Twelver (Arabic: اثنا عشرية‎, translit. Athnā‘ashariyyah or Ithnā‘ashariyyah; Persian: شیعه دوازده‌امامی‎, pronounced [ʃiːʔe-je dævɑzdæh emɑmiː]) or Imamiyyah (Arabic: إمامية‎) is the largest branch of Shia Islam. The term Twelver refers to its adherents' belief in twelve divinely ordained leaders, known as the Twelve Imams, and their belief that the last Imam, Muhammad al-Mahdi, lives in occultation and will reappear as the promised Mahdi. According to Shia tradition, the Mahdi's tenure will coincide with the Second Coming of Jesus Christ (Isa), who is to assist the Mahdi against the Masih ad-Dajjal (literally, the "false Messiah" or Antichrist).

Twelvers believe that the Twelve Imams are the spiritual and political successors to the Islamic prophet Muhammad. According to the theology of Twelvers, the Twelve Imams are exemplary human individuals who not only rule over the community with justice, but are also able to preserve and interpret sharia and the esoteric meaning of the Quran. The words and deeds (Sunnah) of Muhammad and the Imams are a guide and model for the community to follow; as a result, Muhammad and the Imams must be free from error and sin, a doctrine known as Ismah or infallibility, and must be chosen by divine decree, or nass, through Muhammad.[1][2][3]

The largest branch of Shia Islam is the Twelver Shia, with about 85% of all Shias that can be estimated approximately between 148 and 296 million Twelver Shias.[4][5][6][7]

Twelvers make majorities among Muslims in Iran, Azerbaijan, Iraq,Lebanon, Bahrain. Also, they make significant minorities in India,[8][9][10][11][12] Pakistan, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia,[13] Yemen, Bangladesh, Kuwait, Oman, UAE, Qatar, Nigeria, Chad, and Tanzania.

Iran is the only country with state religion as (Twelver) Shia Islam.

Twelvers share many tenets of Shia with related sects, such as the belief in Imams, but the Ismaili Shias believe in a different number of Imams and, for the most part, a different path of succession regarding the Imamate. They also differ in the role and overall definition of an Imam. Twelvers are also distinguished from Ismailis by their belief in Muhammad's status as the "Seal of the Prophets" (Khatam an-Nabiyyin), in rejecting the possibility of abrogation of Sharia laws, and in considering both esoteric and exoteric aspects of the Quran.[14] Alevis in Turkey and Albania, and Alawites in Syria and Lebanon, share belief in the Twelve Imams with Twelvers, but their theological doctrines are remarkably different.


The term 'Twelver' is based on the belief that twelve male descendants from the family of Muhammad, starting with Ali ibn Abi-Talib and ending with Muhammad al-Mahdi, are Imams who have religious and political authority.[15]

The Twelvers are also known by other names:

  • The Shi'ah (or Shi'a) is commonly used as a synonym for "Twelvers" since this branch comprises the majority group in Shia Islam.[citation needed] Shia refers to a group of Muslims who believe that the succession to Muhammad must remain in his family for specific members who are designated by a divine appointment.[16] Tabataba'ei states that the word referred to the partisans of Ali at the time of Muhammad himself.[17]
  • Ja'fari refers exclusively to the Twelver Juridical school which is followed by the majority of Shias. It also refers to the minority Akhbaris who advocate a distinct juridical approach within Ja'fari jurisprudence. The term is derived from the name of Ja'far al-Sadiq who is considered by the Twelvers to be their Sixth Imām. Ja'far al-Sadiq is also respected and referenced by the founders of the Sunni Hanafi and Maliki schools of jurisprudence.[citation needed]
  • Imami or Imamiyyah or Imamite is a reference to the Twelver belief in the infallibility of the Imāms. Although the Ismā'īlīs also share the generic concept of Imams, this term is exclusively used for the Twelvers who believe that the leadership of the community after Muhammad belongs to Ali and eleven subsequent successors that together comprise the Fourteen Infallibles.[citation needed]
Other Languages
català: Imamisme
čeština: Isná ašaríja
español: Imamíes
Esperanto: Dekduimamismo
한국어: 열두 이맘파
italiano: Duodecimani
עברית: התריסריים
Bahasa Melayu: Syiah Imam Dua Belas
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Oʻn ikki imom
polski: Imamizm
português: Xiismo duodecimano
română: Isnașarism
Scots: Twaler
Simple English: Twelvers
српски / srpski: Дванаестници
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Imamizam
svenska: Imamiterna
Tagalog: Imamismo
татарча/tatarça: Шигый-уникечеләр
Türkçe: İsnâaşeriyye
українська: Імаміти