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The shahadah or Islamic creed, which reads: '"There is no god but God, and Muhammad is the Messenger of God"'.

Map showing distribution of Shi`a and Sunni Muslims in Africa, Asia and Europe.

Over the period of time after the death of the prophet of Islam (the last prophet of the Abrahamic traditions), Muhammad, there have arisen distinctions by means of schools of thought, traditions, and related faiths.[1][2]

However, the central text of Islam, the Qur'an ordains that Muslims are not to be divided into divisions or sections and rather be united under a common goal of faith in one God alone - Allah[Qur'an 3:103], failure to do which has also been deemed a sin by God and thus forbidden.[6:149][6:159] The Qur'an also ordains that the followers of Islam need to "obey Allah and obey the Messenger (Prophet Muhammad)" stressing on the importance of keeping the commandments mentioned in the Qur'an by Allah, and following all the teachings of Muhammad,[4:59]; labeling everyone who concurs as a 'Muslim'[22:78] as a part of the "best of communities brought forth from mankind".[3:110] The Quran clearly states that creating sects in Islam is strictly Haram(forbidden), in Surah 30 Verse 32:

Sunni Islam

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Sunni Islam

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Sunni Muslims, often referred to as Ahl as-Sunnah wa’l-Jamā‘h or Ahl as-Sunnah, are the largest denomination of Islam.

The word Sunni comes from the word sunnah, which means the teachings and actions or examples of the Islamic prophet, Muhammad. Therefore, the term "Sunni" refers to those who follow or maintain the sunnah of the prophet Muhammad. Another etymology proposed by some[who?] is that the word "sunni" comes from a movement "Am-ul-sunnah" started by Mu'awiya.

The Sunni believe that Muhammad did not specifically appoint a successor to lead the Muslim ummah (community) before his death, and after an initial period of confusion, a group of his most prominent companions gathered and elected Abu Bakr Siddique—Muhammad's close friend and a father-in-law—as the first caliph of Islam. Sunni Muslims regard the first four caliphs—Abu Bakr, `Umar ibn al-Khattāb, Uthman Ibn Affan and Ali ibn Abu Talib—as "al-Khulafā’ur-Rāshidūn" or "The Rightly Guided Caliphs." Sunnis also believe that the position of caliph may be democratically-chosen, but after the Rashidun, the position turned into a hereditary dynastic rule. After the fall of the Ottoman Empire in 1923, there has never been another as widely recognized caliph in the Muslim world.

Schools of Law

Madhhab is an Islamic term that refers to a school of thought or religious jurisprudence, or fiqh, within Sunni Islam. Each of the Sahaba had a unique school of jurisprudence, but these schools were gradually consolidated or discarded so that there are currently four recognized schools. The differences between these schools of thought manifest in minor practical differences, as most Sunni Muslims consider them all fundamentally the same. Sunnis generally do not identify themselves with a particular of the following schools of thought — simply calling themselves "Sunnis".

  • Hanafi – Founded by Imam Abu Hanifa an-Nu‘man, Hanafi is considered to be the school most open to modern ideas. It is predominant among Sunni Muslims in northern Egypt, the Indian subcontinent, Iraq, Turkey, Balkans and in many western countries.
  • Shafi`i – Shafi`i was founded by Imam Muhammad ibn Idris ash-Shafi`i, and has adherents among many high-ranking Islamic scholars. It is practiced throughout the Muslim world, but is most prevalent in Egypt, Somalia, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, among Kurds and The Philippines, and is the school of thought officially followed by the government of Brunei and Malaysia. It is followed by 28% of Muslims worldwide, being the second largest School in terms of followers..
  • Maliki – The Maliki school derives from the work of Imam Malik ibn Anas. Maliki is practiced in North and West Africa. It is the third-largest of the four schools, followed by approximately 15% of Muslims.
  • Hanbali – Hanbali is considered to be the most conservative of the four schools and the one that relies on Hadith the most. Hanbalis reject the use of philosophical argument in matters of religious belief. The school was started by the students of Imam Ahmad. Hanbali jurisprudence is predominant among Muslims in the Arabian Peninsula.

Schools of Belief

Divisions of Islam.png

Aqidah is an Islamic term meaning creed or belief. Any religious belief system, or creed, can be considered an example of aqidah. However this term has taken a significant technical usage in Muslim history and theology, denoting those matters over which Muslims hold conviction. The term is usually translated as 'theology'. Such traditions are divisions orthogonal to sectarian divisions of Islam, and a Mu'tazili may for example, belong to Jafari, Zaidi, or even a Hanafi sect/jurisprudence school, though the latter is usually a rare occurrence.

