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Ali ibn Abi Talib (Arabic) ( علي بن أﺑﻲ طالب) (circa  March 17, 599 - February 28, 661) was the fourth caliph, and became the first Shi'a Imam. He was a cousin and later son-in-law of Muhammad. He had great influence on events as a military leader and close companion of Muhammad. He is revered by all Muslims as a foremost authority on the Qur'an, Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) and religious thought  He is  considered second only to Muhammad in divine guidance by Shi'a Muslims. He is revered by the Sunni Muslims as one of the four Rightly Guided Caliphs and as a foremost authority in interpretation of the Quranic and Islamic jurisprudence. He is one of the ten Al-asharatu-mubashshirun, highly revered founders of Islam.

Ali acceded to the throne of the caliph following the assassination of Uthman. He was himself assassinated in 661. Shiite Muslims believe that Ali was the designated successor to Muhammad, and that the others who intervened were not worthy successors. They accept only Caliphs descended from Ali as the legitimate successors of Muhammad. According to tradition, Ali is buried in the city of Najaf, in modern Iraq, where a shrine was built in his memory.

Synonyms and alternate spellings: 

Further Information: See History of Islam and the Arabs Islam

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Encyclopedia of the Middle East

Note - This encyclopedia is a work in progress. It is far from complete and is being constructed and improved all the time. If you would like to contribute articles or expansions of existing articles, please contact news (at) mideastweb.org.  Suggestions and corrections are welcome. The concise version of this dictionary is at our Middle East Glossary.

Spelling - Spelling of words in Middle-Eastern languages is often arbitrary. There may be many variants of the same name or word such as Hezbollah, Hizbolla, Hisbolla or Husayn and Hussein. There are some conventions for converting words from Semitic languages such as Arabic and Hebrew There are numerous variant renderings of the same Arabic or Hebrew words, such as "Hizbollah," "Hisbulla" etc. It is not possible to find exact equivalents for several letters. 

Pronunciation - Arabic and Hebrew vowels are pronounced differently than in English. "o" is very short. The "a" is usually pronounced like the "a" in market, sometimes as the "a" in "Arafat."  The " 'A " is guttural.  " 'H "- the 'het ('Hirbeh, 'Hebron, 'Hisbollah') designates a sound somewhat similar to the ch in "loch" in Scots pronunciation, but made by touching the back of your tongue to the roof of your mouth. The CH should be pronounced like Loch, a more assertive consonant than 'het.

The "Gh" combination, and sometimes the "G," designate a deep guttural sound that Westerners may hear approximately as "r." The "r" sound is always formed with the back of the tongue, and is not like the English "r."

More information: Hebrew, Arabic

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