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Can anyone tell me about the origins of Shia and Sunni division? Why were two different groups of Muslims created?

Allah didn't send us to live divided. No verse of Quran or Hadith suggest that as far as I know. Both of the groups are driven by great scholars. They know Quran and Hadith very well still they are leading to something that Allah does not likes?

Is there any political involvement?

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It looks like it was because of some political events in that era. But I have a hard time understanding why they are still being divided. –  hkBattousai Jun 29 '12 at 4:01

5 Answers 5

up vote 3 down vote accepted

The religion, Islam, born from the Book, Quran, but sects, Shi'a, Sunni and others are born from "history" of Islam. There is no debate on the Book, Quran, but there is a lot of debate on "history". If you wipe out whole history the religion, Islam, will stand through Qur'an but all sects will be wiped out as well. A large part history of world is fabricate but who does care? But in this case it is related to a "belief" and made problems. The main question is: What if we didn't know about the history?

As Qur'an says what is brought by the Messenger is enough for human:

رُسُلًا مُبَشِّرِينَ وَمُنْذِرِينَ لِئَلَّا يَكُونَ لِلنَّاسِ عَلَى اللَّهِ حُجَّةٌ بَعْدَ الرُّسُلِ وَكَانَ اللَّهُ عَزِيزًا حَكِيمًا ﴿النساء: ١٦٥﴾

Messengers bearing good tidings, and warning, so that mankind might have no argument against Allah, after the Messengers; Allah is All-mighty, All-wise.

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which verse is it. please mention it in your answer –  Ashu Jul 17 '12 at 11:13

Shias Say:

"There is no god but Alláh, Muhammad is the Messenger of Alláh, Alí is the Friend of Alláh. The Successor of the Messenger of Alláh And his first Caliph."

Sunni's Say:

"There is no god but Alláh, Muhammad is the last Messenger of Alláh."

A little bit of HISTORY

(Excerpted from The Origins of the Shia-Sunni Split by Mike Shuster)

The Partisans of Ali

The original split between Sunnis and Shia occurred soon after the death of the Prophet Muhammad, in the year 632.

"There was a dispute in the community of Muslims in present-day Saudi Arabia over the question of succession," says Augustus Norton, author of Hezbollah: A Short History. "That is to say, who is the rightful successor to the Prophet?"

Most of the Prophet Muhammad's followers wanted the community of Muslims to determine who would succeed him. A smaller group thought that someone from his family should take up his mantle. They favored Ali, who was married to Muhammad's daughter, Fatimah.

"Shia believed that leadership should stay within the family of the Prophet," notes Gregory Gause, professor of Middle East politics at the University of Vermont. "And thus they were the partisans of Ali, his cousin and son-in-law. Sunnis believed that leadership should fall to the person who was deemed by the elite of the community to be best able to lead the community. And it was fundamentally that political division that began the Sunni-Shia split."

The Sunnis prevailed and chose a successor to be the first caliph.

Eventually, Ali was chosen as the fourth caliph, but not before violent conflict broke out. Two of the earliest caliphs were murdered. War erupted when Ali became caliph, and he too was killed in fighting in the year 661 near the town of Kufa, now in present-day Iraq.

The violence and war split the small community of Muslims into two branches that would never reunite.

The war continued with Ali's son, Hussein, leading the Shia. "Hussein rejected the rule of the caliph at the time," says Vali Nasr, author of The Shia Revival. "He stood up to the caliph's very large army on the battlefield. He and 72 members of his family and companions fought against a very large Arab army of the caliph. They were all massacred."

Hussein was decapitated and his head was carried in tribute to the Sunni caliph in Damascus. His body was left on the battlefield at Karbala. Later it was buried there.

It is the symbolism of Hussein's death that holds so much spiritual power for Shia.

"An innocent spiritual figure is in many ways martyred by a far more powerful, unjust force," Nasr says. "He becomes the crystallizing force around which a faith takes form and takes inspiration."

