Shi’a Is A Division Of Islam Who? (Best solution)

mosques. Shi’a is a division of Islam who. recognize idols for religious worship. believe in more than one god. believe only close relatives and friends of Muhammad should succeed him.

What is Shia in Islam?

Those who believe Ali should have been the Prophet’s successor are now known as Shi’a Muslims. Sunni means ‘one who follows the Sunnah’ (what the Prophet said, did, agreed to or condemned). Shi’a is a contraction of the phrase ‘Shiat Ali’, meaning ‘partisans of Ali’.

What was the division of Islam?

A disagreement over succession after Mohammed’s death in 632 split Muslims into Islam’s two main sects, Sunni and Shia.

Who is the leader of Shia Islam?

The Shi’a espousal of the right of Imam Ali and his descendants through Fatima, to lead the Muslim nation is based on their interpretation of the Holy Qur’an and its concept of authority for the guidance and divine leadership, as reinforced by their collection, and interpretation, of Prophetic traditions (Hadith).

Who do the Shia believe in?

Shiites believe that only Allah, the God of the Islam faith, can select religious leaders, and that therefore, all successors must be direct descendants of Muhammad’s family. They maintain that Ali, Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law, was the rightful heir to the leadership of the Islam religion after Muhammad’s death.

Who started Shia Islam?

While the founder of all Islam is clearly Muhammad, the founder of Shia Islam is unquestionably his nephew and son-in-law, Ali ibn Abi Talib. Ali would become the founder, Caliph, and first Imam of the Shia Islamic sect.

What is Shia belief?

Shi’a Muslims believe that imams are inspired by God, are without sin and are infallible, which means that they can interpret the teachings of the Qur’an without making any errors. Today, Shi’a Muslim communities are led by imams, who are seen as having been chosen by God.

Is Islam divided in groups?

No. Islam is divided into several branches and sub-sects. Khawarij was a branch in the early centuries of Islam but later became extinct.

How are Sunni and Shia different?

Those who followed the Prophet’s closest companion (Abu Bakr) became known as Sunni (the followers of the Prophet’s example – Sunnah). Those who followed the Prophet’s cousin and son-in-law (‘Ali) became known as Shi’a (the followers of the Party of ‘Ali – Shi’atu Ali).

What is difference between Sunni and Shiite?

The main difference between Sunni and Shiite Muslims is their belief surrounding who should have succeeded the Prophet Muhammad in 632 AD. Historically, Sunni Muslims believed that Abu Bakr was the rightful successor, while Shiite, or Shia, Muslims thought it should have been Ali ibn Abi Talib.

Why is Shia important?

Specifically, Shia doctrine holds that not only Ali, but all of the descendants of the Prophet Muhammad through the line of Ali and Fatima, were most qualified to hold supreme political and religious authority over the Islamic community. Each descendant named the person within the family lineage who should succeed him.

How does Shia pray?

Shia prayers can often be identified by a small tablet of clay, from a holy place (often Karbala), on which they place their forehead while bowing in prayer.

Who do Sunnis follow?

The Sunnis recognize the first four caliphs as the Prophet Muhammad’s rightful successors, whereas the Shiʿah believe that Muslim leadership belonged to Muhammad’s son-in-law, ʿAlī, and his descendants alone.

Do the Shia have a different Quran?

The Shia view of the Qur’an differs from the Sunni view, but the majority of both groups believe that the text is identical. While some Shia disputed the canonical validity of the Uthmanic codex, the Shia Imams always rejected the idea of alteration of Qur’an’s text.

History of Shia Islam – Wikipedia

Shi’a Islam, sometimes referred to as Shi’ite Islam or Shi’ism, is the second biggest branch of Islam after Sunni Islam in terms of population size. They follow the teachings of Muhammad and the religious direction of his family (known as the Ahl al-Bayt) or his descendants, known as Shia Imams, who are descended from the Prophet Muhammad. Muhammad’s genealogy survives exclusively via his daughter Fatima Zahra and cousin Ali, who, along with Muhammad’s grandchildren, form the Ahl al-Bayt (the House of the Prophet).

Shia Islam, like Sunni Islam, has been divided into several branches at various times; however, only three of them today have a considerable number of adherents, and each of them is on a different trajectory.

Ismail I is credited with creating the rituals of cursing the prophet’s companions, which are still practiced today.

This section corresponds to theImamahof Ali, Hasan ibn Ali, and Hussain eras.

