Saturday, April 21, 2012

Differences Between Sunni Beliefs and Shiite Beliefs

Sunnis-Shia Cartoon
We have already had a number of posts where we highlighted the Sunni Shia split in the Middle East, the historical background on this split and the effects of the Sunni Shia split on the contemporary Middle Eastern geopolitics.  For those interested in a brief review, here are some of the posts:

Given how this split affects the Middle East today, it seems worthwhile to very briefly highlight at a very high level the difference between some of the core beliefs of Sunnis and Shiites.  Its worth emphasizing that the chart below is very general - and Muslim visitors to this blog may even find the chart a bit simplistic - but at least its a starting point for those who might want to further explore this issue:

Major Differences Between Shiism and Sunnism


to Muhammad
Muhammad designated Ali and his descendants as the prophet’s rightful successors to lead the Muslim community.
The first three caliphs were illegitimate tyrants.
The rightful successors to Muhammad are the most qualified leaders as chosen by the Muslim community.
The first three caliphs were legitimate and “right guided.”

Ali was the divinely inspired First Imam chosen by Muhammad. Up to 12 Imams who were descended from Ali came after him. The Imams were saintly figures who taught right behavior after the time of Muhammad.
Sunnis do not recognize the Imamate of the Shiites, but still revere Ali. Sunnism attempts to include as many different Islamic practices and beliefs as possible to achieve a “harmonious community.”
The sources of Islamic law (Sharia) are the Koran, Sunnah, and Imams.
The sources of Islamic law are the Koran and Sunnah.

A formal clergy structure consists of religious leaders (e.g., ayatollahs) who interpret Islamic law for Shiites to follow in the absence of the “Hidden Imam.”
There is no formal clergy structure. Religious scholars interpret Islamic law by consensus to guide the lives of Sunnis.

No comments:

Post a Comment