What Are The Different Sects Of Islam? (TOP 5 Tips)

Though the two main sects within Islam, Sunni and Shia, agree on most of the fundamental beliefs and practices of Islam, a bitter split between the two goes back some 14 centuries. The divide originated with a dispute over who should succeed the Prophet Muhammad as leader of the Islamic faith he introduced.

What are the sects or branches of Islam?

  • Ahmadiyya. Ahmadiyya Islam was founded in 1889 by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (c. 1839-1908) in Qadian,Punjab,India.
  • Shi’a Islam. Shi’a Islam encompasses most Muslims who are not counted among the Sunni. Sufism is less an Islamic sect than a mystical way of approaching the Islamic faith.
  • Sunni Islam


What are the 5 sects of Islam?

As with all other world religions, Islam is represented by several major branches: Sunni, Shi’a, Ibadi, Ahmadiyya, and Sufism.

What are the 3 main sects of Islam?

Muslims Adhere to Different Islamic Sects

  • Sunni Muslims include 84%–90% of all Muslims.
  • Shi`ite Muslims comprise 10%–16% of all Muslims.
  • Sufis are Islamic mystics.
  • Baha’is and Ahmadiyyas are 19th-century offshoots of Shi`ite and Sunni Islam, respectively.

Are there 73 sects of Islam?

The most frequently cited hadith regarding the 73 divisions of the Muslim faith is reported as: the Jews are divided into 71 sects (firqa), the Christians into 72 sects, and my community will divide into 73 sects ( Ibn Majah, Abu Daud, al-Tirmidhi and al-Nisa’i). The hadith also occurs in many other versions as well.

What is Shia Sunni?

After the death of the Islamic prophet Muhammad in 632, a group of Muslims, who would come to be known as the Sunnis, believed that Muhammad’s successor should be Abu Bakr whereas a second group of Muslims, who would come to be known as the Shia, believed that his successor should have been Ali.

What are the 4 sects of Judaism?

A new Pew Research Center survey finds that nearly all Israeli Jews self-identify with one of four subgroups: Haredi (“ultra-Orthodox”), Dati (“religious”), Masorti (“traditional”) and Hiloni (“secular”).

What’s difference between Sunni and Shia?

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.

Who are the 73 sects?

Sectarian divisions

  • Sunnī Islam.
  • Shiʿa Islam.
  • Kharijite Islam.
  • Murijite Islam.
  • Muʿtazila Islam.
  • Sunnī
  • Shiʿa.
  • Ibadi.

Why are Muslims divided into sects?

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

What is Wahhabism in Islam?

Wahhabism (Arabic: الوهابية, romanized: al-Wahhābiyyah, lit. ‘Wahhabism’) is a term used to refer to the Islamic revivalist and fundamentalist movement within Sunni Islam which is associated with the Hanbali reformist doctrines of the Arabian scholar Muhammad ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab (1703-1792).

Do Shia go for Hajj?

Shia Muslims number 200 million and are the second largest denomination in the faith. Many perform the hajj, and they also travel to Iran, Iraq and beyond to visit holy sites. In Mina, Saudi Arabia, hundreds of Shias have travelled from Britain to perform the hajj.

Is Kashmir Sunni or Shia?

The religion – Islam, came to the region with the arrival of Muslim Sufis preachers from Central Asia and Persia, beginning in the early 14th century. The majority of Kashmiri Muslims are Sunni Muslims and Shias account for 5 to 10 percent of Muslim Population.

Is Khan Shia or Sunni?

A Khan can be Shia or Sunni. A Khan can be a nawab, like Saif Ali Khan, or he can be a poor illiterate from a village, like the director of Mother India, Mehboob Khan.


Despite the fact that Islam is divided into numerous sects, all Muslims adhere to the idea of Tawhid (belief in a single God, Allah), believe in the Quran, and adhere to the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings upon him). ​


​Sunni Sunni Islam is the biggest branch of Islam, and those who adhere to it are referred to as Sunnis. Because they think that they are following the Sunnah (also known as “custom” or “tradition”) of the prophet Muhammad, they are referred to as Sunnis (pbuh). Although the exact number of Sunni Muslims in the world is unclear, some experts believe that between 85 and 90 percent of the world’s Muslim population adheres to this branch of Islam. They trace their historical origins to the dominant group that accompanied the caliph Abu Bakr to the throne of Muhammad as his successor.

