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Muslims: Sects

January 6, 2017

Is Islam a one, unified religion? Yes, just like other religions. But are Muslims united? Unfortunately, like people belonging to other faiths, Muslims have split and there are variations as to how they interpret Islam and how they practice it. Here are some charts to help you better understand the Great Divide:



Sunni Belief Shared Beliefs Shi’ah Beliefs
Leaders should be appointed by the consensus of the community leadership and must be worthy, competent of the top leadership position;

Leaders are fallible, but must be pious

One God Must be from the lineage of the Prophet Muhammad;

Leaders are infallible

Do not allow statues or paintings of any kind, especially religious figures (e.g. Prophet, Ali, Fatima) Accept Muhammad saws as their prophet Allow paintings of religious figures
No shrines Follow Qur’an Allow shrines
No saints Follow Hadiths Many saints
Pray 5 times a day Pray more than once a day Most pray 5 times a day, but some pray only 3 times a day
4 Schools of religious law/thought:

Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi, Hanbali

Two Schools of Creed: Ashari, Maturidi.

These branches count each other on right path with different way of thinking.


Jesus is not divine and did not resurrect from the cross Schools of thought are:

Ithna Ashariyya (‘Twelvers’), Ismailis (‘Seveners’), Zaidis (‘Fivers’)

The latter do not agree to infallibility of Imaams or to the occultation of the 12th Imaam Mahdi.


Sources of the religion: Qur’an and Sunnah (tradition of the prophet) Believe Bible as the previous revelation from God Sources of the religion: Qur’an, Sunnah and teachings of imams
Temporary marriages are forbidden Observe Fasting, believe in 5 pillars, believe in the same prophets, etc. Temporary marriages allowed (even the ones lasting one day or few hours)
80% Muslim world population Celebrate two Eid holidays: after Ramadan and Hajj 20% Muslim world population
Hadith (traditional sayings) sources are the books of:

Muatta Maalik

Musnad Ahmad

Sahih Bukhari

Sahih Muslim

Sunan Abu Dawood

Jami al-Tirmidhi

Sunan Nasae.


Believe Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem to be holy cities Hadith (traditional sayings) sources are the books of:

Nahajul Balagha

Kitab al-Kafi

Man la yahduruhu al-Faqih

Tahdhib al-Ahkam





Prophet’s companions were pious and righteous people Believe Kaaba to be sacred. Not all Prophet’s companions were righteous people
Observe birthday of Prophet Muhammad Second Coming of Jesus

Imam Mahdi


Ashura–commemoration of the murder imam Hussein (prophet’s grandson)

Eid al ghadeer—commemoration of Ali’s appointment as caliph

Believe Najaf and Karbala to be additional two holy cities.









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