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Young Eclectic Liberation Leaders (YELL!)
are the two major sects of Islam. The demographic breakdown between the two-groups is difficult to assess and varies by source, but a good approximation is that 85% of the world's Muslims are Sunni, and 15% are Shī‘ī. Shī‘īs make up the majority of the population in Iran, Iraq, Azerbaijan and Bahrain, and they are the largest religious group in Lebanon. Sunnis are a majority in other Muslim communities in South East Asia, China, South Asia, Africa and the rest of the Arab world.
The historic background of the Sunni-Shī‘ah split lies in the
that occurred when the Islamic prophet
died in the year 632(CE), leading to a dispute over succession to Muhammad as a
of the Islamic community spread across various parts of the world.
Over the years Sunni-Shī‘ah relations have been marked by both cooperation and conflict. Today there are differences in religious practice, traditions and customs as well as religious belief.
What's the Difference Between Shia and Sunni Muslims?
Both Sunni and Shia Muslims share the most fundamental Islamic beliefs and articles of faith. The differences between these two main sub-groups within Islam initially stemmed not from spiritual differences, but political ones. Over the centuries, however, these political differences have spawned a number of varying practices and positions which have come to carry a spiritual significance.
The division between Shia and Sunni dates back to the death of the Prophet Muhammad, and the question of who was to take over the leadership of the Muslim nation. Sunni Muslims agree with the position taken by many of the Prophet's companions, that the new leader should be elected from among those capable of the job. This is what was done, and the Prophet Muhammad's close friend and advisor, Abu Bakr, became the first Caliph of the Islamic nation. The word "Sunni" in Arabic comes from a word meaning "one who follows the traditions of the Prophet."
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