorama of Qumm
 7 Mashhad: Shrine of the Eighth Imam, 'Ali ar-Rida
 8 Samarra: an aerial view
 9 Karbala: Shrine of the Third Imam, Husayn
10 Kazimayn: Shrine of the Seventh and Ninth Imams
11 Qumm: Shrine of Fatima, the sister of the Eighth Imam

12 Sultaniyya: Tomb of Oljeitu (Khudabanda)
13 Aleppo: capital of the Hamdanid and Mirdasid dynasties
14 Hilla: an aerial view
15 Ardibil Shrine of Shaykh Safi
16 Isfahan: Madrasa Chahar Bagh
17 Isfahan: Maydan-i Shah, 1704
18 Isfahan: Maydan-i Shah, 1881
19 Shah 'Abbas I
20 Mulla Muhammad Baqir Majlisi
21 Tehran, 1809
22 Nadir Shah
23 Fath 'Ali Shah
24 Lucknow, India
25 Juba': an important Shi'i village of the Jabal 'Amil

26 Isfahan: Masjid-i Shah
27 Isfahan: Madrasa Chahar Bagh
28 The Bastinado
29 Shaykh Murtada Ansari
30 A mujtahid and several mullas
31 Mulla preaching to a crowd in a mosque during Muharram
32 Qumm: interior of the Shrine of Fatima
33 Shaykh Ahmad Ahsa'i
34 Sayyid Kazim Rashti


35 'Allama Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Tabataba'i
36 Mahan, near Kirman: Shrine of Shah Ni'matu'llah Wali
37 Kazimayn: Shrine
38 Isfahan: interior of Shaykh Lutfu'llah Mosque

39 Banner depicting scenes from the life of the Imam Husayn
40 Ta'ziya: dramatic representation of the martyrdom of Husayn
41 Rawda-Khani: recital of the sufferings of the Imams
42 Painting over entrance to a Husayniyya
43 Muharram processions, traditional accoutrements
44 Muharram processions in Tehran in early 1900s
45 Muharram processions: a model of the Shrine of Husayn
46 Muharram processions with flagellants
47 Muharram processions, self-mutilation
48 Muharram processions with flagellants
49 Muharram processions
50 Muharram processions: beating of the chest
51 The Imamzada Husayn in Qazvin
52 Mashhad: Sarcophagus of Imam 'Ali ar-Rida
53 Carriage of corpses to Karbala
54 Imam Ruhu'llah Khumayni
55 Three mujtahids of Najaf
56 Cartoon: finding reasons for the Constitution in the Qur'an
57 Shaykh Fadlu'llah Nuri
58 Shaykh Hasan Mudarris
59 Isfahan: Shaykh Lutfu'llah Mosque
60 Bahá'í national headquarters in Tehran being demolished in 1955
61 Isfahan: Maydan-i Shah
62 Sayyid Abu'l-Qasim Kashani
63 Ayatu'llah Sayyid Kazim Shari'atmadari
64 Ayatu'llah Muhammad Rida Gulpaygani
65 Ayatu'llah Shihabu'd-Din Mar'ashi-Najaf
66 Ayatu'llah Hasan 'Ali Muntaziri
67 Ayatu'llah Muhammad Husayni Bihisht
68 Mashhad: Gawhar-Shad Mosque


The Shi'i world during the lifetimes of the Imams and the Lesser 
Occultation, AD 632-950
The Shi'i world in the medieval period, AD 1500-1980
South Lebanon
The Shi'i world in modem times, AD 1500-1980



To introduce such a book is not an easy task. Like most Western
Islamologists, my training and research have been concentrated on
Sunni Islam and so Shi'ism is not my main field. However, this book
has been researched and presented in such a truly scientific manner
that it does not suffer from the biases apparent in many such works.
  There is now much interest in the question of the differences
between Sunni and Shi'i Islam. I used to discuss this matter often
with my students in the Islamic Studies department of the Faculty of
Literature of Rome University. But nowadays the question is also
frequently raised on television and in the newspapers. Indeed, many
are now beginning to be more familiar with the differences between
Shi'i and Sunni Islam. If this is the result of the 'Islamic
Revolution' in Iran, then we have Khomeini to thank for it. However,
unfortunately the presentations of this subject are often ill-informed
and misleading. One frequently finds journalists referring to Shi'i
Islam as the most 'revolutionary' form of Islam. Dr Momen has, in this
book, brought out well the evidence for the fact that the development
of Shi'ism has been evolutionary and he has put into perspective its
so-called 'revolutionary' aspects.
  This book clarifies the reality of Shi'i Islam, and can now be
considered the best available description of the aforementioned
differences between it and Sunni Islam. In spite of the fact that the
author has concentrated on the Ithna-'Ashari (Twelver) Shi'is who form
the majority of the population of Iran today; he also describes other
forms of Shi'ism such as the Isma'ilis and the Ghulat. There is even a
chapter on Sufism and 'Irfan (Gnosis). Some Iranian writers of recent
years have leaned too far towards the notion that, of the two forms of
Islam, Shi'ism is the more favourable environment for Sufism; whereas
the fact is that Sufism, in its earliest years, was more accepted by
the Sunnis and continues to the present to be more widespread among
  To sum up, this book is a major contribution towards a clearer and
more comprehensive definition of Shi'i Islam and its differences from
Sunnism and may be recommended to everyone who wishes to
understand these matters better.

