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Arabic: āyatu llahiPlay sound

Religious honorary title in Twelver Shi'i Islam in Iran.
The word 'Ayatullah' comes from Arabic and is to be translated as "Sign of God". Only jurists of the Sharia, mujtahids can achieve this title. Groups of Twelver Shi'is in other countries do not employ the use of Ayatullah for their religious learned.
In Twelver Shi'i Islam, the rules on hierarchy are sometimes a bit hard to grasp. Theoretically marja i-taqlid is the highest title, but there are several of these. Side by side the system of ayatullahs exist, a system that is newer, and here the added title al-Uzhma indicates that one Ayatullah stands apart from the others, by having a position similar to marja i-taqlid.
With Ayatullah Khomeini and the Iranian revolution, the importance of the title Ayatullah has been uplifted, and it now holds by far a more important position in society, and can in many ways be compared to the position of the imam.

By Tore Kjeilen