Shiite Islam Dominates What Country? (Question)

Shia Muslims are in the majority in Iran, Iraq, Bahrain, Azerbaijan and, according to some estimates, Yemen. There are also large Shia communities in Afghanistan, India, Kuwait, Lebanon, Pakistan, Qatar, Syria, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.


Where are the Shiites located?

Whereas Sunnis dominate the Muslim world, from West Africa to Indonesia, the Shiites are centrally located, with a vast majority in Iran, predominance in Iraq and sizable populations in Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.

Which countries are Sunni and which are Shiite?

Sunnis are a majority in almost all Muslim communities around the world. Shia make up the majority of the citizen population in Iran, Iraq, Bahrain, and Azerbaijan, as well as being a small minority in Pakistan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Yemen, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Chad and Kuwait.

Is Shiite and Shia the same?

Shiites are the second-largest branch of Islam, after Sunnis. Though Shiites hold this basic belief in common, there are further divisions within Shia Islam, another name for the group of Shiites. You can also call a Shiite a Shia, which is its root as well — from the Arabic shi’ah, “partisans or followers.”

Where did Islam originate?

Although its roots go back further, scholars typically date the creation of Islam to the 7th century, making it the youngest of the major world religions. Islam started in Mecca, in modern-day Saudi Arabia, during the time of the prophet Muhammad’s life. Today, the faith is spreading rapidly throughout the world.

In which of the following countries are Shiites the largest religious group?

Iran has the largest Shia majority, with more than 66 million making up nearly 90% of the population. Shia are also in the majority in Iraq and Bahrain. There are sizable Shia communities in Kuwait, Yemen, Lebanon, Qatar, Syria, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

How many Islamic countries are there in the world?

Islam is the world’s second-largest religion A Muslim-majority country is one in which more than 50% of the people are Muslims. There are currently approximately 50 Muslim-majority countries in the world, though the precise number differs slightly depending upon the source.

How many Shiites are there in the world?

Who are the Shia? Shia constitute about 10% of all Muslims, and globally their population is estimated at between 154 and 200 million. Shia Muslims are in the majority in Iran, Iraq, Bahrain, Azerbaijan and, according to some estimates, Yemen.

Is Saudi Shiite or Sunni?

Most of the 15 to 20 million Saudi citizens are Sunni Muslims, while the eastern regions are populated mostly by Twelver Shia, and there are Zaydi Shia in the southern regions.

Is Turkey Sunni or Shia?

Religious statistics Most Muslims in Turkey are Sunnis forming about 80.5%, and Shia-Aleviler (Alevis, Ja’faris, Alawites) denominations in total form about 16.5% of the Muslim population. Among Shia Muslim presence in Turkey there is a small but considerable minority of Muslims with Ismaili heritage and affiliation.

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.

Where did the term Shiite come from?

One side believed that direct descendants of the prophet should take up the mantle of caliph – the leader of the world’s Muslims. They were known as the Shiat-Ali, or “partisans of Ali,” after the prophet’s cousin and son-in-law Ali, whom they favored to become caliph. They became known as Shiites.

When did Shiite Islam begin?

The roots of the Sunni-Shia divide can be traced all the way back to the seventh century, soon after the death of the prophet Muhammad in A.D. 632.

Is Afghanistan Sunni or Shiite?

Afghanistan is an Islamic emirate, in which most citizens follow Islam. As much as 90% of the population follows Sunni Islam. According to The World Factbook, Sunni Muslims constitute between 84.7 – 89.7% of the population, and Shia Muslims between 10 – 15%. 0.3% follow other minority religions.

Shia Muslims in the Arab world – Wikipedia

Historically, Islam has been split into two primary sects: Sunni Islam and Shia Islam, each of which has its own set of sub-sects. Some Arab nations, such as Lebanon, Yemen, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar, have large populations of Shia Arab Muslims. Shia Muslims constitute the vast majority of the population in Iraq and Bahrain. Shia Muslims constitute almost half of the population in Yemen and half of the Muslim population in Lebanon. In addition, there is a significant number of Shia Muslims living in the Persian Gulf nations, particularly in Saudi Arabia.

Although Saudi government figures say that around only 20-40 percent of theMuslim population are Shia Muslims, the veracity of this figure has been called into question — particularly in light of recent events.

Saudi Arabia officially adheres to Wahhabism, a severe strain of Sunni Islam that was very recently created.

Smaller Shia communities can be found in Egypt and Jordan.

Furthermore, in recent years, Shia Muslims, as well as Kurds, have been subjected to genocide by the pan-Arabistregime of Saddam Hussein.

As a result, the subject of Shi’ism and Shia organizations is one of the most sensitive topics for Sunni elite.


Yemen’s Arab Shiites have long been oppressed, often violently, by the government. Government troops have carried out massacres around the nation, employing tanks and warplanes to put down the revolt of Shi’a militias. Yemen’s Shia population is between 20 and 25 percent of the country’s total population.

Saudi Arabia

The Shias of Saudi Arabia constitute a majority in the Eastern Province, while they are found in significant numbers across the nation. In recent years, studies have shown that Shias constitute around 15% of the entire population of the country.


Iraq’s Shia majority is concentrated in the country’s central and southern regions, particularly in Baghdad (the capital), and across the country’s center and southern regions. Saddam Hussein and his 15 senior aides, including Ali Hassan al-Majid, were found accountable for their roles in the repression of a Shia revolt, which resulted in the deaths of 60,000 to 100,000 people, according to the International Criminal Court. In August 2007, a trial was held in Baghdad for the defendants. Al-Majid had previously been condemned to death in June 2007 for genocide against the Kurds, and his execution was imminent.

After the rebellion in Karbala in 1991, according to reports, no neighborhood was left intact in the city.

The shrines themselves have been ravaged by bullets and tank fire throughout the years.

