Difference Between Shi'a and Sunni Muslims

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Just like Christianity, Islam is divided into two large groups based on different beliefs and traditions: Shi’a and Sunni. One major difference they have or the main dividing factor as some would it is the succession to their prophet, Muhammad. The dominant sect, the Sunnis, believe in the Four Rightly Guided Caliphs with Abu Bakr being the first while Shi’a’s maintain it was Ali ibn Abi Talib, Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law, who was the first caliph.1 The structure of the Shi’a and Sunni Muslims’ religious leadership also vary. One follows strict spiritual hierarchy and requires each one to pay two religious taxes called Khum and Zakat while the latter are only to pay Zakat and has no hierarchy in the clergy.2 Another distinction would be each sects preference for literature with Sunni Muslims favouring any Sunnah or Hadith literature narrated any of the twelve thousand pilgrims. On the contrary, Shia Muslims only accept these works under varying measures and only under close scrutiny. Ultimately, these and other differences led to varying understanding of the laws and practices of Islam.3

1 “ What's the Difference: Shia vs. Sunni,” last modified March 13, 2007, http://www.neatorama.com/2007/03/13/whats-the-difference-shia-vs-sunni/. 2 “Sunni and Shi'a,” last modified August 19, 2009,

http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/islam/subdivisions/sunnishia_1.shtml#h4. 3 “Sunni and Shi'a,” last modified August 19, 2009,
http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/islam/subdivisions/sunnishia_1.shtml#h4.

http://www.neatorama.com/2007/03/13/whats-the-difference-shia-vs-sunni/ http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/islam/subdivisions/sunnishia_1.shtml#h4
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