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Major Divisions of Islam

In: Religion Topics

Submitted By slredd77
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Major Divisions of Islam,
And Their
Teachings And

Shalonda Reddick
HUM 400 0030016

There are three Major divisions of Islam Sunni, Shi’ah, and Khawarij. The Sunni Muslims are the largest denomination of Islam. The word Sunni comes from the word Sunnah, which means the teachings and actions or examples of the Islamic prophet, Muhammad. Therefore, the term “Sunni” refers to those who follow or maintain the Sunnah of the prophet Muhammad. The Sunnis believe that Muhammad did not specifically appoint a successor to lead the Muslim ummah (community) before his death, and after an initial period of confusion, a group of his most prominent companions gathered and elected Abu Bakr Siddique-Muhammad’s close friend and a father-in-law-as the first caliph(head of state or ruler in and Islamic community) of Islam Sunnis also believe that the position of caliph may be attained democratically, on gaining majority votes, but after the Rashidun, the position turned into a heredity dynastic rule because of the divisions that started by the Shias and others. The Sunnis believe in monotheism, prophethood/messengership, Holy books, Angels, Judgment Day, and Predestination. The Sunnis consist of five pillars- Declaration of Faith, Prayer, Charity, Fasting, and Pilgrimage.

The Sunni emphasize the power and sovereignty of Allah and his right to do whatever he wants with his creation, as strict predeterminism is taught. Its ruler ship is through the Caliphate, the office of Muslim ruler who is considered the successor to Muhammad. This successor is not through hereditary lineage. The Sunni believe, based on specific provisions of the Qur’an and the Sunna, that the Muslim people are to be governed by consensus through an elected head of state, the khalifa, according to democratic principles.

The Sunni theoretical characterization of the Prophet Muhammad as a mere executor of Divine will has not precluded the intensive devotional rituals directed to his person that flourish in a diversity of forms across the Sunni world. The prime center of scholastic learning in Sunni Islam is the mosque-university of al-Azhar in Cairo.

Shia Islam is the second-largest denomination of Islam, comprising anywhere between 10% and one-tenth to 13% of the total Muslim population in the world. Shia Muslims-though a minority in the Muslim world—constitute the majority of the populations in Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Iran, and Iraq, as well as a plurality in Lebanon and Yemen. In addition to believing in the authority of the Qur’an and teachings of the Muhammad, Shia believe that his family-the Ahl al-Bayt (the People of the House), including his descendants known as Imams- have special spiritual and political rule over the community, and believe that Ali ibn Abi Talib, Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law, was the first of these Imams and was the rightful successor to Muhammad, and thus reject the legitimacy of the first three Rashidun caliphs. The Shi’a Islamic faith is vast and inclusive of many different groups. There are various Shi’ah theological beliefs, schools of jurisprudence, philosophical beliefs, and spiritual movements. Shi’ah Islam has many beliefs and practices such as the Succession of Ali, Imamate of the Family Mourning of Muharram, Intercession, Ismah the Occultation, and Clergy. Their views are present in the Qur’an, Sahaba, Mu’awiya I, and the Abu Bakr Umar. Sufism is a mystical-ascetic for of Islam. By focusing on the more spiritual aspects of religion, Sufis strive to obtain direct experience of God by making use of “intuitive and emotional faculties” that one must be trained to use. Sufis usually considered Sufism to be complementary to orthodox Islam; however it has often been accused of being an unjustified Bid’ah or religious innovation by the Salafi. One starts with sharia (Islamic Law), the exoteric or mundane practice of Islam and then is initiated into the mystical (esoteric path of a Tariqah (Sufi Order).
Some Sufi followers consider themselves as Sunni or Shi’a, while others consider themselves as simply ‘Sufi’ or Sufi-influenced.

The Shi’ites (also known as the Ja’firi school) split with the Sunni over the issue of the successor to Muhammad. This split occurred after the assassination of the fourth caliph in 661. Shi’ites believe that the successor to Muhammad should have been Ali, his son in law, and that subsequent successors should have been through his lineage through his wife Fatima. The Shiites strenuously maintain that they alone are right in their understanding of Islam, and like the Sunnis, they call themselves “al-Muminun”, or the “true believers.” They believe in the divine right of the successors of ‘Ali. His rightful successor is now concealed, they say, but will appear at the end of the world as the “Mahdi,” the one rightly guided by Allah, thus able to guide others. They reject the “six correct books” of the Sunnis, and have five collections of their own. Shiite theology includes a doctrine known as the five supports. These are Divine Unity (tawhid), prophecy (nubuwwah), resurrection of the soul and body at the judgment (ma’ad), the Imamate (imamah), and justice (‘adl). The first three are found in Sunni Islam, albeit with some differences of emphasis. The Imamate, however, is the essence of Shi’ism, and the last, justice, is an inheritance from the Mu’tazilites, or rationalists, whose system is in many ways perpetuated in shi’ite theology.

