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United Arab Emirates-Shia Islam

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Shia Muslims hold the fundamental beliefs of other Muslims (see Sunni Islam , this ch.). In addition to these tenets, however, Shia believe in the imamate, which is the distinctive institution of Shia Islam. Whereas Sunni Muslims view the caliph as a temporal leader only and consider an imam to be a prayer leader, Shia Muslims hold a hereditary view of Muslim leadership. They believe the Prophet Muhammad designated Ali to be his successor as Imam (when uppercase, Imam refers to the Shia descendant of the House of Ali), exercising both spiritual and temporal leadership. Only those who have walayat (spiritual guidance) are free from error and sin and have been chosen by God through the Prophet. Each Imam in turn designated his successor--through twelve Imams--each holding the same powers.

The imamate began with Ali, who is also accepted by Sunni Muslims as the fourth of the "rightly guided caliphs" to succeed the Prophet. Shia revere Ali as the First Imam, and his descendants, beginning with his sons Hasan and Husayn, continue the line of the Imams until the twelfth. Shia point to the close lifetime association of the Prophet with Ali. When Ali was six years old, he was invited by the Prophet to live with him, and Shia believe Ali was the first person to make the declaration of faith in Islam. Ali also slept in the Prophet's bed on the night of the hijra, when it was feared that the house would be attacked by unbelievers and the Prophet stabbed to death. He fought in all the battles the Prophet did, except one, and the Prophet chose him to be the husband of one of his favorite daughters, Fatima.

Among Shia, the term imam traditionally has been used only for Ali and his eleven descendants. None of the twelve Imams, with the exception of Ali, ever ruled an Islamic government. During their lifetimes, their followers hoped that they would assume the rulership of the Islamic community, a rule that was believed to have been wrongfully usurped. Because Sunni caliphs were cognizant of this hope, Imams generally were persecuted under the Umayyad and Abbasid dynasties. Therefore, the Imams tried to be as unobtrusive as possible and to live as far as was reasonable from the successive capitals of the Islamic empire.

During the eighth century, Caliph Al Mamun, son and successor to Harun ar Rashid, was favorably disposed toward the descendants of Ali and their followers. He invited Imam Reza, the Eighth Imam (765-816), to come from Medina to his court at Marv (Mary in present-day Turkmenistan). While Reza was residing at Marv, Al Mamun designated him as his successor in an apparent effort to avoid conflict among Muslims. Reza's sister, Fatima, journeyed from Medina to be with her brother but took ill and died at Qom, in present-day Iran. A major shrine developed around her tomb, and over the centuries Qom has become a major Shia pilgrimage site and theological center.

Al Mamun took Reza on his military campaign to retake Baghdad from political rivals. On this trip, Reza died unexpectedly in Khorasan. Reza was the only Imam to reside in, or die in, what is now Iran. A major shrine, and eventually the city of Mashhad, grew up around his tomb, which is the major pilgrimage center in Iran. Several theological schools are located in Mashhad, associated with the shrine of the Eighth Imam.

Reza's sudden death was a shock to his followers, many of whom believed that Al Mamun, out of jealousy for Reza's increasing popularity, had the Imam poisoned. Al Mamun's suspected treachery against Imam Reza and his family tended to reinforce a feeling already prevalent among his followers that Sunni rulers were untrustworthy.

The Twelfth Imam is believed to have been only five years old when he became Imam in 874 on the death of his father. Because his followers feared he might be assassinated, the Twelfth Imam was hidden from public view and was seen only by a few of his closest deputies. Sunnis claim that he never existed, or that he died while still a child. Shia believe that the Twelfth Imam never died, but disappeared in about 939. Since then, the greater occultation of the Twelfth Imam has been in force, which will last until God commands the Twelfth Imam to manifest himself on earth again as the mahdi or messiah. Shia believe that during the occultation of the Twelfth Imam, he is spiritually present--some believe that he is materially present as well--and he is besought to reappear in various invocations and prayers. His name is mentioned in wedding invitations, and his birthday is one of the most jubilant of all Shia religious observances.

The Shia doctrine of the imamate was not fully elaborated until the tenth century. Other dogmas developed still later. A characteristic of Shia Islam is the continual exposition and reinterpretation of doctrine.