The Twelfth Imam

The Shia called their leaders imam, Ali being the first, Hussein the third. They commemorate Hussein's death every year in a public ritual of self-flagellation and mourning known as Ashura.

The significance of the imams is one of the fundamental differences that separate the two branches of Islam. The imams have taken on a spiritual significance that no clerics in Sunni Islam enjoy.

"Some of the Sunnis believe that some of the Shia are actually attributing almost divine qualities to the imams, and this is a great sin," Gause says, "because it is associating human beings with the divinity. And if there is one thing that's central to Islamic teaching, it is the oneness of God."

This difference is especially powerful when it comes to the story of the Twelfth Imam, known as the Hidden Imam.

"In the 10th century," says Vali Nasr, "the 12th Shiite Imam went into occultation. Shiites believe God took him into hiding, and he will come back at the end of time. He is known as the Mahdi or the messiah. So in many ways the Shiites, much like Jews or Christians, are looking for the coming of the Messiah."

Those who believe in the Hidden Imam are known as Twelver Shia. They comprise the majority of Shia in the world today.

"Twelver Shiism is itself a kind of messianic faith," Brumberg says. It is based "on a creed that the full word and meaning of the Koran and the Prophet Muhammad's message will only be made manifest, or real and just, upon the return of the Twelfth Imam, this messianic figure."

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I've to add to this that Shias based their choosing of Ali on prophets sayings (for example Ghadir Khumm event) –  Mohammad Jun 29 '12 at 6:54
FYI, this answer seems to suggest that war occurred with the first two khulafaa because of the choice of Abu Bakr vs. Ali. This is not true. The first war was riddah (apostasy) by Muslims who thought they only had to pay zakah while rasulullah was alive. The second was war with other nations, like the Persians. –  ashes999 Jun 29 '12 at 16:54
refhat, please see the change I've made to formatting (you can blockquote a section of text in the editor by highlighting it and pressing Ctrl+Q) and the attribution (when possible, include the name of the author and the article from which you're quoting). –  Shog9 Jul 10 '12 at 5:36

Can anyone tell me about the Origin of Shia and Sunni?

shia shiite shi'te shii'te shīʿah shi'ite shi'ites shias all are the same word for شيعه which means follower [of some one]/ sect. in shia/sunni debates means "shia of Ali". shia is not limited to shia of Ali S.A. and for example Shia of Muaviyeh existed in past but later only shia of Ali S.A. remained in history.

the word shia شيعه in used in 3 verses of Quran and this can be considered as Origin of this word. [one verse][1] says Ibrahim S.A. was shia of Noah S.A.

وَإِنَّ مِن شِيعَتِهِ لَإِبْرَاهِيمَ

[[37:83]][2] And indeed, among his sect was Abraham,

other verse says:

ثُمَّ لَنَنزِعَنَّ مِن كُلِّ شِيعَةٍ أَيُّهُمْ أَشَدُّ عَلَى الرَّحْمَـٰنِ عِتِيًّا

[[19:69]][3] Then We will surely extract from every sect those of them who were worst against the Most Merciful in insolence.

and other verse is about shia of Moses S.A:

وَدَخَلَ الْمَدِينَةَ عَلَىٰ حِينِ غَفْلَةٍ مِّنْ أَهْلِهَا فَوَجَدَ فِيهَا رَجُلَيْنِ يَقْتَتِلَانِ هَـٰذَا مِن شِيعَتِهِ وَهَـٰذَا مِنْ عَدُوِّهِ ۖ فَاسْتَغَاثَهُ الَّذِي مِن شِيعَتِهِ عَلَى الَّذِي مِنْ عَدُوِّهِ فَوَكَزَهُ مُوسَىٰ فَقَضَىٰ عَلَيْهِ ۖ قَالَ هَـٰذَا مِنْ عَمَلِ الشَّيْطَانِ ۖ إِنَّهُ عَدُوٌّ مُّضِلٌّ مُّبِينٌ

