Based on what I heard, and from what I read (none from Shiite sources), the Sunnis and Shiites split because they differed on views about who will rule the Muslims.

How did it escalate from just being political, to now having theological differences?

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    the 'just being political' concept also got into the variation of 'hadith' and there by variation in interpretation of Qur'an and there by variation in rituals and traditions. So, the reason for theological differences is 'just politics' or in other words 'ego, lack of mutual understanding, and ...shaitan'. – servant-of-Wiser Jun 30 '15 at 23:59
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    I'm going to prepare an answer but as for now you should note that political differences could stem directly from a difference on what Islam teaches. In other words, one can not outright dismiss politics as being necessarily a petty or trivial affair or unrelated to religion. The differences between the Holy Prophet himself and the Pagans of Mecca had political dimensions, precisely because politics is part of Islam and Islam is not an apolitical religion! This is also of note for @azam. – infatuated Jul 1 '15 at 5:33
  • Where did you get that just political from!? – Vazir Jul 1 '15 at 17:57
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    EDIT: The original answer is updated now. So, I think I can conclude as, 'a few political differences actually were one of the possible reasons of today's theological differences'. Is it alright now @Vazir – servant-of-Wiser Jul 3 '15 at 17:45

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