According to the four schools of thinking, Sunnis base their faith on the Quran and Sunnah as perceived by the majority of the community within the framework of the four schools of thought (madhhabs).

They are all subsets of one another.

They will continue to seek Islamic solutions for the questions given by growing civilizations, regardless of time or place in which they are practiced.


It is believed that the name ‘Shi’ism’ comes from the Arabic phrase’shi’at ‘Ali,’ which literally translates as ‘the party of Ali.’ Several Shi’ite scholars argue that Ali, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuhson-in-law )’s and cousin, should have been elected caliph following the Prophet’s (pbuh) death. The Shiat adhere to the notion of Imamate, who is described as “the divinely inspired, religious and political head of the society;” one who is without sin and who bestows real knowledge on humanity, which is another key distinction.

The great majority of Shi’ites are twelvers, or adherents of the branch known as ‘Ithna Ashari,’ who comprise the bulk of the population.

Shi’a thinking is divided into several schools of thought, the most important of which being the Ja’faryia, which was formed by Ja’far al-Sadiq, the 6th Shia Imam.

They all allude to the number of divine imams who were recognized after the Prophet Muhammad’s death, and they are all capitalized (pbuh).

The three primary holidays observed by Shi’a Muslims are Eid al-Adha, Eid al-Fitr, and Ashura (the Day of the Dead). They also observe Ramadan, which is the month of fasting. ​


Ismailis, also known as the ‘Seveners,’ are Shi’a Muslims who developed in 765 as a result of a debate over who should succeed Ja’far al-Sadiq as the sixth imam. Some Muslims think that Ismail, the eldest son of Imam Ja’far, was the legitimate ruler of the whole Muslim community. Ismailis believe that after the sixth Imam Ja’far went away, his eldest son, Ismail, received the authority to govern, and therefore became the seventh Imam of the Islamic faith. These beliefs are in contrast to those held by the twelvers, who believe that the imamate was passed on to Musa al-Kazaim, Ismail’s brother.

  • Mawlana Hazar, referred to as ‘His Highness the Aga Khan 49th hereditary Imam of the Shia’ Imami Ismaili Muslims,’ is believed to be a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad and is the 49th hereditary Imam of the Shia’ Imami Ismaili Muslims (pbuh).
  • Ismaili leaders that are well-known include Ubaydulla, who claimed to be a direct descendant of Fatima and Ali.
  • “One of its most enduring landmarks was its religious center, the Al-Azhar mosque in Cairo,” which has continued to serve as an epicenter of Islamic instruction to the present day, according to the Associated Press.


Unlike the other Shi’a groupings, the Zaydiyyah school of law has a distinct conception of the imamate than the other Shi’a parties. They recognize Zayd ibn Ali, the grandson of Hussain, as the ‘Fifth Imam,’ as their spiritual leader. Zaydis believe that the Imam does not have to be a direct descendant of Fatima, the Prophet’s daughter (pbuh), but rather can be anybody connected to Ali who possesses the highest level of moral purity. Islam: The Straight Path, by John L. Esposito, Oxford University Press, 1994, p.

Islamic Publications Limited launched the official website of the Ismaili Muslim Community in 2007.

48; John L.

The Major Branches Of Islam

In Sudan, a Sufi Ritual is performed. Sufis are classified as belonging to a mystical Islamic dimension. The Islam religion has more than 2 billion adherents all across the world. The religion itself has been around for about 1,300 years. Practicing Muslims believe that Islam started around 610 CE, when the final prophet, Muhammad, began receiving revelations from God, according to the Quran and other sources. These revelations were written down in the Qur’an by followers of the faith. Islam, like all other global faiths, is divided into various major branches: Sunni, Shi’a, Ibadi, Ahmadiyya, and Sufism, to name a few examples.

People began to debate on who should be the religion’s successor following Muhammad’s death, which resulted in the development of these branches. Despite their differences, the main denominations all hold some fundamental ideas in common, such as monotheism, sacred scriptures, and so on.

The Major Denominations Of Islam

Approximately 89-90 percent of all Muslims belong to the Sunni branch of Islam, which is by far the largest of the religion’s denominations. In the Middle East, they are found in vast numbers throughout the region, with the highest populations in Saudi Arabia and Egypt. After several years and much argument, Sunni followers came to the conclusion that Muhammad had not designated a specific successor. Abu Bakr Siddique was chosen by his followers after a long period of time and much disagreement This guy was one of Muhammad’s in-laws as well as a close companion of the Prophet.

