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What is the Difference Between Sunnis and Shia

What is the Difference Between Sunnis and Shia

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Published by Shahzad Shameem

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Published by: Shahzad Shameem on May 07, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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What is the difference between Sunnis and Shi'a?
Own Your Home in Karbala www.alrawdatainresidences.comFirst 5 Star Residences inKarbala Fully Furnished and Serviced Suites
Whole genome sequencing www.mgrc.com.myIllumina HiSeq platform We can help designyour studyAdsAnswer:ImproveThe fundamentals of the Islamic faith are agreed upon by all Muslims. These fundamentals includethe belief in the oneness of God, the role of the Prophet Muhammad as his final messenger, prayer,the requirement to perform Hajj once in one's lifetime, and the requirement to give to charity.Sunnis and Shi'is do not disagree on these issues. The rift between the two, rather, developed alonghistorical and political lines, on the question of who was to be the legitimate leader of the Muslimcommunity after the passing of the Prophet Muhammad.The passing on of Prophet Muhammad in 632 C.E. thrust the nascent Muslim community into a protracted debate over who would be their next leader. Some companions felt that the Prophet haddesignated his nephew and beloved son-in-law 'Ali as his political and religious successor, andthus the Imam (leader) of the Muslim community. The majority, however, opted for the procedureof choosing from among a group of elders, and thus an old friend of Prophet Muhammad, AbuBakr, was elected as the first Caliph. The group that historically held to the view that 'Ali and thedescendants of Prophet Muhammad through his daughter Fatima (who was also 'Ali's wife) are thelegitimate successors of the Prophet's mantle of leadership are referred to as Shi'ati 'Ali (thesupporters of 'Ali). This issue has led to the development of the largest institutional division withinthe Muslim community, without any drastic variation in fundamental beliefs or practices.Political machinations often deepened the wounds of division, and the historical Sunni-Shi'adifferences are still passionately employed by people with vested interests for political or "religious" hegemony.Groups with extremist beliefs have emerged from both sides. Among those who claim to be SunniMuslims are the Qadianies, who believe that a person by the name of Mirza Ghulam Ahmedappeared in the Indo-Pak subcontinent over a hundred years ago, and that he was a prophet of Allah who received divine revelation. Among the Shi'a there are the Abadiyyahs, who believe that'Ali was partly divine; the 'Alawies, who consider 'Ali virtually a prophet; and the Druze, whoconsider an 11th-century descendant of 'Ali, al-Hakim, to have been the embodiment of God. Allgroups that hold such views are diametrically opposed to the agreed-upon fundamentals of Islamand are not considered within the fold of Islam by the mainstream Shi'as and Sunnis who constitutemore than 90% of those who claim to be Muslim.
History of the Shi'ites
The Islamic religion was founded by Muhammed in the seventh century. In 622 he founded thefirst Islamic state, a theocracy in Medina, a city in western Saudi Arabia located north of Mecca.There are two major branches of the religion he founded.The largest group, called the Sunnis believe that the first four caliphs--Muhammed's successors--rightfully took his place as the leaders of Islam. They recognize the heirs of the four caliphs aslegitimate religious leaders. These heirs ruled continuously in the Arab world until the break-up of the Ottoman Empire following the end of the First World War.The smaller of the major groups are the Shi'ites. There are a number of subdivisions under the'umbrella' of 'Shi'a' and although they differ in the details all of them believe that only the heirs of the fourth caliph, Ali, are the legitimate successors of Muhammed.The Shi'ites call these successors Imams. Shi'ites do not accept that the Imam is to be only a political leader but they believe that they are literally 'manifestations of God', they are sinless,infallible and the bringers of true understanding to all humanity. They are referred to within theShi'ite tradition as being masum, that is, free from error or sin. The last Imam, the Mahdi, is believed not to have died but to be in hiding and Shi'ites believe that he will appear at the end of time in order to bring about the victory of the Shi'a faith (see third paragraph below).The main groups under the Shi'ite umbrella are the Zaydiyyah or Fivers, the Isma'iliyyah or Seveners and the Imamiyyah or Twelvers. The numbers five, seven and twelve refer to the lastauthorised interpreter of the law or Imam that each group accepts. Of the three the Twelvers are the biggest & it was in 931 that the Twelfth Imam disappeared.This was a seminal event in the history of these Shi'ite Muslims. According to R. Scott Appleby, a professor of history at the University of Notre Dame, "Shi'ite Muslims, who are concentrated inIran, Iraq, and Lebanon, [believe they] had suffered the loss of divinely guided politicalleadership" at the time of the Imam's disappearance. Not "until the ascendancy of AyatollahRuhollah Khomeini in 1978" did they believe that they had once again begun to live under theauthority of a legitimate religious figure.The other important concept in Shi'ite Islam concerning the Imam (regardless of whether he wasthe Fifth, the Seventh or the Twelfth) is that he will return. He is called the Mahdi and will bringabout the Kingdom of God on earth after an apocalyptic battle between the forces of Islam and therest of the world. [Note that other groups descended from Shi'ia Islam such as the Babis andBaha'is define the 'battle at the end of time' as a symbolic or metaphysical one rather than an actual battle.]

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