On the radio the other morning the host said that he did not know (nor did he really care) the difference between Sunni and Shiite Muslims. All he knew was that they hated and killed each other.

So, for your educational pleasure a very simplified explanation of the difference:

Sunni Muslims believe that Muhammad’s proper successor was the caliph Abu Bakr, adviser to the prophet. They believe in following the Koran including other written and traditional laws. Imams offer advice and help with understanding the Koran and other laws.

Shi’ite Muslims believe that Muhammad’s proper successor was Ali, a cousin of the prophet. They believe that Imams are empowered to intervene with God on the behalf of the followers.

This is similar to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The correct Church followed Brigham Young, the Reorganized Church followed Joseph Smith III. There are other doctrinal differences between Sunnis and Shi’ites as well.

What has in part led to the feuding and dislike for each other has been the politicization of their religion. When one group has power to oppress you because of your religion, you may begin to have some strong feelings of hate for people of the other religion that is in power.

In Iraq, the “sectarian violence” as it is called is based on Sunnis and Shi’ites killing each other and taking revenge for past wrongs.

Comments Welcome

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