The last is Kharijite(Khawarij) Islam, which is a general term embracing a variety of Muslim sects which, while originally supporting the Caliphate of Ali, eventually seceded after his son Imam Hasan negotiated with Mu’awiya during the 7th Century Islamic civil was (First Fitna). Their complaint was the Imam must be spiritually pure, and that Hasan’s compromise with Mu’awiya was a compromise of his spiritual purity, and therefore of his legitimacy as Imam or Caliph. While there are few remaining Kharijite or Kharijite-related groups, the term is sometimes used to denote Muslims who refuse to compromise with those with whom they disagree.

The Kharijite left the followers of Ali (the Shia) because of Shia willingness to allow human arbitration of Ali’s dispute with Mu’awiya in 657, rather than divine judgment. The Kharijite believed that the Imam should be elected for his moral qualities. The Kharijite considered that Ali made a mistake in looking for a compromise with Mu’awiya. For this reason they are not considered as properly Shiite by some commentators. Ali defeated their rebellion, but the Kharijites survived and adherent of the movement murdered Ali in 661. Kharijites rejected primogeniture succession of the Quaraysh, the tribe of Muhammad, and assert that leadership of Islam, the caliphate, should be designated by an imam elected by the community from candidates who possess spiritual and personal qualities. The Kharijite theology was a radical fundamentalism, with uncompromised observance of the Quran in defiance of corrupt authorities. Kharijites considered moderate Muslims to be “hypocrites” and “unbelievers” who could be killed with impunity. Although the Kharijites were known to some Muslims as bandits and assassins, they developed certain ideal notions of justice and piety. The prophet Muhammad had been sent to bring righteousness to the world and to teach the Arabs to pray and to distribute their wealth and power fairly. According to the Kharijites, whoever was lax in following the Prophet’s directives should be opposed. Ostracized, or killed.

Another notable group of Islam is The Nation of Islam. The Nation of Islam was founded by Wallace Fard Muhammad in Detroit in 1930, with a declared aim of “resurrecting” the spiritual, mental, social and economic condition of the black man and woman of America and the world. It is viewed by almost all Muslims as a heretical cult (religious practice), the group believes Fard Muhammad was God on earth, this is viewed as shirk among mainstream Muslims, furthermore it does not see Muhammad as the final prophet, but Elijah Muhammad as the “Messenger of Truth”, plus it only allows people of black ethnicity and believes they are the original race on earth. In 1975 however, the teachings were abandoned and the group was renamed to American Society of Muslims, by Warith Deen Mohammed, the son of Elijah Muhammad. He brought the group into beliefs Sunni Islam, establishing mosques instead of temples and promoting to follow the Five pillars of Islam. Islamism is a term that refers to a set of political ideologies derived from various fundamentalist views, which hold that Islam is not only a religion, but a political system governing the legal, economic and social imperatives of the state. Many Islamists do not refer to themselves as such and it is not a single particular movement. Religious view and ideologies of its adherents vary, and they may be Sunni Islamists or Shia Islamists depending upon their beliefs. Islamist groups include groups such as Al-Qaeda, the organizer of the September 11, 2001 attacks and perhaps the most prominent; and the Muslim Brotherhood, perhaps the oldest, which also forms the largest opposition grouping in Egypt. Although violence is often employed by some organization, not all Islamist movements are violent.

My views on the Major divisions of Islam and their teachings clearly shows me that similarly to Christianity other religions have members that break away with their own ideals. Religion to me should be based on an individual’s belief of what they seem to see as truth. Similarly to Christianity also is the belief of one religion to be better or to be true, or at least truer as its counterparts. Both Christianity and Islam believe in one God and we are not to worship any other God. Just like they have similarities they have their differences also, One of which being Christianity sees Jesus sacred as God while Islam sees Jesus as merely a prophet. All of these things helped to contribute to my decision of not just on faith but a mixture of all, because in some way they all have a similarity.


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