A significant practice of Shia Islam is that of visiting the shrines of Imams in Iraq and in Iran. In Iraq, these include the tomb of Imam Ali in An Najaf and that of his son, Imam Husayn, in Karbala, because both are considered major Shia martyrs. Before the Iran-Iraq War (1980-88), tens of thousands made the visits each year. Other principal pilgrimage sites in Iraq are the tombs of the Seventh Imam and the Ninth Imam at Kazimayn near Baghdad. In Iran, pilgrimage sites include the tomb of the Eighth Imam in Mashhad and that of his sister in Qom. Such pilgrimages originated in part from the difficulty and the expense of making the hajj to Mecca in the early days.

In commemoration of the martyrdom of Husayn, killed near Karbala in 680 during a battle with troops supporting the Umayyad caliph, processions are held in the Shia towns and villages of southern Iraq on the tenth day of Muharram (Ashura), the anniversary of his death. Ritual mourning (taaziya) is performed by groups of five to twenty men each. Contributions are solicited in the community to pay transportation for a local group to go to Karbala for taaziya celebrations forty days after Ashura. There is great rivalry among groups for the best performance of the taaziya passion plays.

Shia practice differs from Sunni practice concerning divorce and inheritance in that it is more favorable to women. The reason for this reputedly is the high esteem in which Fatima, the wife of Ali and the daughter of the Prophet, was held.

Like Sunni Islam, Shia Islam has developed several sects. The most important of these is the Twelver, or Ithna-Ashari, sect, which predominates in the Shia world generally. Not all Shia became Twelvers, however. In the eighth century, a dispute arose over who should lead the Shia community after the death of the Sixth Imam, Jaafar ibn Muhammad (also known as Jaafar as Sadiq). The group that eventually became the Twelvers followed the teaching of Musa al Kazim; another group followed the teachings of Musa's brother, Ismail, and were called Ismailis. Ismailis are also referred to as Seveners because they broke off from the Shia community over a disagreement concerning the Seventh Imam. Ismailis do not believe that any of their Imams have disappeared from the world in order to return later. Rather, they have followed a continuous line of leaders represented in early 1993 by Karim al Husayni Agha Khan IV, an active figure in international humanitarian efforts. The Twelver Shia and the Ismailis also have their own legal schools.

Another group, the Kharijites, arose from events surrounding the assassination of Uthman, the third caliph, and the transfer of authority to the fourth caliph, Ali. In the war between Ali and Muawiyah, part of Ali's army objected to arbitration of the dispute. They left Ali's camp, causing other Muslims to refer to them as "kharijites" (the ones who leave). The term Kharijites also became a designation for Muslims who refused to compromise with those who differed from them. Their actions caused the Sunni community to consider them assassins.

In the eighth century, some Kharijites began to moderate their position. Leaders arose who suppressed the fanatical political element in Kharijite belief and discouraged their followers from taking up arms against Islam's official leader. Kharijite leaders emphasized instead the special benefits that Kharijites might receive from living in a small community that held high standards for personal conduct and spiritual values. One of these religious leaders, or imams, was Abd Allah ibn Ibad, whose followers founded communities in parts of Africa and southern Arabia. Some of Abd Allah's followers, known as Ibadis, became the leaders of Oman.

Data as of January 1993

BackgroundThe Trucial States of the Persian Gulf coast granted the UK control of their defense and foreign affairs in 19th century treaties. In 1971, six of these states - Abu Zaby, 'Ajman, Al Fujayrah, Ash Shariqah, Dubayy, and Umm al Qaywayn - merged to form the United Arab Emirates (UAE). They were joined in 1972 by Ra's al Khaymah. The UAE's per capita GDP is on par with those of leading West European nations. Its generosity with oil revenues and its moderate foreign policy stance have allowed the UAE to play a vital role in the affairs of the region.
LocationMiddle East, bordering the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf, between Oman and Saudi Arabia
Area(sq km)total: 83,600 sq km
land: 83,600 sq km
water: 0 sq km
Geographic coordinates24 00 N, 54 00 E
Land boundaries(km)total: 867 km
border countries: Oman 410 km, Saudi Arabia 457 km

Coastline(km)1,318 km

Climatedesert; cooler in eastern mountains

Elevation extremes(m)lowest point: Persian Gulf 0 m
highest point: Jabal Yibir 1,527 m
Natural resourcespetroleum, natural gas
Land use(%)arable land: 0.77%
permanent crops: 2.27%
other: 96.96% (2005)

