Shiite Muslims follow Muhammad through the teachings of his cousin Ali, who they consider to be Muhammad's successor in the Caliphate. Ali was Muhammad's closest male relative after his death; he was his first cousin and also his son-in-law after marrying Muhammad's daughter Fatimah. The Shiite faction is the second largest in the religion of Islam next to the Sunni faction, which is by far the largest. The U.S. Research Congressional Services estimates that Shiite Islam is practiced by 10 to 15 percent of Muslims worldwide. They are mostly found in Iraq, Iran, Yemen, and in Central and South Asia.
Day of Ashura
Celebrated on the 10th day of Muharram in the Islamic calendar, the Day of Ashura is the time when Shiite Muslims mourn the martyrdom of Husayn ibn Ali, the grandson of Muhammad, at the Battle of Karbala in A.D. 680. The Day of Ashura is a day of prayer and fasting. The Head Imam of The Islamic Centre in Leicester remarked that this day offers the most rewarding fast besides Ramadhan, according to the Prophet Muhammad. Other practices on Ashura Day include giving to charity, reading Surah Iklas 1,000 times, providing food for family members, cutting the nails and visiting the sick.
The most common form of Shiism today is Twelver Shiism. This tradition believes that there has been a line of 12 holy imams dating back to Ali. Each of these leaders were descendants of Ali and were considered great interpreters of Islamic law and theology. The last of the 12 imams lived in the ninth century, but he disappeared and belief dictates that he is expected to return at some point to lead the Muslim community once again.
Shiites believe that after the 12 imams from the line of Ali were gone, religious teachers called mujtahids replaced them as the great interpreters of Islamic religion and law. The leader among all mujtahid teachers is the ayatollah, whose title means “sign of God."
Shiite Muslims give a much larger portion of their income in tithes than do Sunni Muslims. Both sects pay the Zakat to be given to the poor. The Zakat is 2.5 percent of income for a Sunni and 10 percent of income for a Shiite. In addition, Shiites also pay another tithe called khums, which requires 20 percent of their income. This larger tithe goes to the support of their local cleric mentor, who uses it for good works and for the education of theological students.
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