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06 January 2011

Shiai and Sunni Islam Explained

Up to 80-90% of all Muslims follow the Sunni tradition, making it the largest branch of Islam. The name Sunni comes from the Arabic sunnah, meaning the custom or example of the prophet Muhammad. By the 10th century, Muslim theology was codified into the Sunni tradition.

But even before that time, there were splinter groups, and the largest of these was the Shia tradition. "Shia" comes from the Arabic phrase shi'at 'Ali, which means the partisans of Ali. Ali was the son-in-law and cousin of Muhammad, and Shias believe that he was the prophet's rightful successor. Ali ruled as the fourth caliph (leader) after Muhammad, but he was assassinated in 661C.E.

The matter of leadership evolved into the Shia institution of the Imamate, a spiritual leader followers considered chosen by God. Ali was the first of the 12 most important Imams, and Shias regularly visit the shrines of the Imams. Sunnis have Imams too, but these men are more like prayer leaders and scholars, and they don't hold the same religious or political authority as Shia imams.

Shia [10%] also interpret some verses of the Quran (the holy book of Islam) differently than do Sunnis. Suffering and martyrdom are idealized more in Shia tradition than Sunni, and the sects hold varying views on divine justice and free will. Shia'ism has its own call to prayer, prayer forms, and ritual practices as well.


Ali [R.A] said;

"With regard to me, two categories of people will be ruined, namely;
  • he who loves me too much and the love takes him away from rightfulness and 

  • he who hates me too much and the hatred takes him away from rightfulness. 
  • The best man with regard to me is he who is on the middle course. So be with him and be with the great majority (of Muslims) because Allah's hand (of protection) is on keeping unity. 
  • You should beware of division because the one isolated from the group is (a prey) to Satan just as the one isolated from the flock of sheep is (a prey) to the wolf. 
  • Beware; whoever calls to this course, kill himeven though he may beunder this headband of mine.