       Prof. Alessandro Bausani
       Director, Department of Islamic
       Studies of the University of Rome

           March 1985

[Page xii is intentionally blank.]


The majority of books written in the West on Islam are concerned with
Sunni Islam and have tended to ignore or minimise the importance of
Shi'i Islam. This is not surprising in view of the fact that Sunni
Islam represents the belief of the majority of Muslims and is the
state religion of most of the countries of the Middle East and North
  However, the Shi'is are the next largest group after the Sunnis in
the Muslim world and are the largest religious community in several
countries: Iran, Bahrain and Lebanon. In Iran Twelver Shi'i Islam is
the state religion. There are important Shi'i communities in several
other countries also: India, Pakistan, the Gulf states and the USSR,
while Shi'ism of the Zaydi sect is prominent in North Yemen and that
of the Isma'ili sect in India, Pakistan and East Africa.
  The rise to economic importance of the Persian Gulf region (where
most of the important oil deposits are in areas with Shi'i
populations) has led in the West to a renewed interest in this area,
while the recent revolution in Iran has caused many to realise the
importance of trying to obtain a deeper understanding of the religious
undercurrents in the area.
  This book is an attempt to present to a Western audience a general
outline of Shi'i Islam. While I have not assumed that the reader
already has a knowledge of Sunni Islam, I have tended to concentrate
on explaining those areas in which Shi'i Islam differs most greatly
from Sunni Islam: such matters as the question of the succession to
Muhammad, the nature of the Imamate, the Twelfth Imam, etc.
Because of this, the reader may form the impression that these two
communities are a long way apart in their view of Islam and this would
be an unfortunate conclusion since in fact the two are much closer to
each other than many Christian sects are. There is no disagreement
between the two in the matter of the station and centrality of the
Prophet Muhammad in the religion, nor on most of the historical
details of his life. There are no major differences in the ritual
observances of daily life and on many doctrinal and theological
matters there is also a broad consensus.
  It is in order to outline and confirm this large area of agreement
between Sunni and Shi'i Islam that the first chapter is included in


book. Any readers who are already well versed in the basic facts of
Islam may wish to omit this chapter, while readers who wish to have
detailed information about those areas covered in the first chapter
will need to refer to other books on Islam.
  The main intention of this book is to present both modern critical
research on Shi'ism and also the traditional way that Shi'is see
themselves. Critical scholarship has produced some interesting
research on Shi'i Islam, particularly concerning its early history,
and this has tended to throw considerable doubt on the traditional
Shi'i accounts. However, this research, interesting as it may be for
the intellectual, has had no impact at all on Shi'i Islam itself,
neither on the Shi'i religious leaders nor on the Shi'i masses. They
care little for what Western scholars may be writing about their
religion and indeed many are deeply suspicions of the motives behind
such research. Therefore, in this book, I have given the outlines of
the results of modern research but also I have tried to present the
orthodox traditional accounts of Shi'i history, since it is this that
is the reality of the religion for the Shi'is themselves and it is
this that raises the passions of the crowds during the great Shi'i
commemorations. Thus for anyone trying to achieve an understanding of
the world of Shi'i Islam, it is these traditional accounts that are
more relevant and important. And so, for example, the reader will find
in Chapter 4 an account of the history of early Shi'ism as it has
emerged from modern critical scholarship. But in Chapter 3, the same
period has already been examined giving the traditional account of the
lives of the Shi'i Imams and, in particular, the Karbala episode that
looms so large in Shi'i history and in the minds of the Shi'is that
its importance can hardly be overestimated.
  Research is, of course, continually throwing up new facts or new
ways of looking at the material presented in this book. The reader
will appreciate that, in order to keep this a readable introductory
book, I have, at times, needed to examine several controversial
viewpoints and present one of them as though this was established
fact. Some readers will also notice that I have tended to present the
evolution of Shi'ism as a history of ideas and I have not gone into
the social and economic factors that may have shaped these
developments. This is partly because to have gone into such matters
would have expanded the book greatly and partly because, for many
periods of Shi'i history, a great deal more work needs to be done in
this field before any reliable statements can be made.
  One of the problems in writing this book has been to decide what to
call the sect of Islam that is being described, since it is known by a
variety of names. It is often referred to by Sunnis by the derogatory
title of Rafidi (the Repudiators, see p. 73). The name Ja'fari is
strictly a designation of the Shi'i school of jurisprudence (see p.
125), but this 


