Images of famous Ayatollahs and Grand Ayatollahs of Iran

Ayatollah (UK: ə/ or US: ə/; Persian: آيت‌الله‎, romanizedāyatullāh, from Arabic: آية الله‎, romanizedʾāyatu llāh "Sign of God") or ayatullah is a high-ranking Usuli Twelver Shī‘ah cleric. Those who carry the title are experts in Islamic studies such as jurisprudence, Quran reading, and philosophy and usually teach in Islamic seminaries. The next lower clerical rank is Hujjat al-Islam.


The name "ayatullah" originates from a passage in the Quran which the Shi'a, unlike the Sunni, interpret to mean human beings can be regarded as 'signs' or 'evidence' of God. Passage 51:20–21 of the Quran states:

On the earth are signs (Ayat) for those of assured Faith,

As also in your own selves: Will ye not then see?

Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in Qom, 1964

The term was not commonly used as a title until the early twentieth century. The title of Ayatollah became popularized with the creation of Qom Seminary in 1922.

The title is currently granted to top Shia mujtahid, after completing sat'h and kharij studies in the hawza. By then the mujtahid would be able to issue his own edicts from the sources of Islamic religious laws: the Qur'an, the Sunnah, ijmāʻ, and 'aql ("intellect", rather than the Sunnī principle of qiyas). Most of the time this is attested by an issued certificate from his teachers. The ayatollah can then teach in hawzas (shia seminaries) according to his speciality, can act as a reference for their religious questions, and act as a judge.

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Ajatolla
العربية: آية الله
asturianu: Ayatollah
azərbaycanca: Ayətullah
تۆرکجه: آیت‌الله
беларуская: Аятала
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Аятала
български: Аятолах
català: Aiatol·là
čeština: Ájatolláh
Cymraeg: Aiatola
dansk: Ayatollah
Deutsch: Ajatollah
eesti: Ajatolla
Ελληνικά: Αγιατολάχ
español: Ayatolá
Esperanto: Ajatolo
euskara: Aiatola
français: Ayatollah
galego: Aiatolá
한국어: 아야톨라
हिन्दी: अयतोल्लाह
hrvatski: Ajatolah
Bahasa Indonesia: Ayatullah
italiano: Ayatollah
עברית: אייתוללה
ქართული: აიათოლა
Kiswahili: Ayatollah
kurdî: Ayetula
Кыргызча: Аятолла
magyar: Ajatollah
македонски: Ајатолах
Bahasa Melayu: Ayatollah
Nederlands: Ayatollah
norsk: Ayatollah
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Oyatulloh
ਪੰਜਾਬੀ: ਆਇਤਉਲਾ
پنجابی: آیت اللہ
polski: Ajatollah
português: Aiatolá
русский: Аятолла
Scots: Ayatollah
shqip: Ajetullah
slovenčina: Ajatolláh
српски / srpski: Ајатолах
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Ajatolah
suomi: Ajatollah
svenska: Ayatolla
Türkçe: Ayetullah
українська: Аятола
اردو: آیت اللہ
Winaray: Ayatollah