Difference between Sunni and Shia

Main difference

Sunnis and Shias are the two main divisions of Islam, the second largest religion in the world. Islam is the second largest religion in the world and 24% of the world’s population are Muslims. Muslims are further divided into two major sects or divisions. Sunnis and Shiites. Ahal-e-Sunnah or better known as Sunni is the largest sect of Islam with more than 85 to 90% of Muslims in total being Sunni. Shia is the 2ndlargest division of Islam with 15 to 10% of the general Muslim population. After the death of the Prophet Muhammad, the Muslims were divided into two groups due to political differences. According to the Sunni Prophet, Muhammad did not appoint him a successor; the Muslim community unanimously elects Abu Bakr as the first caliph of Islam after the Prophet Muhammad. Abu Bakr was one of the closest companions of the Prophet Muhammad and was also the father-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad. On the other hand, according to Shia Muslims, Prophet Muhammad wanted Ali Ibn Abi Talib as his successor, and considered Ali Ibn Abi Talib to be the first Caliph and Imam.

Comparison chart

Sunni Shia
Believe Sunnis believe that Prophet Muhammad did not appoint any successor and the community chose Abu Bakr as the first caliph. Shia believes that Prophet Muhammad wanted Ali Ibn Abi Talib, his son-in-law and cousin, to be his successor.
Population 1.2 billion 200 million
Successor after the prophet Abu Bakr (father-in-law and companion of the Prophet Muhammad). Ali Ibn Abi Talib (son-in-law and cousin of the Prophet Muhammad).
Most found in Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Lebanon, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, etc. Mecca, Medina, United Arab Emirates and in all the Muslim countries of the world.
Mourning and self-scourge Sunnis do not self-flagellate or cry, they consider it a sin. Shia Muslims cry and self-flagellate on Ashura and other days as well.

What is Sunni?

Sunni or Aahal and Sunnahit is the Muslims who considered that the Prophet Muhammad did not appoint him a successor; the Muslim community collectively elected Abu Bakr as the first Caliph of Islam. Sunni Muslims are the largest denomination of religion after Catholics. 85-90% of Muslims around the world are Sunni Muslims. They have a political contradiction with Shia Muslim, who considered Ali Ibn Abi Talib as the first caliph and imam. Sunni Muslims believe that Prophet Muhammad did not name his successor nor did the Muslim community at that time unanimously choose Abu Bakr as the first official caliph of Islam. Abu Bakr was one of the closest companions of the Prophet Muhammad, and he was also the Father in Law of the Prophet Muhammad. After the decision, political differences between Shiites and Sunnis continued to widen. According to the Sunnis, there are four legitimate caliphs as they were appointed in order. onethe Caliph Abu Bakr, the 2nd Caliph Umer Bin Khattab, the 3rd Usman Bin Affan and the 4th Ali Ibn Abi Talib. Sunni Islam is considered to be orthodox Islam as it has a massive percentage of followers. Sunnis believe in the fourth caliphs and later descendants of this chain as mentioned in the story. Furthermore, the Sunnis have various divisions and schools of thought. The main Sunni school of thought includes Maliki, Shafi, Hanbali and Hanafi. Sunnis celebrate traditional holy days such as Eid Ul Fitr after the month of Ramazan, when Muslims fast. Eid Ul Adha in which Muslims sacrifice animals i.e. sheep, goats, cows etc. like a sunnahof the Prophet Ibrahim. On the 10th of the month of Muharram or more commonly known as Ashura, Sunnis stand firm in remembrance of Hussain, grandson of Prophet Muhammad, who was martyred with his family in the battle of Karbala and also by Moses in remembrance of his crossing from sea. Sunnis do not cry like Shia Muslims and do not self-flagellate like Shias do.

What is Shia?

Shia and Sunni Muslims have similar basic beliefs about One God (ALLAH), prophets, holy books, angels, predestination, and judgment day. The main difference between these two divisions of Islam is due to the political difference that was formed after the death of the Prophet Muhammad. Shia Muslims are the 2ndthe largest sect of Islam with more than 10 to 15% Muslim population worldwide. According to Shia beliefs, Prophet Muhammad wanted his son-in-law and cousin Ali Ibn Abi Talib as his successor and his first caliph. Abu Bakr, father-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad, was chosen as the first caliph despite Ali Ibn Abi Talib leading the political differences. Shia Muslims do not consider the three caliphs (Abu Bakr, Umar Bin Khattab and Usman Bin Affan) before Ali Ibn Abi Talib to actually still be caliphs and completed his reign. Shia only considers Ali Ibn Abi Talib as their first caliph and imam. Including Ali Ibn Abi Talib, Shia Muslims believe in 12 Imams which are Ali Ibn Abi Talib, Hassan Ibn Ali, Hussain Ibn Ali, Zain Ul Abideen Ibn Hussain, Muhammad AlBaqir, Jaafar AlSadiq, Musa ALkazim, Ali ALraza, Muhammad AliTaqi, Ali AlNaqi, Hasan Alaska and the one to come is Al-Mehdi. Shia Muslims weep and self-flagellate in remembrance of the martyrdom of Hussain Ibn Ali and his family in the Battle of Karbala on 10th of Muharram. Apart from flagellating themselves on Ashura, mourning and self-flagellation are part of their regular activities in the mosque and in Imambarghas.

Sunni vs. Shia

  • Sunni Muslims are the majority Muslim division with a population of 85 to 90% among all Muslims.
  • Shia Muslims are the second largest Muslim division with a total population of 15-10%.
  • The Sunnis considered Abu Bakr to be the first caliph.
  • Shia considered Ali Ibn Abi Talib to be the first caliph and imam.
  • Shiites cry and self-flagellate.
  • Sunni does not lament or self-flagellate and considers it a sin.

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