name has also been used for the whole sect, especially by the ulama
and by Sunnis. In Lebanon the Shi'is have traditionally been called
Mutawali (plural: Mutawila), while in Afghanistan and India the name
Qizilbash is used. A name that has found favour among Western scholars
is Imami. Although it is used among Arab Shi'is, it has little
currency among Iranians or Indians and has the further disadvantage of
being often used loosely to include Isma'ilis. Probably the most
accurate and most widely-accepted, although less elegant, designation
is Ithna-'Ashan (Twelver) and this is the usage that has been
preferred in this book. The Shi'a often refer to themselves as al-
Khassa (the Select, as against the Sunnis who are referred to as al-
'Amma, the generality of the people).
  When Shi'i Islam is being referred to in this book, it is the Usuli
school of Ithna-'Ashari (Twelver) Shi'i Islam (i.e. the mainstream of
Twelver Shi'i Islam to which the many of Shi'is belong today) that is
meant unless specifically noted otherwise. The reader will find notes
on some of the other sects of Shi'i Islam in the second half of
Chapter 3, while in Chapter 12 may be found a description of the other
schools within Twelver Shi'ism.
  It will be apparent to the reader that use has been made of a number
of Islamic terms in the text of this book. Among these the reader will
note the use of the phrase 'the Prophet' to refer to Muhammad, while
other frequently-used words such as ulama, mujtahid, etc. are defined
in the Glossary.

A Note on Transliteration, Pronunciation and Technical Terms

Those with sufficient knowledge to care about transliteration will be
able to work out for themselves the system used in this book. The
following are a few notes to assist others with pronunciation and with
technical terms. On the question of pronunciation, the following table
is intended to assist the reader to work out how words are pronounced
in Arabic and Persian:

Letter      Arabic                   Persian

a           bat                      bat
end-a       Coca-Cola                let
a           bar                      bar
b           bat                      bat
ch          not used                 chat
d           dog                      dog
d           stressed, explosive d    zebra
dh          this                     zebra


f           fat                      fat
g           not used                 girl
gh          gargling sound similar   k sound at back of throat
              French r
h           hat                      hat
h           stressed, guttural h     hat
i           hit                      bet
i           heel                     heel
j           jump (girl in Egypt)     jump
k           king                     king
kh          as in Scottish loch or   as in Scottish loch or
              German machen            German machen
l           let                      let
m           man                      man
n           man                      man
p           not used                 put
q           k sound at back of       k sound at back of throat
r           rat                      rat
s           sad                      sad
s           stressed explosive s     sad
sh          shine                    shine
t           tell                     tell
t           stressed explosive s     tell
th          think                    sad
u           bull                     short
u           boot                     boot
v           not used                 very
w           wall; also in diphthong  not used except in diphthong     
              'aw' as in growl       'aw' as in growl
y           yet; also in diphthong   yet; also in diphthong 'ay'      
              'ay' as in main          as in main
z           zebra                    zebra
zh          not used                 treasure or as in French j
'           glottal stop             glottal stop
            (an apostrophe is also used as in English to indicate     
            a dropped letter as in Sayfu'd-Din for Sayfad-Din
            elided together)
'           strong, guttural sound   glottal stop in mid-word or
            with compressed            end-word; not sounded at
              throat                 beginning of word