  1. It was at this time that Shi’ism was split into many branches.
  2. The Idrisid dynasty (780–974) in Maghreb established the world’s first Shia state.
  3. These dynasties were little and insignificant, but they were succeeded by two large and strong dynasties.
  4. It was around 930 when theBuyid dynasty arose in Daylaman, north of Iran, and went on to govern over most of central and western Iran, as well as parts of Iraq, until 1048.
  5. For more than a thousand years in Yemen, Imams of various dynasties, mostly of the Zaidi sect, constructed a theocratic governmental framework that lasted from 897 until 1962.

Iran was originally a Sunni-majority region. A side effect of this approach was to assure that theTwelversect within Shiism would have control over the Zaidiyyah and other sects of Isma’ilism in the contemporary day.

From Saqifa to Karbala

Muslim missionaries began teaching Islam at Mecca before traveling to Medina, where they were able to unify the tribes of Arabia into one religious government known as the Arab Muslim religious polity. Following Muhammad’s death in 632, there was a rift among the Muslim community about who should take over as head of the community. The tribal leaders ofMecca and Medina met in secret at Saqifah to decide who would succeed Muhammad as head of the Muslim state, despite the fact that the earliest Muslims, theMuhajirun, believed Muhammad had appointed Ali as his successor at Ghadir Khumm.

  1. Others, after initial rejection and squabbling, eventually agreed on Abu Bakr, who was appointed as the first caliph.
  2. According to Sunni traditions, Muhammad died without appointing a successor, and since they were in desperate need of leadership, they convened and elected Ali to the post of caliph (ruler).
  3. In contrast to Muhammad’s family and the bulk of the Muhajirun, the first Muslims, Ali was opposed by the tribal chiefs of Arabia, who included some of Muhammad’s first foes, notably the Banu Umayya (who were, of course, among those who opposed Muhammad).
  4. The succession of Muhammad is a very divisive topic in the Islamic world.
  5. A major point of contention between the two groups is Ali’s attitude toward Abu Bakr, as well as his stance toward the two caliphs who succeeded him:Umar (or ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab) and Uthmanor (Uthmun ibn ‘Affn).
  6. Sunni Muslims believe that if Ali was the genuine heir, as God Himself had decreed, then it was Ali’s responsibility as the leader of the Muslim country to wage war against these persons (Abu Bakr, Umar, and Uthman) until Ali established the decree.

Differentiation and distinction

Branches of Shia and other branches are depicted in this diagram. Islamic movements known as Shia Islam and Sunnism broke apart in the aftermath of Muhammad’s death, owing to the politics of the early caliphs. Due to the Shi’a conviction that Ali should have been the first caliph, the three caliphs who before him, Abu Bakr, Umar, and Usman, were all regarded illegitimate usurpers by the majority of the Muslim world. As a result, any hadith that was told by these three caliphs (or any of their followers) were rejected by Shi’a hadith collectors as authentic.

Because of this, when there is no clear hadith for a situation, the Shi’a prefer the sayings and actions of the Imams (Prophet’s family members) on the same level as the hadith of the Prophet himself over alternative methods, which has resulted in theological elevation of the Imams to the status of being infallible.

Division into branches

Quraysh tribe
Abd Manaf ibn Qusai Ātikah bint Murrah
‘Abd Shams Barra Hala Muṭṭalib Hashim
Umayya ibn Abd Shams ‘Abd al-Muttalib
Harb Abu al-‘As ʿĀminah ʿAbd Allāh Abî Ṭâlib Hamza Al-‘Abbas
ʾAbī Sufyān ibn Harb Al-Hakam Affan ibn Abi al-‘As MUHAMMAD(Family tree) Khadija bint Khuwaylid `Alî al-Mûrtdhā Khawlah bint Ja’far ʿAbd Allâh
Muʿāwiyah Marwan I Uthman ibn Affan Ruqayyah Fatima Zahra Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyyah ʿAli bin ʿAbd Allâh
UmayyadCaliphate Uthman ibn Abu-al-Aas Hasan al-Mûjtabâ Husayn bin Ali(Family tree) al-Mukhtār ibn Abī ‘Ubayd Allah al-Thaqafī(Abû‘Amra` Kaysan ’îyyah) Muhammad”al-Imâm”(Abbasids)

Twelvers history

Kaysani’s ImamHanafiyyah is a descendant of Ali from another wife, not Fatimah, as stated in the text.) Branches of Ism’lShia Islam and its subgroups include: Ism’lShiaIslam constitutes almost one-fifth of the total population of the Islamic Republic of Iran today (14-18 million). There are around ten percent of the overall population of Shia Islamis who are descended from theIsmlmadhhab. Ism’l – Mustaalibranches account for less than 0.1 percent of the totalDnofIslam, but they account for around 5 percent of the totalIsm’l-population.

