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(Arab, shiah, " sect " ) Those Muslims who regard Ali as the first rightful Imam or Caliph (rejecting the three Sunni Caliphs), and do not consider the Sunna, or oral law, of any authority, but look upon it as apocryphal. There are numerous Shiite sects, all of them regarded as heretical by the orthodox Sunnites. Because of the Shiite doctrine of the Mahdi, a twelfth Imam who is supposedly living in concealment through the centuries but is expected to rule Islam, the Shiites have had a political as well as a religious influence on the development of Islam as evidenced in the overthrow of the Shah of Iran in 1979 and the subsequent rise of Shiite fundamentalism in other countries of the Middle East.

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Publication:Benet's Reader's Encyclopedia, 3rd ed.
Article Type:Reference Source
Date:Jan 1, 1987
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