Sunni Muslims chose to recognize the authority of Muhammads companions, who declared that the role of leadership was to be accorded to one deemed capable, establishing a Caliphate under Muhammads confidante, Abu Bakr. Shia Muslims on the other hand, chose not to recognize the authority of the Caliphate, and instead devoted themselves to a line of Imams they believe to be appointed through divine right. Shia Muslims are essentially the minority, with Sunni Muslim comprising 85% of the worlds Islamic population.
Generally speaking, Amin maintains that despite these political differences, their core beliefs are fundamentally the same. The fundamental analogy he provides is the contrast between Protestantism and the Roman Catholic Orthodoxy. The Shia Imam is essentially a nigh-infallible figure accorded Pope-like reverence, while the Sunni choose a more individualistic and secular form of respect, eschewing formal clergy in favor of scholarship and independence much like Protestantism.
Other than that, they agree on many critical aspects of Islam: the Five Pillars, and neither group denies the others right to identifying as Muslim. As Athar observes, many Muslims do not actually actively distinguish themselves nominally. However, Athar also argues that the political ramifications of their differences have led to an unfair stigmatization of the Shia Muslims within Western media, if it chooses at all to inform non-Muslims of these differences. One notable misconception is the notion that Shia do not pay zakat or poor-due when in fact, they do.
They simply choose not to make this contribution through the Sunni government, which they believe to be corrupt. Works Cited Amin, Hussein Abdulwaheed. The Origins of the Sunni/Shia split in Islam. Islam For Today. 17 August 2007. Retrieved August 29, 2008 from: http://www. islamfortoday. com/shia. htm Athar, Shahid. Shia Sunni Unity: Shia Sunni Differences, Shia Sunni Conflict. Islam Online. 5 June 2007. Retrieved August 29, 2008 from: http://www. ezsoftech. com/Akram/shiasunniunity. asp