Employees working to replace water lines 500 meters from the Imam Hussein Shrine discovered an enormous grave, which included dozens of remains believed to be Shiites who had been slain during the revolt, in December 2005.


The small Shia community in Egypt is harassed and regarded with suspicion, according to Brian Whitaker. People are imprisoned – apparently for security reasons – and subjected to maltreatment by state security officials because of their religious views, according to Whitaker. Egypt’s Shia population is estimated to be between two and three million people.


According to the most current demographic analysis undertaken by Statistics Lebanon, a Beirut-based research agency, Shia Muslims account for 28 percent of Lebanon’s population, according to the study. The Shia are the only sect to have ever held the position of Speaker of the House of Commons. They are mostly found in northern and western Beqaa, southern Lebanon, and the southern suburbs of Beirut, where they constitute around half of the population.

United Arab Emirates

The Shia sect accounts for 10% of the population of the Emirate. In addition, Shia Islam is practiced within the country’s significant Iranian minority as well as other Muslim expatriate communities, according to the United Nations.


Approximately 10% of the population of the Emirati capital is Shia. Aside from that, Shia Islam is also practiced by the country’s sizable Iranian minority as well as by other Muslim expatriate communities.


Shia Muslims constitute 20-25 percent of Kuwait’s population.


Shia Muslims constitute 55-60 percent of Bahrain’s Muslim population; nonetheless, the Sunni absolute monarchy that rules the country is the country’s governing religion.


  1. AbA mass burial has been discovered in the Iraqi city of The trial for the AbIraqi Shia revolt began on December 27, 2005, according to the BBC. Al-Jazeera English, 22 August 2007
  2. The Arab Shi’a: The Muslims Who Have Been Forgottenby ‘Potential Hot Spots: The Shia Rebellion in Yemen’ by Graham E. Fuller and Rend Rahim Francke (Paperback – September 22, 2001)
  3. “iQOS Wimax Wifi” by Graham E. Fuller and Rend Rahim Francke (Paperback – September 22, 2001)
  4. “iQOS Wimax Wifi’ by Graham E. Fuller and Rend Rahim Francke (Paperback – September 22, 2001)
  5. Who was responsible for the attacks on the mosques in Karbala? Baghdad asserts that it is not us. The New York Times published an article on August 13, 1994, titled This is the Guardian’s “Comment, opinion, and conversation” section. Dr. Jacques Neriah, retired Colonel (ret) (September 23, 2012). “Egypt’s Shiite Minority: Caught Between the Egyptian Hammer and the Iranian Anvil,” Journal of Contemporary Political Analysis
  6. Cam McGrath is a professional basketball player (Apr 26, 2013). Egypt’s Inter Press Service News Agency published an article titled “Spring Brings Worse for Shias.” 29th of July, 2013
  7. Retrieved 29th of July, 2013
  8. Tim Marshall is a writer and a musician who lives in the United Kingdom (25 June 2013). “Egypt: Attack On Shia Comes At Dangerous Time”. Sky News. Retrieved 29 July 2013
  9. “International Religious Freedom Report 2010”. U.S. Department of State. 2010-11-17. Retrieved 2013-06-05
  10. “Lebanon-Religious Sects”. U.S. Department of State. 2010-11-17. Retrieved 2013-06-05
  11. “Lebanon-Religious Sects”. Retrieved on the 11th of August, 2010 from Global “March for secularism
  12. Religion laws are antiquated.” RIGHT NOW, Lebanon. On the 11th of August, 2010, Fadlallah accused every sect in Lebanon save his own of wanting to dominate the country, according to a report in the Daily Star. Naharnet. Retrieved2010-08-11
  13. s^ George J. Hajjar’s “Aspects of Christian-Muslim Relations in Contemporary Lebanon” is available online. Hartford Seminary’s website is located in Hartford, Connecticut, United States. On August 27, 2012, the original version of this article was archived. “Minority Rights Group International” was able to be found on August 4, 2012. “United Arab Emirates” is a minority rights organization. The United Nations’ World Factbook (CIA). The 24th of June, 2015. “International Religious Freedom Report for 2011: United Arab Emirates,” which was retrieved on July 1, 2015. (PDF). The Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor of the United States Department of State published a report in 2011 titled “Mapping the Global Muslim Population,” which was retrieved on July 1, 2015. (PDF). The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life published a report in October 2009 titled 5th of December, 2015
  14. Retrieved

See also

More over 1.5 billion Muslims exist in the world, with around 20% of them concentrated in the Middle East and North Africa. Muslims identify with several strands of Islamic tradition, each of which has its own set of beliefs. The two most important are Sunnism and Shiism. Because nearly no censuses or surveys question Muslims about their religious affiliation, accurate data on the split of the Muslim community into its numerous strands is not available at this time. As a result, the maps below depict the projected distribution of the Sunni and Shia populations within a range of percentages of the overall population.

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Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia are the Middle Eastern countries with the highest number of Sunnis, with Sunnis accounting for 90 percent or more of the population in each of these countries.

Iran has the world’s greatest Shia majority, with more than 66 million people constituting approximately 90 percent of the country’s overall population.

Kuwait, Yemen, Lebanon, Qatar, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates all have significant Shia populations.

Shia Muslims, particularly in nations with considerable Shia populations, are frequently among the poorest members of society, and they perceive themselves as oppressed and discriminated against.

Iraq’s unique place in the Sunni-Shia divide

As the ongoing and worsening violence in Iraq has become increasingly sectarian, the Sunni Muslim terrorist organization ISIS (the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) has advanced against the Shia Muslim-led Iraqi government and Shia militias, at least in part. For hundreds of years, sectarian affiliation has played a role in the politics of the Middle East and North Africa. Iran and Iraq are two of just a handful of nations in which the Shia population outnumbers the Sunni population. While it is widely assumed that Iraq has a Shia majority, there is little reliable data on the exact Sunni-Shia breakdown of the population there.