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The population of Nizra Ism’lmadh’hab, on the other hand, accounts for more than 90 percent of the total Ism’l population.

It has already been determined that the Fathites, Hafizis, Qarmatians, and Seveners are extinct Ism’l’l’ sects.

Old Da’vat

The following images depict some of the Shia Islamic empires that have existed over the course of history:


  1. Arshin Adib-Moghaddam (2017), Psycho-nationalism, Cambridge University Press, p. 40, ISBN 9781108423076, p. 40. Iranian ruler Shah Ismail waged an unrelenting campaign of forcible conversion of the country’s Sunni majority to (Twelver) Shia Islam. In his book, Conversion and Islam in the Early Modern Mediterranean: The Lure of the Other,’ he argues that Book published by Routledge in 2017 with ISBN 9781317159780
  2. Islam as a work of art and architecture Könemann (2004), p. 501, states that During his reign, Shah attacked the intellectuals, mystics, and Sufis who had been encouraged by his grandfather, and he launched zealous campaigns of forcible conversion against Sunnis, Jews, Christians, and other religious minorities. Melissa L. Rossi (2008), What Every American Should Know about the Middle East (Penguin, ISBN 9780452289598), is a book written by Melissa L. Rossi. As a result of forced conversion under the Safavid Empire, Persia became dominantly Shia for the first time in history, and has remained so ever since: Persia, now Iran, has been dominantly Shia ever since, and has been the only country in the world to have a ruling Shia majority for centuries (1982). A descendant of the Prophet Mohammad’s brother. The Islamic Center of America is located in Detroit, Michigan. 8126171834
  3. Alibris ID: 8126171834 See:
  • Holt (1977a), p.57
  • Lapidus (2002), p.32
  • Madelung (1996), p.43
  • Tabatabaei (1979), p.30–50
  1. Bukhari, Alkhateeb, and Firas are some of the sources (2014). Islamic History Has Been Forgotten. On page 85, there is an ISBN number for Ochsenwald, William: ISBN 9781849043977. (2004). The Middle East: A Chronological Overview. p. 90. ISBN 0072442336
  2. “Mapping the Global Muslim Population: A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World’s Muslim Population.” Boston, MA: McGraw Hill, 2003. p. 90. ISBN 0072442336
  3. “Mapping the Global Muslim Population: A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World’s Muslim Population.” Pew Research Center published a report on October 7, 2009, titled Retrieved2010-08-24. According to the CIA World Factbook, 11-12 percent of the total Muslim population are Shia Muslims, and 87-88 percent are Sunni Muslims
  4. “Religions.” CIA World Factbook
  5. “Mapping the Global Muslim Population.” Pew Research Center. 7 October 2009
  6. “Religions.” CIA

See also

  • Abdullah ibn Saba
  • Shi’a-Sunni ties throughout history


  • P. M. Holt and Bernard Lewis (1977a). Cambridge History of Islam, Vol. 1, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0521291364
  • Lapidus, Ira, “Cambridge History of Islam, Vol. 1,” Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0521291364 (2002). An Introduction to Islamic Societies (2nd ed.). ISBN 978-0521779333
  • Madelung, Wilferd
  • Cambridge University Press.ISBN 978-0521779333
  • (1996). The Succession to Muhammad: A Study of the Early Caliphate is a book written by the author of The Succession to Muhammad. Tabatabae, Sayyid Mohammad Hosayn
  • Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0521646960
  • Tabatabae, Sayyid Mohammad Hosayn (1979). Shi’ite Islam is a branch of Islam. Seyyed Hossein Nasr is a famous Iranian poet (trans.). New York: Suny Press, ISBN 0-87395-272-3

External links

  • There have been four centuries of Iraqi Shî’i influence on pre-Safavid Iran

Islam’s Sunni-Shia Divide, Explained

Despite the fact that the two largest factions within Islam, Sunni and Shia, agree on the majority of Islam’s essential principles and practices, a severe division exists between the two that dates back more than 14 centuries. In the beginning, there was a disagreement about who should follow the Prophet Muhammad as head of the Islamic faith that was introduced by the Prophet Muhammad. According to a recent estimate by the Council on Foreign Relations, around 85 percent of the approximately 1.6 billion Muslims across the world are Sunni, with only 15 percent belonging to the Shia faith.

Despite their differences, Sunni and Shia Muslims have coexisted in relative peace for the most of history, despite their disagreements.

However, beginning in the late twentieth century, the split became more entrenched, eventually erupting in bloodshed in many regions of the Middle East as extreme versions of Sunni and Shia Islam compete for both religious and political power.