  I have allowed myself a certain amount of freedom in that, for most
names and titles, where the second word is a noun (i.e. the construct


genitive form), I have elided together component parts of the Arabic
such as: 'Abdu'llah instead of 'Abd Allah; and Sayfu'd-Din instead of
Sayfad-Din. But for the sake of clarity I have not done this for
technical terms and names of books, thus: marja' at-taqlid not
marja'u't-taqlid; and Jawahir al-Kalam not Jawahiru'l-Kalam, nor in
names and titles where the second word is an adjective, e.g. Shaykh
  As for the technical terms themselves, it has been difficult to
decide whether to give them in their Persian or Arabic form since most
of the important books are written in Arabic, but Persian is the
language of the largest and most influential group in the Shi'i world.
To have given both would have cluttered up the text unduly. I have
mostly used the Arabic forms, the only exceptions being those terms
that have predominantly been used in their Persian form, e.g. Vilayat-
i Faqih. However, Arabic terms or names consisting of two words can
usually be converted to their Persian form by use of the following
1. Remove the article al-, at-, as-, ash-
2. Insert -i after the first term (or -yi if last letter of first term
   is a vowel)
3. Change letter w, if it occurs, to v
4. A terminal -a should usually be changed to -ih (although the final
   h is not pronounced)
Thus, for example:
marja' at-taqlid           becomes   marja'-i taqlid
wilayat al-faqih           becomes   vilayat-i faqih
al-Futuhat al-Makkiyya     becomes   Futuhat-i Makkiyyih

  Certain words and names commonly occurring in the book carry no
transliteration marks. These words, with their fully transliterated
form in parentheses, are:

Shi'i (Shi'i)    ulama ('ulama)
Shi'a (Shi'a)    Imam (Imam)
Sunni (Sunni)    Mulla (Mulla)
Sufi (Sufi)

  The names in the following list are treated as being anglicised and
therefore carry no transliteration marks (original transliterated form
in parentheses):
'Abbasid ('Abbasi)    Mirdasid (Mirdasi)
Buyid (Buya)          Safavid (Safavi)
Hamdanid (Hamdani)    Sarbadarid (Sarbadari)
Ilkhanid (Ilkhani)    Timurid (Timuri)
Mazyadid (Mazyadi)    'Uqaylid ('Uqayli)

  The names: Muhammad, 'Ali, Hasan and Husayn have not been
transliterated (Muhammad, 'Ali, Hasan, Husayn) where they refer to the
Prophet himself and the First, Second and Third Imams respectively but
do carry transliteration marks when they occur as part of another


name, e.g. Muhammad Baqir Majlisi. The names of the more well-known
cities such as Tehran, Isfahan and Baghdad have also not been
  Since any single Islamic (Hijri) year overlaps with two Christian
years, where only the Hijri year of an event is known, the equivalent
Christian (Georgian) date is given as the first of the two years
partially covered by that Hijri year.


In preparing a book of this nature one must rely upon the assistance
of many people. In particular, I must thank Prof. Alessandro Bausani
for agreeing to write a Foreword for this book, and Prof. Wilferd
Madelung who kindly agreed to look through the whole manuscript and
gave his valuable suggestions. Others who helped over particular
aspects of the subject (and I must apologize to many whom I have
omitted) are: Prof. Nikki Keddie, University of California, Los
Angeles; Prof. Emrys L. Peters, Manchester University; Todd Lawson,
McGill University Montreal; Dr Juan R. Cole, University of Michigan,
Ann Arbor; Stephen Lambden, Newcastle University; and Dr Peter Smith,
University of Lancaster. It is only the generous lending policy of a
number of libraries that has enabled the research necessary for this
book to be done. In particular, I would like to thank the staff of the
following libraries for their helpfulness: Library of the School of
Oriental and African Studies, London; Cambridge University Library;
Oriental Faculty Library, University of Cambridge; and Sandy Public
Library. I am grateful to Dr Gustav Thaiss for permission to publish
the quotation from his Ph.D. thesis on p. 237 and to Longman for
permission to publish the quotation from Jafri, Origins and Early
Development of Shi'a Islam, on pp. 312. I am also grateful to the
following for permission to use various photographs: Peter Carapetian,
fig, 61; The MacQuitty International Photographic Collection, figs.
11, 27, 32, 38, 52, 68; the Middle East Centre, St. Antony's College,
Oxford, figs. 3, 9, 10, 14; Dr Javad Nurbakhsh, fig. 36. Photographs
were also kindly supplied by the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of
Iran, London; Islamic Republic News Agency, London; the Iraqi Cultural
Centre, London; N. Askew and several other individuals. I must also
thank May Ballerio, Mark Hofman and Russ Busey for their careful work
and useful suggestions, and Dr Wendi Momen for the Index.


