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Encyclopaedia of Ismailism by Mumtaz Ali Tajddin

"The Shi'ites from Iran were not granted equal status by their Arab co-citizens in the social system of Kufa, and thus they were called mawali (sing. mawla) means clients, a term to indicate inferior social standing, or second-class citizens. The expression mawla at the latest stage of its evolution means the people descended from foreign families whose ancestors, or even they themselves, on accepting Islam, have been adopted into an Arab tribe, either as freed slaves or freeborn aliens. Juridically there were three classes of mawali: mawla rahimin (blood relation), mawla ataqa (freed man) and mawla'l aqd (free Arab who becomes a member of a tribe to which he belongs neither by birth nor by previous affiliation as slave). Of these the first is conceivably a way of incorporating matrilineally related persons into a patrilineal society; the second type is the freedman who would often, be freed born but enslaved through capture in war; while the third type is the man who by compact or covenant voluntarily accepts the position of "client" to a "patron".

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