The Aftermath of Muhammad’s Death

The origins of the Sunni-Shia division may be traced all the way back to the seventh century, just after the death of the prophet Muhammad in A.D. 632, when the two groups first met. While the majority of Muhammad’s supporters felt that his successor should be chosen by the other prominent members of the Islamic community, a tiny fraction believed that only someone from Muhammad’s family—specifically, his cousin and son-in-law, Ali—should be chosen to replace him. This group became known as Ali’s followers, or in Arabic, the Shiat Ali, or just Shia, as a result of their religious beliefs.

  • Ali finally rose to become the fourth caliph (or Imam, as Shiites refer to their religious leaders), but only after the two caliphs who came before him were both slain.
  • Not only was the control of Muhammad’s religious and political heritage at danger, but also a substantial sum of money in the form of taxes and tributes collected from the different tribes that had gathered under the banner of Islam, which was at stake as well.
  • Within a century after Muhammad’s death, his followers had established an empire that spanned from Central Asia all the way down to southern Europe.
  • Fine Art Photographs/Heritage Photographs/Getty Images

Battle of Karbala and Its Lasting Significance

A group of 72 followers and family members marched from Mecca to Karbala (present-day Iraq) in 681 to face the corrupt caliph Yazid of the Ummayad dynasty, who was ruling the country at the time. Upon their arrival, a vast Sunni army awaited them, and at the conclusion of a ten-day standoff that included several minor battles, Hussein had been murdered and beheaded, and his head had been sent to Damascus as a tribute to the Sunni caliph. Hussein’s death, as well as the deaths of all surviving members of Muhammad’s family, at Karbala was “clearly intended by the Ummayads to put an end to all claims to leadership of the ummah based on direct descent from Muhammad,” writes Hazleton of the Ummayads’ intention to put an end to all claims to leadership based on direct descent from Muhammad.

“But, of course, that’s not what occurred,” says the author. He was killed in Karbala, and his martyrdom at Karbala became the primary tale of Shia tradition, and it is honored every year on the Shia calendar on Ashoura, which is the most serious day.

The Sunni-Shia Divide Into the 21st Century

Apart from Karbala, the NPR podcastThroughline highlighted three major turning points in Islamic history that will exacerbate Sunni-Shia divides by the end of the twentieth century. Following the establishment of Iran’s Safavid dynasty in the 16th century, which (by force) changed the country from a Sunni hub to a Shi’a bastion in the Middle East, followed the rise and fall of the Ottoman Empire in the 17th century. It was in the early twentieth century that the victorious Allies partitioned the region formerly controlled by the former Ottoman Empire during World War I, tearing apart centuries-old religious and ethnic groups in the process.

Sectarian tensions grew in the early twenty-first century as Islam became increasingly politicized and fundamentalists on both sides of the divide rose in popularity.

Sunni-Shia differences would fuel a long-running civil war in Syria, as well as warfare in Lebanon, Iran, Iraq, Yemen, and other places, as well as terrorist attacks on both sides.

Despite the fact that the Sunni-Shia division has persisted for millennia, the fact that the two sects have coexisted in relative harmony for many centuries implies that their conflicts may have less to do with religion and more to do with money and power.

BBC – Religions – Islam: Sunni and Shi’a

In a mosque, columns made of mosaic tiles may be seen. The wordsSunnianandShi’aappear often in stories about the Muslim world, yet few people are aware of what they truly imply or denote. Religion penetrates every part of life in Muslim nations, and comprehending the beliefs of Sunni and Shi’a Muslims is essential to understanding the current Islamic world.


The difference between Sunnis and Shi’as is the broadest and most ancient in the history of Islam, and it has existed for thousands of years. They both adhere to the foundations of Islam and share the same Holy Book (the Qur’an), yet there are significant distinctions, which are mostly due to their divergent historical experiences, political and social developments, as well as their differing ethnic compositions and compositions.

All of these divergences stem from the question of who would follow Prophet Muhammad as head of the newly formed Muslim community after his death. In order to comprehend them, we must first learn something about the Prophet’s life and political and spiritual legacy.

The Prophet Muhammad

When the Prophet died in the early 7th century, he left behind not only the faith of Islam, but also a society of around one hundred thousand Muslims who were organized into an Islamic state on the Arabian Peninsula, which he named after himself. It was the question of who should replace the Prophet and govern the embryonic Islamic state that sparked the division between the two groups. Most Muslims acknowledged Abu Bakr as the Caliph (politico-social leader) because he was a close Companion of the Prophet and was accepted as such by the majority of the society, which understood the succession in political rather than spiritual terms.

According to what they were told, the Prophet had selected him as the single interpreter of his legacy, which included both political and spiritual interpretations.

