Sunni vs Sufi: Difference and Comparison

Islam believes in the concept of monotheism, i.e. one god, which is all-powerful, unique, and merciful. It has guided humanity through multiple prophets, signs, and scriptures.

Islam is the second-largest religion in the world which, accounts for 24% of the total population. The most important text of Islam is the Quran which is considered the final word of God. Islam has various denominations. Sunni and Sufi are among them.

Key Takeaways

  1. Sunni is one of the two major branches of Islam, while Sufi is a mystical sect within Sunni Islam.
  2. Sunni Muslims follow the Quran and the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad, while Sufi Muslims follow additional spiritual practices and believe in the concept of a spiritual guide.
  3. Sunni Islam is the largest denomination of Islam, while Sufi Islam has a smaller following.

Sunni vs Sufi

The difference between Sunni and Sufi is that Sunni is considered one of the largest denominations found in the world, which accounts for 80-90% of the total Muslim population. Whereas Sufi represents mysticism, i.e. being one with God in Islam, and the followers are known as Sufis. Sufism can be traced back to Muhammad Ali ibn Abi Talib which dates back to the 6-7th century.

Sunni vs Sufi

Sunni word is derived from ‘Sunnah’, which means the behaviour of Muhammad. Discrimination between Sunni and Shia arose from the fact of which community will have its successor to Muhammad.

According to Sunni, they believed that Abu Bakr was the first successor of the Caliph as Muhammed guided them. There is a wide dispute about this. The practices and doctrines followed by Sunni are known as Sunnism. Sometimes, Sunni Islam is also called orthodox Islam.

Sufi in Arabic means Tasawwuf, which is defined by Western authors as Mysticism in Islam. It is a sub-division of Islam. The term ‘Sufism’ originated in the 18th century when it was referred to by Orientalist scholars.

Sufi has existed in Islam from a very early period. It is individual inner practice. It has become a very important part of Islam. Sufis believe that they will meet Allah directly by establishing a spiritual connection with him.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonSunniSufi
OriginIt comes from “Ahl-as-Sunnah”.It originated after the death of Mohammed in 632 BC.
BeliefsAngels, Monotheism, Day of Last Judgement, Quran and certain Books, Predestination and Prophets.It emphasizes devotion to God and compassion for humans.
TeachingsThey are fearful of Allah.It teaches eternal and divine love.
SchoolIt has five major legal schools. It has several orders.
PracticesDeclaration of Faith, Pilgrimage, Prayer, Charity, Fasting.Anasheedabah, Qawwali, Sama, Dhikr, Haḍra, Muraq, Whirling Ziyarat.

What is Sunni?

Sunni is one of the largest branches of Islam, covering 80-90% of Muslims. Sunni emerged after clashing with several ideologies. It became famous after the death of Muhammed when there was a disagreement between Sunni and Shia because of its successors.

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Abu Bakr is considered the first caliph of the Sunni. Caliphate System was followed, and the First four heads were called “Rightly guided ones.” It was bought to an end when there was the fall of the Ottoman Empire after the end of World War 1.

Sunnis believe that the companions of Muhammed are the real propagators of Islam. Sunni doesn’t follow a hierarchy system. Leaders of Sunni are informal and became influenced by the school of theology, i.e. Kalām and the school of law, i.e. Sharia.

According to the Islamic Centre, anyone can become an Islamic scholar. On Friday, during midday congregation chooses a person who is well-educated to lead the service, also called Khateeb.

The Holy Quran, with hadith, are followed, which are binding juristic consensus, and forms the basis of Sunni Islam. It is very orthodox and traditional in its jurisprudence.

There are six pillars of Sunni that they follow. They are as follows, Belief in Monotheism, Belief in the Holy Quran, Belief in the Prophets, Belief in Preordainment (also called Qadar), Belief in the Angels of God, and Belief in after Death and the Last Day of Judgment.

Followers of Sunni are referred to as ahl as-sunnah wa l-jamāʻah, in Arabic, which means “the people of the Sunnah and the community. Currently, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, and India are some of the countries where the largest Sunni population can be seen.

sunni

What is Sufi?

The meaning of Sufi is “one who wears wool”. Because woollen clothes were earlier worn by ascetics and mystics. Sufi existed in Islam from very ancient times as individual inner faith.

Sufis believe in pledging allegiance as given by Muhammed, as it establishes a spiritual connection between the seeker and God. Ali Hujwiri is regarded as one of the Sufis who first gave his Pledge of Allegiance to Muhammed.

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Sufi is not a different sect as every time it is assumed. It is an extension or offshoot of Islam. A Sufi can both be Sunni or Shia. Sufi’s way of approaching religion and their methods is very different.

Sufi deals with the purification of one’s soul and inner mind. It tries to establish a connection with God directly. Around the 11th century, Sufism began to be codified in proper orders.

There are several orders which exist in Sufism. These orders were founded by some Islamic scholars who were very popular, like Suhrawardiyya, Qadiriyya, the Rifa’iyya, the Chishtiyya, the Shadiliyya, the Hamadaniyyah etc.

