With 1.9 billion adherents, Islam is the second most popular religion in the world. Muslims are those who adhere to Islam.
Islam honors Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) as the prophet of Allah, the one and only real God.
Islam is divided into more than 70 distinct subsects, the two largest of which are Sunni and Shia Muslims.
What caused the differences between Sunnis and Shiites?
The conflict dates back to 632 A.D. when the Islamic Prophet Muhammad passed away and a controversy about who should succeed him arose.
The other—which later became the Sunnis—thought a devout person who would uphold the Prophet’s traditions was acceptable.
Political leadership, not religious dogma, caused the initial divide between Islam’s two main factions, according to Robin Wright, a joint fellow at the nonpartisan U.S.
The Woodrow Wilson Center and the Institute of Peace stated.
Also Read: Who is the Prophet Muhammad
The largest subgroup in Islam is Sunni. Sunni Muslims, often known as Sunnis, consider the first four caliphs to be the legitimate successors of Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him).
Following the Prophet Muhammad, the first four caliphs were the first four Islamic leaders (Peace Be Upon Him). They all worked closely with Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) and received direct instruction from him.
In addition, Sunni Muslims consider the political system Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) established in Medina to be an earthly rather than a spiritual dominion.
They thus believe that rather than being governed by divine will, the politics of the Muslim world should determine who leads Islam.
This indicates that Sunni Muslims have historically accepted a number of caliphs and recognized the powerful families in Mecca as leaders.
Shia Islam, on the other hand, is a more restricted form of religion. A Shi’ite or Shi’i is someone who practices or adheres to Shi’a Islam.
Shia Muslims contend that Muhammad‘s first four caliphs were not his legitimate heirs (Peace Be Upon Him). Instead, they elevate Ali ibn Abi Talib and his line to this position, replacing Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him).
Shia Muslims consider some of Ali’s ancestors to have particular spiritual and political power over the group as well as a variety of other divinely endowed qualities.
Shia Islam is divided into various subgroups, but the two most important ones are Twelvers and Ismailis. The largest and most powerful group within Shia Islam is known as Twelvers.
The difference between Sunni and Shia Muslims
Both Sunni and Shia Muslims hold the same core beliefs about Islam, such as worshiping Allah as God and accepting Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) as the Prophet and adhering to the Quran’s teachings.
The differences between Sunni and Shia Muslims remain substantial, nevertheless.
The two sects of Muslims were formerly unified, but with the passing of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) in 632 AD, they divided.
Shia Muslims maintained their traditionalist stance while the Sunnis became a more conservative sect.
Shia Muslims are outnumbered by Sunni Muslims.
They also make up just around 15% of the Muslim population, compared to an estimated 85% of Sunni Muslims.
To put things in perspective, there are just under 200 million Shia Muslims and about 1.6 billion Sunni Muslims worldwide.
Furthermore, Sunni Muslims are widely dispersed from West Africa to Indonesia, but Shia Muslims are often concentrated in the Middle East.
Regarding the succession of Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him), they have diverse viewpoints
The primary cause of the division between Sunni and Shia Muslims is their divergent opinions on who should have followed Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him), more so than any other disagreement between them.
As previously indicated, Sunni Muslims hold that Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) should have been succeeded by the first four caliphs, whereas Shia Muslims hold that Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) should have been followed by a member of his family.
Muslim Sunnis follow a less complex version of religion
Sunni Muslims consent to the government having a say in the selection of leaders. Shia Muslims, on the other hand, have complete control over their hierarchy, and the priest is always a member of Ali ibn Abi Talib’s family.
They hold various beliefs on the afterlife
The idea that there is an afterlife is held by both Sunni and Shia Muslims. The idea that there is a Paradise and a Hell is shared by both churches. How one enters either Paradise or Hell is the difference between Sunnis and Shi’ites.
According to Sunni Muslims, in order to even have a chance of entering Paradise, one must have trust in Allah and his prophets, believe in the good actions described in the Quran, and accept Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) as the last prophet.
They do believe, however, that they are still subject to Allah’s wrath even if they do all of these things.
Shia Muslims, on the other hand, hold the view that they will enter Paradise if they obey Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) and the Twelve Imams.
They offer various prayers
The five daily prayers are observed by both Sunni and Shia Muslims, however other than that, they pray considerably differently.
For instance, Sunni Muslims do all five prayers individually, making five daily prayers. Shia Muslims, on the other hand, divide their three prayer periods among the five prayers.
In addition, Shi’ites pray with their arms at their sides whereas Sunnis cross their arms over their chest.
They hold various perspectives about imams
Imams are the Muslim community’s leaders. Imams are revered as saints in Sunni Islam, and in order to be nominated, they must possess a firm belief in the Quran and the Sunnah.
But in Shia Islam, the only one who can nominate an imam is God. Imams are the solely authorized interpreters of the Quran in Shia Islam.
Their perspectives on self-flagellation differ
Self-flagellation, or the act of flogging oneself, is not acceptable to Sunni Muslims, especially when used as a form of spiritual discipline. Self-flagellation is condemned in Sunni Islam.
On the other hand, Shia Muslims actively engage in self-flagellation as a gesture to respect and remember Hussein’s martyrdom.
Shia Muslims respect short-term unions
Islam has a long history of temporary marriages, which were frequently arranged when a man had to leave his wife behind to go somewhere far away.
In essence, it marries a man and a woman, but only for a predetermined, brief period of time. While Sunni Islam considers this behavior to be adultery, Shia Islam nevertheless respects it.
Worship at graves is permissible for Shia Muslims
Shia Muslims have no objections to and even promote worshiping at graves. They share the conviction that even if a Shia Muslim companion has died away, they are still following Allah’s path.
However, Sunni Muslims are categorically opposed to worshiping at cemeteries. Because it implies that you are depending on someone other than Allah for assistance, they see it as a sin.
They hold various opinions on angels
Angels are real and were made from light by God, according to both Sunni and Shia Islam. Sunni Muslims hold that since angels lack free choice, they are bound to obey God’s commands at all times.
Shia Muslims, on the other hand, hold that while angels are faithful to God’s commands, they do have free choice and are able to err and defy Him.
However, Shi’ites think that because they lack the desire to sin, they are not disobedient.
Similarities between Sunni and Shia
The Prophet’s sayings, the Quran, are read by both Sunnis and Shiites. Both consider Prophet Muhammad to be Allah’s messenger.
They both observe the five pillars of Islam, which are to offer charity to the needy, undertake a journey to Mecca, engage in ritual prayer (which includes five prayers daily), and fast throughout Ramadan.
With a few minor exceptions, their prayer practices are essentially identical. For instance, Shiites stand with their hands at their sides, whereas Sunnis place their hands on their bellies.
They both adhere to Islamic law, however their interpretations of it differ.
All Shi’a and Sunni Muslims acknowledge the importance of the Qur’an; Shi’a are not said to utilize a corrupted version of the Quran, contrary to claims made by some.