Leadership claims

Both Shi’as and Sunnis have solid evidence to back up their respective interpretations of the succession process. Sunnis believe that the Prophet picked Abu Bakr to conduct the congregational prayers as he lay dying, implying that the Prophet was appointing Abu Bakr as the next leader of the Muslims. Muslims believe Muhammad stood up in front of his Companions on the way back from his last Hajj and declared Ali to be the spiritual director and master of all believers, which is supported by historical evidence.

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Sunni Muslims are those who think that Abu Bakr should have been the Prophet’s successor, and they are the largest group of Muslims in the world.

It wasn’t until much later that these words became commonplace.

Shi’a is an abbreviation for the word ‘Shiat Ali,’ which translates as ‘partisans of Ali.’ The usage of the term “successor” should not be interpreted as implying that others who came after Muhammad were also prophets; both Shi’a and Sunni believe Muhammad was the final prophet and that those who came after him were not.

The division

The original promise of loyalty to Abu Bakr was not made by Ali. Ali changed his mind a few months later, and according to both Sunni and Shi’a tradition, he embraced Abu Bakr in order to maintain the unity of the newly formed Islamic State. Abu Bakr appointed the Second Caliph, Umar ibn al-Khattab, after Abu Bakr’s death, and the Third Caliph, Uthman ibn ‘Affan, who was chosen from a pool of six candidates submitted by Umar. Following the assassination of Uthman, Ali was finally chosen to be the fourth Caliph of Islam.

Aisha, the Prophet’s favorite wife and the daughter of Abu Bakr, was a vocal opponent of Ali’s Caliphate, accusing him of being too lenient in bringing Uthman’s murders to justice.

Ali was eventually deposed by the Prophet. This disagreement culminated in the Battle of the Camel in Basra, southern Iraq, in 656 CE, during which Aisha was defeated. Aisha eventually expressed her regrets to Ali, but the incident had already stoked tensions among the group.

Widening of the divide

By the period of Ali’s caliphate, Islam’s rule had already reached Syria and other countries. Mu’awiya, the governor of Damascus, was enraged with Ali for failing to bring the murders of his kinsman Uthman to justice, and he issued a challenge to Ali for the caliphate. When Mu’awiya’s warriors tagged the tips of their spears with lines from the Qur’an at the legendary Battle of Siffin in 657, it demonstrated the religious fervor of the time. Ali and his allies were unable to battle his Muslim brethren because they thought they could not fight from a moral standpoint, and the Battle of Siffin was a draw.

This solution of human arbitration, on the other hand, was unsatisfactory to a number of Ali’s supporters who adopted the slogan “Rule belongs only to Allah,” which they supported with the Qur’anic verse: “The decision is for Allah alone.” He is the only one who tells the truth, and He is the most wise of all decision makers.

  • During a prayer session in Kufa Mosque in Iraq in 661, Ali was assassinated by the Kharijites.
  • There are around 500,000 descendants of the Kharijites who still live today in North Africa, Oman, and Zanzibar as members of the Ibadiyah, a sub-sect of Islam.
  • His Caliphate was monarchical, in contrast to that of his predecessors, who maintained a high level of equality in the Islamic state during his reign.
  • Ashura is commemorated by Shia Muslims in the city of London.
  • He set off towards Kufa from his residence in Medina with a group of supporters and members of his family, but he was stopped at Karbala by Yazid’s army before reaching his target.
  • Hussein is claimed to have battled valiantly and to have given his life in order to ensure the survival of Shi’a Islam in Iraq.

Even now, it remains a key part of Shi’a identity, and it is celebrated on the Day of Ashura, which occurs once a year. Numerous Shi’a groups partake in symbolic acts of self-flagellation at the Imam Hussein mosque and shrine at Karbala, which attracts tens of thousands of pilgrims annually.


The spread of Islam from the Arabian Peninsula into the complex and urban civilizations of the former Roman and Persian empires resulted in the emergence of new ethical quandaries that need the authority of religious explanations.

Sunni expansion and leadership

Sunni Islam replied by establishing four main schools of thought on Islamic law, each with its own set of rules (fiqh). These were established in the 7th and 8th centuries CE by academics from the Hanbali, Hanafi, Maliki, and Shaafii schools, who lived during the time of the Prophet Muhammad. In order to discover Islamic remedies for all kinds of moral and religious problems in every culture, regardless of time or location (including modern civilization), their teachings were established, and they are still being employed today.

758-1258 CE).

Throughout the Umayyad and Abbasid dynasties, Sunni Islam flourished, culminating in the powerfulMughal and Ottomanempires of the 15th to 20th centuries.

Sunnis have risen to become the most numerous group, accounting for around 85 percent of the one billion Muslims who live across the world today.