[[28:15]][4] And he entered the city at a time of inattention by its people and found therein two men fighting: one from his sect and one from among his enemy. And the one from his sect called for help to him against the one from his enemy, so Moses struck him and [unintentionally] killed him. [Moses] said, "This is from the work of Satan. Indeed, he is a manifest, misleading enemy."

also there are another verse with the same root and similar word but not exactly shia. this verse is usually used by Snnis against shia for trying to disprove them:

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ فَرَّقُوا دِينَهُمْ وَكَانُوا شِيَعًا لَّسْتَ مِنْهُمْ فِي شَيْءٍ ۚ إِنَّمَا أَمْرُهُمْ إِلَى اللَّـهِ ثُمَّ يُنَبِّئُهُم بِمَا كَانُوا يَفْعَلُونَ

[[6:159]][5] Indeed, those who have divided their religion and become sects - you, [O Muhammad], are not [associated] with them in anything. Their affair is only [left] to Allah; then He will inform them about what they used to do.

also the word sunni does not exist in Quran and this term was used later.

according to shia Muslims this verse does not include to shia of Ali S.A. because this verse prohibit MAKING SECT and not belonging to a sect like Ibrahim S.A. belonged to Noah S.A. sect. in fact shia consider its religion exactly the original religion of prophet and not a created sect. and consider the group who disobeyed the will of God for appointing Ali S.A. as Caliph at Ghadir the group who separated the order of prophet and created a sect.

The reason is that according to shia only God can select the Caliph and God selected his Caliph after prophet and he was Ali S.A. and Ali S.A. received divine knowledge of prophet to guide humans and prophet declared it in front of 120,000 Muslims at Ghadir at final Hajj of prophet and Abubakr and Umar and Uthman given Bayat (pledge of alliance) to Ali S.A. but when prophet died and Ali S.A. was at funeral of prophet they left the funeral and made a meeting at Saqifah Bani Saedeh and selected Abubakr as Caliph without any permission from God and prophet and cause misguide of all humanity.

the conflict of shia and sunni started by death of prophet when Ali S.A. and more than 100 of Sahaba did not given Bayat to Abubakr because they believed [Allah and prophet declared Ali S.A. as Caliph][6] after death of prophet and Ali S.A. and also believed the Caliphet of Abubakr was not legimate. those Sahaba wondered for selection of Abubakr while Ali S.A. was at funeral of prophet. and this conflict continued until today.

Why 2 different group of Muslims is created?

because one group believe Caliph can be selected only by God and other group believed Caliph can be selected by people by shura (meeting of leaders of tribes) or by will of past Caliph (like selection of Umar) or by voting (like demand of most of people from Ali S.A. to accept Caliphate after Uthman was killed by a group made of All groups Muslims)

Allah didn't send us to live divided. No verse of Quran or Hadish suggest that as per my knowledge.

I think Allah wanted this to test us in Ahl ul-Bayt. Quran says:

... Had Allah willed, He would have made you one nation [united in religion], but [He intended] to test you in what He has given you; so race to [all that is] good. To Allah is your return all together, and He will [then] inform you concerning that over which you used to differ. ‌[5:48]

Both the groups are driven by great scholars.

depends on what you define great scholar. according to shia a scholar who ignore will of Allah and prophet in selecting Caliph is not a great scholar.

They know Quran and Hadish very well

InshaAllah this be true.

"still why they are leading to something that Allah does not likes?"

its not leaded by scholars. its leaded by political Kings. scholars are not free to decide about political aspects of Islam. sunni scholars receive salary from governments (but shia scholars do not receive salary from any government and talk independently). according to Islam there is only one nation of Muslim (Ummah) and only one Caliph. but if a King accept his should deliver the power to real Caliph of Allah and this is not what a King likes. for example you say this fact about Mubarak and Ghazafi who were two King in Islamic countries.

