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.
- 1 Why did Islam split into two sects?
- 2 What caused the split between Shia and Sunni?
- 3 What caused Islam to spread throughout Arabia?
- 4 Why did the Islamic community become divided after the death of Muhammad in 632?
- 5 Do Shia and Sunni have the same Quran?
- 6 Is Turkey Sunni or Shia?
- 7 When did Islam begin?
- 8 What caused Islam to spread throughout Arabia quizlet?
- 9 Who is the founder of Islam?
- 10 What caused the spread of Islam in North Africa?
- 11 What is difference between Sunni and Shiite?
- 12 The Sunni-Shi’a Split
- 13 What is the Shia-Sunni divide?
- 14 History of divide
- 15 Leadership disagreements
- 16 Differences masked during Hajj
- 17 How Do Sunni and Shia Islam Differ? (Published 2016)
- 18 Sunnis and Shia: Islam’s ancient schism
- 19 Who are the Sunnis?
- 20 Who are the Shia?
- 21 What role has sectarianism played in recent crises?
- 22 More on this story
- 23 Islam’s ‘Toxic’ Schism
- 24 The Origins of the Sunni-Shia split of Islam, by Jack Ullyatt
- 25 The Sunni-Shiite divide in the Middle East is about nationalism, not a conflict within Islam
- 26 What caused the famous split between Sunni and Shia in Islam?
- 27 Sunnis vs. Shiites: A Brief Explainer
Why did Islam split into two sects?
Islam. The world’s second-largest religion began with the teachings of the Prophet Mohammed in modern-day Saudi Arabia in the seventh century. A disagreement over succession after Mohammed’s death in 632 split Muslims into Islam’s two main sects, Sunni and Shia.
What caused the split between Shia and Sunni?
The origin of Shia–Sunni relations can be traced back to a dispute over the succession to the Islamic prophet Muhammad as a caliph of the Islamic community.
What caused Islam to spread throughout Arabia?
Islam spread through military conquest, trade, pilgrimage, and missionaries. Arab Muslim forces conquered vast territories and built imperial structures over time.
Why did the Islamic community become divided after the death of Muhammad in 632?
With Muhammad’s death in 632 CE, disagreement broke out among his followers over deciding his successor. These disagreements over Muhammad’s true successor led to a major split in Islam between what became the Sunni and Shi’a denominations, a division that still holds to this day.
Do Shia and Sunni have the same Quran?
History. The Shī’ah use the same Qur’an as Sunni Muslims, however they do not believe that it was first compiled by Uthman ibn Affan. The Shī’ah believe that the Qur’an was gathered and compiled by Muhammad during his lifetime.
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.
When did Islam begin?
The start of Islam is marked in the year 610, following the first revelation to the prophet Muhammad at the age of 40. Muhammad and his followers spread the teachings of Islam throughout the Arabian peninsula.
What caused Islam to spread throughout Arabia quizlet?
Through trade Arabs were influenced by many different types of cultures like for example they had traded with Jews, and Christianity and they were exposed to monotheistic religions and influenced the religion Islam which spread rapidly through the Arabian Peninsula.
Who is the founder of Islam?
The rise of Islam is intrinsically linked with the Prophet Muhammad, believed by Muslims to be the last in a long line of prophets that includes Moses and Jesus.
What caused the spread of Islam in North Africa?
Islam was spread to North Africa as a result of conquest over African tribes, missionary efforts by the Muslim people, and traders spreading the religion by ear. The Muslim people would also spread the religion through trade because it would help the trade and economy of the country.
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.
The Sunni-Shi’a Split
The Islamic faith, like many other major religions such as Christianity and Judaism, has seen dissension among its adherents. Following the death of the Prophet Muhammad, this divide began. For a long time, many Muslims thought that the head of Islam should be a descendant of Muhammad. Others felt that leadership should be delegated to the one who was regarded by the elite of the community to be the most qualified to lead the community at the time. This dispute caused a rift between Muslims, resulting in the formation of two distinct factions known as Sunni and Shi’a.
The Arabic term Sunni literally translates as “one who adheres to the traditions of the Prophet.” Immediately following Muhammad’s death, many Muslims held the belief that the successor should be someone picked by the community’s most prominent members.
Shiite Muslims, also known as Shi’a Muslims, are Muslims who believe that leadership should remain within Muhammad’s family.
Because to the rise to prominence of the Safavid dynasty in the 16th century, the Middle East was transformed into a bastion for the Shiite faith.