Islam’s Sunnis believe that the Qur’an applies to all aspects of life and that individuals can approach God personally, with the expectation that he would appear to them on the Day of Judgement.


They believe that Muhammad did pick a successor, Ali ibn Abi Talib, who was also his son-in-law, and that he was chosen by Allah. Shi’a believers also have Imams, who are more central characters and community leaders than other religious leaders since they are the ideal incarnation of God on the earth. More than anything else, this branch is concerned with the individual’s relationship with God, as opposed to the cleric’s interpretation of the Qur’an. Humans will not see God on Judgement Day, according to the Shi’a, in contrast to the Sunni faith.

You might be interested:  In What Year Did Islam Originate In The Region Of North Africa And Southwest Asia? (Correct answer)

The vast majority, on the other hand, appears to be concentrated in Iran, Iraq, Bahrain, and Azerbaijan.


Ibadi Islam is a branch of Islam that is less well-known. This sect predates both Sunni and Shi’a Islam and is believed to be a highly orthodox branch of the religion. They have the same belief as the Shi’a, which is that God will not appear on the Day of Judgment. In contrast to Sunni and Shi’a beliefs, the Ibadi believe that the Muslim community may rule itself without the need for a single leader to guide it. Ibadi also varies in that they do not believe that the Muslim monarch must be a descendent of Muhammad’s tribe, the Quraysh, as does the majority of the Muslim population.


This denomination was created more recently than the preceding one. Those who follow the Ahmadiyya religion do not believe Muhammad to be the last prophet. Its origins may be traced back to the teachings of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835-1908), who served as their prophet. His adherents think he was divinely anointed to be the re-inventor of Islamic civilization. They have beliefs that are identical to those of Sunni Muslims, and they likewise consider the Qur’an as their sacred book. Indonesia, South Asia, and West and East Africa have the highest concentrations of Ahmadiyya Muslims, followed by India.


In accordance with Shi’a belief, the bulk of Sufis follow the Islamic path as given by Ali, Muhammad’s successor. Sufism is an Islamic concept that emphasizes on cleansing of the inner-self, despite the fact that it is not formally a sect of Islam. Sufis believe that humans can have a spiritual encounter with God through intuitive and emotional powers that they have developed through years of rigorous study.

This experience does not have to take place in Paradise; rather, it can be had in the real world. Sufism is regarded to be centered in Turkey and Persia, yet it has spread to other countries such as Greece, Albania, and Macedonia, among others.

Strength Of Beliefs

Although not a complete list of the various branches of Islam, the denominations listed above are among the most well-known of them. Islam is a centuries-old religion that is also one of the largest in the world, with a complex set of beliefs and customs. Islamists believe that the objective of human life is to live and thank God in order to one day win admittance into Paradise, regardless of which sect they belong to.

Major Branches Of Islam – Similarities And Differences

Rank Major Branches Of Islam Estimated Global Adherents
1 Sunni 1.39 billion
2 Shi’a 200 million
3 Ahmadiyya 15 million
4 Ibadi 3 million
5 Sufism Widely Disputed

Muslim Sects

The Sunni and Shia sects of Islam are the two main branches of the religion. The following are some of the sub-denominations or other orders within these religions: Ahmadiyya (Alawi), Druze (Hanafi), Ismaili (Jafari), Kharijite (Khalifa), Maliki (Shafi), Sufi (Sufi), Wahabi (Zaidi), and others. There are many distinct Islamic denominations, just as there are many different Christian faiths, but these are the two most important ones practiced by the world’s 1,6 billion Muslims.

Sunni Sect

Sunni Muslims are the majority of Islam’s members, accounting for 85-90 percent of the religion’s population. Since the Shi’is were expelled from the main fold in 661, it has maintained a near-constant position of dominance (the Kharijis left in 658). Islam as defined by the revelations given to Muhammad and his life is considered to be Sunni Islam, which is supported by the fact that Shi’i Islam has had a small following and no meaningful, formal structure for a number of decades. In terms of theology, Sunni Islam is neither more or less of a continuation of Islam than any of the other orientations in the religion.

Due to the fact that Sunni Islam was the religious orientation of the rulers, and that Shi’is had not established administrative organizations for a long period of time, it was necessary to establish a law, known as Shari’a – Seriat (for which the hadiths served as a central source), and that the rulers were Sunni Muslims.