Irrigated land(sq km)760 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources(cu km)0.2 cu km (1997)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural)total: 2.3 cu km/yr (23%/9%/68%)
per capita: 511 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazardsfrequent sand and dust storms
Environment - current issueslack of natural freshwater resources compensated by desalination plants; desertification; beach pollution from oil spills
Environment - international agreementsparty to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection
signed, but not ratified: Law of the Sea
Geography - notestrategic location along southern approaches to Strait of Hormuz, a vital transit point for world crude oil
note: estimate is based on the results of the 2005 census that included a significantly higher estimate of net inmigration of non-citizens than previous estimates (July 2009 est.)
Age structure(%)0-14 years: 20.4% (male 500,928/female 478,388)
15-64 years: 78.7% (male 2,768,030/female 1,008,404)
65 years and over: 0.9% (male 27,601/female 15,140)
note: 73.9% of the population in the 15-64 age group is non-national (2009 est.)
Median age(years)total: 30.1 years
male: 32 years
female: 24.7 years (2009 est.)
Population growth rate(%)3.689% (2009 est.)
Birth rate(births/1,000 population)16.02 births/1,000 population (2009 est.)
Death rate(deaths/1,000 population)2.11 deaths/1,000 population (July 2009 est.)

Net migration rate(migrant(s)/1,000 population)22.98 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2009 est.)
Urbanization(%)urban population: 78% of total population (2008)
rate of urbanization: 2.9% annual rate of change (2005-10 est.)
Sex ratio(male(s)/female)at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 2.74 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 1.82 male(s)/female
total population: 2.19 male(s)/female (2009 est.)
Infant mortality rate(deaths/1,000 live births)total: 12.7 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 14.86 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 10.44 deaths/1,000 live births (2009 est.)

Life expectancy at birth(years)total population: 76.11 years
male: 73.56 years
female: 78.78 years (2009 est.)

Total fertility rate(children born/woman)2.42 children born/woman (2009 est.)
Nationalitynoun: Emirati(s)
adjective: Emirati
Ethnic groups(%)Emirati 19%, other Arab and Iranian 23%, South Asian 50%, other expatriates (includes Westerners and East Asians) 8% (1982)
note: less than 20% are UAE citizens (1982)

Religions(%)Muslim 96% (Shia 16%), other (includes Christian, Hindu) 4%
Languages(%)Arabic (official), Persian, English, Hindi, Urdu

Country nameconventional long form: United Arab Emirates
conventional short form: none
local long form: Al Imarat al Arabiyah al Muttahidah
local short form: none
former: Trucial Oman, Trucial States
abbreviation: UAE
Government typefederation with specified powers delegated to the UAE federal government and other powers reserved to member emirates
Capitalname: Abu Dhabi
geographic coordinates: 24 28 N, 54 22 E
time difference: UTC+4 (9 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
Administrative divisions7 emirates (imarat, singular - imarah); Abu Zaby (Abu Dhabi), 'Ajman, Al Fujayrah, Ash Shariqah (Sharjah), Dubayy (Dubai), Ra's al Khaymah, Umm al Qaywayn (Quwayn)
Constitution2 December 1971; made permanent in 1996

Legal systembased on a dual system of sharia and civil courts; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Executive branchchief of state: President KHALIFA bin Zayid al-Nuhayyan (since 3 November 2004), ruler of Abu Zaby (Abu Dhabi) (since 4 November 2004); Vice President and Prime Minister MUHAMMAD BIN RASHID al-Maktum (since 5 January 2006)
head of government: Prime Minister and Vice President MUHAMMAD bin Rashid al-Maktum (since 5 January 2006); Deputy Prime Ministers SAIF bin Zayid al-Nuhayyan (since 11 May 2009) and MANSUR bin Zayid al-Nuhayyan (since 11 May 2009)
cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the president
note: there is also a Federal Supreme Council (FSC) composed of the seven emirate rulers; the FSC is the highest constitutional authority in the UAE; establishes general policies and sanctions federal legislation; meets four times a year; Abu Zaby (Abu Dhabi) and Dubayy (Dubai) rulers have effective veto power
elections: president and vice president elected by the FSC for five-year terms (no term limits) from among the seven FSC members; election last held 3 November 2009 upon the death of the UAE's Founding Father and first President ZAYID bin Sultan al Nuhayyan (next election NA); prime minister and deputy prime minister appointed by the president
election results: KHALIFA bin Zayid al-Nuhayyan elected president by a unanimous vote of the FSC; MUHAMMAD bin Rashid al-Maktum unanimously affirmed vice president after the 2006 death of his brother Sheikh Maktum bin Rashid al-Maktum
Legislative branchunicameral Federal National Council (FNC) or Majlis al-Ittihad al-Watani (40 seats; 20 members appointed by the rulers of the constituent states, 20 members elected to serve two-year terms)
elections: elections for one half of the FNC (the other half remains appointed) held in the UAE on 18-20 December 2006; the new electoral college - a body of 6,689 Emiratis (including 1,189 women) appointed by the rulers of the seven emirates - were the only eligible voters and candidates; 456 candidates including 65 women ran for 20 contested FNC seats; one female from the Emirate of Abu Dhabi won a seat and 8 women were among the 20 appointed members
note: reviews legislation but cannot change or veto