Shiites adhere to Imams, who are divinely chosen religious leaders.
Sunnis do not support the Imam and do not believe in the concept of a privileged class of leaders or a divine right to rule.
In addition to their differences in leadership, Sunni and Shi’a Muslims have disparities in their religious traditions and practices, which are discussed below.
Islam is practiced differently by Sunni and Shi’a Muslims, but they share the same fundamental beliefs and articles of Islamic faith, such as belief in the existence of a god named Allah, belief in the five Pillars of Islam, and belief in the Qu’ran as their holy book, despite some minor differences.
What is the Shia-Sunni divide?
Tensions between Sunnis and Shias have been escalating recently, with multiple incidences of violence recorded in recent months, including the following: The most recent incident occurred on Tuesday, August 1, when a suicide bomber detonated himself in the largest Shiite Muslim mosque in Afghanistan’s Herat province, killing at least 29 people. Earlier in June, the Islamic State claimed responsibility for two assaults in Iran that claimed the lives of at least twelve people. In the Middle East, Iran is a Shia Muslim majority state that frequently finds itself at odds with Sunni governments and extremist groups such as the Islamic State and al-Qaeda.
As a scholar of Islam and a public educator, I am frequently confronted with concerns concerning Sunnis, Shias, and the other Islamic denominations. What is the true nature of the Shia-Sunni divide? And what is the story behind it?
History of divide
Both Sunnis and Shias, who derive their faith and practice from the Qur’an and the life of the Prophet Muhammad, are in agreement on the majority of Islamic principles, according to the Islamic scholars. The distinctions are more closely tied to historical events, ideological inheritance, and issues of leadership than anything else. The earliest and most significant distinction developed following the death of Prophet Muhammad in A.D. 632. Who would serve as caliph – the “deputy of God” in the absence of the prophet – became a point of contention.
- Those who belonged to this sect believed that Ali had been anointed by the prophet to serve as the political and spiritual head of the newly formed Muslim society.
- Abu Bakr was appointed as the first caliph, while Ali was appointed as the fourth caliph.
- It was 656 when Aisha and Ali went to combat against each other in the Battle of the Camel in Basra, Iraq, in the year A.D.
- Following that, Mu’awiya, the Muslim governor of Damascus, joined the fight against Ali, intensifying the already-existing divides among the community even more.
- Hussein, Ali’s youngest son and the son of Fatima, the prophet’s daughter, commanded a party of partisans in the Iraqi city of Kufa against Mu’awiya’s son Yazid.
- This fight, known as the Battle of Karbala, is of tremendous historical and theological significance to the Shias of the Middle East.
- Photograph by Ebrahim Noroozi for the Associated Press Hussein was assassinated, and his soldiers were routed.
- Every year on the Day of Ashura, Muslims commemorate the battle that took place on that day.
Islamic societies grew increasingly complex and overlapping as time went on, stretching from Europe to sub-Saharan Africa, and from North Africa to Asia, and eventually encompassing the entire globe. As a result of this evolution, more formalized systems of religious and political leadership were required. In dealing with these difficulties, Sunnis and Shias used contrasting ways. In the Ummayad (based in Damascus from A.D. 660-750) and Abbasid (based in Iraq from 750-1258 and in Cairo from 1261-1517) periods, Sunni Muslims had faith in the secular leadership of the caliphs, which was supported by the state.
These institutions continue to assist Sunni Muslims in making decisions on subjects like as worship, criminal law, gender and family, banking and money, and even bioethical and environmental problems.
Shias, on the other hand, looked to Imams as their spiritual leaders, whom they thought to be divinely chosen leaders from among the prophet’s family who guided them in their religious practices.
In the absence of direct descendants to rule on their behalf, Shias designate delegates to rule on their behalf (often called ayatollahs).
Even though Shia Muslims constitute a fraction of the world’s Muslim population, they have significant numbers in Iraq, Pakistan, Albania, Yemen, Lebanon, and Iran. Within Shia Islam, there are also other sects to choose from.
Differences masked during Hajj
Aside from theological disagreements, problems of practice and geopolitics continue to aggravate the rift between the two sides. For example, when it comes to theology, Sunnis and Shias depend on various “Hadith” traditions from which to take their inspiration. Hadith are records of the prophet’s words and acts, and they are regarded an authoritative source of revelation, second only to the Quran in terms of authority. A biographical portrait of the prophet, context for Quranic verses, and the application of Islamic law to daily life are all provided by these works, which are also used by Muslims.