  1. It was once believed that the only way to distinguish Sunni Islam from Shi’i Islam was by devotion to theCaliphas, who was considered the head of the Muslim world.
  2. In terms of key concepts, Sunni and Shi’i Islam are essentially the same: the oneness of God, belief in the revelations of Muhammad, and belief in resurrection on the Day of Judgment (Ashura).
  3. Sunni Islam requires the performance of five prayers every day, but Shi’i Islam requires only three.
  4. Islam’s Sunni adherents admire Ali, but they do not see him as the only legitimate continuation of Muhammad’s legacy, nor do they place any emphasis on him bringing forth a divine light from the Prophet.

While Sunnis place a strong emphasis on the Prophet Muhammad’s practice and teachings (known as the “Sunna”), Shi’a believe that their Ayatollahs are physical manifestations of God on Earth. Turkey’s Sunni population accounts for around 85 percent of the country’s total population.

Shi’i Sect

The Shi’i, the biggest non-Sunni branch of Islam, constitutes around 10-15 percent of the world’s Muslim population in its different forms. As a result of Muhammad’s daughter Fatima becoming Ali’s sister-in-law, Ali became the fourth Caliph, and thus the last to be chosen from the original nucleus of converts from theMecca-Medinaperiod. The term Shi’i refers to the supporters of Ali, who was Muhammad’s son-in-law through his daughter Fatima, and the fourth Caliph to be elected. Shiites, in their different forms, are major minority in countries such as Lebanon, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Pakistan, and India.

  • In accordance with Shi’i tradition, the Prophet Muhammad indicated that Ali would be his successor as the leader of Islam while on his deathbed, thereby sowing the seeds of split in the Islamic community.
  • Ali’s election and rule turned out to be extremely turbulent, and he was assassinated during the fifth year of his reign, which ended his reign.
  • There were numerous improvements brought about by Muawiyaa’s authority, and the old adherents of Ali served as the basis of the resistance.
  • Husayn departed Medina for Kufah when Mu’awiyaa died in 680 AD, seeking to stake a claim to the Caliphate and establish himself as the legitimate ruler.
  • Husayn and his followers waged a desperate struggle against overwhelming odds, and Husayn and many of his supporters were slaughtered as a result of their efforts.

Because the main tenet of the Shi’i faith is the illegitimacy of the Caliphate after Ali, the Shi’i cause drew a large number of supporters from among the disaffected in the Caliphate over the next few centuries, particularly among those who were not of Arab origin and were therefore considered second class citizens.

  1. Other than a series of unsuccessful rebellions, the Shi’i played crucial roles in the overthrow of the Ummawiyya dynasty, and the Shi’i Buwayhid, an Iranian dynasty, ruled over the Abbasid Caliphate for more than a hundred years.
  2. Both were Shi’a.
  3. But the fortunes of the Shi’i were perilous until they were recognized as the official religion of the Safavid kingdom in Persia in the sixteenth century.
  4. It has only been during the 16th century that the Twelver Shi’i sect has risen to prominence as the dominant Shi’i sect, developing a unique personality from that of the Sunnimajority.
  5. While any of Ali’s descendants, the Alids, were considered suitable candidates to be Shi’i leaders during the first few centuries of the Islamic era, as time progressed, it became increasingly vital for the Shi’i leader to be descended from Ali via Husayn along a certain line.

In today’s Shi’i community, the most significant division is between those who recognize 12 Imams, known as Twelvers, and those who recognize 7, known as Seveners, or more commonly Ismailis, after Ismail, their seventh Imam, and those who differ after the fourth Imam, and who accept any Alid who is learned and who asserts his rule through force of arms, known as Zayyidi.

Other aspects of Shi’i religion that have their origins in Judeo-Christian tradition include the emphasis on the trials of the martyrs (rawda kani) and general exultation over martyrdom, the use of self-flagelation as a part of religious ritual, and the commemoration of the 10 days culminating in the events of Karbala (ta’ziya), which are the central event of the Shi’i calendar and bear significant similarities to the passion of Jesus.