  1. According to the few published poll indicators of religious identity in Iraq, almost half of the country is Shia Muslim.
  2. Iran, a neighboring country, is home to the world’s biggest Shia population: there are about 100 million people.
  3. Iranian support for Iraq’s Shia-dominated government led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki may be explained by the fact that they share a demographic composition.
  4. The Syrian leadership, on the other hand, is dominated by Alawites (an offshoot of Shia Islam).
  5. A dispute over the succession of leadership in the Muslim community following the death of the Prophet Muhammad in 632 is the origin of the Sunni-Shia divide, which is nearly 1,400 years old and has existed since then.
  6. When it comes to religion in Iraq, for example, both groups express practically universal belief in God and the Prophet Muhammad, with identical numbers (82 percent of Shias and 83 percent of Sunnis) stating that religion is extremely important in their daily lives.
  7. In certain nations, a considerable proportion of Muslims do not consider the divide between Sunni and Shia Islam to be fundamental in their lives.
  8. In Iraq, on the other hand, only 5% of respondents identified as “simply a Muslim.” There are other theological problems where the differences between the sects are more obvious, such as whether it is appropriate to visit the sites of Muslim saints.
  9. In late 2011, 14 percent of Iraqi Sunnis indicated they did not consider Shias to be Muslims, according to a poll conducted by the Pew Research Center.

Other nations, like as the Sunni-dominated Egypt (53 percent), have even larger numbers of Sunnis who believe that Shias are not Muslims. Michael Lipka works as an editorial manager for religion research at the Pew Research Center in Washington, DC.

The True Cause of All Middle East Conflicts

Saudi Arabia, with its Arab population controlled by a Sunni majority, and Iran, with its Persian population ruled by a Shia majority, are the two most powerful countries in the Middle East. For ages, these two factions have been at conflict with one another. In contemporary times, the division has spawned a series of power struggles and resource competitions. The struggle between Sunnis and Shiites is sometimes depicted as being solely religious in nature. It is also an economic war between Iran and Saudi Arabia over control of the Strait of Hormuz, which is a vital waterway for both countries.

Key Takeaways

  • It is important to note that the Sunni-Shia war is a battle for control in the Middle East
  • Sunnis constitute the majority of the Muslim population, and Saudi Arabia is the leader of Sunni-dominated countries. Iran has a stronghold on people who are headed by Shiites.

Sunni-Shia Split Today

Sunnis constitute at least 87 percent of the Muslim population. Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Yemen, Pakistan, Indonesia, Turkey, Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia are among the countries where they constitute the majority. Shiites are the majority of the population of Iran, Bahrain, and Iraq. Furthermore, they have considerable minority groups in Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, and Azerbaijan, among other countries. The United States has always allied itself with countries run by Sunnis.

However, it sided with the Shiites during the Iraq War in order to depose Saddam Hussein.

Sunni and Shiite Countries

The Sunni kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Shiite state of Iran are each represented by 11 nations.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is ruled by a Sunni fundamentalist royal dynasty, the Al Saud family. It is also the most powerful member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), which it leads. This country is a close ally of the United States and a major oil trading partner. Saudi Arabia also purchases military equipment from the United States, which totals more than $100 billion. A coalition between Muhammad ibn Saud, founder of the Saudi kingdom, and religious leader Abd al-Wahhab was formed in the 1700s to bring all Arabian tribes under one rule.

Wahabism is an ultra-conservative form of Sunni Islam that serves as the official religion of Saudi Arabia.


Iran is ruled by conservative Shia Muslims. Sunni Islam is practiced by just 10% of the population. Iran is the world’s fourth-largest producer of crude oil after Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. The Shah, who was a non-fundamentalist Shia, was supported by the United States. The Shah of Iran was deposed by the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1979. The Supreme Leader of Iran is known as the Ayatollah. He provides guidance to all elected officials. He denounced the Saudi monarchy as an illegitimate clique that is beholden to Washington, D.C., rather than to the will of God.

After Iran refused to agree to a suspension of uranium enrichment, the United States petitioned the United Nations Security Council in 2006 for sanctions on the country. Iran was compelled to cease enrichment as a result of the ensuing economic crisis in exchange for respite from sanctions.


Iraq is governed by a Shia majority of 65 percent to 70 percent, following the overthrow of Sunni leader Saddam Hussein by the United States. The removal of Saddam Hussein from office altered the balance of power in the Middle East. The Shia have reiterated their allegiance to Iran and Syrian President Bashar Assad. Despite the fact that the United States eliminated al-Qaida leaders, the Sunni militants went on to become the Islamic State organization. They were successful in retaking a substantial chunk of western Iraq, including the city of Mosul, in June 2014.

Iraq retook control of Mosul in 2017.


Syria is dominated by a Shia minority that accounts for 15 percent to 20 percent of the population. It is a Shia-ruled country that has aligned with Iran and Iraq. It facilitates the transfer of weapons from Iran to Hezbollah in Lebanon. It also targets the Sunni minority, some of whom are affiliated with the Islamic State terrorist organization. The rebels from the Sunni non-Islamic State organization are backed by the United States and nearby Sunni nations. The Islamic State organization also has a strong presence in Syria, where it controls huge areas, including the city of Raqqa.


Christian (34 percent of the population), Sunni (31 percent) and Shia (11 percent) leaders administer Lebanon in coalition with one another (31 percent .) The civil war, which lasted from 1975 until 1990, provided the opportunity for two Israeli invasions. For the following two decades, Israeli and Syrian occupations were in place as a result. When Hezbollah and Israel battled in Lebanon in 2006, the process of reconstruction was halted.


Egypt is dominated by a Sunni majority that accounts for 90 percent of the population. Hosni Mubarak was overthrown as a result of the Arab Spring in 2011. After being elected president of Egypt in 2012, Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood was deposed by the military in 2013. The Egyptian military ruled the country until former army leader Abdul Fattah al-Sisi was elected president in 2014 and again in 2016. A $12 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund was granted in November 2016 to assist Egypt in coping with a severe economic crisis.


