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Shia Islam (//) is the second-largest branch of Islam. It holds that the Islamic prophet Muhammad designated ʿAlī ibn Abī Ṭālib as his successor (khalīfa) and the Imam (spiritual and political leader) after him, most notably at the event of Ghadir Khumm, but was prevented from succeeding Muhammad as the leader of the Muslims as a result of the choice made by some of Muhammad's other companions (ṣaḥāba) at Saqifah. This view primarily contrasts with that of Sunnī Islam, whose adherents believe that Muhammad did not appoint a successor before his death and consider Abū Bakr, who was appointed caliph by a group of senior Muslims at Saqifah, to be the first rightful (rāshidūn) caliph after Muhammad. Adherents of Shia Islam are called Shia Muslims.
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Shia Islam is based on a hadith report concerning Muhammad's pronouncement at Ghadir Khumm. Shia Muslims believe that ʿAlī ibn Abī Ṭālib, Muhammad's cousin and son-in-law, should have been the designated successor to Muhammad as Islam's spiritual and political leader. This belief later developed into the concept of Imamah, the idea that certain descendants of Muhammad, the Ahl al-Bayt, are rightful rulers or Imams, whom Shia Muslims believe possess special spiritual and political authority over the Muslim community. Later events such as Husayn ibn Ali's martyrdom in the Battle of Karbala further influenced the development of Shia Islam, contributing to the formation of a distinct religious sect with its own rituals and shared collective memory.
Shia Islam is the second largest branch of Islam, followed by 10–15% of all Muslims. Although there are many Shia subsects, Twelver Shīʿīsm is by far the largest and most influential, comprising about 85% of all Shia Muslims. Others include the Isma'ilis, Zaydis and Alevis. Shia Muslims form a majority of the population in three countries across the Muslim world: Iran, Iraq and Azerbaijan. Significant Shi’ite communities are also found in Bahrain, Lebanon, Kuwait, Turkey, Yemen, and the Indian sub-continent. Iran, a theocratic Islamic republic governed by a framework established by Ayatollah Khomeini known as the Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist, stands as the only country where Shia Islam forms the foundation of both its laws and governance system.
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