Sunnis believe that Muhammed did not appoint a successor. On the contrary, Shias believe that Muhammad designated Ali ibn Abi Talib – « Ali » – as his successor. 90% of Shias believe in twelve divinely ordained Imams. They are known as the Twelver and take majorities in Iran, Azerbaijan, Iraq, Bahrain and Lebanon. The rest of Shias either believe that the leader of Muslim community can only be held by any descendant from either Hasan ibn ʻAlī or Husayn ibn ʻAlī, Ali’s grandsons (Zaidi, « Fiver ») OR believe that Isma’il ibn Jafar was divinely appointed as spiritual successor to Ja’far al-Sadiq, wherein they differ from the Twelvers, who accept Musa al-Kadhim, younger brother of Isma’il. The later is named Ismaili or the Sevener. Their spiritual leader is currently Aga Khan IV.

— Imamzade Abdollah mosque, Hamadan, Iran


— Darul Ehsan Mosque, Sanandaj, Iran

Shias respects the five pillars of Sunni Islam and share also the Qu’ran. Four other books are considered as holy books for the Twelver among which Nahj al-Balagha written by Ali, al-Kafi written by Muhammad ibn Ya’qub al-Kulayni, E’teqadatal-Emamiya written by Shaykh Saduq and Tashih al-I’tiqad by Shaykh Mufid.

Nikah al-Mutah, a fixed-time marriage, is authorized by Shias and prohibited by Sunnis.

For the Twelver, the last Imam, Muhammad al-Mahdi, will come back from his occultation with Jesus/Issa in order to bring peace and justice to the world. Until this moment, there is a gap in the Twelver leadership as there is no successor to the Twelth Imam.

Many Iranian claim that they are the Mahdi. Almost 3,000 people are in Iranian’s jails for this reason.


Wudu is related to the procedure to wash parts of the body. Shias have to wash from elbow to the hand, Sunnis do the way around.

— Bazaar of Isfahan. A man is washing his hands before going to the mosque nearby. Shops are closed during the prayers.


« Last March, the Sheikh of Bahrain asked Shias to leave the country »

Mr Muhammedi

It was before revoking top Shia cleric Isa Qassim’s citizenship last June.

Shias have faced persecutions since the beginning of Islam. Umayyads, Ottoman Empire, Mughal Emperors massacred or enslaved Shias. Recently in Iraq, in Malaysia, in Pakistan, in Saudi Arabia, in Indonesia, they are victims of attacks from locals, governments and ISIS.

— Carpets rolled in between two prayers, Isfahan, Iran


– Jame Mosque, Isfahan, Iran

The sanctity of contentment. Niquab and veil hiding women hair and bodies are related to this Biblical commandment. Orthodox Shiite women going out after the evening prayer ending the twenty days of mourning commemorating the martyrdom of Fatima Zahra.


« Iran counts more than 20,000 imamzade, more or less known, but all considered as holy. They are direct descendents of Ali.

Shia Islam has thus a formal clergy with titles such as Grand Ayatollah, Ayatollah, hojat al Islam – « authority of Islam », mubellegh al risala – « the messenger », mujtahid – clerics in general and talib ilm – the students.

— Boq’eh-ye Khajeh Rabi, Mashhad, Iran


In the middle of nowhere, the train stops for the praying time.


Imam Reza is the eighth imam for the Twelver and the only one to be buried in Iran. He was poisoned by Al-Ma’mun, the Abbasid caliph who was Sunni.

Faithful are getting out of control when approaching the tomb to touch it and pray.

With more than 15 millions of pilgrims, Mashhad is the most visited holy place in the Muslim world.

— Mashhad, Iran


Tenth Commandment : Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s goods.

September 1980: Iraq starts Iran invasion aiming at annexing West territories and its oilfields.

August 1988: end of the war. Statu quo ante bellum.
Dead for nothing, except for regime’s propagenda.

— War martyrs district in Behesht-e Zahra cemetery of Tehran.

« Money, It is a crime, share it fairly but don’t take a slice of my pie »

Being buried next to Muhammad’s companion costs from 1,000 USD.

Astan Quds Razavi, a public company owned at 51% by Iranian government, manages Imam Reza’s mausoleum. The company has estimated annual revenues of USD210 billion in 2014, USD30 billion ahead Apple that year. They are active in various industries such as media, culture and education, insurance, wood, carpets, dairy products, farming, transportation, construction, housing, sports and pharmacy.

— Boq’eh-ye Khajeh Rabi, Mashhad, Iran


A Haft-Seen in the Jame Mosque of Yazd. It is an arrangement of seven symbolic items whose names starting with a « s » sound, are displayed at Nowruz, the Iranian new year.

This tradition is deeply rooted and linked with Zoroastrians’ rituals.

— Jame mosque, Yazd, Iran

Third Commandment : Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.

Third Commandment is about the sanctity of time. Two women relax after going shopping in Isfahan bazaar. This sheesha bar is one of the few places where women are allowed to smoke shisha and cigarettes. They are however still separated from men.

— a sheesha bar in Isfahan, Iran


Women in Iran were granted the right to vote in 1963. They were first admitted to Iranian universities in 1937. Some were appointed ministers and 17 are in parliament.

Women have right to divorce solely under some circonstances.

« If married, a woman must accept her husband as the head of the family and obey him in accordance with her family’s interests. »

Le Chiisme Répond (a book written by the official clergymen in Iran)

— Women in the street in Tabriz, Iran


His portrait has to be displayed in any public place, be it a restaurant, an office, a church or a shisha bar.

— Tabriz bazaar


Following the Islamic Revolution, debates arose between ayatollahs on how to build a theocracy.

Some were against the system, arguing that until the comeback of the Twelfth Imam, nobody should exercise both religious and political powers. They were arrested, they emigrated or died (such as Ayatollah Mahmoud Taleghani).

— Teheran, Iran