More appropriately, Shi'a or Shi'i. The second largest sect of Islam
, founded by followers of Ali, the fourth Sunni
caliph (successor to Prophet Muhammad
) who married the Prophet's daughter Fatima. About ten percent of the world's Muslims are Shi'a, and prefer to call themselves Ahl ul-Bayt (the 'People of the House', i.e. family of Muhammad). The largest Shi'a denomination believe in twelve imam
s, Ali being the first, and the last, al-Mahdi, is in hiding and expected to return to prepare for the second coming of Jesus Christ
. The differences between Sunni and Shi'a Muslims have more to do with politics and culture than faith and religion.
Shi'ism is most prevalent on either side of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in the modern nations of Iran and Iraq (more in the southern part of the latter). The Shi'as of Iraq suffered great persecution under the nominal Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein
. Currently, a young Shi'a cleric, Moqtada al-Sadr, is leading a powerful resistance against the American and allied occupation forces from the holy city of Najaf.