With 1.9 billion believers, Islam is the world’s second most widely practiced religion. 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 different subsects, the two largest of which are Sunni and Shia Muslims.
When Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam, died, most Muslims believed power should be passed down through elected leaders. The Sunni-Shia division resulted from a tiny minority, subsequently known as the Shia, choosing to disobey these elected leaders and instead follow the Prophet’s direct ancestors or imams appointed by God. Around 85% of Muslims today are still Sunnis, making up most Muslims. Shias and Sunnis unquestionably share fundamental beliefs and practices even though their centuries-long political rivalry has influenced the spiritual foundation of both groups.
Who are Sunnis?
The largest subgroup of Islam is Sunni. Sunni Muslims, also 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, therefore, believe that rather than being governed by divine will, the politics of the Muslim world should determine who leads Islam, indicating that Sunni Muslims have historically accepted several caliphs and recognized the powerful families in Mecca as leaders.
Who are Shias?
Shia Islam, on the contrary, is a smaller branch of Islam. 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 give this position to Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him)’s son-in-law, Ali ibn Abi Talib, and his descendants. Shia Muslims consider some of Ali’s ancestors to have particular spiritual and political authority over the group and other divinely endowed qualities. Shia Islam is divided into subgroups, but Twelvers and Ismailis are the two most important. The largest and most powerful group within Shia Islam is known as Twelvers.
Shi’ism shouldn’t be considered a later branch of Sunni Islam because it didn’t exist in its current form until the ninth century CE when the last Shi’a Imam died and the Hadith, or collection of the Prophet’s sayings, was completed. Both are regarded as orthodox, and the oldest Muslim university in the world and a Sunni school, Al-Azhar University in Cairo, recognize both in their curriculum. Sunni and Shi’a have coexisted amicably and even intermarried in various world regions.
Similarities Between Sunni and Shia
Sunni and Shia Muslims have lived in harmony together for centuries. Members of the two sects frequently mix in marriages and attend the same mosques to pray. Even if their rituals and approaches to Islamic law vary, they both believe in the Quran and the Prophet Mohammed’s teachings, and they offer similar prayers.
Shia identity is rooted in victimhood over the killing of Husayn, the grandson of Prophet Mohammed, in the seventh century and a long history of marginalization by the Sunni significant majority. Approximately 85% of the 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide belong to the dominant branch of Islam, which views Shia Islam with distrust. Extremist Sunnis have characterized Shias as heretics and apostates.
One True Faith
Islam is regarded as the only authentic religion by both Sunnis and Shias. The conditions for the past and current conflicts between Muslims and followers of other faiths have been set by this conviction that Muslims hold the only authentic religion.
Belief in One God
Sunni and Shia are completely monotheistic; they have faith in only Allah. Muslims view their Prophet Muhammad as inspired but human.
The Muslim sacred book, the Quran, is acknowledged by both denominations as embodying Allah’s unchangeable will and His design for humanity. Accordingly, Shias and Sunnis hold that the body of Quranic regulations—known as sharia—supersedes all other worldly laws.
Five Core Acts
Sunni and Shia Muslims uphold the Five Pillars of Islam, five key principles that are necessary for a person to be a true believer. Among these is the affirmation of faith in Allah as the one true God and in Muhammad as his only Prophet, daily prayer, charitable works or almsgiving, observance of the Ramadan fast, and a pilgrimage to Mecca.
Art and Architecture
Both faiths regard depictions of the human form as idolatry, which the Quran categorizes as a sin. Instead, Sunnis and Shias embellish their mosques with intricate geometric designs and Arabic calligraphic phrases.
What do the Shia and Sunni have in common?
The fundamental principles of Islam are shared by both Sunnis and Shias, including belief in a monotheistic God and Mohammed as his messenger, performance of daily prayers, almsgiving, fasting during Ramadan, which is the Muslim holy month, and the Mecca pilgrimage.
What are the differences between Sunni and Shia?
Imams are revered as saints in Sunni Islam, and to be nominated, they must possess a firm belief in the Quran and the Sunnah. However, in Shia Islam, Imams are only appointed by God. Therefore, imams are the only authorized interpreters of the Quran in Shia Islam.
How are Shia Islam and Sunni Islam alike?
Sunni and Shia Muslims hold the same core beliefs about Islam, such as worshiping Allah as God, accepting Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) as the Prophet, and adhering to the Quran’s teachings.
What are the 5 differences between Sunni and Shia?
The top 5 differences between Sunni and Shia are as follows:
Sunnis outnumber Shiites by a wide margin, and there are concerns about hereditary succession, respect for Imam Ali and his family, prayer practices, and governance.
Why do Shias pray 3 times a day?
Shi’a acknowledges the five daily prayers that are required. But they frequently mix the prayers of Zuhr and ‘Asr by offering them back-to-back during the interval between Zuhr’s beginning and end. They also believe that combining the Maghrib and ‘Isha prayers is acceptable.