Word Origin & History
1728, "a member of the Shia sect of Islam," from Shiah (1626) from Arabic shi'ah "partisans, followers, sect, company, faction" (from sha'a "to follow") + -ite, Latin-derived suffix denoting "follower." Follower of the branch of Islam that recognizes Ali, Muhammad's son-in-law, as the lawful successor
of the Prophet; the minority who believed, after the death of the Prophet, that spiritual and political authority followed his family line, as opposed to the Sunni, who took Abu Bakr as the political leader of the community. The Arabic name is short for Shi'at Ali "the party of Ali."