The Shiites and Sunnis are the two main sects within Islam. A majority of Muslims are Sunni, but the Shiites make up about 25 to 30 percent of the Muslim population worldwide.
Although both sects worship the Prophet Mohammad and follow the Holy Quran, there are some differences between the two. As a result, there has been much conflict among the two groups.
The Shiite and Sunni split stems from the death of the Prophet Mohammad in 632 AD. After his death, there was confusion concerning the prophet’s successor. Shiite Muslims believed that Mohammad’s cousin and son-in-law Ali should be the next imam, while the Sunni Muslims believed that Mohammad’s father-in-law and close friend ‘Abu Bakr’ should succeed as the next caliph. Needless to say, the Sunni Muslims were the majority and they choosen Abu Bakr as the first Muslim political leader and caliph of Islam, on the other hand Shia condemned it and firmly believed Ali as the first and foremost Imam.
War and Murder:
After several initial conflicts, the division of the Shiites and Sunnis soon culminated at the battle of Karbala where Mohammad’s youngest son and third Shiite imam, Husain, was killed after a series of inhumane torture by the forces of the sixth caliph, Yazid. In contrast to Sunnis, Shiites carry a theme of Great Martyrdom. Every year, millions of Shiite Muslims commemorate Husain’s Sacrifice and they offer self flagellation i.e. Seenazani, Qamazani, Zanjeerzani, even little kids of Shia sect walk barefoot right on the red burning charcoal as they try to understand the pain of Husain and family tortured and brutally killed. The murder of Husain is greatly mourned by Shiite Muslims around the world. They observe the mohharram for two months and a week.
The 12th Imam:
Until 869 AD, there were 11 Shiite Imams that followed the Ali’s ideology. A majority of Shiites believes that the 12th Imam was born in 869 AD and disappeared or became hidden from God at age 5. Shiites believe that he is alive and remains in Occultation until Hashr, the Judgment Day, when he will become a messiah. In contrast, the Sunnis do not practice this.
Wahabi Sunnis strictly prohibit the worship of saints because they believe that only Allah should be worshipped.
Differences in Worship:
The differences between the two sects are also reflected in the declaration of faith. Shiites state: “There is no god but Allah, Mohammad is the Messenger of Allah and Ali is the Friend of Allah. The Successor of the Messenger of Allah and his first Caliph.” In contrast, Sunnis do not mention Ali. Sunnis also pray five times a day and Shiites combine prayers into three sessions a day, which is practical and convinient in today’s world as Shiities know it is tough and impractical to offer Namaz at only specific times. However they do, but if they miss a prayer of its specific time, they offer that missed Namaz later as they call it ‘Qaza’.
Furthermore, Shiites rest their forehead on a small tablet of clay ‘sajdagha’ from Karbala while prostrating. Sunnis on the other hand, rest their forehead on the floor.
Shiite and Sunni Populations: Globally, the Shiites are a minority. However in Iran, Iraq, Bahrain and Azerbaijan the Shiites are a majority. The countries of Egypt, Algeria, Morocco and Saudi Arabia are overwhelmingly a Sunni majority. Although Iraq has a Shiite majority, the power had been traditionally in the hands of the Sunnis. This was especially evident during the regime of Saddam Husain.
Furthermore the close proximity to the Shiite controlled Iran has amounted to a great deal of conflict between the two groups.
Who is conservative and fundamentalist:
Westerns are the main society who strives to understand which sect of Islam produces fundamentalist, that they become a big threat to the world. The answer is in the current world events, if we see, we find Afganistan, Taliban Regime, Saddam Husain Regime, Osama Bin Laden’s group AL Quaida, Masood’s Lashkar e Taiyyaba and other extremist groups belong to Sunni sect. They are in Majority and so, most of them are illiterate, unemployed, unaware, they are living below poverty line, these sunni muslims become vulnerable to terror groups and they use their worthlessness in terms of making ‘fidayeen,’ whereas Shia, being a minority, are comparatively educated and have better positions in governance and other sectors, as well as, they oppose Abu Bakr’s philosphy of Jehad on every minor dispute.
…shabab khan blog
©MAGNETIQUE TRUST – 2014
Ref: Various Islamic Books