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Islam Sunnis Versus Shiites

Autor:   •  February 25, 2011  •  Term Paper  •  1,078 Words (5 Pages)  •  2,377 Views

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Islam is the second largest organized religion in the world, though the Muslim population still trails behind Christianity by 1 billion followers. (Islamic Web) Followers of Islam live in every country on earth, but are mostly located near where the religion began, in the Middle East. Other high-concentration areas of Muslim population are also India, various African countries, and Asia. The religion was founded by the prophet Mohammed, approximately 570 A.D., near Mecca. Mohammed began receiving revelations from Allah when he was forty years old. These revelations were recorded by his companions after his death, resulting in the Quaran, the Muslim holy book.

Mohammed preached against the worship of multiple gods that was common in the region during his time. He preached that there was only one god, Allah, and incorporated elements of Judaism, claiming to be a prophet charged with restoring the original faith of Abraham. (Wikipedia) The few followers he gathered in Mecca were eventually driven from Mecca, and forced to relocate in Medina, an exodus known as the Hijra. There, he gathered a much larger following, eventually establishing himself in authority. When his followers were strong enough, they began a military campaign, attacking Jewish clans that had settled in the region, eventually routing them from the area and capturing their strongholds. (Muslihuddin)

In 629, the Muslim army took control of Mecca after a peaceful surrender of the city. Mohammed had succeeded in creating a unified Arab people. However, when he died in 632, numerous disputes broke out over who would replace him, assuming the role of caliph. Eventually these disputes broke into civil war, and the next few caliphs suffered violent deaths after short reigns.

After three caliphs were overthrown, Ali ibn Abi Talib, Mohammed's son in law, took the position. Ali was assassinated by his rivals in 661, creating a division in the Muslim community. The Muslims split into two groups after this event. Most of them agreed with the successors to Mohammed, judging them to rightfully appointed. These people became known as Sunnis, and compose over ninety percent of the Muslim population today. However, there was a minority group that believed that only Ali was a rightful caliph, and that the others before him were illegitimate.

Of the two groups, the Sunnis can be considered the more Orthodox of the two, conforming to the original beliefs and teachings of Mohammed the most closely. The word Sunni in Arabic: أهل السنة والجماعة, means‎ "people of the tradition of Mohammed" (Muslihuddin). The Sunnis have four schools of law, which were founded between 767 and 865 A.D. These schools all share the same beliefs and theologies, but differ in religious practices and customs. However, all Sunni Muslims see all four as equally correct and valid, since they do not greatly conflict (Wikipedia).

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