Sunni vs Shiite Islam: Difference and Comparison

The Sunnis have a more elaborate religious hierarchy than the Shiites, and the interpretation of the two comms of Islam differs in law.  The Shiites give a higher status to the community that is given only in the Qur’an to the prophets, those who worship the cleric as a saint, but the Sunnis do not.

Key Takeaways

  1. Sunni Islam is the largest branch of Islam, accounting for about 85-90% of the global Muslim population, and follows the Rashidun Caliphs’ leadership after the Prophet Muhammad’s death.
  2. Shiite Islam represents a smaller portion of Muslims (10-15%) and believes that only descendants of the Prophet’s cousin and son-in-law, Ali, should lead the Islamic community.
  3. Despite theological and historical differences, Sunni and Shiite Muslims share core beliefs, including the Five Pillars of Islam and reverence for the Quran.

Sunni vs Shiite Islam

Sunnis are a branch of the Muslim community who believe that the community should choose its leader through consensus. Shiites believe that the Prophet’s cousin and son-in-law, Ali, should have been his rightful successor, and the leadership of the Muslim community should remain within his family.

Sunni vs Shiite Islam

There are over 1.4 billion Muslims in the world, most of whom are Sunni Muslims. Sunni is an Arabic word.

It is a major branch of Islam that has great importance in the religion of Islam.

These communities consider themselves to be a traditional branch and are distinct from the Shia community. Shiites are not the largest branch of Islam but the second largest branch after Sunni.

In Arabic, the word Shiite has a different meaning, that is, it mainly refers to a group that develops a consensus on something. Etymologically, the word denotes an assistant, supporter, or favor.

The term is mainly used for the followers of Ali and his 11 male descendants. In contrast, the Sunni community, which is considered the main branch of this religion, is called fundamentalism. 

Comparison Table

Parameters of comparison SunniShiite Islam
Hereditary successionSunnis do not consider a hereditary heir to lead the Muslim world as right.Shiites believe that the descendants of the Prophet should lead the Muslim world.
Originated placeThe Sunni community originated in Saudi Arabia.The birthplace of Shiites is believed to be Iran.
MajoritySunni Muslims make up about 90% of the global population of Muslims. Shiite Muslims make up about 10% of the global population of Muslims. 
Styles of prayer Sunnis cross their hands while praying, and Sunnis perform 5 prayers on different days.Shiites keep their hands on their side and complete 5 prayers in 3 sessions.
Governance Sunni follow the rules and texts made by the old religious leaders.Shiites follow the rules and hierarchical structures made by the new religious leaders.

What is Sunni?

Sunni is an Arabic word. It is a major branch of Islam that has great importance in the religion of Islam.

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Most of the people of the Islam religion belong to this community. These communities consider themselves to be a traditional branch and are distinct from the Shia community.

The people of the Sunni community are of orthodox ideology. They pay more attention to their customs.

Ijma, a consensus body developed by the Sunni community, includes customs and practices not mentioned in the Quran. The first four caliphs of the Sunni community are known to be the successors of the Prophet Muhammad, but the Shia ideology is very different.

The Sunnis continued the dominance established by Muhammad in Medina for a long time. Thus he used to guide Islam.

That is, their guidance was ensured by political reality. The word “Sunni” is derived from the phrase “Ahl al-Sunnat” or “people of tradition,” from which it derives its Sunni name.

The people of this community refer to the traditions that have been said or performed by the Prophet Muhammad. Sunnah guides all the people of the Islam religion, but the Sunni community puts more emphasis on it.

The people of the Shia community were also guided by the knowledge of the descendants of the Prophet Muhammad through his son-in-law and cousin Ali.

sunni

What is Shiite Islam?

Two major branches were established among the Muslims. Those two branches were known as Sunni and Shia.

Both these branches have great importance in their religion. Those who follow the path shown by Ali’s guide are called Shiites. 

In Arabic, the word Shiite has a different meaning, that is, it mainly refers to a group that develops a consensus on something. Etymologically, the word denotes an assistant, supporter, or favor.

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The term is mainly used for the followers of Ali and his 11 male descendants. In contrast, the Sunni community, which is considered the main branch of this religion, is called fundamentalism.

Jurisprudence mentions 4 schools, including the Hanafi, Hanbali, Maliki, and Shafi’i. According to the Shiite community, the Imam has three functions: absolute rule over the religion of Islam, the interpretation of religious science and law, and the third to be a spiritual guide so that people can understand the inner.

Meaning. For all these works, they need the consent of all the people. To connect with and follow the Imam, it is necessary to be spiritually and unobtrusively related to his daily affairs.

His work is considered cosmic. 12 Imam is considered the mediator of humanity.

shiite islam

Main Differences Between Sunni and Shiite Islam

  1. Sunni follow the rules and texts made by the old religious leaders, while Shiites follows the rules and hierarchical structures made by the new religious leaders.
  2. Sunni and Shiite have different ways of praying: Sunnis cross their hands while praying, while Shiites keep their hands on their side. Apart from this, Sunnis perform 5 prayers on different days, while Shiite complete 5 prayers in 3 sessions.
  3. Sunnis outnumber Shiites. Sunni Muslims make up about 90% of the global population of Muslims. 
  4. Sunnis do not consider a hereditary heir to lead the Muslim world as right, while Shiites believe that the descendants of the Prophet should lead the Muslim world.
  5. The Sunni community originated in Saudi Arabia, while the birthplace of Shiite is believed to be Iran.
Difference Between Sunni and Shiite Islam
References
  1. https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=HHFHe7Rf0JsC&oi=fnd&pg=PA11&dq=Difference+Between+Sunni+and+Shiite+Islam&ots=u0Mo9yc_vr&sig=65kNKKl9iOMcHEvPMxaEVfzwlVk
  2. https://cooperms.typepad.com/files/what-is-the-difference-between-sunni-and-shiite-muslims.pdf

Last Updated : 24 November, 2023

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16 thoughts on “Sunni vs Shiite Islam: Difference and Comparison”

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  2. The article adeptly outlines the key differences between Sunni and Shiite Islam, reflecting the significant theological disparities between the two branches.

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  5. The article offers a thorough examination of the stark contrasts between Sunni and Shiite Islam, emphasizing the core distinctions inherent in the two branches.

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