Difference between Sunni and Shi'ite

Hey, I’m a catholic. I have a sunni coworker at work.
I’m wondering what the difference is between sunni and shi’ite muslims. Like a list of differences.

The main difference is that the Sunni followed the most popular leader after the death of Muhammad, while the Shia followed a line of authority beginning with Muhammad’s son-in-law Ali and following through the descendants of Muhammad (the Imams).

Shia believed that Muhammad had told all Muslims to follow his family, while Sunni did not accept that Muhammad had given those instructions.

Armed conflict between Shia and Sunni arose soon after the passing of Muhammad. The grandson of Muhammad, Husayn, leader of Shias, was killed in one of those battles:


Today, most Muslims are Sunni of one persuasion or another.

The other differences between Shia and Sunni are largely about which of Muhammad’s companions and family each group believes was worthy of leadership and of good character. For example, Sunni and Shia accept different authorities for relating Hadith - Sunni emphasize the wife of Muhammad Aisha as a trustworthy source, while Shia believe her to be untrustworthy (since she and Muhammad’s son-in-law disagreed after the passing of Muhammad).

This may be a good article for you to read, it has a comparative list on doctrinal differences and similarities: diffen.com/difference/Shia_vs_Sunni

Well, the general “difference” between Sunni and Shias consists of authority: the Sunni think that God has left no authoritative successor, so the community must convene to determine what is acceptable in terms of interpreting the Qur’an and applying the law (on the grounds that the Prophet Muhammad once said that his community could not “go astray.”). The Shia accept that an infallible guide still exists in the figure of the Imam.

But “Sunni” and “Shia” are very broad, general categories. Islam, like every other religion, is locally rooted. So a Muslim in Morocco is quite different than one in Thailand. But even more than that, a number of different schools of legal though exist that a Muslim might affiliate with: Hanbali, Hanafi, Shafi, etc. Within Shi’ism there are also Ismailies, Zaydis, etc.

But then you also have matters of interpretation that lead to differences, like those between Usulis, Sufis, Shakyhis, etc. Or matters of reasoning, which lead to the Mutuzalis (who mostly no longer exist, but had an impact on various Muslim communities/thinkers).

My point is, if you want to know what is specific to your coworkers Islam, you need to figure out what - if anything - he further identifies with, as well as the specific form of Fiqh, method of Tafsir, and style of worship that the Imam of his/her mosque subscribes to.

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