- In addition, Shias and Sunnis have differing views on prayer.
- A major religious gathering in Mecca is the Hajj pilgrimage, during which both Shia and Sunni Muslims gather to worship.
- While the Hajj is supervised by Saudi officials, there have been difficulties with Shia states such as Iran over allegations of discrimination.
- In Sunni Islam, there is no such organizational structure.
- Despite the fact that the vast majority of Sunni and Shia Muslims are able to coexist peacefully, the present global political scene has elevated division and sectarianism to unprecedented heights.
- Muslim communities all throughout the world are still affected by this historical rift in their day-to-day existence.
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.
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 divide, tearing families and communities apart.
Who are the Sunnis?
It is estimated that Sunnis constitute between 85 percent and 90 percent of the world’s more than 1.5 billion Muslims. Sunnis constitute 90 percent or more of the populations of Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia, respectively, in the Middle East. Getty Images is the source of this image. Caption: Egypt is home to a number of Sunni Muslims. The earliest centers of study in Islam Sunnis consider themselves to be the religiously orthodox branch of Islam. The term “Sunni” comes from the Arabic word “Ahl al-Sunnah,” which translates as “People of the Tradition.” Specifically, the term “tradition” refers to actions that are founded on what the Prophet Muhammad said or did or agreed to or condemned.
Shia are also directed by the wisdom of Muhammad’s descendants, who are represented by Ali, Muhammad’s son-in-law and cousin.
Who are the Shia?
Shia Muslims account for around 10% of the world’s Muslim population, with a global population estimated to be between 154 and 200 million people. AP is the source of the image. Caption for the image The deaths of Ali, Hassan, and Hussein paved the way for the development of the Shia notion of martyrdom. Shia Muslims constitute the majority of the population in Iran, Iraq, Bahrain, Azerbaijan, and, according to some estimates, Yemen. Shia Muslims are also the majority in Syria. Afghanistan, India, Kuwait, Lebanon, Pakistan, Qatar, Syria, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates are also home to significant Shia populations.
Ali was killed in 661 at the end of a five-year caliphate that had been beset by internal conflict.
While Hassan is supposed to have died from poisoning in 680 at the hands of Muawiyah, the first caliph of the Sunni Umayyad dynasty, Hussein is believed to have been murdered by the Umayyads on the battlefield in 681.
There are three major sects of Shia Islam practiced today: the Zaidis, the Ismailis, and the Ithna Asharis (or Ithna Asharis) (Twelvers or Imamis).
In 878, the 12th Imam, Muhammad al-Mahdi, is reported to have vanished from a cave beneath a mosque, according to legend. It is believed by Ithna Asharis that the so-called “expected imam” did not die, and that he will return to earth at the end of time to restore justice.
What role has sectarianism played in recent crises?
Shia Muslims are disproportionately represented among the poorest sections of society in countries where Sunnis have ruled. They frequently believe that they are the victims of prejudice and injustice. Sunni extremists frequently 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 execution by Saudi Arabia of a prominent Shia cleric sparked a diplomatic crisis with Iran, which has since been resolved. A radical Shia Islamist agenda was launched by the Iranian revolution of 1979, which was perceived as posing a threat to conservative Sunni regimes, particularly those in the Persian Gulf.
Many of the conflicts taking place in the region today have strong sectarian overtones.
While this is happening, Sunni jihadist groups, including the Islamic State (IS), have been targeting Shia and their places of worship in Syria and its neighboring country of Iraq.
The execution sparked a diplomatic crisis with Iran as well as protests across the region.
An key cause in the resurrection of ISIS has been the war between Iraq’s two biggest Arab religious groups, the Shias and the Sunnis, which has played a role in the rise of ISIS. ISIS militants are predominantly Sunni, and the animosity that exists between the two communities serves as a major recruiting tool for ISIS. In the most fundamental doctrinal terms, the Sunni-Shia division in Islam began with a disagreement about who would be in charge following the Prophet Mohammed’s passing. Of fact, today’s sectarian conflicts in Iraq are not about resolving disagreements from the seventh century; rather, they are about contemporary political power and grievances.
Although Shias constitute the majority of Iraqi Arabs, Sunnis dominated the country under Saddam Hussein, who was himself a Sunni.
As a result, Sunnis believed, and continue to believe, that they were entitled to greater shares of political authority than their numerical size might suggest.