Shi’a expansion and leadership

Meanwhile, the Shi’a community continued to be led by ‘Imams,’ who were thought to have been divinely selected from the Prophet’s family, according to tradition. In contrast to the Sunni Caliphs, the Shi’a Imams were often considered to dwell in the shadow of the state and to be independent of the state. The Twelvers, the biggest denomination of Shi’a Islam, are so named because they believe that twelve divinely chosen Imams descended from the Prophet in the line of Ali and Hussein commanded the society until the 9th century CE, when they were expelled from the country.

  • Muhammad al-Muntazar al-Mahdi was the Twelfth Imam, and he was born in Yemen.
  • He has vanished from public view, and according to Shi’a religion, he has been concealed by God until the end of time, when he will reappear.
  • The Shi’a believe that this Twelfth Imam, also known as the Mahdi or the Messiah, is still alive and will come to bring back the genuine teachings of Islam to the world.
  • It should be noted that while the material supplied represents the perspective of the largest Shi’a sect, The Twelvers, other Shi’a groups, such as the Ismailis, have opposing views to the Twelvers.
  • Shi’a Muslims have always claimed that the Prophet’s family is the legitimate rulers of the Islamic world, and that this has never changed.
  • A small but vocal minority, known as Wilayat Faqih, believes that the function of the representative is unquestionably absolute.
  • Despite the fact that the Shi’a have never dominated the majority of Muslims, they have enjoyed periods of prominence.

Iraq, Pakistan, Albania, and Yemen are among the nations where significant numbers of Shi’as may be found today, as are many other countries. Their country, Iran, is home to 90 percent of Shi’a Muslims and serves as the political face of Shi’a Islam in the world today.


For a long time, the distinction between Sunni and Shi’a Muslims was simply an issue of who should be in charge of the Muslim community’s leadership. After a period of time, however, the Shi’a began to express a preference for certain Hadith and Sunnah literature, which became more widespread. Understanding the meaning of the Hadith and the Sunnah is a branch of Islamic academic study. When it came to Prophet Muhammad’s relatives and close colleagues, the Shi’a gave precedence to those who were attributed to them.

Shi’as acknowledge that they are valuable writings in the field of Islamic law, but they hold them to a high standard of examination.

The Mahdi

The notion of the Mahdi is a major element of Shi’a theology, although many Sunni Muslims believe in the appearance of a Mahdi, or a correctly guided one, at the end of time in order to establish justice and peace throughout the world. He will also be known as Muhammad, and he will be a descendent of the Prophet via his daughter Fatima (Ali’s wife), who is also a descendant of the Prophet. Several Sufior mystical movements in Islam have been preached, and as a result, the concept has gained popularity among grassroots Muslims.

However, none of these claims has been accepted by the majority of the Sunni population.


The Wahabi movement within Sunni Islam considers the Shi’a tradition of visiting and venerating shrines dedicated to the Imams of the Prophet’s Family, as well as other saints and scholars, to be heretical and prohibits such practices. The vast majority of mainstream Sunni Muslims have shown no opposition. Some Sufi organizations, which frequently serve as a link between Shi’a and Sunni theologies, aid in the unification of Muslims of both faiths and the promotion of pilgrimage to and veneration of these sites.

Practical differences

All Muslims are obligated to do five rounds of prayer each day. However, according to Shi’a tradition, it is permissible to combine some prayers within the three daily prayer periods. A Shi’a in prayer may frequently be distinguished by the presence of a tiny clay tablet from a holy site (usually Karbala), which they place on their forehead while prostrating before God.


Religious leadership structures and organizations in the Sunni and Shi’a communities differ significantly today, with substantial disparities in the way they are organized and run. The Shi’a clergy is organized into a hierarchical structure, and political and religious authority is placed in the most erudite, who rise to the position of spiritual leaders. These religious leaders are international, and religious organizations are sponsored by religious levies known as Khums (20 percent of yearly surplus income) and Zakat (five percent of annual excess income) (2.5 percent ).

According to Sunni Islam, there is no such hierarchy of religious leaders.

Only Zakat is applicable in this case. The majority of Sunni Muslim institutions in the West are supported by philanthropic contributions from members of the community both at home and abroad.

How do Sunni and Shi’a view each other?

The Prophet’s family and the early Shi’as were persecuted, and their suffering serves as a model for martyrdom that has been replicated throughout Shia history. The historical relationship between Sunni and Shi’a Muslims has been molded by the political environment of the time period in which it has developed. Sunni-Shi’a conflicts emerged when the Sunni Ottoman Empire extended into the Balkans and Central Asia, while the Shi’a Safavid dynasty expanded throughout the Persian Empire beginning in the 16th century CE.

