How are Shiites different from Sunnis?

Shiites and Sunnis

Islam is not homogeneous, there are several currents in it. The most famous and numerous branches of Islam are the Sunnis (which means “adherents of the Sunnah” – although the Shiites also have their own Sunnah) and Shiites (from the Arabic. Shia – “followers”).

The split that gave birth to Sunnism and Shiism occurred shortly after the death of the Prophet Muhammad and was associated with the problem of succession of power.

Future Shiites believed that Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law, Ali, should become the heir (in Shiism, he is called an imam), and power should be transferred from him strictly by inheritance.

The majority of Muslims, the future Sunnis, decided to choose their own leader, the Caliph. However, after the death of the first three elected caliphs, they chose the same Ali as the next – at this moment there was a chance to overcome differences.

But in 661 Ali was killed, and the community split completely. Ali is the only Muslim leader after Muhammad who is recognized by both Sunnis and Shiites. The former consider him the fourth caliph (the last of the “righteous”), and the latter consider him the first imam and saint.

The governor of Syria, Muawiya ibn Abu Sufyan, became the fifth caliph of the future Sunnis, and Hasan, the son of Ali and the grandson of Muhammad, became the second imam of the Shiites.

In total, the majority of Shiites recognize twelve imams. Some time after the last of them, Muhammad ibn al-Hasan, mysteriously disappeared in 872, the doctrine of the “hidden imam” took shape.

It says that Muhammad ibn al-Hasan was the Mahdi – the Messiah – and will come again at the end of time.

The modern spiritual leaders of the Shiites are the vicegerents of the hidden imam. Shiites make up about 10% of all Muslims living in the world and dominate in Iran, Iraq, Azerbaijan and Bahrain.

The opponents of the Shiites – the Sunnis – are a little less than 90% of all Muslims. The last Sunni caliph was King Hussein ibn Ali al-Hashimi of the Hijaz, who assumed the title in 1923. Almost literally, he turned out to be caliph for an hour – already in 1924 he was overthrown.

There are also different schools within Shiism and Sunnism. In addition, in Islam there is a special mystical direction – Sufism. Sufis who seek to approach God through special spiritual practices can be either Sunnis or Shiites.

The name Sufism probably comes from the Arabic word suf – wool, clothes from which were worn by Muslim ascetic mystics – Sufis.

In Sufism, the role of a mentor is very important – a sheikh, whose example and instructions are followed by his students – murids.

Sufi orders – tarikats – developed in the 11th-12th centuries, each of them had special practices and insignia.

Around the same time, a special Sufi philosophy took shape, which, in particular, was reflected in the poetry of Omar Khayyam, Umar ibn al-Farid, and others.

The outstanding Sufi thinker of the 13th century, Ibn Arabi, in his book “Maccan Revelations” argued that all religions contain element of faith in one God, but only the Sufi worships God in his fullness.

Main features of Islamic culture

The cultures of peoples who profess Islam are distinguished by the presence of the following common features:

  • God-centeredness;equality, tolerance, fraternity;
  • orientation to morality, human dignity; dynamism, progressiveness, orientation to the world, denial of asceticism;
  • tolerance for foreign faith, culture.

On the reasons for the high achievements of scientists in the conditions of official dogma

The explanation for the fact that, contrary to the official dogmatic worldview, the Arab scholars who lived in different countries of the Caliphate managed to significantly expand the boundaries of knowledge is that they acted despite the condemnation of the Muslim clergy.

Researchers explain the unprecedented rise of Islamic art and culture with the same reasons.

Fundamentals of Islam

The Oneness of God: “Tawheed”

Muslims believe that there is One supreme divine principle (Allah). In Islam, faith in Allah means not only faith in the existence of Allah, but also faith in all of his qualities, and worship only Allah, and obedience to his precepts. Tawhid includes the unity of the Lord, the unity of creed and the unity of names and qualities:

Unity of the Lord: Faith in Allah is faith in the only Creator, Giver and Master.

Unity of faith means the belief that Allah is the only God who should be worshiped and obeyed as prescribed by Allah.

The uniqueness of the names and qualities of Allah means faith in the perfection of Allah, his names and qualities in accordance with what Allah himself says about himself in the Qur’an; it is also the belief that these names and perfect qualities belong only to Allah.