Jordan is a kingdom controlled by a Sunni majority that accounts for more than 90 percent of the population. As a result of the conflict in their previous country, Syrians now constitute 13 percent of the population. Palestinians come in second place with 6.7 percent of the vote.


A Sunni majority governs in a peaceful manner over a Shiite minority. Although Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is getting more conservative, Shiites are afraid that the country is becoming more fundamentalist, similar to Saudi Arabia.


The Shia majority is ruled by a Sunni minority comprising 30% of the population.

Saudi Arabia and the United States have backed the governing minority in this country. Bahrain is home to the Fifth Fleet of the United States Navy, which is responsible for guarding the Strait of Hormuz, the Suez Canal, and the Strait of Bab al Mendeb in Yemen.

Afghanistan, Kuwait, Pakistan, Qatar, and Yemen

In these nations, the Sunni majority has a strong grip on power and the Shia minority is marginalized.


There are 1.2 million Sunni Muslims in the country, who are ruled by a Jewish majority.

Role of Nationalism

Due to the nationalistic schism that exists among Middle Eastern countries, the Sunni-Shia divide is made more problematic. Historically, Arabs may trace their ancestors back to the Ottoman Empire, which flourished from the 15th through the 20th centuries. Iran, on the other hand, is descended from the Persian Empire of the 16th century. Arabian Sunnis are concerned that the Persian Shiites are attempting to establish a Shiite Crescent that will run across Iran, Iraq, and Syria. Sunnis see this as a resurgence of the Shia Safavid dynasty in the Persian Empire, which they believe has occurred.

The term “Sassanian-Safavid conspiracy” refers to two sub-groups within the conspiracy.

The Safavids were a Shiite dynasty that controlled Iran and parts of Iraq from 1501 to 1736.

Despite the fact that Shiites in Arab nations have aligned themselves with Iran, they do not trust Persians.

Sunni-Shia Split and Terrorism

The promotion of terrorism is encouraged by fundamentalist Sunni and Shiite forces alike. They adhere to the ideology of jihad. A holy war is being fought both outside, against unbelievers, and within the individual against his or her own shortcomings.

The Islamic State Group

Sunnis have seized land in Iraq and Syria, and they are expanding their influence. This organisation arose as a result of the activities of al-Qaida in Iraq. They believe they have the right to murder or enslave anybody who is not a Muslim. The Syrian authorities, as well as Kurds in Iraq, Turkey, and Syria, are all hostile to them. Almost one-third of its combatants are foreigners from more than 80 nations, accounting for almost one-third of the total.


It is the goal of this Sunni organisation to replace non-fundamentalist governments with authoritarian Islamic nations that are ruled by religious principles. Moreover, they direct their attacks at the United States, which they feel is at the source of the region’s issues. On September 11, 2001, al-Qaida launched an attack on the United States.


These Sunni Palestinians are dedicated to the removal of Israel from the map and the restoration of Palestine. Iran is in favor of it. In 2006, it was victorious in the Palestinian elections.


This organization is a Shiite defense in Lebanon who receives support from Iran. The fact that this militia defeated Israeli attacks in Lebanon in 2000 makes it appealing to Sunnis as well. It has also carried out successful missile assaults on Haifa and other locations in Israel. Hezbollah has lately dispatched militants to Syria, backed by the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Muslim Brotherhood

In Egypt and Jordan, this Sunni sect is the most numerous and influential. Founded in Egypt in 1928 by Hasan al-Banna, the organization aims to foster networking, generosity, and the transmission of religious beliefs.

It expanded into an umbrella organization for Islamist factions in Syria, Sudan, Jordan, Kuwait, Yemen, Libya, and Iraq, as well as other parts of the Middle East.

Role of U.S. Involvement

The Middle East provides 20 percent of the oil that the United States consumes each year. As a result, the region is considered to be of economic significance. As a global force, the United States has a legitimate duty in the Middle East, which is to defend the oil pipelines that run through the Gulf of Aden. In the period 1976 to 2007, the United States spent $8 trillion to preserve its oil interests in other countries. As shale oil is created in the United States and as reliance on renewable energy grows, this need is lessening in the long run.

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Timeline of the U.S. Wars in the Middle East

1978-1979 Iran Hostage Crisis – Following the revolution, the United States granted entry to the ousted Shah Muhammad Reza Pahlavi to get medical care in the United States. In order to express his displeasure, the Ayatollah allowed the United States Embassy to be overwhelmed. Ninety persons were kidnapped, including 62 Americans, and held captive. Following a military rescue attempt that failed, the United States agreed to release the Shah’s assets in order to liberate the hostages. On April 7, 1980, the United States of America cut diplomatic ties with Iran.

  • From 1987 to 1988, the war resulted in combat between the United States Navy and Iranian armed forces.
  • This was despite the fact that the United States aided the Nicaraguan “contras” in their struggle against the Sandinista government by secretly providing guns to Iran.
  • Iraq attacked Kuwait in 1990, resulting in the Gulf War in 1991.
  • Afghanistan War (2001-present): The United States ousted the Taliban from power as a result of the Taliban’s role in harboring Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida.
  • The Taliban and the United States struck a peace agreement in February 2020, but combat has continued since then.
  • In 2011, President Barack Obama ordered the withdrawal of active-duty troops.
  • During the 2011 Arab Spring, a wave of anti-government demonstrations and violent rebellions swept across the Middle East and North Africa.
  • As a result of their calls for democracy, civil conflicts erupted in Syria, Iraq, Libya, and Yemen.
  • Syrian Conflict from 2011 to the Present – This began as a result of the Arab Spring uprisings in 2011.