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For example, Shaikh Mahmood Shaltoot of Cairo’s Al-Azhar University, the world’s oldest institution of Islamic study, believes that Shi’a Islam is on an equal footing with the four Sunni schools of law, which he regards to be the most important.

Radical Sunnis have used the epithet Rafidi (which literally translates as “Rejecter”) to denigrate Shi’a Muslims.

The Sunni-Shi’a Split

The Islamic faith, like many other major religions such as Christianity and Judaism, has seen dissension among its adherents. Following the death of the Prophet Muhammad, this divide began. For a long time, many Muslims thought that the head of Islam should be a descendant of Muhammad. Others felt that leadership should be delegated to the one who was regarded by the elite of the community to be the most qualified to lead the community at the time. This dispute caused a rift between Muslims, resulting in the formation of two distinct factions known as Sunni and Shi’a.

  1. The Arabic term Sunni literally translates as “one who adheres to the traditions of the Prophet.” Immediately following Muhammad’s death, many Muslims held the belief that the successor should be someone picked by the community’s most prominent members.
  2. Shiite Muslims, also known as Shi’a Muslims, are Muslims who believe that leadership should remain within Muhammad’s family.
  3. Because to the rise to prominence of the Safavid dynasty in the 16th century, the Middle East was transformed into a bastion for the Shiite faith.
  4. Shiites adhere to Imams, who are divinely chosen religious leaders.
  5. Sunnis do not support the Imam and do not believe in the concept of a privileged class of leaders or a divine right to rule.
  6. In addition to their differences in leadership, Sunni and Shi’a Muslims have disparities in their religious traditions and practices, which are discussed below.

Islam is practiced differently by Sunni and Shi’a Muslims, but they share the same fundamental beliefs and articles of Islamic faith, such as belief in the existence of a god named Allah, belief in the five Pillars of Islam, and belief in the Qu’ran as their holy book, despite some minor differences.

Sunnis and Shia: Islam’s ancient schism

AP is the source of the image. Caption for the image The pilgrimage to Mecca is one of many rites that both religions practice, and it is one of the most important. The schism that exists between Sunnis and Shias is the greatest and most ancient in Islamic history. Historically, members of the two religions have lived side by side for centuries and have a number of core beliefs and practices in common. However, there are significant differences in philosophy, ritual, law, theology, and religious organization.

Many recent conflicts, ranging from Lebanon and Syria to Iraq and Pakistan, have emphasized the sectarian difference, driving families and communities apart.

Who are the Sunnis?

It is estimated that Sunnis constitute between 85 percent and 90 percent of the world’s more than 1.5 billion Muslims. Sunnis constitute 90 percent or more of the populations of Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia, respectively, in the Middle East. Getty Images is the source of this image. Caption: Egypt is home to a number of Sunni Muslims. The earliest centers of study in Islam Sunnis consider themselves to be the religiously orthodox branch of Islam. The term “Sunni” comes from the Arabic word “Ahl al-Sunnah,” which translates as “People of the Tradition.” Specifically, the term “tradition” refers to actions that are founded on what the Prophet Muhammad said or did or agreed to or condemned.

Shia are also directed by the wisdom of Muhammad’s descendants, who are represented by Ali, Muhammad’s son-in-law and cousin.

Who are the Shia?

Shia Muslims account for around 10% of the world’s Muslim population, with a global population estimated to be between 154 and 200 million people. AP is the source of the image. Caption for the image The deaths of Ali, Hassan, and Hussein paved the way for the development of the Shia notion of martyrdom. Shia Muslims constitute the majority of the population in Iran, Iraq, Bahrain, Azerbaijan, and, according to some estimates, Yemen. Shia Muslims are also the majority in Syria. Afghanistan, India, Kuwait, Lebanon, Pakistan, Qatar, Syria, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates are also home to significant Shia populations.

Ali was killed in 661 at the end of a five-year caliphate that had been beset by internal conflict.

While Hassan is supposed to have died from poisoning in 680 at the hands of Muawiyah, the first caliph of the Sunni Umayyad dynasty, Hussein is believed to have been murdered by the Umayyads on the battlefield in 681.

There are three major sects of Shia Islam practiced today: the Zaidis, the Ismailis, and the Ithna Asharis (or Ithna Asharis) (Twelvers or Imamis).

In 878, the 12th Imam, Muhammad al-Mahdi, is reported to have vanished from a cave beneath a mosque, according to legend. It is believed by Ithna Asharis that the so-called “expected imam” did not die, and that he will return to earth at the end of time to restore justice.