Because they don’t trust one another, the two factions are competing against one another in what they perceive to be a zero-sum competition for control of Iraqi governmental institutions.
While Shias maintain control of the government and Sunnis believe they are being unfairly represented, ISIS will continue to find an audience for its extremist Sunni message. This is a crucial aspect of the group’s strategy for gaining support in Iraq’s mostly Sunni northwest.
Islam’s ‘Toxic’ Schism
The terms Sunni and Shia were just coined at the end of the 1970s and first appeared in popular culture. Prior to it, the terminology had been mostly restricted to the exclusive realm of Islamic Studies faculties, with the exception of Sunnis and Shias themselves. It became clear to journalists covering the early phases of the Iranian Islamic revolution in 1978 that the Shia clerics, derided by the Shah as inconsequential ‘black crows,’ were in fact highly significant, as they were in the United States.
- Since then, we’ve gone from one extreme to the other, and everything in between.
- This is a mistake.
- There are a variety of writers, including neo-conservatives and right-wing identity entrepreneurs in the West, who take pleasure in writing about a Darwinian fight for the soul of Islam because it corresponds to their own beliefs about the fundamentally violent nature of the religion.
- What part of such remarks is based on fact?
- The Sunni-Shia split is widely perceived as a source of conflict, but is it more likely to serve as a handy cover for political disputes?
- Some believe that the beginnings of the divide may be traced back to 632, during the final hours of the Prophet Muhammad’s life.
- Muslim followers of the new religion Muhammad thought had been revealed to him by God had now taken control of the Arabian peninsula and expanded their influence.
Whoever succeeds to the position of caliph, as the community’s leader has come to be known, will be confronted with a number of difficult political issues as well as the responsibility of providing spiritual leadership.
Ali bin Abi Talib, Muhammad’s cousin, who had also married Muhammad’s daughter, Fatima, had the belief that the Prophet had selected him as the Prophet’s heir apparent.
With 30 years on Muhammad, he was significantly younger than many of the Prophet’s major companions, who were themselves much younger than he.
Perhaps most importantly, he was viewed as being too close to the Muslims of Medina, known as the Ansar, by many.
So they were not members of the elite Meccan tribe of Quraysh, which Muhammad was a member of before he became prophet.
Despite Ali’s hesitant acceptance of the current condition of affairs, his belief that the Prophet had meant him to be his successor remained unabated.
This triumph came close to being its downfall.
Ali’s rule was a source of contention from the beginning.
Ayesha, the Prophet’s widow, instigated a revolt against Ali, which was led by two other famous companions of the Prophet, Talha and Zubair, both of whom were of sufficient stature to be considered viable contenders for the caliphate.
Ali defeated Mu’awiya and he was both killed on the battlefield.
Ali was assassinated before the dispute could be resolved.
The majority of Muslims supported Umayyad and later Abbasid authority, but the position of caliph was reduced to nothing more than a symbolic source of legitimacy as time went on.
The civil conflicts that broke the unity of the Muslim community under Ali’s reign were a scandal and left a lasting scar on the Muslim world.
As a result of the violence, it had been torn apart, leaving a legacy of animosity and mistrust, as well as demands for retribution.
The result of this division was the emergence of two opposing narratives of Islam’s early history, which in turn resulted in two opposing ideas of how the true truths of Islam could be discovered.
The question is: how can Muslims determine the teachings and practices of their faith when the text of the Quran does not give a clear solution to concerns regarding doctrine and practice?
The Prophet’s companions were revered as the source of his knowledge, his customs, and his practice of the faith by the majority of Muslims.
This group considered the vast majority of the Prophet’s companions to be persons who had abandoned the Prophet’s desires after his death, when they refused to accept Ali’s proposal.
They held fast instead to the belief that the Prophet’s family, specifically Ali and his direct descendants via Fatima the Prophet’s daughter, was the source of the authentic teaching of Islam, and that Ali and his descendants were the source of that teaching.
As a result of his perceived sinlessness and direct relationship with the Divine, it was assumed that his interpretation of the religion would always be the right one.
These are the two religious sects that we now refer to as Sunni and Shia.
The conflicts between them may be traced back to their irreconcilable views of Islam’s early origins, and each can uncover historical evidence to support their respective positions.
However, despite the fact that the majority of Shia clerics currently oppose this practice, there have been several instances throughout history in which Shia have cursed Abu Bakr, Umar, and Uthman, as well as other notable Sunni personalities such as the Prophet’s widow Ayesha.