Its ultimate objective was to depose Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from power. A proxy war is being waged between Assad, who is supported by Russia and Iran, and rebel groups that are backed by the United States, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey in this country’s civil conflict.

How Climate Change Worsens the Conflicts

Following the revolution in Iran, the United States granted ousted Shah Muhammad Reza Pahlavi permission to enter the country for medical treatment. 1979 Iran Hostage Crisis The Ayatollah allowed the U.S. Embassy to be overrun as a form of protest. Ninety individuals, including 62 Americans, were taken prisoner. A botched military rescue effort led to the United States granting the Shah’s assets in exchange for the hostages’ release. On April 7, 1980, the United States of America cut diplomatic ties with Iran.

  1. From 1987 to 1988, the conflict resulted in engagements between the U.S.
  2. In response to Iran’s support for Hezbollah in Lebanon, the United States labeled the country as a state sponsor of terrorism.
  3. It was as a result of this that the Iran-Contra scandal became out in 1986, including the Reagan administration’s involvement in unlawful activity.
  4. During the liberation of Kuwait in 1991, the United States led a coalition of nations.
  5. The assailants continued their assaults on the building.
  6. From 2003 through 2011, the United States invaded Iraq in order to depose Sunni leader Saddam Hussein and install a Shiite leader in the country.
  7. When the Islamic State organization executed two American journalists in 2014, the United States stepped increased its bombings.
  8. It began as a popular uprising against high unemployment and authoritarian governments, which grew in strength as time passed.
  9. In Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen, they overthrew their regimes.
  10. Assad, the president of Syria, was the target of the campaign.

History of Sunni-Shiite Split

When Muhammad, the prophet, died in 632 A.D., the Sunni and Shiite communities split apart. Sunnis, on the other hand, thought that the next leader should be chosen. They picked Abu Bakr, Muhammad’s personal counsel. In Arabic, the term “Sunni” refers to “one who adheres to the traditions of the Prophet.” Islam’s Shiite sect felt that Ali bin Abu Talib, Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law, should have been chosen as the new leader. As a result, Shiites have their own Imams, who they regard as sacred figures in their religion.

“Shia” is derived from the Arabic phrase “Shia-t-Ali,” which means “the Party of Ali.” Many of the ideas held by Sunni and Shiite Muslims are the same.

They declare that Allah is the one and only real God, and that Muhammad is the prophet of that God. They read the Quran and adhere to the five pillars of Islam, which are as follows:

  1. Approximately six hundred thirty-two years after Muhammad’s death, the Sunni-Shite division occurred. Sunnis, on the other hand, thought that the next leader should be chosen. He was chosen by them since he was Muhammad’s counselor. In Arabic, the term “Sunni” refers to “one who adheres to the traditions of the Prophet. Shiites felt that Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law, Ali bin Abu Talib, should have become the next leader. The outcome is that Shiites have their own Imams, whom they regard as sacred figures in their religion. Rather than the state, they regard their Imams to be their real rulers. In Arabic, the word shia refers to “the Party of Ali,” which translates as “Ali’s Shia.” Many beliefs are shared by both Sunni and Shiite Muslims. In their belief, Allah is the one genuine God, and Muhammad is the prophet of that God. They believe in the Quran and uphold the five pillars of Islam, which are as follows:

Sunnis and Shias – the key questions

(Graphic courtesy of Ciaran Hughes)

Why the difference?

Following the death of the Prophet Muhammad, a schism developed between Sunni and Shia Muslims, which was tied to the question of who should be chosen to succeed him. One group, later known as the Sunnis, believed that Muhammad’s successor should be chosen in accordance with Arab tribal tradition; the other, known as the Shias, believed that Muhammad’s successor should be chosen from within his own family and supported Ali, Muhammad’s cousin and also his son-in-law. Very early on, there was a split, which resulted in the development of doctrinal disputes.

  • Carool Kersten is a neurologist.
  • Shia is derived from the Arabic phrase “Shiat Ali,” which translates as “the party of Ali.” Sunni Muslims elect a caliph to serve as their leader, whilst Shia Muslims elect an imam to serve as their leader.
  • “A schism occurred very early on, and doctrinal disputes emerged as a result.
  • The division between the groups, on the other hand, was not clear right quickly.
  • He lived for five years before succumbing to undetermined causes in a strange manner.
  • His murder at the hands of the Sunni Umayyad dynasty at the Battle of Karbala cemented his status as a martyr for the Shia faith.
  • “Karbala is the time,” he said in an interview with Channel 4 News.

What are the differences today?

Across the Middle East and the rest of the world, the Sunni/Shia divide is represented in a variety of ways by geography (see graphic, above). Sunnis are the majority of Muslims worldwide, accounting for at least 80 percent of the population. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, and Syria are just a few of the nations where Sunnis predominate (see more on Syria, below). Shia Muslims, on the other hand, constitute the majority in a number of nations, including Iran, Iraq, and, more recently, Lebanon. As a result of the historical division, the various sects have adopted a variety of diverse religious rituals and theological perspectives — yet they all have essential beliefs in common, including as the “oneness” of Allah, Muhammad’s status as the final prophet, prayer, and fasting.

  1. On both sides of the issue, there are severe aspects to consider.
  2. Carool Kersten is a neurologist.
  3. The deaths of Ali and Hussein, as well as the fact that Shias have had a more painful history of repression due to their status as a minority, combine to generate a motif of martyrdom that runs throughout Shia history.
  4. When it comes to Islam, the Sunni branch is frequently perceived as more radical than the Shi’ite branch, which is heightened by the fact that al-Qaeda adheres to a Sunni Salafist theology.
  5. Kersten, on the other hand, believes that it is not as straightforward as that.
  6. “If you talk about Iran (where Shia are strong), western opinion doesn’t perceive them as the moderate sort.
  7. “It’s more political than anything else, to be honest.” Hezbollah, for example, represents a Shia minority that has been oppressed for a long time – and they have undoubtedly become more belligerent in recent years.

