The tag does not appear proper; I feel that using the tag or would be better instead.

Why is this name (shiism) used in this site? How can it be changed to either "shia" or "shia-islam"?

In my view this site should be neutral and unbiased about sects even in how to call and name them.

Shia and Sunni sects both should be called the same. Both should be called Shia Islam and Sunni Islam. or both be called Shiism and Sunnism.

Shia and Sunni are adjectives, not nouns. Shia Islam and Sunni Islam are nouns. This is the how Wikipedia calls them. Shiism, while used, is not usual. At least the term "Shia Islam" has a priority compared to "Shiism". I myself have seen "Shiism" used far less often in different sites and resources.


4 Answers 4


By my judgement the tag title is neutral enough. The Wikipedia article states:

Shi'a and Shiism are forms used in English, while Shi'ite or Shiite, as well as Shia, refer to its adherents.

User with enough reputations can Create Tags and Create Tag Synonyms.

You could create the tag if you want for the sake of completeness and ease of finding for users, and then create a synonym running from to or vice-versa.

Your reputations have earned you the privilege to do that.

Is the tag shiism suitable for referring to Shia Islam?

According to the etymology section quoted above both are appropriate.

For choosing which one is the most appropriate we'll fallback to Wikipedia. Wikipeda's http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shiism page on Shiism actually redirects to the page Shia Islam and hence the master/most appropriate.


I think choosing between "shiism" and "shia" we should go with the one is the preferred by its adherents. I haven't seen adherents of shia Islam refer to it as "shiism" and I think there is reason for that.

Also in English media it is refereed to as "shia" and not "shiism". E.g.

I think the results are quite clear and the term to be use is "shia" not "shiism".

  • you are completely right, thanx for presenting such helpful info. Commented Jun 21, 2016 at 9:01
  • Even, I (solely) personally am not optimist about this issue, and assume it is done to reduce the reputation of the word Shia by dividing it to shiism... (my personal view) Commented Jun 21, 2016 at 9:03
  • @Shia, Please stop editing old posts for stylistic reasons. Every time you edit an old post it is bumped to the front page. This is very annoying, unnecessary, and hides what is actually happening on meta from the view.
    – Kaveh
    Commented Jul 4, 2016 at 12:32


I feel like this change (replacing by ) should have been implemented three years ago when it was first suggested. I just thought it was a mistake when I joined the site, e.g. is inconsistent with , and "Shia" is used in .

1. It's what people will search for, by a huge margin

Here's the Google Trends (e.g. here) results, showing the popularity of search terms. It's what people will search for as a keyword in Google, and it's what's best for search engine optimization. Thus, by keeping instead of , fewer people will find Islam.SE.

enter image description here

  • Even the compound term "Shia Islam" is searched for more frequently than "Shiism".

    enter image description here

What Kaveh said then is still true---it's the word (and hence search term) that people favor to a huge degree.

Here's a more inclusive Google N-gram results when we include "Shia" (with/without the apostrophe) and a bunch of variants. "Shia" is the clear favorite here.

enter image description here

Also note:

So people will find more search results by using the keyword shia instead of shiism.

2. Tags are about indexing, not grammar

Tags are for keywords. They're not intended to be grammatically perfect. Moreover, the StackExchange software prevents grammatically correct tags by e.g. forbidding characters such as ' and capital letters (e.g. ).

3. Wikipedia favors "Shia Islam"; we don't need the "Islam" part

As Bleeding Fingers points out, Wikipedia Shiism redirects to Shia Islam, making "Shia Islam" the master. We don't need the word "Islam", as this is a site about Islam (what else is it going to mean?). The first line of that Wikipedia page says:

Shia ... is a branch of Islam ...

On this page the word "Shia" appears 154 times, whereas the word "Shiism" appears 9 times.

Shia Islam is furthermore the title of a whole Wikipedia category.

The etymology section on Wikipedia seems to have changed too:

The word Shia ... is the short form of the historic phrase shīʻatu ʻAlī (شيعة علي /ˈʃiːʕatu ˈʕaliː/), meaning "followers of Ali" ...


There's already a synonym in place for <- . This is easy enough to swap (i.e. <- ) with moderator tools, as would be renaming to (or adding the second synonym), but I'm not sure what difference it would make.

From the perspective of categorization, all three seem equally likely to be searched for, and all three would be equally easy to find (given they all start with "shi", they would all come up with the same alphabetical search, or pop-up when a user starts typing it), so unless there's a clear reason to switch the master around, I'm inclined to just leave it as is.

I will, however, be keeping an eye on this discussion, and if it appears that one form does end up having an obvious advantage to the others, I can make the change.

Of note, according to Google's Ngram viewer, the term "Shi'ism" is clearly preferred over "Shi'a Islam" among English speakers. The same cannot be said for "Sunnism" vs "Sunni Islam".

enter image description here

  • 1
    I think it should be about what's the most appropriate than what's most common or preferred. Commented Jan 19, 2014 at 21:39
  • 1
    @BleedingFingers Agreed. But without any clear indication as to which is more "appropriate", I can only really fall back on what English users are more likely to use, recognize and/or search for.
    – goldPseudo Mod
    Commented Jan 19, 2014 at 22:02
  • 1
    Just noticed. Check my updated answer. Commented Jan 25, 2014 at 20:00
  • There are three terms that are mentioned by the OP. The N-gram compares "shiism" and "shia islam". I think we should compare also "shia" which the OP suggested. "Shiism" is not really a common term (see my answer). For N-grams if we compare "shiism" and "shia" "shia" is a considerably more common. My opinion is that we should change the main one from "shiism" to "shia" and make "shiism" a synonym for that.
    – Kaveh
    Commented Jun 21, 2016 at 4:47

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