While it is important to grasp the gist of these opposing narratives of early Islamic history, as well as their theological relevance, there is no need to dig further into the wars between medieval dynasties in order to comprehend the current tensions between Sunnis and Shias.
However, what has persisted until our own day is the existence of competing – and, to a certain degree, contradictory – teachings of how the doctrines and practices of Islam should be distinguished.
The Shia minority is dominated by a group known as ‘Twelvers,’ who constitute an overwhelming majority.
He is still alive and well today, but he has chosen to stay hidden or away from the public eye.
Due to the absence of the Imam till the end of earthly time, one consequence for Twelvers has been that their religious experts have progressively taken over the function of the Imam in explaining and demonstrating the beliefs and practices of the religion.
Twelver minority are also found in substantial numbers in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Central Asia, and among the Muslims of India, among others.
The political significance of other Shia groups, such as the Ismaili followers of the Agha Khan, tends to be minimal in the majority of Muslim countries.
It is sometimes overlooked that the Sunni-Shia rift only became combustible on the world stage in the 1970s.
According to Sunnis, these four legal schools, which are known as law schools of the Malikis, Hanafis, Shafi’es, and Hanbalis, are all equally genuine in their teachings on how to follow the religion.
It is worth mentioning that, in addition to being a Shia Imam, he was also highly regarded by Sunnis as a scholar and teacher of Islamic theology and practice, a fact that should not be overlooked.
All of this does not rule out the possibility of tensions between Sunnis and Shias in the future.
Iraq’s Shia majority felt isolated from the country’s largely Sunni elite (although between 1945 and the overthrow of the Iraqi monarchy in 1958 there were four Shia prime ministers).
As a result, concerns of sectarian identification among the Muslims in the area became less significant.
Intra-Muslim sectarianism played no role in the organization’s formation.
The Bhutto family was no exception.
There are a variety of causes behind this.
But even though Saudi Arabia believes that it is encouraging Muslim cohesion and serving as a rallying point for conservatives against Arab nationalism, socialistsism, and democratic movements, its fundamental ideology, Wahhabism, demonizes the Shi’a (as well as Sufis) as idolaters.
Even though it was ‘Islamic,’ it was not in the traditional sense of the word.
In the case of Salman Rushdie, for example, this was his motivation in imposing the death penalty.
Following this, both Saudi Arabia and Iran attempted to co-opt Sunni and Shia groups to their respective sides in their battle for regional dominance as the decades went by.
Moreover, it did everything it could to incite unrest against Saudi Arabia among the Twelvers of the kingdom’s oil-rich eastern region, who were long regarded with mistrust by the Saudi monarchy and subjected to prejudice.
This resulted in the exclusion of the Shia and the sectarianization of Pakistani politics.
Despite the fact that Ba’athism pledged to remove religion from politics completely, the manner in which Ba’athist regimes came to power had the opposite effect on religious freedom.
In Iraq, men like Saddam Hussein, a member of the Sunni minority, and Hafez al-Assad, of the Shia Alawi minority, encouraged family members, childhood friends from their own town or village, individuals from their own tribe and region, as well as co-sectarians, virtually without exception.
As in both nations, democratic life came to an end in the late 1950s or early 1960s, and the dictators were willing to use all means necessary to achieve their objectives.
As an example, in Syria, radical Sunni Islamists, who labeled Alawis and Ba’athists as apostates, overthrew the dictatorship in Hama in 1982 and again entered the failed revolt after 2011.
ISIS was able to germinate in both nations because of the perfect storm that was produced by their severe anti-Shia rhetoric.
Some Sunnis in Syria may consider ISIS to be the lesser of two evils because the number of people killed by ISIS is a fraction of the number of people killed by government troops.
The principles of the Arab Spring of 2011 and other comparable movements were non-sectarian in their outlook and expression.
Those ideals, such as democracy, the rule of law, freedom of expression, and the desire for a modern, corruption-free economy (all of which were summed up by the protesters in the single wordkaramah, ‘dignity,’) continue to bubble beneath the surface of the country.
John McHugo is the author of A Concise History of Sunnis and Shi’is (A Concise History of Sunnis and Shi’is) (Saqi, 2017).
The Origins of the Sunni-Shia split of Islam, by Jack Ullyatt
Islam had risen to prominence in the Middle East by the 7th century and had become a dominant influence in the region. After centuries of bloody struggle, the erstwhile great empires of Byzantium and Sassanid Persia were thrown into chaos, and the Islamic prophet Muhammad was able to unite the tribes of Arabia behind the banner of the Muslim faith and conquer the world. That Muhammad was able to accomplish this was truly remarkable. His early followers on the Arabian Peninsula were made up of a varied group of tribes and a mixture of religious beliefs that included Christianity, Judaism, and Paganism.
- However, the rise of the young religion in terms of geopolitics did not correlate with the rise of the religion in terms of internal stability.
- The aftermath from Muhammad’s choice of a successor would precipitate the Sunni-Shia schism that has characterized Islamic relations ever since, from the Syrian Civil War to the barbaric slaughter of Shia Muslims by the self-proclaimed Islamic State.
- The first side consisted of Sunni Muslims who believed that tribal traditions should be respected.
- Those who follow the Shia, on the other hand, believe that the leadership of the Muslim community should continue in the family of Muhammad, specifically Ali, the spouse of Muhammad’s daughter Fatimah.
- Among the slain Sunni caliphs were Umar, who expanded the caliphate’s territory into Byzantine and Sassanid territory at a dizzying rate, and Uthman, whose rule was marked by numerous protests and a lack of authority.
- The Sunni and Shia communities would be irrevocably divided as a result of the war, with devastating effects.
- They were a strong Sunni family whose reign was challenged by Ali’s son Hussein, who grew up under Ali’s leadership.
A very strong Arab army under the command of the caliph was facing him and 72 members of his family and associates.
This has come to be known as the Islamic schism, and it is strikingly similar in many ways to the Christian schism that happened later in the 11th century between the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches.
From 661 until 750, the Umayyad caliphate was the dominant Islamic state, integrating numerous Byzantine and Sassanid organizations that had previously existed.
Christians and Jews were permitted to exercise their own religions, albeit they were required to pay a modest tax known as thejizya.
But the Umayyads were toppled in 750, and the remaining family members fled to Iberia, where they were killed.
As a result, Shia imams (religious leaders/teachers) such as Ja’far al-Sadiq were assassinated on the orders of the sunni caliph, Al-Mansur, and this did not herald the beginning of a time of peace between the two religious communities.
Some accounts also include the desecration of Imams’ tombs, the execution of large groups of Shia Muslims, and the burying of Shias alive behind the walls of structures under construction, among other things.
To summarize, the Sunni-Shia schism has brutal roots from its inception.
Following the death of Ali’s son Hussein, there were disagreements over whether tribal traditions should be followed by appointing an important elder or whether the successor should be from Muhammad’s bloodline.
There would only be an increase in hostilities during the Umayyad and Abbasid periods, with several Sunni caliphs specifically targeting Shia communities.
Shia Muslims are the majority of the population in Iran and constitute a considerable minority in other Arab nations such as Pakistan, Lebanon, and Syria, among others.
As a result, the selection of Muhammad’s successor was one of the most significant events in global history, and it has unquestionably influenced the development of the contemporary world.
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.
What caused the famous split between Sunni and Shia in Islam?
After Prophet Muhammad’s death in AD 632, the term of Caliph “deputy” was used to refer to the spiritual and temporal head of Islam. The first four Caliphs, Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman, and Ali, were all stationed in Medina and were known as the “rightly led.” Ali was Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law, and he was married to Fatimah when Muhammad died. Muawiya, the governor of Syria during Ali’s caliphate, refused to acknowledge Ali as caliph and as a result, revolted against him. Following Ali’s assassination, Muawiya proclaimed himself caliph in Damascus, essentially establishing the Umayyad dynasty in the process.
- When Ali was assassinated, the Muslims of Medina handed the caliphate to Hasan, who surrendered the title in favor of Muawiya, as part of a peace accord intended to spare Muslim lives and avert a resurgence of civil conflict in the city.
- THIS WAS THE END OF THE FIRST FITNAH (temptation, trial, civil strife), AND THE BEGINNING OF THE SECOND FITNAH (reconciliation).
- As a result of his refusal to swear loyalty to Yzid, Husayn rose up in revolt against him.
- The division between Sunnis (Sunnah is Arabic for “habit,” “common practice,” “custom,” and “tradition”) and Shias was now unmistakable.
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?
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.
Police officers chase demonstrators in Jidhafs, Bahrain, who were gathering to demonstrate against the Saudi Arabia’s death of Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, who were wearing hijab. 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.
She has reported for the network since 2005.