Shia Islam (Arabic: شيعة Shī‘ah, sometimes spelled Shi'a), is the second largest denomination of Islam, after Sunni Islam. The followers of Shia Islam are called Shi'as but the terms Shiites or Shi'ites are common Anglicisations. "Shia" is the short form of the historic phrase Shī‘atu ‘Alī (شيعة علي), meaning "the followers of Ali" or "the faction of Ali".
Similar to other schools of thought in Islam, Shia Islam is based on the teachings of the Islamic holy book, the Qur'an and the message of the final prophet of Islam, Muhammad. In contrast to other schools of thought, Shia Islam holds that Muhammad's family, the Ahl al-Bayt ("the People of the House"), and certain individuals among his descendants, who are known as Imams, have special spiritual and political authority over the community. Shia Muslims further believe that Ali, Muhammad's cousin and son-in-law, was the first of these Imams and was the rightful successor to Muhammad and thus reject the legitimacy of the first three caliphs.
Shias regard Ali as the most important figure after Muhammad. According to them, Muhammad suggested on various occasions during his lifetime that Ali should be the leader of Muslims after his demise. According to this view, Ali as the successor of Muhammad not only ruled over the community in justice, but also interpreted the Sharia Law and its esoteric meaning. Hence he was regarded as being free from error and sin (infallible), and appointed by God by divine decree (nass) to be the first Imam. Ali is known as "perfect man" (al-insan al-kamil) similar to Muhammad according to Shia viewpoint. Doctrine
The position of Ali is supported by numerous Hadith, including Hadith of the pond of Khumm, Hadith of the two weighty things, Hadith of the pen and paper, Hadith of the invitation of the close families, and Hadith of the Twelve Successors. In particular, the Hadith of the Cloak is often quoted to illustrate Muhammad's feeling towards Ali and his family. Therefore, collections of sermons attributed to Ali are revered by Shi'as. Although there were several Shia branches through history, nowadays Shi'a Islam is divided into three main branches. The largest Shia sect in the early 21st century is the Ithnā ʿAshariyyah, commonly referred to in English as the Twelvers. Twelvers constitute the majority of the population in Iran, Azerbaijan, Bahrain,, and Iraq. Countries with a significant minority of Shia are Syria, Lebanon, Kuwait, Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Mauritius, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Oman and Yemen. Other smaller branches include the Ismaili and Zaidi, who dispute the Twelver lineage of Imams and beliefs.
The Shia Islamic faith is vast and inclusive of many different groups. There are various Shia theological beliefs, schools of jurisprudence, philosophical beliefs, and spiritual movements. Shi'a Islam embodies a completely independent system of religious interpretation and political authority in the Muslim world. The Shi'a identity emerged during the lifetime of Muhammad, and Shia theology was formulated in the second century. The first Shi'a governments and societies were established by the end of the third century (after Hijra)
ALI ibn ABU TALIB a.s
This article discusses Orthodox Shi'a sources on the biography of ‘Alī ibn Abī Tālib (599-661), the cousin and son-in-law to Prophet Muhammad, member of the Prophet's Ahl al-Bayt  and first Caliph.
Ali is regarded as the first Imam and is considered, along with his descendants, to be one of the divinely appointed successors of Muhammad who are the only legitimate religious and political leaders of the Muslim community. Though Imam Ali was regarded, during the lifetime of Muhammad, as the Prophet's initial successor, it would be 25 years before he was recognized with the title of Caliph (successor).
Tradition states that Ali was born in Mecca (inside the Ka'ba ), to the tribe Quraysh. Ali's father, Abu Talib ibn ‘Abd al-Muttalib, was custodian of the Ka'ba and a Sheikh of Banu Hashim; an important branch of the powerful tribe of the Quraysh. His mother was Fatimah binte Asad who was also from Banu Hashim. In Arab culture, this was a great honor for Ali that both of his parents were belong to Banu Hashim. Ali was also one of descendants of Ismail the son of Ibrahim.
During his childhood, Ali had spent his first six years under his father's house until, as a result of famine in and around Mecca, he was requested by the Prophet to leave his father's house and come to the house of his cousin, the Prophet Muhammad.  It would be another four years until Muhammad would announce his Prophethood. When the divine command came for Muhammad to begin to preach, Imam Ali, only a child of ten years, arose and was the first male to publicly announce his support for his cousin.  Over the coming years, Ali stood firmly in his support of Muhammad during the persecution of Muslims in Mecca.
Ali migrated to Medina shortly after Muhammad. There Muhammad told Ali that he had been ordered by God to give his daughter, Fatimah, to Ali in marriage.  For the ten years that Muhammad led the community in Medina, Ali was extremely active in his service, leading parties of warriors on raids, and carrying messages and orders. With the exception of Tabuk, Ali took part in all the battles fought for Islam during this time.
After the assassination of the third Caliph, Uthman Ibn Affan, the Companions of Muhammad in Medina selected Ali to be the new Caliph. He encountered defiance and civil war (First Fitna) during his reign. Tragically, while Ali was praying in the mosque of Kufa, Ibn Muljam, a Khawarij assassin, struck him with a poison-coated sword. Ali died on the 21st of Ramadan in the city of Kufa in 661 CE. Imam Ali is highly regarded for his knowledge, belief, honesty, devotion to Islam, loyalty to Muhammad, his equal treatment of all Muslims, and his generosity in forgiving his defeated enemies. In addition, he is respected as the rightful successor of Prophet Muhammad. . Ali retains his stature as the foremost authority on the Tafsir (Quranic exegesis), Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) and religious thought.
The compilation of sermons, lectures, and quotations attributed to Ali are compiled in the form of several books. Nahj al-Balagha is the most revered of them. It is considered by historians and scholars to be an important work in Islamic literature.  
