Twelver or Imami Shī‘ism (Ithnā‘ashariyyah', Arabic: اثنا عشرية) is the largest branch of Shī‘ī (Shi'a) Islam. An adherent of Twelver Shī‘ism is most commonly referred to as a Twelver, which is derived from their belief in twelve divinely ordained leaders, known as the Twelve Imāms. Approximately 85% of Shī‘a are Twelvers, representing the largest branch of the Shī‘a, and the term Shi'a Muslim as commonly used in English usually refers to Twelver Shī‘a Muslims only.
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.
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 aṣ-Ṣādiq, who the Twelvers consider to be their Sixth Imām. The founders of the SunniHanafi and Maliki schools of jurisprudence narrated hadith from Ja‘far.
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 Muḥammad through his daughter Fatima Zahra 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 traditions and the most worthy of emulation.
In particular, Twelvers recognize the succession of ‘Alī, Muḥammad's cousin, son-in-law and the first man to accept Islam (second only to Muḥammad's wife Khadījah), 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 was appointed successor by Muḥammad's direct order on many occasions, and that he is therefore the rightful leader of the Muslim faith.
‘Alī was the third successor to Abu Bakr and, for the Shī‘ah, the first divinely sanctioned "Imām," or male descendant of 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" 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.
The Ja'farī derive their Sharia, or religious law, from the Qur'an and the Sunnah. The difference between Sunni and Shīˤa Sharia results from a Shīˤa belief that Muhammad assigned ˤAlī to be the first ruler and the leader after him (the Khalifa). Moreover, according to Shīˤa, 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 Shīˤa:
Following hadith from Muħammad and his descendants the 12 Imāms.
Not accepting the "examples", verdicts, and ahādīth of Abu Bakr, Umar and Uthman (who are considered by Sunnīs to be the first three Caliphs).
Attributing the concept of the masūm "infallibility" to the Twelve Imāms or Fourteen Infallibles (including Muhammad and his daughter Fatima Zahra) and accepting the examples and verdicts of this special group.
Twelvers believe in the five pillars of Islam, as do Sunnis, but categorize them differently. Twelver beliefs include the following:
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.
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. 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.
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 through his daughter Fatimah Zahra. Each Imam was the son of the previous Imam, with the exception of Husayn ibn Ali, who was the brother of Hasan ibn Ali. The twelfth and final Imam is Muhammad al-Mahdi, who is believed by the Twelvers to be currently alive, and in hiding.
He was the eldest surviving grandson of Muhammad through Muhammad's daughter, Fatimah 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.
For most of his life, the Abbasid Caliph, Al-Mu'tamid, placed restrictions on him after the death of his father. Repression of the Shi'ite population was particularly high at the time due to their large size and growing power.
According to Twelver doctrine, he 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.
According to Shia doctrine, he has been living in the Occultation since 872, and will continue as long as God wills it.
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. Shi'a Muslims do not consider the Imams as superior to the prophets. This is an image that is misconstrued by many Muslims. Shia Muslims view all religions and groups that accept prophets or messengers after Muhammad to be heathen or heretical.
In Twelver eschatology, Muhammad ibn Hasan ibn ˤAlī, 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 Madhi has been hidden by God (referred to as 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, along with Sunnis, do not consider Muhammad ibn Hasan the Mahdi.
Comparative jurisprudence: Twelver - Sunni
(This list is not exhaustive nor representative of the Sunni/Shia dispute on religious jurisprudence)
[I testify that] there is no god (ilah) but God and [I testify that] Muhammad is his messenger.
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." This version constitutes an interpretation rather than translation, as the words "worthy of worship" are not present in the Arabic.
A vast majority of Twelvers often add ˤAlīyun waliyu l-Lāh (علي ولي الله "Ali is the friend of God") at the end of the Shahādah. This testifies that ˤAlī is also the Leader of the Believers along with God and Muhammad, proof of which Shi'a theologians find in the Qur'ān [Qur'an5:55].
Though this form of the Shahādah is recited daily by other Shīˤa sects such as the Nizari Ismailis, Twelvers view it as Mustahab (recommended), but not Wajib (obligatory).
There are minor differences between Sunnis and Shīˤa 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 Shīˤa 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, Shīˤa 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 he perform the purification ritual.
2 Raka'ah 3</sup> and 7</sup>, 8 raka'ah (4 x 2 Raka'ah) Salat al-Layl3
Sunni often pray two Raka'ahNafl after Dhuhr, Maghrib and Isha'a.
1 According to Shia Muslims, these are to be performed in sets of two raka'ah each.</br>
2 Prayed daily by Muhammad (Sunnis) 3Mustahab (praiseworthy) to do everyday. (Shias)</br>
4 Replaced by Jumu'ah on Fridays, which consists of two raka'ah. 5 According to Imam Abu Hanifa, "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 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.</br>
6 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.</br>
7 According to Shia Muslims, this prayer is termed nawafil.
During prayer, it is the Jaˤfarī 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 Shīˤa use a small tablet of soil (a mixture of earth and water, and often taken from the ground of a holy site) or wood during their daily prayers upon which they prostrate.
In the Jaˤfarī 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 Jaˤfarī consider the five daily prayers to be compulsory, though the Jaˤfarī 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". 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" . 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". 
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.
Nikāḥu’l-Mut‘ah, Nikah el Mut'a (Arabic: نكاح المتعة, also Nikah Mut‘ah literally, "marriage for pleasure"), or sighah, is a fixed-time marriage which, according to the UsuliShiaschools 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), described in the Qur'an (4:24). 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, however see Misyar.
All Muslims, Sunni or Twelver Shi'a, celebrate the following annual holidays:
Arba'een commemorates the suffering of the women and children of Imam Husayn's household. 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.
The death of the grandson of Muhammad and the son of AliHusayn 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.
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 the Prophet 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 shortly lived Fatimid Empire. After the fall of the Fatimid Empire 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 law the law of the land, and patronized Twelver scholarship. For this, Twelver ulama "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 the twelfth imam.
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. Historically, Zaidi and Ismaili Shi'a imams functioned as both religious and political leaders, but later after the fall of the Fatimid Empire 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 the Prophet Muhammad.
↑ 9.09.1Gleave, Robert. "Imamate". Encyclopaedia of Islam and the Muslim world; vol.1. MacMillan. ISBN 0028656040.
↑The Imam's Arabic titles are used by the majority of Twelver Shia who use Arabic as a liturgical language, including the Usooli, Akhbari, Shaykhi, and to a lesser extent Alawi. Turkish titles are generally used by Alevi, a fringe Twelver group, who make up around 10% of the world Shia population. The titles for each Imam literally translate as "First Ali", "Second Ali", and so forth. Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East and North Africa. Gale Group. 2004. ISBN 9780028657691.
Martin, Richard C.. Encyclopaedia of Islam and the Muslim world; vol.1. MacMillan. ISBN 0028656040.
Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East and North Africa. Gale Group. 2004. ISBN 9780028657691.
Corbin, Henry (1993 (original French 1964)). History of Islamic Philosophy, Translated by Liadain Sherrard, Philip Sherrard. London; Kegan Paul International in association with Islamic Publications for The Institute of Ismaili Studies. ISBN 0710304161.
Momen, Moojan (1985). TAn Introduction to Shi`i Islam: The History and Doctrines of Twelve. Yale University Press. ISBN 0300035314.