“It would be far too simplistic to claim that Shias are more moderate than Sunnis. On both sides of the question, there are severe aspects to consider.”

How has this been played out in Syria?

Syria is a majority-Sunni country, although it has been ruled by a Shia minority under President Bashar al-Assad (image, below). Putting it simply, the situation in Iraq prior to the Iraq war was the polar opposite of what it is now – a scenario in which the minority Sunnis led by Saddam Hussein ruled over the majority Shia people. Simply put, the Sunni insurgents are opposed to the Shia-led government. However, because of internal splits within the Shia branch, the issue is much more perplexing.

  • The Seveners believe that there were seven real imams in all of history.
  • Raffaello Pantucci of the Russian Federation Iran is ruled by “Twelvers,” and the terrorist organization Hezbollah, which Iran sponsors, is likewise governed by “Twelvers.” Dr.
  • The enemy of my adversary is, in many respects, an ally of mine, he explained.
  • A number of Sunni nations, including Saudi Arabia and Qatar, have supplied assistance to the rebels.

According to Raffaello Pantucci, senior research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, the Syrian conflict has become a “magnet” for both Shia and Sunni combatants, with “organization like Hezbollah collaborating with the government, and Sunni preachers preaching about aiding the rebels.” “On the battlefields of Syria, there is a clear sectarian difference between the Sunnis and the Shias,” he told Channel 4 News.

“It is a tale that came to light during the recent war in Qusair,” says the author.

“We are also witnessing a significant increase in the number of folks coming in for the Sunni side.” The list includes “extremist jihadists,” “footloose young guys interested in fighting on the battlefield,” and “anything in between.”

5 facts about Sunnis and Shiites that help make sense of the Saudi-Iran crisis

The Saudi Arabian government’s murder of Shiite preacher Nimr Baqr al-Nimr has provoked outrage across the Middle East, particularly among Shiites. It was discovered that the Saudi Embassy in Iran, a regional Shiite giant, had been plundered and torched. Foreign connections with Iran have been terminated or degraded by the Saudi monarchy and a number of its Sunni allies in recent years. Members of the Shiite minority have taken to the streets in a number of Sunni-majority countries to express their outrage at Nimr’s execution.

While it would be incorrect to place all of the blame on the religious schism that divided Sunni and Shiite Muslims nearly 14 centuries ago, it is difficult to deny that the current divide serves to reinforce a number of other rivalries and disputes – and is perhaps even exploited by some to further their own agendas.

Here’s a breakdown of the distinctions between the sects, as well as where its supporters dwell. Sunni and Shiite Muslims (Source: The Washington Post. )

The schism between Sunni and Shiite Muslims began in the 7th century

Approximately six centuries after the death of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, who is widely considered as the religion’s founder by non-Muslims, the Sunni and Shiite branches of Islam broke apart in 632 AD. Sunnis felt that Abu Bakr, the father of Muhammad’s wife and a personal friend, should replace Muhammad as caliph of Islam, and this belief was supported by a majority of the Muslim population. Shias, on the other hand, believed that the caliph should be chosen by the Muslim community. Shiites held the belief that Ali ibn Abi Talib, Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law, had been chosen by Muhammad to be the Prophet’s replacement.

While Ali did finally rise to the position of fourth caliph, he was slain, and his son was also murdered.

The titles of the two organizations reflect their respective perspectives on themselves.

Shiite is derived from the Arabic phrase “Shi’at Ali,” which translates as “Party of Ali” and denotes a connection to Muhammad’s blood ancestry.

Today around 1 in 10 Muslims are Shiites

Shiite Islam originated as a movement within the greater Islamic community, and it continues to be a minority religion in the modern world. Even though precise figures are difficult to come by (in part because of political considerations in a number of countries), a 2009 study by Pew Research indicated that around 10 to 13 percent of the world’s Muslim population was Shiite, and approximately 87 to 90 percent was Sunni. According to Pew, the vast majority of Shiites reside in a small number of countries: Iran, Pakistan, India, and Iraq.

Meanwhile, several other nations, such as Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia, have strong Sunni majorities, as does the United States.

The Shiite Muslim population in Yemen, for example, is reported to be as high as 40%, while Shiite Muslims constitute between 45 and 55 percent of the population in Lebanon.

Despite the fact that the majority of Syrians are Sunni, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his late father belonged to the Alawite sect of Shiite Islam, which is a branch of that religion.

However, while Bahrain’s leadership is Sunni, the vast majority of the country’s inhabitants are Shiite. The Shiite majority in Iraq is also large, although the nation was formerly dominated by the Sunni tyrant Saddam Hussein for decades before his ouster.

Sunnis and Shiites interpret the religion differently

When it comes to religious differences, the division between Sunnis and Shiites is sometimes linked to the division between Catholicism and Protestantism within the Christian Church. It is an imperfect parallel, but it is instructive in that it demonstrates how two religious groups can come to differing interpretations of the same source materials – and how disagreements over religious doctrine and leadership can finally escalate into political bloodshed. Muslim sects, both Sunni and Shiite, recognize the Koran and the teachings of the prophet Muhammad as the foundation of their respective religions.

  1. Their perspectives on how to live out their religion, on the other hand, differ significantly.
  2. Neither the Sunni nor the Shiite Muslim populations, on the other hand, are homogeneous groups.
  3. For example, followers of the greatest branch are referred to as “Twelvers” because they believe that Muhammad was followed by a total of 12 leaders, known as imams, following his death.
  4. In addition, it’s important to note that there are additional Islamic groups that do not fall under the main Sunni-Shiite categories.
  5. The Ibadi movement, which is another school of Islam that is prominent in Oman, is considered to precede both the Sunni and Shiite schools of thought.
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The rivalry between Sunni and Shiites was not always a big problem

Within the Christian Church, the division between Sunni and Shiite Muslims is sometimes linked to the division between Catholicism and Protestantism. It’s a flawed parallel, but it’s instructive in that it demonstrates how two different factions may come to differing interpretations of the same source materials – and how disagreements over religious doctrine and leadership can finally escalate into violent political conflict. Muslim sects, both Sunni and Shiite, recognize the Koran and the teachings of the prophet Muhammad as the foundation of their respective faiths.

