In Islam, there are two main sects: Sunni and Shi'a. Sunni Islam is the largest sect, although in some countries it is a minority. Sunnis have their historical roots in the majority group who followed Abu Bakr, an effective leader, as the successor of Muhammad, instead of his cousin and son-in-law Ali. The Sunnis are so named because they believe themselves to follow the sunnah or "custom" of the Prophet. Shi'a Muslims or Shi'ites are those Muslims who followed Ali, the closest relative of Muhammad, as Muhammad's successor. The following chart compares some basic facts about Shi'a and Sunni Islam.
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|Shi'a Islam||Sunni Islam|
|Name Means||"party" or "partisans" (of Ali)||"well-trodden path" or "tradition"|
|Adherents||120 million||940 million|
|Main Locations||Iran, Iraq, Yemen||most Islamic countries|
|Branches||Ithna 'Ashariyah (Twelvers; the largest), Isma'iliyah and Zaydiyah||none, but four major schools of Muslim law are recognized|
|History||c. 632-650 CE; killing of Ali's son Husayn in 680 CE is major event||c. 632 CE; theology developed especially in 10th cent.|
|Successor of the Prophet||'Ali ibn Abi Talib, husband of the Prophet's daughter Fatimah (designated by the Prophet)||Abu Bakr, father of the Prophet's favoured wife, 'A'ishah (elected by people of Medina)|
|Messiah (Mahdi)||was born in 869, is currently the "hidden imam" who works through mujtahids to intepret Qur'an; and will return at the end of time||will come in the future; identity is known only to Allah|
|Imams||infallible manifestations of God and perfect interpreters of the Qur'an||human leaders|
|Religious Authority||Qur'an, then infallible imams||Qur'an, then ijma' (consensus) of the Muslim community|
|Taqiya||emphasized||affirmed under certain circumstances|
|Mut'ah||still practiced||practiced in the Prophet's time, but now rejected|
|Places||Mecca, Medina, Jerusalem, Najaf, Karbala||Mecca, Medina, Jerusalem|
|Holidays||Eid al-Adha, Eid al-Fitr, Ashura||Eid al-Adha, Eid al-Fitr|
For sources, please see linked articles.
|Title||Shia and Sunni Islam|
|Published||March 17, 2004|
|Last Updated||January 9, 2017|
|MLA Citation|| “Shia and Sunni Islam.” ReligionFacts.com. 9 Jan. 2017. Web. Accessed 20 Feb. 2017. <www.religionfacts.com/|