  • Shi’i innovators include the permitted use of pragmatic dissimulation (taqiyya), which is the denial of religion in public while keeping it in private, as a means of expressing one’s belief in private.
  • The lady who enters the mut’a is compensated with a certain sum of money.
  • The Iranian revolution resulted in the restoration of the mut’a system as an integral aspect of Shi’i Muslim practice as a whole.
  • In order to understand this quandary, it is necessary to consider the techniques by which the early Muslims sought guidance in issues that were not specifically covered by the Koran.
  • As a result, the Sunni depended on traditions derived from theological and juridical schools, which included parallels drawn from the Koran and Hadith, and, in cases where analogies were not attainable, on the consensus of theologians.
  • They next acknowledge Ali Zaid l’Abidin’s son, Zayyid, following which they recognize a plethora of Imams who have appeared at various periods and locations throughout history.
  • The Twelvers and the Ismailis both acknowledge Muhammad al Baqir, and Jafar as Sadiq, following which the Ismailis recognize Jafar’s son Ismail as a legitimate successor.
  • Musa al Kazim, Ali ar Rida, Muhammad at Taqi, Ali al Hadi, Hassan al Askari, and Muhammad al Mahdi, their last Imam, whom they believe to be concealed, are the Twelvers’ remaining Imams.

The Twelver Shi’i are also known by the names Rafidi, Jafari, Mutawahi, Qizilbash, Imami, Ithna Ashari, and al Khassa, to name a few more names. The Druze, the Nusayri, and the Baha’i are all sects that descended from Shi’i Islam. Shi’i Muslims constitute around 10% of Turkey’s population.

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.

You might be interested:  How To Get To Heaven In Islam? (Question)

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

An examination of the division between Sunni or mainstream Islam and the Shi’i sects of Islam is presented in this article. It is possible to practice many varieties of Shi’ism, with the most widespread being the Imami or Twelver branch of Shi’ism, which is practiced by the overwhelming majority of Muslims in Iran, southern Iraq, Azerbaijan, and Lebanon. A historical outline of the division between Sunnis and Shi’ites is provided before the topic of the resurgence of Shi’ism as a political force in contemporary times is raised, beginning with its development as a radical ideology in Iran in 1979 and progressing to the present day.

  1. Sunni, Islam sects, Shi’i, Imami, extremist ideology, Iran, Sunni–Shi’ite division, political instability are some of the keywords that come to mind.
  2. Sami Zubaida is a Professor Emeritus of Politics and Sociology at Birkbeck College, University of London, United Kingdom, and a former member of the British Academy.
  3. Users who do not have a membership can search the site and browse the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter without having to pay a fee.
  4. For details on how to register your code if you have purchased a print title that includes an access token, please refer to the token you received with your purchase.

If you have any issues about access or troubleshooting, please look through ourFAQs first, and if you still can”t find the solution, please contact us.

What’s the Difference Between Shiite and Sunni Muslims?

Despite the fact that Sunni and Shiite Muslims are both branches of the Islamic religion, the distinctions between these two groups are rooted in their differing theological views, which are at odds with one another. Political tension also creates divisions amongst the groups. A rivalry for regional dominance in the Arab world continues between Saudi Arabia, a Sunni nation, and Shiite Iran, a Shiite nation. As anti-government rallies and car bombs rage across Saudi Arabia, Sunni officials have accused their Shiite communities of being loyal to the regime in Tehran.

  • Furthermore, both Sunnis and Shiites believe that the Prophet Muhammad created the Islamic faith around the seventh century.
  • Because the Sunnis believe that Muhammad had no legitimate heir, they advocate for religious leadership to be elected by the whole Islamic community through a popular vote.
  • Muslims who adhere to Shiite beliefs believe that only Allah, the God of their faith, has the authority to choose religious leaders, and that as a result, all successors must be direct descendants of Muhammad’s family.
  • Other religious differences between Shiite and Sunni Muslims include their belief in a figure known as the Mahdi, which is Arabic for “guided one.” Both sides consider the Mahdi to be the only ruler of the Islamic society, and they are correct.
  • and will return to Earth at Allah’s command in the near future.
  • As reported by CNN.com, just 10% of the total Muslim population in the Islamic world is Shiite, which is the minority religion.
  • What’s on the Inside of a Mosque
  • What Are the Dead Sea Scrolls
  • Where Did the Concept of ‘Separation of Church and State’ Come From
  • What Is the Meaning of ‘Separation of Church and State’

The original version of this article appeared on Live Science. From 2010 until 2012, Remy Melina worked as a staff writer for the Live Science website. With honors from Hofstra University, she earned her bachelor’s degree in communication.

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. Iran is considered to be the spiritual core of Shia Islam. Here’s a quick overview of the gap that exists between the sects:

What was the origin of the Sunni-Shiite split?