Fatimah binte Asad, the wife of Abu Talib, pregnant with Ali, completed her pregnancy term of 270 days but had not yet been induced into labor to give birth to the post-term baby. Abu Talib suggested to his wife that she perform circumambulations around the Ka'ba and pray for divine assistance. In the midst of performing her rounds, she went into labor; at one corner of the Ka'ba, designated as the Rukne Yamani, the Ka'ba split open and she was given a push from behind towards the direction of the opening.
Inside the Ka'ba Fatimah gave birth to Ali, and it wasn't until Muhammad had looked upon the infant that the infant's eyelids opened. At the time of Ali's birth a special relationship was hence imparted between Muhammad and Ali, and would be manifested from the time of the Prophet's Call in the year 610 A.D. until the Prophet's demise in the year 632.  Imam Ali would be given the privilege of being to only person to be born inside the Ka'ba. 
In a Muslim tradition regarded as authentic by Shias and included in Mawaddat al-Qurba and Peshawar Nights, Alis mother Fatima bint Asad named him after her father, Asad. Abu Talib did not agree with her and said:
"O Fatima! Let us go to the Qubais hills, and invoke Allah (some reporters say that he said they should go to the Al-Masjid al-Haram). He may tell us the name of this child."
The answer to the prayer was Ali, derived from one of 99 Names of God, Al Ali (The Exalted) ref.
When Ali was about six years of age, Muhammad was granted permission from his uncle Abu Talib to bring him up as his own child. From his earliest days, Ali came directly under the tutelage of Muhammad, to share his high ethics and morals. For ten years, Imam Ali remained in the care of Muhammad, who kept him so close and inseparable that he was one with him in character, knowledge, self-sacrifice, forbearance, bravery, kindness, generosity, oratory and eloquence. From his very infancy, he prostrated himself before God along with Muhammad, as he himself said, 
"I was the first to pray to God along with the Holy Prophet."
Main article: Hadith of warning
Ali was the first person to delcare in public his belief in Muhammad, and his message of Islam - though Ali had been born a muslim. . His announcement came with Muhammad's first speech, directed to his family, about his divinely appointed mission. Tradition states that when the verse "And warn your close tribe (Quran 26:214)" was revealed to Muhammad, he called Ali and said to him,
"Ali, God has commanded me to warn my tribe of near kindred. I was troubled by this, since I knew that when I discuss the matter to them they would respond in a way which I would not like. I kept silent until Gabriel came to me and said "If you do not do what you are commanded, your Lord will punish you." So prepare a measure of wheat for us, add a leg of lamb to it, fill a large bowl of milk for us, and then invite sons of Abd al-Muttalib for me so that I may speak to them what I have been commanded to tell them."
Once Muhammad had gathered the members of Banu Abd al-Muttalib he spoke to them, saying,
"Banu Abd al-Muttalib, I don't know of any young man among Arabs who has brought for his people something better than what I have brought to you. I bring the best of this world and the world after, since God has commanded me to summon you to him. Which of you will aid me in this matter, so that he will be my brother, my executor (Wasi), my successor (Caliph) among you?"
They all held back from the words of Muhammad, and though Ali was the youngest, he replied,
"I will be your helper, O' Prophet of Allah." He put his hand on the back of Ali's neck and said "This is my brother, my executor (Wasi), my successor (Caliph) among you, so listen to him and obey him."
Some Banu Abd al-Muttalib rose up laughing and saying to Ali's father, Abu Talib,
"He has commanded you to obey your son and to obey him!"
(Reference to this section can be found here: )
Marriage with Fatimah
The Shī‘ah believe that there were never any arguments or differences between ‘Alī and Fātimah, and believe that ‘Alī never sought the hand of Abu Jahl's daughter in marriage. They also believe that Muhammad did not grant him the title "Abū Turāb" in displeasure, but rather from his delight at the battle of al-Ashira.
Boycott of Banu Hashim
Muhammad’s denunciation of the Meccan traditional religion was especially offensive to his own tribe, the Quraysh, as they were the guardians of the Ka'aba. So they persecuted Muslims. According to the tradition, the leaders of Makhzum and Abd Shams, two important clans of Quraysh, declared a public boycott against the clan of Banu Hashim, their commercial rival in order to put pressure on the clan.
At this time, Muhammad arranged for some of his followers to emigrate to Ethiopia. The boycott lasted for three years. Ali stood firmly in support of Muhammad during the years of persecution of Muslims and boycott of Banu Hashim in Mecca.
Migration to Medina
See also: Hijra (Islam)
In 622 CE, the year of Muhammad's migration to Yathrib (now Medina), Ali risked his life by sleeping in Muhammad's bed to impersonate him and thwart an assassination plot, so that Muhammad could escape in safety. This night is called "Laylat Al-mabit". According to some hadith a verse was revealed about Ali concerning his sacrifice on the night of hijrah which says "And among men is he who sells his NAFS (self) in exchange for the pleasure of Allah"
Ali survived the plot, but risked his life again by staying in Mecca to carry out Muhammad's instructions: to restore to their owners all the goods and properties that had been entrusted to Muhammad for safekeeping. Then he went to Medina with Fatima binte Asad (his mother), Fatimah (the daughter of Muhammad), and two other women.
Then Muhammad went on his final Hajj (pilgrimage) and when returning, he called all those who were ahead to come back and those who were behind to come ahead. They had stopped at a place called Khumm. Muhammad sat on a pulpit made of saddles. He then said "man kuntu mawla hu fa hadha aliun mawla." which is translated as whoevers' master I am, Ali is also his master. The Sunni's translate it however as howevers 'friend' I am Ali is also his friend.
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