The Difference between the Sunni and Shia Muslims



The Difference between the Sunni and Shia Muslims

Islam is defined as the inner peace which is accomplished when one submits himself or herself to Allah. During the last 10 years of Muhammad, Islam was already spreading in the Arabia. However, when Muhammad died, the successor of the prophet was disputed among the Muslims. With this, Muslims became fragmented, and two of these fragments are the Sunni and Shia. This paper then will identify the differences and similarities of these two groups.

The main difference between the Sunni Muslims, who are considered as the majority group, is that they that the four caliphs are the true successors of Muhammad. On the other hand, the Shia Muslims, who are considered as the minority group, believe that the legitimate successor of Muhammad is Ali, the son-in-law of Muhammad (Lyon, 2008). Aside from the differences in their belief on the true successor, these two parties also have other contrasting beliefs. Specifically, the Shia Muslims have a contractual marriage which is dissolved after a particular period while the Sunni Muslims do not practice such marriages (Lewis and Churchill, 2009). Moreover, the Shia prefer the interpretation of the Hadith and Sunnah by the close acquaintances and the family of Muhammad. The Sunni, on the other hand, accept the interpretation of the Hadith and Sunnah by anyone from the congregation (“Sunni and Shi’a,” 2009).

Nonetheless, these two groups also have some things in common, which include in the belief that the messenger of Allah was Muhammad the prophet. Additionally, all Muslims adhere to the Quran, which represents the revelations of Allah to Muhammad, and the Hadith, which refers to the sayings left by Muhammad and his acquaintances. In addition, all Muslims adhere to the five Cores of Islam. These Cores or pillars of Islam are the recital of “There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad His Prophet” – Shahada; they are obligated to give five prayers every day – Salat, to give alms to the poor – Zakat, to adhere to the fasting during the Ramadan – Sawm, and pilgrimage to Mecca when a person has the physical and financial resources to do so –Hajj (Malbouisson, 2007, 11).

The Muslims may be divided, but they still hold some similarities, as cited in the previous discussion. The Sunni and Shia Muslims are united by the common religious beliefs that they hold close to them. The essential part is their awareness that they may differ in their political beliefs and aspirations, but their religious grounds keep them intact.




Lewis, B., & Churchill, B. (2009). Islam: The religion and the people. Upper Saddle River, New

Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc.

Lyon, P. (2008). Conflict between India and Pakistan: An encyclopedia. Santa Barbara,

California: ABC-CLIO, Inc.

Malbouisson, C. D. (Ed.). (2007). Focus on Islamic issues. New York: Nova Science Publishers,


“Sunni and Shi’a.” (2009, Aug. 19). Retrieved from