In addition to the seven principal tenets of faith, there are
also traditional religious practices that are intimately associated
with Shia Islam. These include the observance of the month of
martyrdom, Moharram, and pilgrimages to the shrines of the Twelve
Imams and their various descendants. The Moharram observances
commemorate the death of the Third Imam, Husayn, who was the son
of Ali and Fatima and the grandson of Muhammad. He was killed
near Karbala in modern Iraq in A.D. 680 during a battle with troops
supporting the Umayyad caliph. Husayn's death is commemorated
by Shias with passion plays and is an intensely religious time.
Pilgrimage to the shrines of Imams is a specific Shia custom.
The most important shrines in Iran are those for the Eighth Imam
in Mashhad and for his sister Fatima in Qom. There are also important
secondary shrines for other relatives of the Eighth Iman in Rey,
adjacent to south Tehran, and in Shiraz. In virtually all towns
and in many villages there are numerous lesser shrines, known
as imamzadehs, which commemorate descendants of the imams
who are reputed to have led saintly lives. Shia pilgrims visit
these sites because they believe that the imams and their relatives
have power to intercede with God on behalf of petitioners. The
shrines in Iraq at Karbala and An Najaf are also revered by Shias.
Data as of December 1987