Beginning in 632 AD, when the Islamic Prophet Muhammad died and a discussion erupted over who should succeed him, the Islamic world has been split into two camps. Despite the fact that both sides agreed that Allah is the one true God and that Muhammad was his messenger, one group (which eventually became the Shiites) believed Muhammad’s successor should be someone descended from him, whereas the other (which eventually became the Sunnis) believed a pious individual who would follow the Prophet’s customs would be acceptable.

It was a disagreement on political leadership “Robin Wright, a joint fellow at the nonpartisan United States Institute of Peace and the Woodrow Wilson Center, shared her thoughts on the subject.

Hasan Jamali / Associated Press

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.

The Difference between Shiite and Sunni Muslims and Why It Matters

Lutherans and Baptists are nearly identical in their beliefs. That is incorrect, and both sides would very certainly agree on that issue. It is also not correct to say that all Muslims are the same. Over 1.5 billion Muslims live in the world, with approximately 85 percent belonging to a sect known as Sunni and just 15 percent belonging to a group known as Shia. The division is a long-standing one, dating back 1,387 years to be exact. However, it continues to pose a danger to the stability of the whole Middle East and provides background for many of the stories we see in the news throughout the world.

When Muhammad, the prophet and creator of Islam, died, it was the beginning of the end.

Dispute over Muhammad’s Successor

When Muhammad died in AD 632, a huge controversy erupted about who would succeed him as the spiritual head of the new religion that had emerged. Islam was more than just a private religion; it was a social and political force that shaped events. He would have enormous control over society, government, and commerce as Muhammad’s heir. “It all began with Muhammad’s death, the prophet and creator of Islam,” says the author. Some others believed that anyone with the necessary qualifications could take over.

They insisted on the control of Muhammad’s father-in-law and friend Abu Bakr, whom they considered to be his heir.

As a result of their support for Ali ibn Abi Talib, Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law, this group became known as theshi’atuAli (the “party of Ali”), also known as Shiite Muslims.

Despite this, the Shiites refused to acknowledge Abu Bakr as legitimate and remained firm in their belief that they were obligated to Muhammad’s descendants, whom they referred to as l al-Bayt, or “the family of the house.” Ali was the father of two boys, Hasan and Husayn, who were both beloved by the Shiite community.

For Shiite Muslims, this fight and Husayn’s death are a sad reminder of their past.

Similarities and Differences in Religious Practice

Both sects adhere to Islam’s fundamental principles and practices, which are maintained by both. Those who follow Islam adhere to the Qur’an as a revelation from Allah as well as the Five Pillars of Islam, which include helping the poor, fasting during the month of Ramadan, participating in daily ritual prayers, making the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, and proclaiming that there is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet. Shiite Muslims do the five daily ritual prayers, although they do it in three sessions rather than five as is customary for Sunni Muslims.

  1. Many of these tablets include the names of Husayn and other members of the prophet’s family written on them, as well.
  2. Shiites adhere to a set of 10 required deeds in addition to the fundamental Five Pillars.
  3. They live in mourning, and they dress in black for the most of the year.
  4. On this day, Shiite Muslims around the Middle East and Asia take to the streets, screaming laments over the murder of Husayn, weeping loudly, and beating themselves in solidarity.
  5. Shiite Muslims flock to the Iraqi city of Karbala on pilgrimage, with many selling all they own to pay homage to the site of a historic conflict dating back thousands of years.
  6. These remembrances are not restricted to the Middle East alone, though.
  7. In the eyes of Sunni Muslims, the Shiite fixation with the house of Muhammad represents a false Islam that concentrates an excessive amount of reverence on the prophet’s family.

Shiite Muslims, on the other hand, believe that Sunnis are not genuine Muslims. Due to their strong differences, which have gone unsolved for millennia, the Middle East has been shattered, with permanently unresolved tension.

Shiites and Sunnis on the Modern Map

Saudi Arabia and Iran are the two most powerful countries in the Islamic world, representing the two major branches of Islam. Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam, is considered to be the spiritual core of Sunni Islam. Iran is mostly Shiite, and it has been ruled by a Shiite Supreme Leader since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, when the country gained its independence. The power struggle between these two countries is a continual source of contention in the Middle East. Some Middle Eastern nations contain considerable populations of Islamic sectarian minorities, particularly in Syria and Iraq.