What role has sectarianism played in recent crises?

Shia Muslims are disproportionately represented among the weakest elements of society in nations where Sunnis have ruled. They frequently believe that they are the victims of prejudice and injustice. Sunni radicals routinely decry Shia as heretics who should be put to death, and they have a point. AFP is the source of this image. Caption for the image The killing by Saudi Arabia of a famous Shia cleric sparked a diplomatic crisis with Iran, which has since been resolved. A hardline Shia Islamist agenda was initiated by the Iranian revolution of 1979, which was viewed as posing a threat to traditional Sunni countries, notably those in the Persian Gulf.

Many of the battles taking place in the region today have significant sectarian undertones.

While this is happening, Sunni jihadist organizations, especially the Islamic State (IS), have been targeting Shia and their sites of worship in Syria and its neighboring country of Iraq.

The murder sparked a diplomatic crisis with Iran as well as protests across the region.

More on this story

Having a clear understanding of the distinctions between the two most populous branches of Islam is vital for understanding many geopolitical crises in the Middle East as well as communal problems within diasporic groups in the Western world. Kim Knott and Matthew Francis provide some perspective for a couple of the most important concerns. A warning of the perils of sectarian strife is provided all too frequently by the savage and catastrophic cycle of bloodshed that has engulfed Iraq between Sunni and Shi’a factions.

Although there are some differences between Sunni and Shi’a groups, they share a great deal more in common than they do in terms of beliefs and practices.

In most cases, when war has erupted, it has been owing to a power imbalance or geopolitical dispute (such as that between Iran and Saudi Arabia) rather than an ideological difference between the parties involved.

According to the United Nations, Shi’a Muslims account for roughly 10% (approximately 162 million) of the world’s Muslim population and constitute a majority in five countries: Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Lebanon, Iran, and Iraq.


Both groups hold the same fundamental Islamic principles and practices, which include the following:

  • In the Qur’an – All Muslim sects, including Shi’a and Sunni Muslims, recognize the importance of the Qur’an as the ultimate source of guidance
  • There is no validity to the claims that Shi’a Muslims utilize an impure version of the book
  • Islam draws on Hadith – Shi’a and Sunni Muslims both rely on Hadith, however they tend to favor different sets of sayings
  • The Five Pillars of Islam – Both groups acknowledge the five pillars of Islam (Shahada, the declaration that “There is no God but God, and Muhammad is His messenger.”
  • The belief that “There is no God but God, and Muhammad is His messenger.”
  • The belief that “There is no God but God, and Muhammad is His messenger.”) Salah (prayer)
  • Zakat (charitable giving)
  • Sawm (fasting during the month of Ramadan)
  • Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca)
  • Etc.

Shi’ism should not be considered a later branch of Sunni Islam; the two only came to be in their current forms in the ninth century CE, following the death of the last Shi’a Imam and the completion of the collection of the Prophet’s sayings (Hadith). These two schools of thought are regarded orthodox, and Al-Azhar University in Cairo (the world’s oldest Muslim university as well as a Sunni institution) incorporates them both into its curricula. Sunni and Shi’a Muslims have coexisted amicably in many regions of the world, and in some cases, they have even intermarried.


The most significant ideological disagreement concerns matters of religious authority and the leadership of all Muslims in the aftermath of the Prophet’s death, respectively. Following the Prophet’s closest friend (Abu Bakr), those who were known as Sunni (followers of the Prophet’s example – Sunnah) came to be known as Shia. Following the Prophet’s cousin and son-in-law (‘Ali), those who followed him were known as Shi’a (the adherents of the Party of Ali, also known as Shi’atu Ali). Rather than following the Prophet’s example, Sunnis place emphasis on the genealogy of Muhammad’s family, which is traced through a succession of Imams.

Iran’s Islamic Revolution resulted in the establishment of a Shi’a theocracy, which has subsequently backed Shi’as in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain, in addition to Hezbollah (Lebanon), Hamas (Gaza), and Bashar al-dictatorship Assad’s in Syria.

Similar to this, the fundamental relationship between Wahhabism and Saudi Arabia’s ruling family has resulted in the marginalization of Shi’a movements in the country, while Shi’a communities in Iraq have been exposed to terrible bloodshed at the hands of the Sunni extremist group ISIS.

In 2013, a march in the United Kingdom organised by the Sunni preacher Anjem Choudary contained banners proclaiming that Shi’a were the enemies of Allah, according to the demonstrators.

It is important to note, however, that Wahhabist influence has also resulted in more entrenched differences within Sunni Islam as well.

Also, it is useful in gaining a better understanding of conflicts between groups not just in the Middle East, but also in the West.

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