Sufism became one of the most widespread omnipresent aspects of Islam. It began to stretch across various regions, from India to Iraq to Senegal. Especially in Africa and Asia, its philosophy has become one of the strongest adherents.

Sufi believes that it is possible to draw closer to God and to embrace the divine presence in life by becoming one with God. Sufis are characterised according to dhikr, i.e. the practice of remembering God after prayers.

sufi

Main Differences Between Sunni and Sufi

  1. The word Sunni comes from “Ahl-as-Sunnah”, meaning people of the tradition. Sufi is believed to be originated after the death of Mohammed in 632 BC.
  2. Sunni beliefs include Angels, Monotheism, the Day of Last Judgement, the Quran and certain Books, Predestination and Prophets. Sufi is believed to be a mystic who emphasises love and devotion to God and compassion towards human beings.
  3. Sunni teachings incorporate fear of hell in them. Sufi advocates for divine and eternal love.
  4. Sunni has five major schools related to theology and law. Sufi has many orders for them.
  5. Sunni practices following things like Declaration of Faith, Charity, Fasting, Prayer, and Pilgrimage. Sufi has the following practices Anasheed, Muraqabah, Qawwali, Sama, Dhikr, Whirling Ziyarat etc.
Difference Between Sunni and Sufi
References
  1. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/international-journal-of-middle-east-studies/article/sufi-response-to-political-islamism-alahbash-of-lebanon/1F2B854DD7B22FCEFF7F498E304CBB5E
  2. https://scholarlypublications.universiteitleiden.nl/handle/1887/17326

Last Updated : 13 July, 2023

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21 thoughts on “Sunni vs Sufi: Difference and Comparison”

  1. The discussion of Sunni’s reliance on the companions of Muhammad and Sufi’s emphasis on spiritual connection with Allah offers a comprehensive view of the spiritual practices within Islam.

    Reply
    • Absolutely, the foundational beliefs and practices of both Sunni and Sufi Islam contribute to the richness and diversity of Islamic faith.

      Reply
  2. The concept of monotheism in Islam is fundamental and rooted in the belief in one all-powerful and merciful God. The Quran is indeed a crucial text and the final word of God in Islam. It’s interesting to note that Sunni and Sufi are two major branches of Islam, each with its own unique practices and teachings.

    Reply
    • I completely agree. The importance of the Quran and the differences between Sunni and Sufi are fascinating aspects of Islamic belief and practice.

      Reply
  3. The historical evolution of Sunni and Sufi Islam is intriguing, especially in terms of the disagreement between Sunni and Shia regarding successors to Muhammad. This depth of history enriches our understanding of Islamic tradition.

    Reply
    • The pivotal role of successors and the development of distinct leadership structures within Sunni and Sufi Islam provides a fascinating narrative of Islamic history.

      Reply
    • Indeed, the impact of historical events on the development of Sunni and Sufi traditions is a valuable aspect of studying Islamic theology.

      Reply
  4. The detailed examination of the differences between Sunni and Sufi in terms of their beliefs, practices, and historical origins provides valuable insight into the multifaceted nature of Islam.

    Reply
    • I agree. The complexity and diversity within Islam are evident in the distinct ways in which Sunni and Sufi traditions have evolved and shaped the religion.

      Reply
  5. The distinction between Sunni and Sufi is quite significant. It’s remarkable to see the influence of these denominations within Islam, and how their beliefs and practices differ from each other.

    Reply
    • Absolutely, the historical and spiritual context of Sunni and Sufi Islam is truly intriguing and adds depth to our understanding of the religion.

      Reply
    • I find it fascinating how Sufism emphasizes devotion to God and compassion for humans, while Sunni Islam follows the Quran and teachings of the Prophet Muhammad. These differences contribute to the rich diversity within Islam.

      Reply
  6. The comparison between Sunni and Sufi in terms of their origins, beliefs, and teachings is enlightening. It’s important to appreciate the diversity within Islam and the various ways in which individuals practice their faith.

    Reply
    • Absolutely, the nuances of these denominations provide a deeper understanding of Islamic history and theology.

      Reply
  7. The comprehensive comparison of Sunni and Sufi beliefs and practices is crucial in understanding the diverse nature of Islam. The distinction between Sunni’s legal schools and Sufi’s spiritual orders is particularly interesting.

    Reply
    • I agree. The emphasis on fear of Allah in Sunni practices and the eternal love in Sufi teachings provides a multifaceted view of Islamic spirituality.

      Reply
    • The varied practices of Sunni and Sufi, including pilgrimage, prayer, and Ziyarat, offer insight into the different aspects of devotion within Islam.

      Reply
  8. The depth of historical and doctrinal differences between Sunni and Sufi Islam highlights the complexity and richness of the Islamic tradition.

    Reply
  9. It’s remarkable to learn about the historical and doctrinal distinctions between Sunni and Sufi within Islam. This sheds light on the complexity and diversity within the religion.

    Reply
  10. The exploration of the various beliefs and practices of Sunni and Sufi Islam, as well as the comparison of their historical origins, adds depth to our understanding of the Islamic tradition.

    Reply

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