means "followers", "members of party". These refer to followers of Ali, son-in-law of Muhammad. They accept the 4th Caliph Ali, but not the first three because they believed the line of succession from Muhammad should have been through the son-in-law of Muhammad, Ali, husband of Fatima. They wanted Ali's two sons Hasan and Husain to succeed the caliphate, but Hasan renounced his claim and Husain was killed at the Battle of Kerbala in AD680. This martyrdom is important to the Shi'ites and is re-enacted annually. It means that the Shi'ites have some idea of redemptive suffering.
Rival imams led the Shi'ite community until the 12th, who disappeared in 874AD. It is believed that he and his successors have been in hiding ever since, waiting until the time of restoration. They have their own secret books of the interpretation of the Qur'an. Found mostly in Iran, Iraq and Lebanon. Also, there are variant readings of the Qur'an from the Uthmanic text used by the Sunnis.
One Sunni Muslim, said on the soc.religion.islam newsgroup that Shi'as believe that the Qur'an muslims have now is only part of the entire "divine Qur'an" and the rest will be brought by "Iman Mahdi". (Syed Yusuf, Feb 15 1996), which is denied by others.
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