Shi‘ites (or Shi‘as) are adherents of Shi‘ite Islam (also referred to as Shi‘a Islam or Shi‘ism), and make up the second largest sect of Islam with an estimated 10-20% of the total Muslim population.
The historic background of the Sunni–Shi'ite split lies in the schism that occurred when the Islamic prophet Muhammad died in the year 632 AD, leading to a dispute over succession to Muhammad as a caliph of the Islamic community spread across various parts of the world which led to the Battle of Siffin.
According to this Shi'ite view, Ali as the successor of Muhammad, not only ruled over the community in justice, but also interpreted the Shari'ah law and its esoteric meaning. Hence he was regarded as being free from error and sin (infallible), and appointed by Allah by divine decree (nass) to be the first Imam. Shi'ites combine 5 prayers into only 3 prayers.
Shi'ites, as with the Sunnis, follow the Qur'an and Sunnah. Shi'ites have their own form of hadith largely based on sermons by Ali, Al-Kafi and Nahj al-Balagha being seen as the most reliable. Shi'ite fiqh (according to a fatwa by Al-Azhar, the most respected authority in Sunni Islam) is accepted as a fifth school of Islamic thought.
 See Also
- Comparison of Sunni and Shia Islam - ReligionFacts
- Shīʿite - Encyclopædia Britannica Online (2010)
- Mapping the Global Muslim Population: A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World’s Muslim Population - Pew Research Center, October 7, 2009
- Tracy Miller - Mapping the Global Muslim Population: A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World's Muslim Population - Pew Research Center, October 2009
- The World Factbook
- Sects of Islam - MuslimHope
- Al Kafi - The Bukhari of Shi'ism - AHYA
- al-Azhar Verdict on the Shia - Shi'ite Encyclopedia v2.0, Al-islam