• Shia •
Part of Speech: Noun, mass
Meaning: One of the two major branches of Islam that considers Ali, a cousin of Muhammad to be the first caliph (legitimate successor of Muhammad), and his descendants to be the true bearers of Muhammad's teachings. The center of Shiite belief is Iran.
Notes: A member of the larger Islamic sect, the Sunni, should be called a Sunnite, but the US media generally omit the suffix: a Sunni, the Sunnis. Sunnite should also be used as an adjective, as in Sunnite beliefs. The derivation Shiite [shee-ite], however, is always used as the agent noun and adjective of Shia, as the Shiite beliefs of the Shiites. Today's word may also be properly spelled Shiah, should you need an extra letter to finish a line.
In Play: This word emerged regularly in the news over the past ten years. The US pullout from Iraq could open the door to a civil war between the Sunnis and Shites. The Sunnis accept the Sunna as the basis of their beliefs and consider Ali only the 4th caliph. The Sunna is a supplement to the Qur'an written by the immediate disciples of Muhammad.
Word History: Today's Good Word is a transcription of Arabic shi'a "following, sect", from sha'a "to spread, become known". It is sometimes spelled shi'a in English, with the single quote indicating a glottal stop. The break between the oh's in the English response to a mishap, "Oh-oh!" is a glottal stop. It functions as a regular consonant in some languages, including Arabic and Hebrew.
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