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Shi'a Islam is one of the two major branches of Islam. It refers to a separate or distinct party of men or women who follow or conform with one another, although they do not necessarily agree with one another. In the broad sense, the term refers to the movement upholding a privileged position of the Family of the Prophet (ahl al-bayt) in the political and religious leadership (imama) of the Muslim community. When used in the specific sense of “partisans,” it designates all those who believe that ‘Ali b. Abi Talib (d. 660), the cousin and the son-in-law of Muhammad, was the legitimate head (imam) of the Muslim polity and ultimate authority on questions of law and doctrine in Islam, having inherited the Prophet's political ...

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