Judicial branchUnion Supreme Court (judges are appointed by the president)

Political pressure groups and leadersNA
Flag descriptionthree equal horizontal bands of green (top), white, and black with a wider vertical red band on the hoist side

Economy - overviewThe UAE has an open economy with a high per capita income and a sizable annual trade surplus. Successful efforts at economic diversification have reduced the portion of GDP based on oil and gas output to 25%. Since the discovery of oil in the UAE more than 30 years ago, the UAE has undergone a profound transformation from an impoverished region of small desert principalities to a modern state with a high standard of living. The government has increased spending on job creation and infrastructure expansion and is opening up utilities to greater private sector involvement. In April 2004, the UAE signed a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement with Washington and in November 2004 agreed to undertake negotiations toward a Free Trade Agreement with the US. The country's Free Trade Zones - offering 100% foreign ownership and zero taxes - are helping to attract foreign investors. Higher oil revenue, strong liquidity, housing shortages, and cheap credit in 2005-07 led to a surge in asset prices (shares and real estate) and consumer inflation. The global financial crisis and the resulting tight international credit market and falling oil prices have already begun to deflate asset prices and will result in slower economic growth for 2009. Dependence on oil and a large expatriate workforce are significant long-term challenges. The UAE's strategic plan for the next few years focuses on diversification and creating more opportunities for nationals through improved education and increased private sector employment.
GDP (purchasing power parity)$206.3 billion (2008 est.)
$192 billion (2007 est.)
$181.2 billion (2006 est.)
note: data are in 2008 US dollars
GDP (official exchange rate)$262.2 billion (2008 est.)
GDP - real growth rate(%)7.4% (2008 est.)
6% (2007 est.)
14.9% (2006 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP)$44,600 (2008 est.)
$43,200 (2007 est.)
$42,500 (2006 est.)
note: data are in 2008 US dollars
GDP - composition by sector(%)agriculture: 1.5%
industry: 62.7%
services: 35.7% (2008 est.)
Labor force3.266 million
note: expatriates account for about 85% of the work force (2008 est.)

Labor force - by occupation(%)agriculture: 7%
industry: 15%
services: 78% (2000 est.)
Unemployment rate(%)2.4% (2001)
Population below poverty line(%)19.5% (2003)
Household income or consumption by percentage share(%)lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%
Investment (gross fixed)(% of GDP)22.8% of GDP (2008 est.)
Budgetrevenues: $78.74 billion
expenditures: $48.31 billion (2008 est.)
Inflation rate (consumer prices)(%)15.8% (2008 est.)
14% (2007 est.)

Stock of money$NA (31 December 2008)
$49.5 billion (31 December 2007)
Stock of quasi money$NA (31 December 2008)
$104.6 billion (31 December 2007)
Stock of domestic credit$NA (31 December 2008)
$155.4 billion (31 December 2007)
Market value of publicly traded shares$97.85 billion (31 December 2008)
$224.7 billion (31 December 2007)
$138.5 billion (31 December 2006)
Economic aid - recipient$5.36 million (2004)

Public debt(% of GDP)40.7% of GDP (2008 est.)
17.6% of GDP (2004 est.)
Agriculture - productsdates, vegetables, watermelons; poultry, eggs, dairy products; fish
Industriespetroleum and petrochemicals; fishing, aluminum, cement, fertilizers, commercial ship repair, construction materials, some boat building, handicrafts, textiles

Industrial production growth rate(%)6.7% (2008 est.)

Current account balance$22.31 billion (2008 est.)
$25.84 billion (2007 est.)
Exports$239.2 billion (2008 est.)
$170.4 billion (2007 est.)

Exports - commodities(%)crude oil 45%, natural gas, reexports, dried fish, dates
Exports - partners(%)Japan 23%, South Korea 9.4%, India 7.9%, Iran 6.5%, Thailand 5.3% (2008)
Imports$176.3 billion (2008 est.)
$116.6 billion (2007 est.)