Is there any political (government) involvement also?

this this matter is 99.99% political.

according to shia the current legitimate Caliph is [Imam Mahdi S.A.][7] who is alive and leading and supporting Muslims but for will of Allah is in hide. but exist among us and we see him but do not know him.

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) has two famous sayings about sects of Muslims:

1) the Judaism nation after Moses (PBUH) became 71 sect that 70 of them are in Hell and 1 in Heaven and Christianity nation after Jesus (PBUH) became 72 sect that 71 of them are in Hell and 1 in Heaven and Islam nation after prophet become 73 sect that 72 of them are in Hell and 1 in Heaven.

2) Truth is with Ali and Ali is with Truth

related question:

Why does Shi'a Islam differ so much regarding Abu Bakr, Omar and Othman, compared to Sunni teachings?

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37:83 is about the sect of Ibrahim against kufr (pagans). We are discussing the sects born out of Islam, we are not considering whole Islam as a sect as in 37:83. –  hkBattousai Jun 29 '12 at 7:04
@AhmedHan according to Quran all prophets were Muslim. also this verse proves following a sect which is the pure and original religion of God is allowed. but making any other sect is forbidden according to Quran. what means "sect agaist Kufr"? where is "against Kufr" in this verse? sect is not about against anything. sect means fraction/follower and is for divisions in a religion. anyway rules about sect are the same in Quran and Ibrahim followed the rules of Islam also. if following sect is bad so why Ibrahim S.A. labeled sect of Noah S.A.? what is bad in Islam is MAKING SECT not following it –  Battle of Karbala Jun 29 '12 at 7:16
@AhmedHan you mean Ibrahim S.A. had any religion rather than Islam. Quran clearly says he was Muslim. did I ever considered whole Islam as a sect? this verse never means whole the nation of time of Ibrahim S.A. as one sect but it means at time of Ibrahim S.A. there different sects of religion but Noah S.A. was from sect of Ibrahim S.A. I only want to conclude from this verse that following a sect is not bad in Quran. but some claim any kind of talking about sect is totally prohibited in Islam which is a false claim by this verse of Quran. –  Battle of Karbala Jun 29 '12 at 7:20

The main origin of Shia, is the basic belief in Hajjatul-Wada' حجه الوداع when Prophet(sa) for the last time visited Mecca and many people accompanied him, on the way back near غدیرخم Ghadir pond, Prophet(sa) ordered everyone to stay and sent for others in front to return and waited for those behind to come up and after some thousand people were gathered He ordered to make a platform like place with camel saddles and then he went up with Imam Ali (as) and took up his hand and told people that

Whoever I am his Mola مولا from now on Ali is his Mola.

Then he told them to spread the word and tell everyone.

Here Shias believe that Prophet(sa) clearly appointed Ali(as) as his successor.

This is the fundamental belief of Shia.

I also like to mention that Shias don't see themselves separated from Sunni brothers and that we always should be united. As we all live by the La Ilaha Illallah and the love toward his last Prophet.

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Today I had the opportunity to take a look at some of the Sunni Tafseer books in which I found the followings interesting as an answer to this question. According to these quotes from the Sunni books Shi'ite existed at the time of the holy prophet --peace be upon him and his household-- as well:

Abu Ja'far Muhammad ibn Jareer Tabary (the 4th Hijri century) has written in his book that the holy prophet --peace be upon him-- told imam Ali --peace be upon him-- that you and your followers (shia) are the best of creatures:

يقول تعالى ذكره: إن الذين آمنوا بالله و رسوله محمد، و عبدوا الله مخلصين له الدين حنفاء، و أقاموا الصلاة، و آتوا الزكاة، و أطاعوا الله فيما أمر و نهى. أُولئِكَ هُمْ خَيْرُ الْبَرِيَّةِ يقول: من فعل ذلك من الناس فهم خير البرية. و قد: حدثنا ابن حميد، قال: ثنا عيسى بن فرقد، عن أبي الجارود، عن محمد بن علي أُولئِكَ هُمْ خَيْرُ الْبَرِيَّةِ فقال النبي صلى الله عليه و سلم:" أنت يا علي و شيعتك"

ابو جعفر محمد بن جرير طبرى (قرن ۴)، جامع البيان في تفسير القرآن، ج30، ص: 171

Jalaliddin Soyuti (the 10th Hijri century) has written in his book that the holy prophet --peace be upon him-- told imam Ali --peace be upon him-- that he (the best of creatures) is you and your followers (shia), in the Day you are well pleased and well-pleasing unto Him, and our rendezvous will be at the pond ...!

