Tensions between both branches of Islam have been rife for thousands of years, with both vying to be the dominant religion in the Middle East.
Saudi Arabia’s execution of Shia priest Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr could escalate tensions in the Muslim world even further. Here is a primer on the basic differences between Sunni and Shia Islam.
ABOUT Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr — He was popular among youth and critical of the Saudi Arabian government, calling for free elections in Saudi Arabia. He was arrested by Saudi authorities in 2006, at which time al-Nimr said he was beaten by the Mabahith (Mabaheth, is the “secret police” agency of the Ministry of Interior in Saudi Arabia, and deals with domestic security and counter-intelligence).
Point of view -Al-Nimr supported “something between” individual and council forms of guardianship of the Islamic Jurists as a form of government. He supported Kurdish majority control of Iraqi Kurdistan. Al-Nimr believed that Shia ayatollahs would not promote violence and “murder in the name of God”. He supported “the idea of elections”.
Al-Nimr criticized Bahrain’s Sunni monarchy, which brutally suppressed massive pro-democracy Shia-led demonstrations in Bahrain in 2011. Al-Nimr also criticized Syria’s Bashar Assad, saying “(Bahrain’s ruling family) Al Khalifa are oppressors, and the Sunnis are innocent of them. They’re not Sunnis, they’re tyrants. The Assads in Syria are oppressors … We do not defend oppressors and those oppressed shouldn’t defend the oppressor.”
In 2009, he criticised Saudi authorities and suggested that if Saudi Shia rights were not respected, the Eastern Province should secede. Saudi authorities responded by arresting al-Nimr and 35 others. During the 2011–12 Saudi Arabian protests, al-Nimr called for protesters to resist police bullets using “the roar of the word” rather than violence, and predicted the collapse of the government if repression continued. The Guardian described al-Nimr as having “taken the lead in [the] uprising.”
As Nimr al-Nimr has raises serious concerns regarding freedom of expression and the respect of basic civil and political rights. freedom is fundamental right of every person in the world. As death of Nimr al-Nimr is condemned by many countries.
Britain’s Shadow Foreign Secretary, Hilary Benn, described the execution as “profoundly wrong”, and condemned the act of execution in general.
The Liberal Democrats leader, Tim Farron, stated: “I utterly condemn Saudi Arabia for the execution of 47 people including the prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr. Capital punishment is utterly abhorrent and the prime minister needs to turn round to our ‘ally’ and tell them capital punishment is wrong. Britain must live our values and criticise nations like Saudi Arabia that continue this heinous and barbarous punishment.
- United States Department of State spokesman John Kirby called on Saudi Arabia to respect human rights and permit peaceful dissent.
- An anonymous official talking to the Washington Post said: “There are larger repercussions than just the reaction to these executions,” including damage to “counter-ISIL initiatives as well as the Syrian peace process”.
What caused the split?
A schism emerged after the death of the Prophet Muhammad in 632. He died without appointing a successor to lead the Muslim community, and disputes arose over who should shepherd the new and very rapidly growing faith.
Some believed that a new leader should be chosen by consensus guided by the Quran of the Ummah (the Muslim community) ; others thought that only the prophet’s descendants should become caliph. The title passed to a, Abu Bakr, but
Shias believe that Muhammed divinely ordained his cousin and son-in-law Ali Ibn Abi Talib in accordance with the command of Allah to be the next caliph, making Ali and his direct descendants Muhammed’s successors. Shias believe that Muhammad quoted this, in Hadith of the pond of Khumm. Ali was married to Fatimah, Muhammad’s daughter by his wife Khadijah bint Khuwaylid.
After Ali also was assassinated, with a poison-laced sword at the mosque in Kufa, in what is now Iraq, his sons Hasan and then Hussein claimed the title. But Hussein and many of his relatives were massacred in Karbala, Iraq, in 680.
His martyrdom became a central tenet to those who believed that Ali should have succeeded the Prophet. (It is mourned every year during the month of Muharram). The followers became known as Shias, a contraction of the phrase Shiat Ali, or followers of Ali. The Sunnis, however, regard the first three caliphs before Ali as rightly guided and themselves as the true adherents to the Sunnah, or the Prophet’s tradition. Sunni rulers embarked on sweeping conquests that extended the caliphate into North Africa and Europe. The last caliphate ended with the fall of the Ottoman Empire after World War-I.
How do their beliefs differ?
The Sunni and Shia sects encompass a wide spectrum of doctrine, opinion and schools of thought. The branches are in agreement on many aspects of Islam, but there are considerable disagreements within each. Both branches include worshippers who run the gamut from secular to fundamentalist.
Shias consider Ali and the leaders who came after him as Imams. Most believe in a line of 12 Imams, the last of whom, a boy, is believed to have vanished in the ninth century in Iraq after his father was murdered. Shias known as Twelvers anticipate his return as the Mahdi, or Messiah.
Sunnis emphasise God’s power in the material world, sometimes including the public and political realm, while Shias value martyrdom and sacrifice.
Which sect is larger, and where is each concentrated?
More than 85 per cent of the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims are Sunni. They live across the Arab world, as well as in countries such as Turkey, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Malaysia and Indonesia. Iran, Iraq and Bahrain are largely Shia. The Saudi royal family, which practices an austere and conservative strand of Sunni Islam known as Wahhabism, controls Islam’s holiest shrines, Mecca and Medina. Karbala, Kufa and Najaf in Iraq are revered shrines for the Shias. — New York Times News Service.
On one thing shia & sunni have common thoughts —
|View of other Abrahamic Religions||Christians and Jews are “People of the Book.”||Christians and Jews are “People of the Book.”||Christians and Jews are “People of the Book.”|
|Birth of Jesus||His birth was a divine virgin birth.||His birth was a divine virgin birth||His birth was a divine virgin birth.|
|Death of Jesus||Jesus did not die on the cross, but ascended to heaven.||Jesus did not die on the cross, but ascended to heaven.||Jesus did not die on the cross, but ascended to heaven.|
|Resurrection of Jesus||Jesus did not die on the cross, but will one day descend from heaven.||Jesus did not die on the cross, but will one day descend from heaven.||Jesus did not die on the cross, but will one day descend from heaven.|
|Second Coming of Jesus||Yes, he will one day return.||Yes, he will one day return.||Yes, he will one day return.|