  1. Following his death, rumors emerged that some Shiite Muslims who were present at his funeral danced and sang their Shiite chants in celebration of their triumph, proclaiming that they had reclaimed the territory of Iraq.
  2. Multiple upheavals in the Middle East throughout the years have made it more difficult to maintain peace in the region.
  3. It is critical to understand these dynamics in order to decipher headlines that depict continuous disputes and tensions among Muslim factions.
  4. Shiite and Sunni Muslims may be found all throughout the world, and they may even reside in your own neighborhood.
You might be interested:  How Did Hinduism Buddhism And Islam Become Established? (Solved)

Building Meaningful Relationships with Shiite and Sunni Muslims

Considering this, how should we interact with our Muslim friends and neighbors in this context? First and foremost, it is important to recognize that the majority of Shiite Muslims consider themselves to be a persecuted minority. Even devout Shiites who perform the Hajj to Mecca are subjected to maltreatment in Saudi Arabia, where the bulk of the population is Sunni. This should serve as inspiration for our prayers. Pray that people who believe they are oppressed would come to realize the freedom and peace that comes from placing their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

  • All Muslims living in America, whether they are Sunni or Shiite, are considered minorities.
  • Simple gestures of kindness may have a significant impact on Muslims’ perceptions of Christians and their Savior, and they should be encouraged.
  • Consider inviting Muslims you know to your home for a dinner in the evening to break their fast with you.
  • The majority of Muslims approach dialogues with confidence in their views in opposition to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
  • They have the potential to obtain freedom when we compassionately communicate the truth of Christ with them because the Spirit unlocks their hearts as they hear the message.
  • We are talking about the reality of a spotless Savior who died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins so that everyone who puts their faith in him might be forgiven and accepted into the family of God.

Undeniably, it is this good news that unifies Christians in a call to love, a call to travel, and a call to declare its truth to all Muslims, whether Sunni or Shiite. Madeline Arthington works as a writer for the International Monetary Fund. She currently resides in Central Asia.


Home PhilosophyReligion Beliefs in a Higher Power IslamOther possible titles: Ahl al-Sunnah, Sunna, Sunnism, Sunnite are all terms used to refer to the Sunni religion. Sunni Islam and Arabic Members of one of the two major branches of Islam, namely the branch that has the vast majority of the religion’s believers, are referred to as Sunnis. Sunni Muslims consider their denomination to be the dominant and conservative branch of Islam, as opposed to the Shiah, which they consider to be the minority religion.

  • While the Shiah have always seen Muhammad’s government in Medina as an earthly, temporal dominion, the Sunnis have long regarded Islam’s leadership as being governed not by divine order or inspiration, but rather by the prevailing political circumstances in the Muslim world.
  • Thus, a majority of Sunni jurists developed the stance that the caliph must come from Muhammad’s tribe, the Quraysh, while also devising a theory of election that was flexible enough to allow loyalty to be offered to the de facto caliph, regardless of his ethnic origins.
  • Britannica QuizIslam What is your level of knowledge about the Prophet Muhammad?
  • With this quiz, you may see how well you know about Islam.
  • It was the institution of consensus (ijm) that the Sunnis developed that allowed them to integrate a wide range of practices and traditions that originated through regular historical development but that had no antecedents in the Qur’an.
  • The Sunnis also recognize as orthodox four schools of Islamic law: the anaf, the anbal, the Mlik, and the Shfi.

They totaled around 900 million people in the early twenty-first century and formed the vast majority of all Muslims worldwide. Those in charge of editing the Encyclopaedia Britannica Adam Zeidan was the author of the most recent revision and update to this article.

The mystery of 73 sects

THE HADITH given to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), according to which his ummah will be divided into 73 factions, but only one would be saved, has been one of the most lasting issues of Muslim sectarian polemics for centuries. All Muslim sects are quick to proclaim that their sect is the’saved one’ (naji), and that the ‘others’ are doomed to eternal damnation. If we were to follow the usual line of logic, this hadith would split the Muslim ummah into two groups: those who have been rescued and those who have been condemned to hell.

  • In recent years, however, there has been a movement toward seeing this hadith in a more objective light, moving beyond sectarian interpretations.
  • Attempts have been made in recent years to decipher the context of this hadith and to evaluate its ramifications for today’s society.
  • The hadith can be found in a variety of different variants as well.
  • Frequently, it was assumed that 72 sects would be condemned and one group would be rescued in this manner.
  • According to Roy Mottahedeh (Diversity and Pluralism in Islam), Muqaddasi (a 10th-century geographer) claims that “72 sects are in paradise and one sect is in hell, according to what he believes to be a more reliable line of transmission (isnad)”.

