Due to a number of questions I’ve received regarding the Muslim faith, Islam, and all the related factions we hear about in the news. I decided to spend some time blogging about the differences in the names, the aims, and the facts behind them. Islam is a study in conflict from the inception of the religion. The factions within it have fought each other for centuries and threaten the world order more than once.
So what is the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite?or Shia Muslim? Who is Al Qaeda, ISIS or ISIL, The Taliban, Hamas, Hezbollah, The Alawites, The PLO, and Fatah. I maintain if the government understood the differences, we wouldn’t be making the mistakes we are in the Middle East and the Persian countries today.
I’ll cover the factions in play in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Nigeria, Gaza, and the West Bank. I guarantee the Muslims know much more about Christianity than we know about them. A fun ride? Yes!
So for the first issue, Sunni versus Shia Muslims
Where do they live?
Shia are the majority in Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Bahrain, Azerbaijan, and Lebanon. They number close to 300 million and can be found in all Muslim countries. Sunni are the majority in all others Muslim nations and number over 1.2 billion.
Why are they at odds with one another?
After the death of Muhammad, a split occurred over a successor to the Prophet, much like who would be the true Pope in Catholicism. The Shia believe a cousin of Muhammad was appointed to succeed the Prophet. They believe the revelation of the Prophet continues through the 12 Imams descending from Muhammad, the Twelfth of which is to reveal himself in the last days, and Jesus, called Isa, will come back confirming what the Twelfth Imam says.
The Sunni reject this notion and believe Divine revelation ended after the fourth Caliph, Ali bin Abi Talib. The end of his Caliphate divided Muslim unity. Shia looked to the Imams whose lineage comes from Ali and Fatimah, Muhammad’s daughter, and Sunni do not. Other differences include the adoption of the muta, or temporary wife, by Shia Muslims. Where Sunni reject the concept.
Further, Sunni believe the al Mahdi will become a Caliph in the last days. He will destroy the Jews, and Jesus will come with him to destroy the Antichrist. But this al Mahdi will not necessarily be a direct descendant of Muhammad. Shia give more power to al Mahdi. He is the Twelfth Imam who will do what the Sunni’s believe and more, killing the Antichrist and even Satan, as some Shia sects believe. Before Christians criticize this, and I am a Christian, we believe at the end of the world Christ will come back and destroy Antichrist and the armies at Armageddon and rule the world from Jerusalem. There is a common end-time thread, but the players are radically different.
You can see why ISIS is attempting to establish a Caliphate. ISIS is Sunni. You can understand why countries like Iran and Iraq are led by Imams. They wait for the hidden one. The Twelfth Imam, al-Mahdi who will convert the world to Islam. Both Sunni Isis and Shia Iran wish to maintain a government led by Sharia Law, as do the Taliban in Afghanistan.
I will let the information speak for itself and give you the next piece of the puzzle tomorrow. What is the history of Islam and Jihad?