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Shiite, or Shi’a, comes from the phrase Shi’at Ali, partisans of Ali. These were the early Muslims who believed that Ali, the nephew, son-in-law, and adopted son of Muhammad, should succeed him as leader of the community. In 656 CE, Ali did become the fourth caliph, the designation Muslims give to successors of Muhammad. The Shiite reject the first three caliphs and believe that only descendants of Ali can lead the community. They regard Ali as the first imam, the Shiite designation for leader of the community. Shiites are from 10% to 25% of the 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide. Estimates vary for various reasons. The numbers reported in different publications vary for political reasons, as well as inaccurate polls in many countries. The Shiite practice ...

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