  • There are some significant variations in their perspectives on how to live out their beliefs.
  • Sunni and Shiite Muslim populations, on the other hand, are not homogeneous groups.
  • The greatest branch, for example, is referred to as “Twelvers” because its adherents believe that Muhammad was followed by a total of 12 leaders, known as imams, following his death.
  • In addition, it’s important to note that there are additional Islamic groups that do not fall under the general Sunni-Shiite division.

In addition to the Sunni and Shiite schools, the Ibadi movement is a significant school of Islam in Oman that is believed to have existed before to both of them.

Its resurgence is largely driven by politics

When you look across the Muslim world today, it’s simple to see that it’s divided along sectarian lines. The conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran over the execution of Nimr is only the most recent example of a long-running dispute. There’s the civil war in Syria, which is mostly a battle between Sunni and Shiite armies. Yemen’s violence is divided along sectarian lines, which is reminiscent of the situation in Iraq. Iraq’s political stagnation is mostly due to violence and mistrust between Sunni and Shiite communities.

  • Many people link the origins of these conflicts to 1979 and the Iranian revolution, which established an Islamic republic in the nation under the leadership of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
  • As an outspoken opponent of the United States, the ayatollah had positions that put him at conflict with American allies such as Saudi Arabia.
  • In addition, the Iranian regime rapidly shown its willingness to back Shiite movements around the world, frequently via bloodshed.
  • After the terrorist strikes on the United States on September 11, 2001, things got a lot more serious.

As a result, the Islamic State, an extremist organization despised by both Sunni and Shiite powers, has positioned itself in the middle of the conflict, with its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi not only proclaiming himself as the successor to the Sunni Ottoman caliphate but also claiming a blood connection to the prophet Muhammad, in an apparent attempt to appeal to Shiites.

That looks to be the case once more, with Saudi Arabia launching a Sunni counter-offensive against Iran after coming under economic and geopolitical pressure.

In 2011, an effort was made to overthrow an Arab nationalist dictatorship in Syria.

Egypt and Libya may be dealing with large Islamist insurgencies, but those wars have nothing to do with their Shiite communities, which are insignificant in comparison to the populations of the other countries.

officials, saying that he only wanted to side with “the people” against the government in a meeting with U.S. officials.

Sunnis vs. Shiites: A Brief Explainer

Tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which have existed for decades, have risen to a new level this week with the execution of famous Shiite opposition cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr by the Saudis. Although a large part of the regional competition is upon who has the greatest political clout in the Middle East, its origins can be traced back to a schism between the Sunni and Shia branches of Islam that first emerged 1,400 years ago. Saudi Arabia is by far the most powerful propagator of Sunni Islam, which is also by far the largest sect.

Here’s a quick overview of the gap that exists between the sects:

What was the origin of the Sunni-Shiite split?

As a result of Saudi Arabia’s execution of famous Shiite opposition leader Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr last week, long-standing tensions between the two countries have been exacerbated. Although a large part of the regional competition is upon who has the greatest political clout in the Middle East, its origins can be traced back to a schism between the Sunni and Shia branches of Islam that first emerged more than 1,400 years ago. Saudi Arabia is by far the most powerful propagator of Sunni Islam, which is also by far the largest sect in terms of population.

An overview of the sectarian divisions is provided below:

What do Sunnis and Shiites have in common?

Sunnis and Shiites are both familiar with the Quran, which contains the Prophet Muhammad’s sayings. Neither of them doubts that Prophet Muhammad was the messenger of Allah. Additionally, they observe Islamic principles, including fasting during Ramadan, pledging to undertake a pilgrimage to Mecca, engaging in ritual prayer (which includes five prayers per day), donating to the destitute, and committing themselves to the Islamic religion. Both of their prayer practices are essentially identical, with a few minor differences: Shiites, for example, will stand with their hands at their sides, but Sunnis will place their hands on their bellies when praying.

What are the differences between Sunnis and Shiites?

The most significant doctrinal divergence between the two is their views on who should have succeeded Prophet Muhammad in his mission. Sunnis, on the other hand, have a less complicated hierarchical hierarchy than Shiites, and their interpretations of Islam’s schools of law differ from those of the other group. Shiites accord human individuals the elevated position that is reserved for prophets in the Quran, and they frequently venerate clerics as saints, whereas Sunnis do not accord this rank.

How many of each sect are there?

Sunnis constitute the vast majority of the world’s more than 1.6 billion Muslims, accounting for upwards of 85 to 90 percent of the total. Shia Muslims account for 10 to 15 percent of the world’s Muslims, with a global population of less than 200 million people, according to some estimates. In contrast to the Sunnis, who dominate the Muslim world from West Africa to Indonesia, the Shiites are centered in the Middle East, with a great majority in Iran, a majority in Iraq, and substantial numbers in Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen, among other countries.

Elizabeth Chuck is a reporter for NBC News who specializes on health and mental health problems, particularly those that affect women and children. She has reported for the network since 2005.

Pilgrimage to Karbala ~ Sunni and Shia: The Worlds of Islam

While the Islamic world is predominantly of the Sunni sect, the Muslims who live in the Middle East, and particularly those in the Persian Gulf region, are often Shiite. Globally, the Shia account for an estimated 10 or 15 percent of the Muslim population, but in the Middle East their numbers are much higher: they dominate the population of Iran, compose a majority in Iraq, and are significant minorities in other nations, including Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Pakistan, and Syria. Outside of the region, Shia generally constitute only tiny minorities in other Muslim countries, including Algeria, Sudan, and Egypt in Northern Africa.