و أخرج ابن عدى عن ابن عباس قال لما نزلت إِنَّ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَ عَمِلُوا الصَّالِحاتِ أُولئِكَ هُمْ خَيْرُ الْبَرِيَّةِ قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم لعلي هو أنت و شيعتك يوم القيامة راضين مرضيين

و أخرج ابن مردويه عن علي قال قال لي رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم ألم تسمع قول الله إِنَّ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَ عَمِلُوا الصَّالِحاتِ أُولئِكَ هُمْ خَيْرُ الْبَرِيَّةِ أنت و شيعتك و موعدي و موعدكم الحوض إذا حيت الأمم للحساب تدعون غرا محجلين

جلال الدین سیوطی (قرن ۱۰)، الدر المنثور في تفسير المأثور، ج6، ص: 379

Sayyed Mahmoud Alousy (the 13th Hijri century) has written in his book that the holy prophet --peace be upon him-- told imam Ali --peace be upon him-- that they (the best of creatures) are you and your followers (shia), and our rendezvous will be at the pond ...! And the prophet --peace be upon him and his household-- said this at his death while his head was on the breast of imam Ali --peace be upon him.

فقد أخرج ابن مردويه عن علي كرم اللّه تعالى وجهه قال: قال لي رسول اللّه صلّى اللّه عليه و سلم: «ألم تسمع قول اللّه تعالى إِنَّ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَ عَمِلُوا الصَّالِحاتِ أُولئِكَ هُمْ خَيْرُ الْبَرِيَّةِ؟ هم أنت و شيعتك و موعدي و موعدكم الحوض إذا جثت الأمم للحساب يدعون غرا محجلين» و روى نحوه الإمامية عن يزيد بن شراحيل الأنصاري كاتب الأمير كرم اللّه تعالى وجهه. و فيه أنه عليه الصلاة و السلام قال ذلك له عند الوفاة و رأسه الشريف على صدره رضي اللّه تعالى عنه. و

أخرج ابن مردويه أيضا عن ابن عباس قال: لما نزلت هذه الآية إِنَّ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إلخ قال رسول اللّه صلّى اللّه عليه و سلم لعلي رضي اللّه تعالى عنه و كرم وجهه: «هو أنت و شيعتك يوم القيامة راضين مرضيين

سید محمد آلوسى (قرن ۱۳)، روح المعاني في تفسير القرآن العظيم، ج15، ص: 432

AbdulHaq ibn Qalib ibn Attiyeh Andelusy (the 6th Hijri century) has written in his book that the holy prophet --peace be upon him-- told imam Ali --peace be upon him-- that you and your followers (shia) are the best of creatures

و روي حديث عن النبي صلى اللّه عليه و سلم أنه قرأ هذه الآية: «أولئك هم خير البريئة». ثم قال لعلي بن أبي طالب رضي اللّه عنه «أنت يا علي و شيعتك من خير البرية»، ذكره الطبري.

عبدالحق بن غالب ابن عطيه اندلسى، المحرر الوجيز في تفسير الكتاب العزيز، ج5، ص: 508

And the Sunnism were originated a few hours or days after the holy prophet --peace be upon him-- passed away and indeed the Sunni brothers claim the holy prophet --peace be upon him and his household-- had not introduced who should be his successor after him as Caliph, so that Sunnism as a political sect could not be started at the time of the holy prophet --peace be upon him and his household.

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