20+ Differences Between Shia Muslim And Sunni Muslim

The Middle East is not unknown to geopolitical conflicts due to matters of religion. The destructive cycle of sectarian warfare in Iraq between Sunni Muslims and Shia Muslims serves as an all-too-regular reminder of the risks involved when one is not educated in regard to how to solve such conflicts.

Thus, in order to peacefully sort out conflicts and make a better tomorrow, it becomes essential to understand the differences between two of Islam’s biggest branches, i.e., a Shia Muslim and a Sunni Muslim.

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Key Differences between Shia Muslims and Sunni Muslims

Shia Muslim:

  1. A population study suggests that Shia Muslims are lesser in comparison to Shia Muslims.
  2. Shia Muslims are majorly found in the Middle East.
  3. Shia Muslims say all five prayers across three sessions, so a Shia Muslim reads at least fifteen prayers a day.
  4. Shia Muslims pray with their arms resting by their sides.
  5. Shia Muslims have complete authority over their hierarchy, and the clergy is invariably a member of Ali ibn Abi Talib’s immediate family.

Sunni Muslim:

  1. A population study suggests that there are more Sunni Muslims than Shia Muslims.
  2. Sunni Muslims are majorly spread out through West Africa and Indonesia.
  3. Sunni Muslims say all five prayers at separate times and pray five times a day.
  4. Sunni Muslims pray with their arms crossed across their chest.
  5. Sunni Muslims consent to the government having a say in the selection of their leaders.

Comparison Between Shia Muslim And Sunni Muslim

ParametersShia MuslimSunni Muslim
Population Shia Muslims make up around 15% of the world’s population who follows Islam.Sunni Muslims make up around 85% of the world’s population who follows Islam.
Successor of IslamAccording to Shia Muslims, the successor of Muhammad should have been one from the same bloodline.According to Sunni Muslims, the first four caliphs should have succeeded Prophet Muhammad.
Belief on AfterlifeAccording to Shia Muslims, it is enough if an individual follows Prophet Muhammad to get a chance to enter paradise.According to Sunni Muslims, an individual must follow certain specified rules aside from following Prophet Muhammad to get a chance to enter paradise. 
Belief on ImamsShia Muslims believe that Imams are the only legitimate interpreters of the Quran and can only be appointed by God himself.Sunni Muslims believe that Imams are saints and need to have an extremely strong faith in the Quran and Sunnah to be appointed.
Religious HierarchyShia Muslims have complete authority over their hierarchy, and the clergy is invariably a member of Ali ibn Abi Talib’s immediate family.Sunni Muslims consent to the government having a say in the selection of their leaders.
Method of PrayingShia Muslims says all five prayers across three sessions, reading at least fifteen prayers a day. Further, they pray with their arms resting by their sides.Sunni Muslims say all five prayers at separate times and pray five times a day. Further, they pray with their arms crossed across their chest.
Temporary MarriagesShia Muslims still follow the system of temporary marriages.Sunni Muslims have discarded the ancient concept and labeled the practice as a form of adultery.
Worshipping at GravesAccording to Shia Muslims, if a member of their community has passed away, they are still the way of Allah and can pray at their graves.According to Sunni Muslims, praying at someone’s grave is a sin since it is considered as relying on someone other than Allah himself for help and guidance.

Major Differences Between Shia Muslim And Sunni Muslim

Who Exactly Is A Shia Muslim?

According to the Shia Muslims, the successor of the honorable Prophet Muhammad should have been one from the same bloodline rather than the first four caliphs of the Prophet.

As a result, they bestowed authority on Ali ibn Abi Talib and his line of ancestors, Muhammad’s son-in-law. Shia Muslims consider divine command to be the only source of Islamic authority.

Who Exactly Is A Sunni Muslim?

Sunni Muslims believe that the first four caliphs should have succeeded Prophet Muhammad. They were recognized as the first four leaders of Islam after Prophet Muhammad had passed away since each one had been directly tutored by him.