Some, according to Mottahedeh, have questioned the authenticity of this tradition, claiming that if by 72 they mean the fundamentals of religious belief (usul), then they do not reach this number; however, if by 72 they mean the practices (furu), then the number exceeds this number by several multiples, according to Razi (d.

  • The second interpretation of this hadith holds that the number 73 is not meant literally, but rather is a relative and metaphorical number that has been determined because of the context in which it appears.
  • According to the author, “70 meant ‘a significant number,’ and 70-odd meant ‘a significant number and then more,’ which is rather obvious.
  • Another liberal signal towards God’s recompense may be inferred in this case, as is the case in the previous instance.
  • Two well-known figures, al-Baghdadi (d.
  • 1153), provide contrasting descriptions of the sectarian numbers and their origins in their respective works.
  • Great Muslim poet Hafiz (d.
  • According to Mottahedeh, Mowlana Jalaluddin Rumi believes that the “deeper religion is the trans-religious wonder of God’s love,” in a similar vein to Mowlana Jalaluddin Rumi.
  • 72) and takes the soul beyond the realm of existence.
  • Contrary to popular belief, truth cannot be limited or constrained by disputes between societies.

This point is reinforced by Abdul Aziz Sachedina in his remarkable book The Islamic Roots of Democratic Pluralism, which demystifies the mystery of different religions and sects, as well as how Islam views this diversity, in order to demonstrate the importance of religious diversity in democratic pluralism.

  1. Today, there is a growing worldwide movement to learn from and appreciate the plurality of faiths in a variety of ways, which is a positive development.
  2. We must see Muslim diversity with respect, humility, responsibility, and joy rather than through the lens of sectarianism, as we have done in the past.
  3. Everyone is on the lookout for the truth.
  4. if thy Lord had willed, everyone who are on the world would have believed together.” Would you (Muhammad PBUH) compel people to become believers till they are?

“He has brought uncleanness upon people who are without of comprehension” (10:99-100). The author is a history and culture professor at a private institution in Pakistan, where he specializes in Muslim societies.

How Do Sunni and Shia Islam Differ? (Published 2016)

The killing of Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr by Saudi Arabia has the potential to exacerbate tensions in the Muslim world even further. The top leader of Iran’s Shiite theocracy, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, declared on Sunday that Saudi Arabia, which is run by a Sunni monarchy, will face “divine vengeance” for the slaying of the outspoken cleric, which was part of a mass execution that killed 47 men. It has always been the goal of Sheikh Nimr to see increased political rights for Shiites in Saudi Arabia and the surrounding nations.

Here’s a primer on the fundamental distinctions between Sunni and Shia Islamic beliefs and practices.

Following the Prophet Muhammad’s death in 632, a rift developed, and disagreements erupted about who should lead the fledgling but rapidly expanding faith.

The title was handed on to a loyal assistant, Abu Bakr, however others believed it should have been given to Ali, the prophet’s cousin and son-in-law, rather than Abu Bakr.

Image courtesy of EPA (European Pressphoto Agency).

However, in 680, Hussein and many of his family were slaughtered in the Iraqi city of Karbala.

During the month of Muharram, every year, the followers of Ali are commemorated as Shiites, which is a contraction of the word Shiat Ali, which means “followers of Ali” in Arabic.

Sunni kings launched a series of conquests that resulted in the caliphate being extended throughout North Africa and Europe.

What are the differences between their points of view?

Many features of Islam are agreed upon by the branches, yet there are significant differences within each of the branches itself.

Shiites regard Ali and the leaders who came after him as imams, or spiritual leaders.

Shiites who call themselves Twelvers look forward to his coming as the Mahdi, or Messiah.

Which sect is the largest, and where are the members of each group concentrated?

They may be found all across the Arab world, as well as in nations like as Turkey, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Malaysia, and Indonesia, among other locations.

The Saudi royal family, which adheres to an austere and conservative branch of Sunni Islam known as Wahhabism, has complete authority over Islam’s holiest sanctuaries, which are located in Mecca and Medina, respectively.

Often, Saudi Arabia and Iran, the two most powerful Sunni and Shiite states in the Middle East, find themselves on opposite sides of regional disputes.

Amidst an ongoing civil conflict in Syria, where a Sunni majority has been established, the Alawite Shiite sect of President Bashar al-administration, Assad’s which has long controlled the country, is fighting to maintain its hold on power.

The Islamic State’s achievements in Iraq have been aided by strong resentments between the Shiite-led government and the Sunni-dominated populations in the country.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *