A familiar name for the main school of Shia Islam. Believers are known as Twelvers because of their devotion to the twelve imams, beginning with Ali, the son-in-law of the prophet Muhammad, followed by Ali’s martyred sons Hassan and Hussein. The twelve imams are considered not only caliphs, or leaders of the faith, but also divinely chosen figures guiding the destiny of humankind. Each of the twelve imams has special prayers devoted to him, which are commonly recited weekly. Believers also frequently make pilgrimages to their tombs, notably the tombs of Ali in Najaf, Iraq, and Hussein in Karbala, Iraq. The pilgrimages are thought to bestow special merit on those who make them. Twelver Islam is the official religion of the modern nation of Iran.
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