Differences Between Sunni & Shi`a

Sunni & Shi’a
Advanced Global Literature
Symbol for the Islamic Faith
• On flags of Islamic countries
• Waning moon & morning star (Venus)
• 5 pillars of Islam
Al-Shahadah: one god
As-Salah: prayer
Az-Zakah: tithe % of income
As-Siam: fasting (Ramadan)
Al-Hadj: pilgrimage to Mecca
Basic Similarities
• both Shi’a & Sunni follow the Quran
– from Arabic root "qa-ra-'a"
meaning "recitation"
– over 10 million people living today have
memorized the Quran in Arabic
• both Shi’a & Sunni bow
toward Mecca in prayer
• both Shi’a & Sunni believe in messiah
– Mahdi: “the rightly-guided one”
– role to bring a just global caliphate into being
Basic Difference
Shi’a: messiah will return from hiding
Sunni: messiah has yet to emerge
Sunni Majority
• 85 to 90% world wide
• largest sect of Islam
• Ahl ul-Sunna
• in Arabic: ‫أهل السنة‬
• “the folks of the tradition”
Shi’a Majorities: Iran, Bahrain, Azerbaijan, Iraq, Lebanon
632: The Prophet’s Death
After Muhammad died, followers could not agree
• bloodline successors?
• leaders who would follow Muslim tenets?
Shi’a Decision
• “imams”
• descendants of Muhammad
• 1st imam: cousin & son-in-law
• Ali was also the 4th “caliph”
Sunni Decision
• “caliphs”
• leaders who would follow
Muslim tenets
• 1st caliph: Prophet’s adviser,
Abu Bakr
• recognize heirs of 1st 4 caliphs
as legitimate
656: Violence
• Ali’s supporters killed 3rd caliph
• Sunnis killed Ali’s son Husain
• fighting continued
• Sunnis claimed victory
874: 11th Imam Died
• 11th imam’s son disappeared from his father’s funeral
• Shi’a saw child as messiah
• largest group of Shi’a “Twelvers”
• preparing for messiah’s
return since disappearance
• no divinely guided political
leadership until 1978
Caliphate Rule Ends
• Sunni & Shi’a united
• rebellion against British
• end of Ottoman Empire
• lost guardian of Islamic law & state
Late 1920s
• contact with Western political structures created tensions
• struggle to provide viable alternative to caliphate
• Sunni fundamentalist leaders emerged
1928: al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun
• Muslim Brotherhood
• founded by Hasan al-Banna,
Egyptian schoolteacher
• first Islamic fundamentalist
movement in Sunni world
• reaction after WWI to western
"wave of atheism and lewdness”
1978: Shi’a Leadership
• Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini
• 1st Shi’a Imam since 874
• authority of legitimate
Shi’a religious figure
1920s to Present:
Culture Clash with the West
• Western cultural vices
uncovered women
theaters & dance halls
media & literature
• Western education & science an affront
– detrimental to Islamic traditions & beliefs
– cause of moral decline within Muslim community
“What Is the Difference Between Sunni and
Shiite Muslims?” HNN. History News
Network. 9 Sept. 2002. 2 Feb. 2008
The End
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