The Word Shia and its Meaning from Sunni sources

Shia in Arabic
Shia in Arabic (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The term Shia literally means follower. It is a term that Allah used in the Quran to refer to the followers of his Prophets. An example was Prophet Abraham (as) who was mentioned in the Quran specifically as the shia of Noah (as):

“And most surely Abraham was among the Shia of him (Noah)” (Quran 37:83)

Imam Ali (as) said “Allah has favored the word Shia by using it in the Holy Quran. Then verily He says ‘And verily Ibrahim was one of the shia of Noah.’ And you are amongst the shia of Muhammad (sawa). This name is neither restricted to a particular group nor is it a newly adopted religion.” [1]

In another verse, the Quran talks about the Shia of Moses

“And he (Moses) went into the city at a time when people (of the city) were not watching, so he found therein two men fighting, one being of his shia and the other being his enemy, and the one who was of his shia cried out to him for help against the one who was of his enemy” (Quran 28:15)

Thus shia is an official word used by Allah in His Quran for His high ranking prophets as well as their followers. This is also a term that our beloved Prophet Muhammad (sawa) used for those who had love for Ali (as) and followed him as the successor after the Prophet (sawa).

The Messenger of Allah said to Ali: “Glad tidings O Ali! Verily you, your companions and your Shia (followers) will be in Paradise.”

Sunni references:

  • Fadha’il al-Sahaba, by Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, v2, p655
  • Hilyatul Awliyaa, by Abu Nu’aym, v4, p329
  • Tarikh, by al-Khateeb al-Baghdadi, v12, p289
  • al-Awsat, by al-Tabarani
  • Majma’ al-Zawa’id, by al-Haytami, v10, pp 21-22
  • al-Darqunti, who said this tradition has been transmitted via numerous authorities.
  • al-Sawa’iq al-Muhriqah, by Ibn Hajar Haytami , Ch. 11, section 1, p247

Therefore we see the Messenger of Allah (sawa) used to say the phrase “Shia of Ali.”

The Messenger of Allah (sawa) said: “The Shia of Ali are the real victorious on the day of resurrection”

Sunni references:

  • al-Manaqib Ahmad, as mentioned in:
  • Yanabi al-Mawaddah, by al-Qundoozi al-Hanafi, p62

The Messenger of Allah said: “O Ali! (On the day of Judgment) you and your Shia will come toward Allah well pleased and well-pleasing, and there will come to Him your enemies angry and stiff-necked (i.e., their head forced up).

Sunni references:

  • al-Tabarani, on the authority of Imam Ali
  • al-Sawa’iq al-Muhriqah, by Ibn Hajar al-Haythami, Ch. 11, section 1, p236

A more complete version of the tradition, which has also been reported by Sunni narrators, is as follows:

Ibn Abbas narrated: When the verse “Those who believe and do righteous deeds are the best of the creation (Quran 98:7)” was revealed, the Messenger of Allah (sawa) said to Ali: “They are you and your Shia.” He continued: “O Ali! (On the day of Judgment) you and your Shia will come toward Allah well pleased and well pleasing, and your enemies will come angry with their heads forced up.” Ali (as) said: “Who are my enemies?” The Prophet (sawa) replied: “He who disassociates himself from you and curses you. And glad tiding to those who reach first under the shadow of al-‘Arsh on the day of resurrection.” Ali asked: “Who are they, O the Messenger of Allah?” He replied: “Your Shia, O Ali, and those who love you.”

Sunni references:

  • al-Hafidh Jamaluddin al-Dharandi, on the authority of Ibn Abbas
  • al-Sawa’iq al-Muhriqah, by Ibn Hajar, Ch. 11, section 1, pp 246-247


Excerpt from Mystery of the Shia by Mateen J. Charbonneau Available at:

[1] Shia Origin and Faith” by Ayatollah Kashif al-Ghita

“Mystery of the Shia” now available for purchase

“Knowing the contents of this informative book is a necessity for every Muslim. I believe that the contents of this book can have a huge impact on the lives of many Muslims in the West, and it can be a good start for gaining more knowledge about the religion of Islam. I would also encourage the Muslim community to appreciate and support this work. I want to take this opportunity to thank brother Mateen for his hard work and efforts. May Allah (SWT) increase his blessings and bestow His mercy upon him.”
– Sheikh Mustafa Akhound, Imam Ali Center, Springfield VA

The idea that prompted me to write this book was due to the fact that so many new converts to Shia Islam would always ask me why we did things differently than other sects. They would be exposed to different things upon going to various mosques. They would ask me why people pray with their hands by their sides while others would fold their arms, why was the call to prayer different, what is that “stone” we prostrate on, etc.? I used to find myself explaining these things on a daily basis, so I decided to write these questions and answers down and share them with people who came to me. That was the first phase of this project. Later on I decided to add the Usul-e-Deen (roots of religion) and Furu-e-Deen (branches of religion) being that these differ from other schools of thought as well. After I looked at what I had put together I thought that this would be a very beneficial piece of information for new converts to Islam. This was designed to help them not only to learn why Shia believe and practice the way we do, but also to learn with clear proofs from the sources. I then proceeded to add a few other chapters to help give a good basic foundation for one to start in their quest for knowledge.

In total this work deals with a variety of topics including:

• Usul-e-Deen
• Furu-e-Deen
• The Word Shia and its Meaning
• The 30 rights of a Muslim
• Forbidden acts of a Muslim
• Some Important Dates and Things to Know
• Cleanliness in Islam
• Wudhu
• Salat
• Ahadith showing the importance of knowing the Ahl ul Bayt (as)
• Why we say bismillah aloud in salat
• Why we say hayya ala khayril amal in adhan
• Why we dont fold our hands in salat
• Why we takbir 3 times after salat
• Why we dont say as-salatu khayrum min nawm in our fajr adhan
• Why we prostrate on turbah
• Why we say aliyan waliyallah in our adhan and iqamah

Available at: