For example, in Saudi Arabia, Sunni Wahhabism is a prevalent and puritanical faction. Despite their differences, Sunni and Shia have lived alongside each other in relative peace for most of history. The division among Muslims is rooted from differences in political beliefs. Shi'a Muslims or Shi'ites are those Muslims who followed Ali, the closest relative of Muhammad, as Muhammad's successor. Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images. “This was important, because by the time he died, he had basically brought all the tribes of Arabia together into a kind of confederation that became the ummah—the people or nation of Islam.”. On a mobile device? For example, following Prophet Muhammad's death, his close friend and adviser, Abu Bakr, became the first Caliph (successor or deputy of the Prophet) of the Islamic nation. The division between Shia and Sunni dates back to the death of the Prophet Muhammad in 632. 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. Sunni and Shia Muslims share the most fundamental Islamic beliefs and articles of faith and are the two main sub-groups in Islam. They contend that leadership of the community is not a birthright, but rather a trust that is earned and may be given or taken away by the people. Throughout history, Shia Muslims have not recognized the authority of elected Muslim leaders, choosing instead to follow a line of Imams which they believe have been appointed by the Prophet Muhammad or God Himself. This naturally gives rise to some differences in religious practice between the two groups. Sunni Muslims agree with many of the Prophet's companions at the time of his death: that the new leader should be elected from among those capable of the job. Spiritually, both groups practice the Five Pillars of Islam that is Shahadah (Faith), Prayer, Zakat (Charity), Fasting and Pilgrimage. Huda is an educator, school administrator, and author who has more than two decades of experience researching and writing about Islam online. Instead, it is a conflict between two governments who, respectively, abuse Sunni and Shia Islam for their own political agendas. While most of Muhammad’s followers thought that the other elite members of the Islamic community should choose his successor, a smaller group believed only someone from Muhammad’s family—namely his cousin and son-in-law, Ali—should succeed him. Countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Yemen, Pakistan, Indonesia, Turkey, Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia are predominantly Sunni. In the early 20th century, the victorious Allies divided the territory held by the former Ottoman Empire after World War I, cutting through centuries-old religious and ethnic communities in the process. Many of these companions (Abu Bakr, Umar ibn Al Khattab, Aisha, etc.) But starting in the late 20th century, the schism deepened, exploding into violence in many parts of the Middle East as extreme brands of Sunni and Shia Islam battle for both religous and political supremacy. A massive Sunni army waited for them, and by the end of a 10-day standoff with various smaller struggles, Hussein was killed and decapitated, and his head brought to Damascus as a tribute to the Sunni caliph. The word Sunn, in Arabic, comes from a word meaning "one who follows the traditions of the Prophet.". Sunni and Shia Muslims follow the Quran as well as the Prophet's hadith (sayings) and sunna (customs). By using Learn Religions, you accept our, Ashura: A Day of Remembrance in the Islamic Calendar, The Importance of the "Hadith" for Muslims, Shahaadah: Declaration of Faith: Pillar of Islam, Biography of the Prophet Muhammad's Later Life. according to an estimate by the Council on Foreign Relations. The commonly-known term is shortened from the historical Shia't-Ali, or "the Party of Ali." Both Shia and Sunni observe the … Stemming from the initial question of political leadership, some aspects of spiritual life now differ between the two Muslim groups. This group became known as the followers of Ali; in Arabic the Shiat Ali, or simply Shia. Sunni Muslims counter that there is no basis in Islam for a hereditary privileged class of spiritual leaders, and certainly no basis for the veneration or intercession of saints. Twice a week we compile our most fascinating features and deliver them straight to you. “Neither of them are representative of the vast majority of Sunni Muslims or the vast majority of Shia Muslims around the world,” says Hazleton of the fundamentalist regimes governing both Saudi Arabia and Iran. Despite the long-running nature of the Sunni-Shia divide, the fact that the two sects coexisted in relative peace for many centuries suggests their struggles may have less to do with religion than with wealth and power. On the other hand, some Muslims believe that leadership should have stayed within the Prophet's family, among those specifically appointed by him, or among Imams appointed by God Himself. This well-defined clerical hierarchy can play a role in governmental matters as well. Large Shiite minority communities are also in Yemen, Bahrain, Syria, and Lebanon. 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. Ali, himself, was killed in 661, as the bitter power struggle between Sunni and Shia continued. Shia Muslims reject these traditions and do not base any of their religious practices on the testimony of these individuals. The Stages of Hajj, the Islamic Pilgrimage to Mecca (Makkah), B.S., Child Development, Oregon State University. “It was obviously intended by the Ummayads to put the definitive end to all claims to leadership of the ummah as a matter of direct descendence from Muhammad,” says Hazleton of Hussein’s death, and the death of all the surviving members of Muhammad’s family, at Karbala. Abu Bakr, later leader of the Islamic community, is seen bending over him. © 2020 A&E Television Networks, LLC. HISTORY reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it is complete and accurate. In addition to Karbala, the NPR podcast Throughline identified three key milestones that would sharpen Sunni-Shia divisions by the end of the 20th century. Coexistence in Iraq and Lebanon, for example, is often difficult. The Five Pillars of Islam refer to religious duties to God, to personal spiritual growth, to caring for the less fortunate, self-discipline, and sacrifice. The general difference between the two stems from the recognized true successor to the Prophet Muhammad. The divide originated with a dispute over who should succeed the Prophet Muhammad as leader of the Islamic faith he introduced. In this sense, many people compare the two groups with Catholics and Protestants. Why and When Do Muslim Girls Wear the Hijab? Over the centuries, these political differences have spawned a number of varying practices and positions which have come to carry spiritual significance. Finally, in 1979, the Islamic Revolution in Iran produced a radical brand of Shia Islam that would clash violently with Sunni conservatives in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the decades to follow. They provide a structure or framework for a Muslim's life, just as pillars do for buildings. These are fundamental practices in the Islamic faith. FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. 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. It is important to remember that despite these differences in opinion and practice, Shia and Sunni Muslims share the main articles of Islamic belief and are considered by most to be brethren in faith. They do differ, however, and that separation stemmed initially, not from spiritual distinctions, but political ones. This includes rituals of prayer and marriage. They also adhere to ​ the five pillars of Islam : shahada, salat, zakat, sawm, and hajj. Eventually the Sunni majority (named for sunna, or tradition) won out, and chose Muhammad’s close friend Abu Bakr to become the first caliph, or leader, of the Islamic community. This is based on their positions and actions during the early years of discord about leadership in the community.

sunni islam vs shia islam

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