Afghanistan Population: 28,513,677Percent Shia Muslim: 19%Percent Sunni Muslim: 80% Algeria Population: 32,129,324Percent Shia Muslim: —Percent Sunni Muslim: 99%Azerbaijan Population: 7,868,385Percent Shia Muslim: 67%Percent Sunni Muslim: 29%Bahrain Population: 677,886Percent Shia Muslim: 70%Percent Sunni Muslim: 30%Egypt Population: 76,117,421Percent Shia Muslim: —Percent Sunni Muslim: 90%Iran Population: 69,018,924Percent Shia Muslim: 90%Percent Sunni Muslim: 9%Iraq Population: 25,374,691Percent Shia Muslim: 63%Percent Sunni Muslim: 34%Israel Population: 6,199,008Percent Shia Muslim: —Percent Sunni Muslim: 15%Jordan Population: 5,611,202Percent Shia Muslim: 2%Percent Sunni Muslim: 92%Kuwiat Population: 2,257,549Percent Shia Muslim: 25%Percent Sunni Muslim: 60%Lebanon Population: 3,777,218Percent Shia Muslim: 36%Percent Sunni Muslim: 22%Libya Population: 5,631,585Percent Shia Muslim: —Percent Sunni Muslim: 97% Morocco Population: 32,209,801Percent Shia Muslim: —Percent Sunni Muslim: 99% Oman Population: 2,903,165Percent Shia Muslim: 2%Percent Sunni Muslim: 21%Pakistan Population: 159,196,336Percent Shia Muslim: 20%Percent Sunni Muslim: 77%Palestinian Territory Population: 3,152,361Percent Shia Muslim: —Percent Sunni Muslim: 95%Qatar Population: 840,290Percent Shia Muslim: 14%Percent Sunni Muslim: 86%Saudi Arabia Population: 25,795,938Percent Shia Muslim: 5%Percent Sunni Muslim: 95%Sudan Population: 39,148,162Percent Shia Muslim: —Percent Sunni Muslim: 70%Syria Population: 18,016,874Percent Shia Muslim: 13%Percent Sunni Muslim: 74%Tunisia Population: 9,974,722Percent Shia Muslim: —Percent Sunni Muslim: 98%Turkey Population: 66,893,918Percent Shia Muslim: 15%Percent Sunni Muslim: 85%U.A.E. Population: 2,523,915Percent Shia Muslim: 16%Percent Sunni Muslim: 80%Yemen Population: 20,024,867Percent Shia Muslim: 36%Percent Sunni Muslim: 63%

The Sunni-Shiite divide in the Middle East is about nationalism, not a conflict within Islam

Note from the editor: Even in the context of the larger and more complicated geostrategic and political picture, religion is simply a tiny component. According to Ahmet Taşpnar, seeing today’s sectarianized problems in the Middle East through the prism of a 7th-century struggle is both simple and incorrect in its interpretation. This post was provided by Syndication Bureau, a Middle East-focused distributor of opinion and analysis material (twitter: @SyndicationBuro), for publication. Because of the terrorist events on September 11, 2001, the West has become fascinated with Islam, which began with Samuel Huntington’s forecast of a “clash of civilizations,” which became a self-fulfilling prophesy following the attacks.

This includes everything from Turkey’s transition under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to the growth of ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

According to conventional belief, this is a “war inside Islam,” with two opposed sects engaged in a centuries-old conflict.

In their excellent work, “Sectarianization: Mapping the New Politics of the Middle East,” Nader Hashemi and Danny Postel compile a collection of quotes from politicians, journalists, and specialists who never tire of repeating this chant of eternal Sunni-Shiite animosity.

“First and foremost, there is a Sunni-Shiite split, which began as a struggle for political power following the death of the Prophet Muhammad,” says US Middle East peace envoy George Mitchell, himself a former senator: “Second, there is a Shiite-Sunni split, which began as a struggle for political power following the death of the Prophet Muhammad.” This is something that is happening all across the planet.

It’s a significant element in Iraq right now, as well as Syria and other nations.” Thomas Friedman, a New York Times opinion columnist, says that, “the central issue in the Middle East now is the 7th-century conflict over who should be recognized as the genuine heir to Muhammad — Shiites or Sunnis.” To be sure, this schism has profound historical origins that cannot be ignored.

However, connecting the history to the present raises a straightforward question: are Muslims in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Lebanon still engaged in the same struggle that has raged since the founding of the faith?

The quick answer is that it does not.

There would be no end to the bloodshed in Syria or Yemen if Sunnis and Shiites were to suddenly come to terms on who was the legitimate successor to Muhammad.

Rather than relying on a simplistic narrative of a primal and everlasting war, more critical examination is required.

The sectarianized conflicts that have erupted across the Middle East in recent years have their origins in contemporary nationalism rather than Islamic religion.

What is taking place is not the purported resurgence of historic hatreds, but rather the mobilization of a new animus against the United States.

Sunnis and Shiites were able to cohabit throughout the most of their history because there was a modicum of governmental order in place to ensure the safety of both populations.

Wars and conflict are not in their bloodline, and they have no desire to fight.

It is not a primal nor an enduring dispute that exists between Tehran and Riyadh in the Middle East.

For the most part, Sunnis and Shiites are not engaged in a religious conflict.

Many policymakers, analysts, and journalists in the United States and Europe may be blinded by the rise of identity politics in the West, as evidenced by the fact that they now focus almost exclusively on Islam, while paying little attention to the political, economic, and social drivers of tension and conflict in the Middle East.

Their erroneous diagnosis will just serve to perpetuate erroneous prescriptions. Stopping the West’s infatuation with Islam and turning the attention away from it to the political, institutional, and geostrategic reasons that underpin sectarianism are urgently needed right now.

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