ayatollah

(redirected from Ayatullah)
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus.
Related to Ayatullah: Ayatollah Khomeini

Shiites

Shiites (shēˈītz) [Arab., shiat Ali,=the party of Ali], the second largest branch of Islam, Shiites currently account for 10%–15% of all Muslims. Shiite Islam originated as a political movement supporting Ali (cousin and son-in-law of Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam) as the rightful leader of the Islamic state. The legitimacy of this claim, as initially envisioned by Ali's supporters, was based on Muhammad's alleged designation of Ali as his successor, Ali's righteousness, and tribal customs, given his close relation to the Prophet. Ali's right passed with his death in 661 to his son Hasan, who chose not to claim it, and after Hasan's death, to Husein, Ali's younger son. The evolution into a religious formulation is believed to have been initiated with the martyrdom of Husein in 680 at Karbala (today in Iraq), a traumatic event still observed with fervor in today's Shiite world on the 10th of the month of Muharram of the Muslim lunar year.

The Shiite focus on the person of the Imam made the community susceptible to division on the issue of succession. The early Shiites, a recognized, if often persecuted, opposition to the central government, soon divided into several factions. The majority of the Shiites today are Twelve-Imam Shiites (notably in Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, India, and Pakistan). Others are Zaydis (in Yemen), and the Ismailis (in India, Pakistan, Syria, and Yemen). The central belief of Twelve-Imam Shiites is the occultation (or disappearance from view) of the 12th Imam. The 12th Imam is considered to be the only legitimate and just ruler, and therefore no political action taken in his absence can be fruitful. While this position has provided Shiite clerics with the means to survive an often hostile environment, the need for an alternative formulation capable of framing political militancy has fostered activist movements within the Shiite tradition, occasionally leading to dissidence (see Babism).

The religious authority of the Shiite clerics is derived from their role as deputies of the absent 12th Imam; they are as such the recipients of the khums religious tax, a source of substantial economic autonomy. Shiite clerics are often refered to as mullahs and mujtahids. The most prominent clerical position is that of marja al-taqlid. The Shiite clergy does not, however, have a formal hierarchy. The honorific ayat Allah or ayatollah [Arab.,=sign of God] is a modern title that does not correspond to any established religious function.

In Iran, the Safavid adoption of a Shiite state religion led to the expansion of clerical involvement in public life, under the tutelage of the political elite. The threat of European colonialism in the 19th cent. presented the opportunity for Shiite activist thought to gain impetus. The attempt of the Pahlevi monarchy in the 20th cent. to curtail the influence of the clerics further strengthened clerical political militancy. Benefiting from a ubiquitous clerical network, and enjoying a credibility unblemished by the corruption within the autocratic regime, Ruhollah Khomeini served as the culmination of the reintegration of activism into the Shiite mainstream. With the Iranian revolution in 1979, the Shiite activist formulation progressed toward stressing the nonsectarian pan-Islamic character of its ideology. Islam, it suggests, should be lived as a tool for the empowerment of the oppressed, not merely as a set of devotional practices; hence the Iranian support for the Palestinian, Afghan, and Lebanese causes.

Bibliography

See M. Momen, An Introduction to Shi'i Islam (1985); G. E. Fuller and R. R. Francke, The Arab Shi'a (2000); L. Hazleton, After the Prophet (2009); H. Dabashi, Shi'ism (2011).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2022, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

ayatollah

one of a class of Iranian Shiite religious leaders
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
IRNA described the London incident as a "terrorist act", saying: "These are followers of Ayatullah Shirazi".
Yet at the height of Iran's June 2009 popular protests after the polls - instigated by the reformists because of the "re-election of IRGC's puppet Ahmadi-Nejad", Rafsanjani told the televised weekly Friday mosque prayers at Tehran University that the late Ayatullah Khomeini had declared the Islamic Republic shortly after the early 1979 Pahlavi monarchy's fall only to re-assure the nation's public that the rule belonged to the Iranian people.
Yet Rowhani's government, with the support of the theocracy's ailing Supreme Leader Ayatullah Ali Khamenei, is carefully navigating its way towards a "comprehensive" pact with the US.
Dr Ayatullah further said that number of consumer- oriented steps have been taken by the operators under the guidance of PTA which not only facilitate the telecom consumers but also ensure their protection from poor quality of services.
Davari's, The Political Thought of Ayatullah Murtaza Mutahhar: An Iranian Theoretician of the Islamic Statei, while an important book, is hurt somewhat by its deviation from the usual structure employed in a work devoted to the thought of a political theorist.
Mohammad Khatami (54), an open-minded leader of Iran, came out successful in the presidential election defeating Ali Akbar Nateq Noori, a conservative who is one of the most faithful followers of Ayatullah Ruhollah Khomeini.
Allama Raja Nasir Abbas, chief of MWM, highlighted that former leader of Iranian Revolution Ayatullah Khomeni had given the call in early 1980s to observe the last Friday of Ramzan as Al Quds Day.
Chairman Markazi Imam Hussain Council Dr Ghazanfar Mehdi, said that Hazrat Ayatullah Bashir Hussain Najfi has elaborated that all predictions which were made for the birth of Imam Mehdi (AS) are now visible.
The growth of his popularity - he was often referred to as head of the VocalAaAeAeA Hawza (in Arabic Hawza means top Ja'fari religio authority) - also put him in competition with other religious leaders in Najaf, including Imam Sistani and Iran-based Ayatullah Muhammad-Baqer al-Hakim.
When the monarchy fell in early 1979, however, the new leadership under Ayatullah Ruhullah Khomeini immediately cancelled all the LNG export projects.
Grand Ayatullah Ali al-Sistani, the most revered Shi'ite religious imam in Iraq, issued guide-lines intended as a form of code of conduct for forces fighting ISIS and aimed at curbing abuses.
It was only because of ex-President Ayatullah Ali-Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani's intervention with his powerful Saudi friends in late 1998 that Riyadh finally agreed to an OPEC/IPEC agreement signed in March 1999.