In furtherance of this, they believe Medina to be an earthly dominion rather than a spiritual one. Thus, in contrast, they believe that the leadership of Islam depends on current Muslim politics rather than the divine order.

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Shia Muslim vs. Sunni Muslim – Conflict in Beliefs

Shia Muslim:

  1. According to Shia Muslims, the successor of Muhammad should have been one from the same bloodline.
  2. It is enough if an individual follows Prophet Muhammad to get a chance to enter paradise.
  3. According to Shia Muslims, Imams can only be appointed by Allah himself.
  4. Shia Muslims still follow the system of temporary marriages.

Sunni Muslim:

  1. According to Sunni Muslims, the first four caliphs should have succeeded Prophet Muhammad.
  2. An individual must follow certain specified rules aside from following Prophet Muhammad to get a chance to enter paradise.
  3.  According to Sunni Muslims, having strong faith in the Quran and Sunnah is enough to be appointed as Imams.
  4. Sunni Muslims have labeled the concept of temporary marriages as a form of adultery.

Contrast Between Shia Muslim And Sunni Muslim

Population

  • Shia Muslim: A population study of Muslims specifically suggests that Shia Muslims are lesser in comparison to Shia Muslims. To be approximate, Shia Muslims make up around 15% of the world’s population who follows the Islam religion. Moreover, in furtherance of the above, Shia Muslims majorly populate the Middle East countries.
  • Sunni Muslim: A population study of Muslims specifically suggests that there are more Sunni Muslims in the world than Shia Muslims. To be approximate, Sunni Muslims make up around 85% of the world’s population who follows the Islam religion. Moreover, in furtherance of the above, Sunni Muslims majorly populate the countries spanning from West Africa to Indonesia.

The Successor Of Islam

  • Shia Muslim: According to Shia Muslims, they believe that the successor of Prophet Muhammad should have been one who is from the same bloodline. As a result, they bestowed authority on Ali ibn Abi Talib and his line of ancestors, Muhammad’s son-in-law. Shia Muslims believe that the divine order is the only leader of Islam.
  • Sunni Muslim: Sunni Muslims believe that Prophet Muhammad should have been succeeded by the first four caliphs since they were recognized to be the first four leaders of Islam after Prophet Muhammad had passed away since each one of them had been directly tutored by him.

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Who is the Successor of Islam after Prophet Muhammad?

Shia Muslim:

  1. According to the Shia Muslims, the successor of the honorable Prophet Muhammad should have been one from the same bloodline.
  2. Ali ibn Abi Talib and his descendants are the only eligible individuals to succeed Prophet Muhammad.
  3. According to the Shia Muslims, only the divine order is the leader of the Islam religion.

Sunni Muslim:

  1. According to the Sunni Muslims, the first four caliphs should have succeeded Prophet Muhammad.
  2. They were recognized to be the first four leaders of Islam after Prophet Muhammad had passed away.
  3. They are eligible to become the successor of Islam since they had directly been tutored by Prophet Muhammad himself.

Afterlife

  • Shia Muslim: According to Shia Muslims, it is enough for an individual to be able to attain peace and happiness in paradise if he/she follows the teachings of Prophet Muhammad to get a fair chance to enter paradise.
  • Sunni Muslim: According to Sunni Muslims, it is essential for an individual to follow certain etiquettes of the Islam religion. They have especially specified such rules that one has to follow, aside from following the teachings of Prophet Muhammad in order to get a chance to enter paradise and attain peace and happiness. 

Imams

  • Shia Muslim: Shia Muslims have a belief that Imams are the only legitimate interpreters of the Quran. They are considered to be special and can only be appointed by God himself. Even if an individual possesses a strong faith in Quran, he cannot be appointed by the normal man.
  • Sunni Muslim: Sunni Muslims have a belief that Imams are saints and are supposed to have an extremely strong faith in the Quran and Sunnah to be appointed. One does not necessarily need to be appointed by Allah himself.

