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Shiite Muslims


The Islam religion was founded in seventh century by Mohammed. In 622 Mohammed funded the first Islamic state theocracy in Mediana. The city is located north of Mecca. Mohammed founded two types of religion. That is Sunni Islam and Shiite Islam. The Shiite Islam is totally different from other groups of Muslim. Shiite Muslims form 10 % to 15% of the Muslim population in the world. The group occupies various parts in the world like Iraq, Iran and Yemen.

 Differences between Shiite Muslim and Sunni Muslims

Shiite Muslim is a branch of Islam that regards Ali as the legitimate successor to Mohammed. The group rejects the first three caliphs (Hasan 2002, p23). Mohammed founded two types of Islamic groups. He established Shiite Islam and Sunni Islam. The two groups differ in terms of beliefs and traditions. First, Sunni believe that the first four caliphs who are Mohamed successors took his place as leader of Muslim (Hasan 2002, p23). This group believes on the four caliphs as the successor of the church. In addition, the group recognizes the heirs of the four caliphs as religious leaders and they respect them (Laursen 2003, p14). The heirs ruled in Arab until the Ottoman Empire broke up after the First World War. In contrast, Shiite Muslims do not believe on the four caliphs. Shiite Muslims believe that only the heirs of the fourth Caliph are the legitimate successor of Mohammed. Thus, the group believes Ali is the legitimate successor of Mohammed (Laursen 2003, p14).

 Another difference between Shiite Muslims and other Muslims like Sunni Muslims is the Mahdi. Mahdi means the rightly guided one whose duty is to bring global caliphate into being. The two groups differ as they hold different views about Mahdi. Shiite Muslims believe that Mahdi once existed and he will only retire from hiding. While Sunni Muslims believe that Mahdi has never existed, but he is yet to come. Thus, the two groups have different thoughts (Laursen 2003, p14).

 Shiite Muslim and Sunni Muslim differ in terms of believes towards Imams. Shiite Muslims believe that Imams were divine people because they were descendants of Ali and also descendants of Mohammed (Laursen 2003, p14). Moreover, they believe the last Imam disappeared mysteriously. Various Shiite groups believe that the Imam was the 5th, 7th or the 12th. Also, the groups believe that the imam always communicates with descendants of Mohammed and passes his wishes to the group. Sunni do not believe much on the existence and disappearance of the Imam. They hold that the Imam will still come.

Examples of Shiite Muslims include Alawite and Ismaili. Shiite Muslims use the Qur’an as the holy book like other Muslims. The Shiite Muslims have different tradition from Sunni Muslims (Laursen 2003, p14). For example, the two groups differ in terms of marriage laws, status of women and inheritance. The group is dottily opposed to Sunni Muslims. They established different laws from Sunni to govern inheritance, marriage and status of women in the society (Laursen 2003, p14). For example, Shiite Muslims believe that the clergy is supposed to intervene between god and human. While the Sunni Muslims believe that the clergy is not supposed to intervene between god and human. Under Sunni laws the clergy serves as an adviser. Sunni Muslims have a direct relationship with God (Laursen 2003, p14).

 Further, Shiite Muslims only follow the teachings of Mohamed. They also follow the religious guidance of his family and descants (Laursen 2003, p14). The group believes that the rule of Mohammed continues through his daughter Fatima Zahra and Ali. Thus, the group considers the descendants of Mohammed as the true source of guidance. The group ignores other caliphs as historic occurrences. But, the Sunni respect them as they are the source of guidance.

The differences between the two groups in terms of succession and faith have influenced some sections in the Qur’an and Hadith (Laursen 2003, p14).

 History of Shiite Muslims

There are three theories that support the development of Shiite Muslims (Halm 2004, p28-202). One of the theory talks about the political struggle about the succession of Mohammed after his death. According to the theory, Shiite Muslims was a political party formed by Ali. The group supported Ali who was the cousin and son in law of Mohammed, the prophet. The group supported Ali and believed that Ali was the right leader of Islamic state. They claimed that Mohammed chose Ali as his successor before his death (Halm 2004, p28-202). This is because Aki had close relationship with Mohammed. Later on the group developed into a religious group and it formed was called Shiite Muslims. The Shiite Muslims and other Muslims like the Sunni differed on the succession issues. This led to creation of two groups. That is Shiite Muslims who believe Ali was the right successor and Sunni who believe Mohammed was the right successor. The Sunni supported the descendants of Mohammed. Ali passed his succession to his son Hasan. After Hasan's death, Ali’s young son, Husayn became the successor (Halm 2004, p28-202).

 Other people do not believe only succession problems created Shiite Muslims. Though, it played a big role in making the two groups distinct, other theories have also contributed to creation of Shiite Muslims (Dakake 2007, p71). Some scholars argue that Shiite Muslims was created as a result of interpretation of roles. Shiite Muslims and Sunni Muslims differed on the roles of caliphs and ulamas. The scholars believe that problem of political succession may be the main cause of separation of Shiite Muslims and Sunni Muslims, but also political superior also led to creation of Shiite Muslims (Dakake 2007, p71). The Sunni Muslims differed with Shiite Muslims in different views. There were exoteric and esoteric interpretations among the Sunni Muslims. Also, the Shiite Muslims had different interpretations (Dakake 2007, p71). The interpretation held by each group led to political chaos. The two groups debated on the political succession of Mohammed. Then the political succession led to creation of the two groups (Dakake 2007, p71).

 Another theory emphasizes a Jew created Shiite Islam during Ali reign (Dakake 2007, p71). Scholars supporting this theory believe that the Jew created Shiite Muslim and political succession did not contribute much to creation of Shiite Muslims. Most scholars challenge this theory as it has no enough evidence. From the history of Shiite Muslim, Shiite Muslims were created through political succession (Dakake 2007, p71).


Shiite Muslims is the second largest group of Muslims after Sunni Muslims. Shiite Muslims were mainly created through political succession. Shiite Muslims and Sunni Muslims differed in terms of succession after Mohammed death. Shiite Muslims believed that Ali was the right successor selected by Mohammed. While, Sunni Muslims believed that the caliphs were the right successors. Shiite Muslims have created different rules from Sunni rules. For example, they have created new rules in inheritance, marriage and status of women.The differences influence some sections in the Qur’an and Hadhi and other books. Other theories support the creation of Shiite Muslims, but they lack enough evidence.


Dakake, M.M.The charismatic community: Shiʻite identity in early Islam. SUNY Press, 2007, page 71

Halm, H. Shi'ism. Edinburgh University Press, 2004, page 28-202

Hasan, A.G.American Muslims: the new generation. Continuum International Publishing Group, 2002, page 23

Laursen, F.Comparative regional integration: theoretical perspectives. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2003, page 114


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