Islam Factions (Sects)

The Islamic faith was first introduced by Prophet Muhammad S.A.W (P.B.U.H) around the 7th century A.D. Prophet Muhammad oversaw the establishment, development, and technically the continuity of Islam through a framework of Islamic laws. Islam had no factions during the lifetimes of the Prophet and it remained so until His death in 632 A.D.

Following Prophet Muhammad’s death in 632 AD, disputes arose among his followers on who was to succeed him. Some felt that succession was to be done through due process of followers electing whom they deemed fit to lead them. Others however, were of the opinion that succession should be hierarchical in that a close blood male relative in the family should be elected to succeed the Prophet. This dispute led to a split of two factions now known as the Sunnis and the Shiites.
The Shiites were advocating for a successor of the Prophet to be of direct lineage (in this case Ali, who was Prophet Muhammad’s cousin and son in law), the Sunnis on other hand stood for the Prophet’s close and most trusted allies to succeed him (in this case Abu Bakr, Umar, and Uthman) and Ali to come in as the fourth caliph (successor).This split informs the factions within the Islamic community today as some acknowledge all the four caliphs whereas others acknowledge Ali as the first spiritual successor to the prophet.

Other than the key ideological difference on who should have succeeded Prophet Muhammad, there no other significant differences between the two factions of Islam. Both factions read the Quran and accept Prophet Muhammad as the messenger of Allah. Both factions pray five times a day facing Mecca, fast during Ramadan, and give charity to the poor. The slight difference between the two can be observed in their style of ritual prayer; whereas the Shiites stand with their hands placed on their sides, the Sunnis fold their hands on their bellies. Both factions also have different applications of the Islamic law.

Sunnis account for about 84%-90% of the entire Muslim population; while the Shiites account for the other 10%-16% of the Muslim population. It is important to note that in the 19th century two new factions of the Islamic faith known as Bahais and Ahmadiyyas emerged that several sources claim are offshoots of Shiite and Sunni respectively. Bahais regard themselves as a religion distinct from Muslim but which originated from Islam the same way Christianity originated off Judaism. Ahmadiyyas on the other hand consider themselves a Muslim faction within the Islamic faith.

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