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Encyclopedia > Grand Ayatollah
This article forms part of the series
Vocabulary of Islam
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Ayatollah (Arabic: آية الله; Persian: آیت‌الله) is a high title given to major Shia clergymen. The word means 'sign of God', and those who carry the title are experts in Islamic sciences such as jurisprudence, ethics, philosophy and mysticism, and usually teach in schools (hawza) of Islamic sciences. A handful of the most important Ayatollahs are accorded the title Grand Ayatollah, or Marja al-taqlid ("object of emulation"). There is usually only one Grand Ayatollah in Iraq and a few in Iran. Currently there are seven living Grand Ayatollahs, including Ali Khamenei, Ali al-Sistani, Sayyid Ali, Kazem al-Haeri, Mohammad Taqi Bahjat, Muhammad Fazel Lankarani and Mohammad Taqi al-Modarresi.

When Western people say 'the Ayatollah', they usually mean Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who brought the word into the international limelight during the 1979 Iranian Revolution; a possible secondary meaning would be the term's use to indicate the serving Supreme Leader of Iran.

See also: List of Ayatollahs

External links

  • Slate Magazine's "So you want to be an Ayatollah" (http://slate.msn.com/id/2098364/), explaining how Shiite clerics earn the title

  Results from FactBites:
Biographies : Jafariya News (1175 words)
Grand Ayatullah Sayid Muhammad Husseini Shahroudi, a prominent and distinguished scholar in the Qom Seminary, was born in Najaf al-Ashraf in 1925.
Ayatollah Hasan-Zade Aamuli was born in Eera (a district in Larijaan, Aamul, Iran) in 1929.
Ayatollah Jawad Tabrizi was born in 1926 in Tabriz.
  More results at FactBites »



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