'Abbasid ('Abbasi)--descendant of al-'Abbas, uncle of the Prophet
  Muhammad. This family seized the Caliphate in 132/750
akhbar (sing. khabar)--Traditions, sayings attributed to Muhammad and
to the Imams. They are composed of two parts: the names of the
transmitters of the Tradition (isnad) and the text of the Tradition
(matn). In this book where the word 'Tradition' with a capital 'T' 
occurs, a khabar or hadith is meant
akhund--appears to have been originally used to designate high-ranking
  members of the ulama but is now used as an equivalent to mulla to   
  denote any member of the ulama and is often used slightly   
Al-family of. Not to be confused with the Arabic definite article al
  'Alid ('Alawi)--a descendant of 'Ali ibn Abi Talib, the cousin and
  son-in-law of the Prophet and the First Imam of the Shi'is
'Allama--very learned member of the ulama; learned in every branch of
  the Islamic sciences
Amir--commander, chief, leader
Ansar (lit. the helpers)--the Medinan followers of Muhammad
Aqa (lit. lord or master)--used to designate persons in positions of
  power and authority. In modern Persian when prefixed to a name is
  the equivalent of 'Mr'
Ayatu'llah (lit. sign of God)--modern description of mujtahid (see
Bab (pl. abwab, lit. gate)--one of the designations of the four
  representatives of the Hidden Imam
Caliph (Khalifa, pl. khulafa, lit. successor)--title given to those
who held power over the Islamic Empire after Muhammad
faqih (fuqaha-)--an expert in fiqh (see below); used in the Shi'i
  world as equivalent of mujtahid
fiqh--religious jurisprudence, elucidation and application of the
furu' (lit. branches)--subsidiary principles (applied to religious
  law, as opposed to usul), see pp. 175-6
ghayba--occultation or concealment
ghulat (sing. ghalin)--followers of ghuluww, see below
ghuluww, ghaliyya--extremism, holding doctrines that are so heretical


  to put those holding them outside the pale of Islam, see pp. 45,
hadith--as for akhbar
Ha'iri--related to the ha'ir, the sacred enclosure around the Shrine
  of Husayn at Karbala; designation of ulama from Karbala
hajj--the pilgrimage to Mecca undertaken according to the prescribed
  ritual during the month of Dhu'l-Hijja. Hajji or al-Hajj--one who
  has performed the Hajj
Hasanid (Hasani)--descendant of the Imam Hasan
hashiyya--gloss or marginal notes on a book. e. g. Hashiyya al-Kifya
  is a gloss on Akhund Khurasani's Kifyat al-Usul
Hikma (Hikmat-i Ilahi)--Divine Wisdom or Philosophy, Theosophy, see
  pp. 216-19
Husaynid (Husayni)--descendant of the Imam Husayn
ibn--son of
ijaza (lit. permission)--certificate permitting a pupil to transmit
  his master's teaching or testifying to his ability to exercise
ijtihad (lit. exertion)--the process of arriving at judgments on points
of religious law using reason and the principles of jurisprudence (usul
Imam (Imam) (lit. the one who stands in front)--principal meaning for
  Twelver Shi'is is as designation of one of the twelve legitimate
  successors of the Prophet Muhammad. Also used to designate a
  religious leader of the community
Imam-Jum'a--leader at the Friday communal prayer (usually, in Iran,
  the government appoints one main Imam-Jum'a in each city, often a
  hereditary position)
'irfan--gnosis, mystic knowledge
jihad--holy war undertaken to expand the boundaries of Islam or to
  defend it against an attacker
kalam--speculative theology
khums (lit. one-fifth)--religious tax originally paid to the Prophet
  and, by Shi'is, to the Imam from certain categories of goods and
  income. Now paid to the believer's marja' at-taqlid in his capacity
  as na'ib al-Imam
madrasa (Persian madrasih)--religious college (where the Islamic
  sciences are taught)
Mar'ashi--descendant of Abu'l-Hasan 'Ali al-Mar'ashi, a fifth-generation
descendant of the Fourth Imam, Zaynu'l-'Abidin
marja' at-taqlid (plur. maraji'at-taqlid, Persian marja'-i taqlid,
  lit. reference point for emulation)--one who through his learning
  and probity is qualified to be followed in all points of religious
  practice and law by the generality of Shi'is

