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The Blue Letter Bible

Don Stewart :: What Are The Various Divisions Of Islam Today?

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What Are The Various Divisions Of Islam Today? What Do They Have In Common and What Are Their Differences? (Shiah, Sunni, Wahabi, or Salafism)

Islam – Question 3

There are two main divisions of Muslims; Shiah and Sunni. About 90% of the Muslims of the world are Sunni while the remaining 10% are Shiah. It is important that we understand what they have in common and where they differ. We will briefly explain what each group is all about.

The Sunnis

The division between the two groups dates to the death of Muhammad in A.D. 632. Sunni means “example of the prophet.” It first emerged during a dispute about who would become the next caliph, the leader of the Islamic community. The Sunni followed the Arabian practice of appointing a committee of elders to choose the leader. They elected Abu Bakr, Muhammad’s first convert, as caliph. He is assumed by Sunni’s to be the rightful successor to Muhammad.

The Shiahs

Shiahs consist of about 10% of all professing Muslims. They number more than 170 million worldwide and are dominant in Iran. Shiah Islam can be summarized as follows. The Shiahs deny the authority of the first three Sunni caliphs.

They believe the rightful successor was Ali, the cousin and son-in-law of Muhammad. Shiahs consider that only direct descendents of the Muhammad should become leader. Ali’s supporters would come to be known as Shi’ites “the party of Ali.”

Islam has not changed it goals from the beginning; it still wishes to achieve world domination. The Sunnis and Shiahs each want this. However, their tactics differ as to how they are to achieve this goal.

The Wahabis

There is another group of Muslims which continue to have considerable influence. They are known as the Wahabi’s. The Wahabi’s can be described as a puritanical sect of Islam. They were founded in the 18th century by a man named Muhammad ibn-Abd-al-Wahab. The Wahabis regard all other sects of Islam as perverting the truth of Islam.

To this day, Wahabi Islam remains the official ideology of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. We should also note that many Wahabi’s consider the term derogatory preferring the name Salafism instead. The goal of the Wahabis is to restore Islam to its pure form. Therefore, they are interested in ridding the faith of all superstitions and innovations.

This is a brief summary of these main divisions of Islam.

Summary – Question 3
What Are the Various Divisions of Islam Today? (Shiah, Sunni, Wahabi or Salafism) What Do They Have in Common and What Are Their Differences?

Today, Islam is divided into two main groups: Sunni and Shiah. The Sunnis are by far the largest group making up of about 90% of all Muslims.

After Muhammad’s death a committee was formed to determine his successor. According to Sunni Islam, Abu Bakr, Muhammad’s first convert, was the rightful successor to the prophet.

The Shiah’s, on the other hand, believe the rightful successor to Muhammad was Ali, the cousin and son-in-law of Muhammad. They believe only direct descendants of Muhammad should lead Islam. Both the Sunni’s and Shiah’s have the same goal. This consists of world domination for Islam. The Wahabi’s, or the Salafis, were founded in the 18th century. They believe that Islam has strayed from its beginning. They reject all other sects. The Wahabi’s are the official form of Islam in Saudi Arabia. This gives a simple idea of how Islam is divided. Of course, much more could be said.

What Is the Early History of Islam? ← Prior Section
What Are the Basic Beliefs of Islam? Next Section →
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