The largest school of Shi'ite Islam, believing in a succession of 12 imams beginning with 'Ali ibn Abu Talib, the fourth caliph and the son-in-law of Muhammad. The last of the 12 imams recognized by the school was Muhammad al-Mahdi al-Hujjah, who disappeared in 873 and is thought by believers to be alive and in occultation, ready to return at the Last Judgment. The Ithna 'Ashariyyah believe that imams are the preservers of the faith and the only interpreters of the esoteric meanings of law and theology. The imams are thought to influence the world's future, and pilgrimages to the tombs of the imams secure special rewards. This school became the state religion of Iran under the Safavid dynasty (1501–1736). The Ithna 'Ashariyyah also constitute a majority in Iraq and Bahrain, with sizable minorities in other Muslim countries. Compare Isma'iliyyah.
Variants of ITHNA 'ASHARIYYAH
Ithna 'Ashariyyah or Imamis English Twelvers
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