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Twelver Shiites' 12 Imams

A Chronology of Martyrdom


Twelver Shiites form the main branch of Shiite Islam, itself the second-largest sect within Islam after the Sunni variety. Twelver Shiites trace their lineage to their 12 founding imams, or religious leaders, in the 7th, 8th and 9th centuries, when Shiites' subversive character was defining itself against Sunni repression.

As in all religions' early histories, the difference between myth and fact is often difficult to detect. But what may be a problem for the fact-based historian is not a problem, and may well be an advantage, to the believer, whose tenets rest on a rigidly convincing narrative--in Twelvers' case, of supreme martyrdom and victimology, usually at the hands of Sunnis, as reflected by the bloody fate of virtually every one of the Twelvers' founding imams.

Shiites' 12 Imams

Rank Imam Birth & Death Manner of Death
1 Ali ibn Abu Talib 600–661 Assassinated
2 Hasan ibn Ali 624–680 Poisoned
3 Husayn ibn Ali 626–680 Beheaded
4 Ali ibn Husayn 658(?)-712 Poisoned
5 Muhammad ibn Ali 677–732 Poisoned
6 Ja'far ibn Muhammad 702–765 Poisoned
7 Musa ibn Ja'far 744-799 Poisoned
8 Ali ibn Musa 765-817 Poisoned
9 Muhammad ibn Ali 810-835 Poisoned
10 Ali ibn Muhammad 827-868 Poisoned
11 Hasan ibn Ali 846-874 Poisoned
12 Muhammad ibn al-Hasan 868?-? Still living
”in occultation”
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