The great divide of Islam – Shia vs. Sunni

The divide came when the Prophet Muhammad died in the year 632 AD and Islam split into its two main sects: Sunni and Shia. Terrorism comes from radicals inside the Sunni sects.


WASHINGTON, June 30, 2016 — Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the United States has experienced a crushing wave of Islamophobia. These sentiments have only been strengthened throughout the past 15 years as indiscriminate terrorist attacks have taken place around the world.

People want someone to blame after the loss of a friend or family member. In the United States, with more than 70 percent of the population Christian, there has been a mistake in where to lay blame for the anguish and outrage. It is not on Muslims or Islam.

Shia Rights Day raises awareness of minority oppression

Islam is in itself a peaceful religion. It is the second largest religion in the world, with about 1.5 billion followers, or about 23 percent of the world’s population. All Muslims believe that Allah is the only God, and that Muhammad was his messenger.

Muslims read the Quran and follow the Five Pillars of Islam: profession of faith, prayers, almsgiving, fasting during Ramadan, and pilgrimage to Mecca.

A divide took place when the Prophet Muhammad died in the year 632 AD. Islam split into its two main sects, Sunni and Shia.

Sunnis are about 85 percent of Muslims today, and according to Pew Research, 40 percent do not consider the Shia to be true Muslims. After the death of the prophet, the Sunni wanted the prophet’s friend and father-in-law, Abu Bakr, to lead the people.

Bakr became the first caliph,  (Arabic: خَليفة‎‎ khalīfah) a person considered to be the religious successor to the Islamic prophet, Muhammad (Muhammad ibn ʿAbdullāh). The Caliph is considered to be the true leader of the entire Muslim community. But Bakr died two years later due to an illness.

The populations of Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia are 90 percent or more Sunni, leaving Shia Muslims, with 200 million followers representing 10 percent of the total Muslim population, as a persecuted minority .

Shia believe that the prophet anointed his cousin and son-in-law Ali to lead, not Abu Bakr. Ali became the fourth caliph, but in 680 AD, Ali’s son Hussein was killed in battle by Sunni troops. This event only solidified the ever-widening gap between the religious sects.

Shia are the majority in Iraq, Bahrain, and Azerbaijan, and are the vast majority in Iran, where 95 percent of the population is Shia.

Someone does need to be held accountable for the lives lost in the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and more recently in Istanbul, Paris and Brussels. However blaming all Muslims not only creates more hate in our already beaten and bruised world, but it also contradicts the Christian doctrine to love thy neighbor.

The ultimate goal of everyone on this earth, regardless of religion, race, or creed, should be to achieve peace, and that will never happen until all people learn to respect each other’s differences and work together towards that common goal.

In Bahrain, Shia lives matter

One poignant depiction of Islamophobia in America today compares the terrorists of today to a violent, extremist group of the past: the KKK. The caption reads, “No one thinks that these people are representative of Christians. So why do so many think that these people are representative of Muslims?”

Just as the KKK misused the name of Christianity, extremists now are misusing the name of Islam.

Cartoon by and used for illustrative or education purposes.
Cartoon by and used for illustrative or education purposes.

The people who carried out these murderous attacks are not religious, much less Muslim. Any religion that advocates the killing of others is not a religion at all; it is an abuse of power. Those suffering from Islamophobia are playing right into the extremists’ hands.

These terrorists want a clash of civilizations; they want a global war. We must be educated enough to prevent them from getting what they want.

The importance of engaging in dialogue cannot be understated. Education combats fear, and in today’s troubled times, we cannot afford to live in fear. Ask questions. Be engaged in the community. Research current events. Gather information from multiple sources.

Knowledge is power, and in this case, it is the power to win a war that we cannot afford to lose.

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing” – Edmund Burke

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