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What Are the Differences Between the Sunni and Shia Sects of Islam?

The difference between the Sunni and the Shia sects of Islam is not more on the teachings but on the lineage of religious leaders who have been crucial in the split of Muslims into two major sects. The major difference is that of the belief on the validity of the cultural, political and spiritual heritage of the Islamic faith after the death of the prophet Mohammad.

The long history of division between the two sects of Muslim started after the death of Mohammad. When Mohammad died in 632A.D., there was a confusion as to who will inherit the duty to spread the Islamic faith. The Shia sects believed that it is Mohammad’s son in law named Ali while the Sunnis believed that there is only one prophet and that is Mohammad. Ali, for the Sunnis is one of the messengers of God but not the Messiah. He is one of the Imams who propagated the message of God. Majority of the Muslims are from the Sunni sect. Sunnis does not regard Imams as individuals who possess special powers but treat them as spiritual advisers and important community leaders. In the Sunni sects, what they have are not Imams but Caliphs. Caliphs are the ones responsible for spreading and teaching the Islamic faith.

Some of the noteworthy similarities however, include the Quran which is the only holy book that the two sects believe in. Both sects pray at least trice a day, pay their zakat, give alms to the poor as well as on their practice of fasting.

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