Imports - commodities(%)machinery and transport equipment, chemicals, food
Imports - partners(%)China 13.2%, India 10.4%, US 8.8%, Germany 6.5%, Japan 6.1%, Turkey 4.5%, Italy 4.3% (2008)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold$31.69 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
$77.24 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
Debt - external$134.7 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
$61.68 billion (31 December 2007 est.)

Stock of direct foreign investment - at home$62.69 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
$51.54 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad$28.95 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
$24.95 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
Exchange ratesEmirati dirhams (AED) per US dollar - 3.6725 (2008 est.), 3.6725 (2007), 3.6725 (2006), 3.6725 (2005), 3.6725 (2004)
note: officially pegged to the US dollar since February 2002

Currency (code)Emirati dirham (AED)

Telephones - main lines in use1.508 million (2008)
Telephones - mobile cellular9.358 million (2008)
Telephone systemgeneral assessment: modern fiber-optic integrated services; digital network with rapidly growing use of mobile-cellular telephones; key centers are Abu Dhabi and Dubai
domestic: microwave radio relay, fiber optic and coaxial cable
international: country code - 971; linked to the international submarine cable FLAG (Fiber-Optic Link Around the Globe); landing point for both the SEA-ME-WE-3 and SEA-ME-WE-4 submarine cable networks; satellite earth stations - 3 Intelsat (1 Atlantic Ocean and 2 Indian Ocean) and 1 Arabsat; tropospheric scatter to Bahrain; microwave radio relay to Saudi Arabia
Internet country code.ae
Internet users2.922 million (2008)
Airports41 (2009)
Pipelines(km)condensate 458 km; gas 2,129 km; liquid petroleum gas 220 km; oil 1,310 km; refined products 212 km; water 90 km (2008)
Roadways(km)total: 4,080 km
paved: 4,080 km (includes 253 km of expressways) (2008)

Ports and terminalsMina' Zayid (Abu Dhabi), Al Fujayrah, Mina' Jabal 'Ali (Dubai), Mina' Rashid (Dubai), Mina' Saqr (Ra's al Khaymah), Khawr Fakkan (Sharjah)
Military branchesUnited Arab Emirates Armed Forces: Army, Navy (includes Marines), Air Force and Air Defense, National Coast Guard (2008)
Military service age and obligation(years of age)18 years of age (est.) for voluntary military service; 18 years of age for officers and women; no conscription (2009)
Manpower available for military servicemales age 16-49: 2,405,884 (includes non-nationals)
females age 16-49: 884,853 (2008 est.)
Manpower fit for military servicemales age 16-49: 2,081,491
females age 16-49: 788,632 (2009 est.)
Manpower reaching militarily significant age annuallymale: 26,659
female: 23,793 (2009 est.)
Military expenditures(% of GDP)3.1% of GDP (2005 est.)
Disputes - internationalboundary agreement was signed and ratified with Oman in 2003 for entire border, including Oman's Musandam Peninsula and Al Madhah enclaves, but contents of the agreement and detailed maps showing the alignment have not been published; Iran and UAE dispute Tunb Islands and Abu Musa Island, which Iran occupies

Electricity - production(kWh)71.54 billion kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity - production by source(%)fossil fuel: 100%
hydro: 0%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0% (2001)
Electricity - consumption(kWh)65.98 billion kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity - exports(kWh)0 kWh (2008 est.)
Electricity - imports(kWh)0 kWh (2008 est.)
Oil - production(bbl/day)3.046 million bbl/day (2008 est.)
Oil - consumption(bbl/day)463,000 bbl/day (2008 est.)
Oil - exports(bbl/day)2.7 million bbl/day (2007 est.)
Oil - imports(bbl/day)192,900 bbl/day (2007 est.)
Economic aid - donorsince its founding in 1971, the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development has given about $5.2 billion in aid to 56 countries (2004)

Oil - proved reserves(bbl)97.8 billion bbl (1 January 2009 est.)
Natural gas - production(cu m)50.24 billion cu m (2008 est.)
Natural gas - consumption(cu m)59.42 billion cu m (2008 est.)
Natural gas - exports(cu m)7.567 billion cu m (2008)
Natural gas - proved reserves(cu m)6.071 trillion cu m (1 January 2009 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate(%)0.18% (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDSNA
HIV/AIDS - deathsNA
Literacy(%)definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 77.9%
male: 76.1%
female: 81.7% (2003 est.)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)(years)total: 11 years
male: 11 years
female: 12 years (2003)
Education expenditures(% of GDP)1.3% of GDP (2005)

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