mawla (plur. mawali)--(1) lord or master; (2) client of one of the
  Arab tribes (in early Islam all converts had to become clients of
  one of the Arab tribes, a socially-inferior position)
Mir (contraction of Amir)--usually means the same as Sayyid, i.e. a
  descendant of Muhammad, but can also be used as equivalent of   
Mirza--(contraction of Amirzada)--originally meant prince, later
  usually indicates an educated man if placed before a name and prince
  if placed after
Muhajirun (lit. emigrants)--those who left Mecca and migrated to
  Medina during the lifetime of the Prophet. Later used to designate  
  those who migrated to the borders of the Islamic Empire in order to 
  participate in jihad
Muhaqqiq--one who conducts research or investigation of religious
mujtahid--one who has studied sufficiently and achieved the level of
  competence necessary to obtain permission (ijaza) to practise
mulla (mulla-, derived from mawla)--usual Persian term for one of the
Musawi (Persian Musavi)--descendant of the Imam Musa al-Kazim
Mu'tazili--adherent of a school of theology (Mu'tazila) that
  emphasised certain key issues: the unity and justice of God, the
  createdness of the Qur'an and the free will of man. It evolved into
  a theology on the basis of rationality
Na'ib--deputy, representative; Na'ib al-Imam (Persian Na'ib-i Imam) - 
  representative of the Imam; Na'ib al-Khass--special or specific   
  representative (of the Hidden Imam); Na'ib al-Amm--general   
  representative (of the Hidden Imam)
nass--specific designation, usually used in relation to the
  designation of 'Ali by Muhammad or of one Imam by his predecessor
qadi -Judge
Radawi--descendant of the Imam 'Ali ar-Rida
rasul (plur. rusul)--apostle or messenger of God (not to be confused
  with the Christian use of the word apostle to denote one of the
  disciples of Christ)
rawda (Persian rawdih, rawdih-khani)--gathering for the recital of the
  sufferings of the Imams; rawdih-khan--reciter of the rawda rijal--
  the study of the biographies of the ulama and the transmitters of
  the hadith
Sahib--used in conjunction with a name of a book to mean 'author of'.
  In this form it is a frequent way of referring to ulama who have
  written important works; thus, for example, Shaykh Muhammad Hasa


an-Najafi (see p. 318) is often referred to as Sahib al-Jawahir, the
  author of the Jawahir (al-Kalam)
Sayyid-in Shi'i areas this is the designation of descendants of the
  Prophet Muhammad, but in the Arab world in general it is now also
  used as an equivalent of 'Mr'. Descendants of the Prophet are
  entitled to wear green turbans, but ulama who are Sayyids usually
  wear black turbans, a practice that is said to have derived from the
Shar', Shari'a--the religious law
sharh (lit. explanation)--commentary or interpretation of another work
shaykh (lit. an elder)--designation sometimes used for leading ulama.
  In the Arab world in general it is more commonly used for tribal
  leaders Shaykh al-Islam--official title given, in Iran, to a member
  of the ulama appointed to preside over the Shari'a court ih each
  major town sura (Persian surih)--chapter of the Qur'an
Tabataba'i--descendant of Ibrahim at-Tabataba, a fourth-generation
  descendant of the Second Imam, Hasan
tafsir--commentary or exegesis of whole or part of the Qur'an
taqiyya--dissimulation about one's religious beliefs in order to
  protect one's self, family or property from harm, see p. 183
taqlid--emulation, imitation or following; denotes the following of 
the dictates of a mujtahid
tullab (sing. talib)--religious student at a madrasa
ulama ('ulama, lit. learned persons)--the religious class. The
  singular of this word, 'alim, can be used of a person learned in any
  branch of knowledge but the plural is restricted to the religiously
usul--principles; usul ad-din principal elements of religion (as
  distinct from furu', see p. 175); usul al-fiqh--principles of
  jurisprudence -principles used for arriving at a judgement in fiqh
vazir (Arabic wazir)--minister (to a king or governor)
vilayat-i faqih (Arabic wilayat al-faqih)--the concept that government
  belongs by right to those who are learned in jurisprudence
wali--(1) guardian, helper or defender, a title used of the Imams; (2)
  saint --a title often used of eminent Sufis
wilaya (Persian vilayat)--a term which can indicate temporal
  government or power (as in vilayat-i faqih) and also spiritual
  guidance and sanctity
zakat--a religious tax payable by believers on certain categories of
  property and wealth and intended to assist the poor and needy,
  travellers and debtors. It is considered that the zakat 'purifies'
  the remaining property and wealth of the one who pays it. It is
  usually paid to the marja' at-taqlid
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