Religious Hierarchy

  • Shia Muslim: Shia Muslims possess complete authority over their hierarchy. Their clergy mandatorily and invariably belongs to Ali ibn Abi Talib’s immediate family. Thus, the leaders of Shia Muslims are from the same bloodline as the Prophet Muhammad.
  • Sunni Muslim: Sunni Muslims consent to the government having a say in the selection of their leaders. In contrast, they believe that the leadership of Islam depends on current Muslim politics rather than the divine order.

Method Of Praying

  • Shia Muslim: Shia Muslims believe in reciting their routine’s five prayers across three daily sessions. Thus, to be precise, Shia Muslims must read at least fifteen prayers daily. Moreover, in furtherance of the above, they pray with their arms resting.
  • Sunni Muslim: Sunni Muslims believe in reciting each of the five prayers at separate times in a day. Thus, to be precise, Sunni Muslims are mandated to pray at least five different times a day and recite one specific prayer at each session. Moreover, in furtherance of the above, they cross their arms over their chest as they pray to the lord.

Temporary Marriages

  • Shia Muslim: Although the concept of temporary marriages is considered ancient and obsolete worldwide, Shia Muslims still follow the system of temporary marriages. It suggests that an individual can temporarily marry when their spouse is living far away from them for a short period of time.
  • Sunni Muslim: Sunni Muslims have discarded the ancient concept and labeled the practice as a form of adultery. This group of people has decided to move forward with the times and has adapted to the genuine practice being followed worldwide. Marrying for temporary means does not make sense in the modern world.

Worshipping At Graves

  • Shia Muslim: According to Shia Muslims, they believe that if a member of their community has passed away, they are still considered to be the way of Allah. Thus, they believe that it is alright to worship and pray at their graves.
  • Sunni Muslim: According to Sunni Muslims, they believe that praying at someone’s grave is a sin that cannot be forgiven. This has been reasoned by stating that praying at someone else’s grave is considered an act of a Kaafir since they rely on someone other than Allah himself to seek help and guidance.

(FAQs) Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What is the key difference between Shia Muslims and Sunni Muslims?

The key difference between the two groups lies, in fact, regards their belief on who is eligible to succeed Prophet Mohammed.

According to Shia Muslims, the successor of Prophet Muhammad should have been one who is from the same bloodline.

As a result, they bestowed authority on Ali ibn Abi Talib and his line of ancestors, Muhammad’s son-in-law.

However, according to Sunni Muslims, the first four caliphs should have succeeded Prophet Muhammad since they were recognized to be the first four leaders of Islam after Prophet Muhammad had passed away since each one of them had been directly tutored by him.

Q2. Why is worshipping at someone’s grave considered to be a sin, according to Sunni Muslims?

Sunni Muslims believe that praying at someone’s grave is a sin that cannot be forgiven.

This has been reasoned by stating that praying at someone else’s grave is considered an act of a Kaafir since they rely on someone other than Allah himself to seek help and guidance.

Q3. When are temporary marriages allowed in the Islam religion?

Although the concept of temporary marriages is considered ancient and obsolete worldwide, Shia Muslims still follow the system of temporary marriages.

It suggests that an individual can temporarily marry when their spouse is living far away from them for a short period of time.

However, at the same time, Sunni Muslims have discarded the concept of temporary marriages and labeled it as a form of adultery that cannot be forgiven in an institution of marriage and acts as a ground for divorce.

Q4. How do Shia and Sunni Muslims differ in regard to praying each day?

Shia Muslims believe in reciting all five prayers of their routine across three sessions daily. Thus, to be precise, Shia Muslims must read at least fifteen prayers daily.

On the other hand, Sunni Muslims believe in reciting each of the five prayers at separate times in a day.

Thus, to be precise, Sunni Muslims are mandated to pray at least five different times a day and recite one specific prayer at each session.


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