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Shi'ite Follower of Shi'a, the second-largest branch of Islam. Shi'ites believe that the true successor of Muhammad was Ali, whose claim to be caliph was not recognized by Sunni Muslims. It rejects the Sunna (the collection of teachings outside the Koran) and relies instead on the pronouncements of a succession of holy men called Imams. The Safavid dynasty in Iran was the first to adopt Shi'a as a state religion. One of the principal causes of the Iranian Revolution was Shah Pahlavi's attempt to reduce clerical influence on government. Ayatollah Khomeini's Shi'ite theocracy stressed the role of Islamic activism in liberation struggles. The largest Shi'ite group is the Twelve-Imam Shi'ites; the other major group is the Ismailis.

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Shi·ite / ˈshēˌīt/ (also Shi'ite) • n. an adherent of the Shia branch of Islam. • adj. of or relating to Shia. DERIVATIVES: Shi·ism / ˈshēˌizəm/ (also Shi'ism) n.

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