  • Ash'ari – Ash'ari is a school of early Islamic philosophy founded in the 10th century. It was instrumental in drastically changing the direction of Islam and laid the groundwork to "shut the door of ijtihad" centuries later in the Ottoman Empire. The Asharite view was that comprehension of the unique nature and characteristics of God were beyond human capability.
  • Maturidi – A Maturidi is one who follows Abu Mansur Al Maturidi's theology, which is a close variant of the Ash'ari school. Points which differ are the nature of belief and the place of human reason. The Maturidis state that belief (iman) does not increase nor decrease but remains static; it is piety (taqwa) which increases and decreases. The Ash'aris say that belief does in fact increase and decrease. The Maturidis say that the unaided human mind is able to find out that some of the more major sins such as alcohol or murder are evil without the help of revelation. The Ash'aris say that the unaided human mind is unable to know if something is good or evil, lawful or unlawful, without divine revelation.
  • Murji'ah – Murji'ah (Arabic المرجئة) is an early Islamic school, whose followers are known in English as Murjites or Murji'ites (Arabic المرجئون). During the early centuries of Islam, Muslim thought encountered a multitude of influences from various ethnic and philosophical groups that it absorbed. Murji'ah emerged as a theological school that was opposed to the Kharijites on questions related to early controversies regarding sin and definitions of what is a true Muslim.
They advocated the idea of "delayed judgement". Only God can judge who is a true Muslim and who is not, and no one else can judge another as an infidel (kafir). Therefore, all Muslims should consider all other Muslims as true and faithful believers, and look to Allah to judge everyone during the last judgment. This theology promoted tolerance of Umayyads and converts to Islam who appeared half-hearted in their obedience. The Murjite opinion would eventually dominate that of the Kharijites.
The Murjites exited the way of the Sunnis when they declared that no Muslim would enter the hellfire, no matter what his sins. This contradicts the traditional Sunni belief which states that some Muslims will enter the hellfire temporarily. Therefore the Murjites are classified as Ahlul Bid'ah or "People of Innovation" by the majority of other Muslims.
  • Mu'tazili – Mu'tazili theology originated in the 8th century in al-Basrah when Wasil ibn Ata left the teaching lessons of Hasan al-Basri after a theological dispute. He and his followers expanded on the logic and rationalism of Greek philosophy, seeking to combine them with Islamic doctrines and show that the two were inherently compatible. The Mu'tazili debated philosophical questions such as whether the Qur'an was created or eternal, whether evil was created by God, the issue of predestination versus free will, whether God's attributes in the Qur'an were to be interpreted allegorically or literally, and whether sinning believers would have eternal punishment in hell.
  • Athari – Athari is a school that derives its name from the Arabic word Athar, meaning "Narrations". The Athari methodology is to avoid delving into extensive theological speculation. They use the Qur'an, the Sunnah, and sayings of the Sahaba. Athari is generally synonymous with Salafi.
  • Zahiri – A school of thought which literally translates as literalist, who were regarded as heterodox among many Muslim for rejecting qiyas and arguing that Allah's anthropomorphic attributes were to be regarded as literal (i.e. that Allah actually has hands in Surah 5:64).


There are a few numbers of groups which have created their own movements mainly named after the founder of the group, which follow much of the teachings of the schools and teologies however some i.e. Salafis, disagree to the teachings to some extent. These groups include:

  • Salafism – Salafism was revived by the 18th century teacher Muhammad ibn Abd-al-Wahhab in the Arabian peninsula, and was instrumental in the rise of the House of Saud to power. Salafism is a puritanical and legalistic Islamic movement under the Sunni umbrella, and is the dominant form of Islam in Saudi Arabia. The terms "Wahhabism" and "Salafism" are often used interchangeably. In addition to the Qur'an and hadith, and the works of earlier scholars like Ibn Taymiyya are used for religious guidance. They are often associated with the Hanbali madhhab, although they generally reject the following of a traditional mazhab. Salafis preach Islamic monotheism (tawhid), and claim teachings from Ibn Taymiyyah, a 14th-century Syrian scholar. Salafism is in general opposed to Sufism and Shi'a Islam, which they regard as heresies. They see their role as a movement to restore Islam from what they perceive to be innovations, superstitions, deviances, heresies and idolatries.
  • Barelwi;– The Barelwi is the Sufi movement led by Maulana Ahmed Raza Khan of Bareilly, Rohilkhand India (hence the term Barelvi). They are found mostly in the Indian Subcontinent. Other denominations of Sunni Islam widely accuse Barelwis of indulging in practices which lead to shirk and bi'dah.
  • Deobandi – The Deobandi is one of the two major divisions of the Hanafi school of law in the Indian subcontinent. Deobandi are Muslims of South Asia and Afghanistan, and have more recently spread to other countries such as South Africa and the United Kingdom. Deobandis follow the fiqh of Imam Abu Hanifa and the Maturidi school of aqidah. The largest missionary group which follows the movement is the Tablighi Jamaat. It is a reformist movement within the Hanafi school of fiqh that advocates a return to the early days of Islam, quite like the Salafis and Ahle Hadith. The Taliban are reputed to follow the teachings of the Deoband school, although a strict and simplistic version of the school's teachings.
  • Al-Ikhwan Al-Muslimun – Translated as The Muslim Brotherhood, this organisation was founded by Egyptian Scholar Hassan al-Banna who graduated from Dar al-Ulum. With its various branches it is the largest Sunni movement in the Arab world, with an affilaite usually being the largest opposition party in many Arab nations. The Muslim Brotherhood is not concerned with theological differences, accepting Muslims of any of the four Sunni schools of thought, it is the world's oldest and largest Islamist group. Its aims are to re-establish the Caliphate and in the mean time push for more Islamisation of society. The Brotherhood's stated goal is to instill the Qur'an and Sunnah as the "sole reference point for... ordering the life of the Muslim family, individual, community... and state."
  • Jamaat-e-Islami – Jamaat-e-Islami is an Islamist political party in the Indian Subcontinent. It was founded in Lahore, India, by Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi on 26 August 1941,[1] and is the oldest religious party in Pakistan & India.[1] Today sister organizations with similar objectives and ideological approaches exist in India, (Jamaat-e-Islami Hind), Bangladesh (Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh), Kashmir, Afghanistan, and Sri Lanka, and there are "close brotherly relations" with the Islamist movements and missions "working in different continents and countries", particularly those affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood or Akhwan-al-Muslimeen.[1] The JI envisions an Islamic government in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan governing by Islamic law. It opposes Westernization--including capitalism, socialism, or such practices as bank interest, and favours and Islamic economic order and Caliphate.
  • Jamaat al-Muslimeen – Jamaat ul-Muslimeen is a movement in Sunni Islam revived by the Imam Syed Masood Ahmad in the 1960s.[1] Now the present leader of this group is Muhammad Ishtiaq[2]. The group's reformers were previously part of Salafism and all the followers were previously part of different Sunni and Shi'ite Denominations. After the exodus they reformed the Jamaat (community) based purely upon Islamic Principals and Laws namely Quran and the Tradition (ar. Sunnah) of Muhammad.

Shia Islam

Imam Ali Mosque in Najaf, Iraq, where Ali the first Shī‘ah Imam is buried.

Shia Islam (Arabic: شيعةShī‘ah, sometimes Shi'a or Shi'ite), is the second-largest denomination of Islam. Shia Muslims—though a minority in the Muslim world—constitute the majority of the populations in Azerbaijan, Bahrain and Iran, as well as a plurality in Iraq, Kuwait, and Lebanon.

In addition to believing in the authority of the Qur'an and teachings of the Muhammad, Shia believe that his family—the Ahl al-Bayt (the People of the House), including his descendants known as Imams—have special spiritual and political rule over the community[3] and believe that Ali ibn Abi Talib, Muhammad's cousin and son-in-law, was the first of these Imams and was the rightful successor to Muhammad, and thus reject the legitimacy of the first three Rashidun caliphs.[4]

The Shi'a Islamic faith is vast and inclusive of many different groups. There are various Shi'a theological beliefs, schools of jurisprudence, philosophical beliefs, and spiritual movements. The Shia identity emerged soon after the death of 'Umar Ibnil-Khattab—the second caliph—and Shi'a theology was formulated in the second century[5] and the first Shi'a governments and societies were established by the end of the ninth century.

As stated above, an estimate of approximately 10–15% of the world's Muslims are Shi'a, which corresponds to about 130–190 million Shi'a Muslims worldwide.[6] Shi'a Muslims also constitute over 30% of the population in Lebanon,[7] over 45% of the population in Yemen,[8] over 35% of the population in Kuwait,[9] 20–25% of the population (primarily Alevi) in Turkey,[10] 20% (primarily Bektashi) of the population in Albania,[11] 20% of the population in Pakistan and 18% of population in Afghanistan. They also make up at least 15% of the Muslim populations in India, the United Arab Emirates, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Montenegro, and Kosovo.

Significant Shi'a communities exist on the coastal regions of West Sumatra and Aceh in Indonesia (see Tabuik). The Shi'a presence is negligible elsewhere in Southeast Asia, where Muslims are predominantly Shafi'i Sunnis.

A significant syncretic Shi'a minority is present in Nigeria, centered around the state of Kano (see Shia in Nigeria). East Africa holds several populations of Ismaili Shia, primarily descendants of immigrants from South Asia during the colonial period, such as the Khoja.

According to Shi'a Muslim,[who?] one of the lingering problems in estimating Shi'a population is that unless Shi'a form a significant minority in a Muslim country, the entire population is often listed as Sunni. The reverse, however, has not held true, which may contribute to imprecise estimates of the size of each sect. For example, the 1926 rise of the House of Saud in Arabia brought official discrimination against Shi'a.[12]

Shi'a Islam is divided into three branches. The largest and best known are the Twelver (اثنا عشرية iṯnāʿašariyya), named after their adherence to the Twelve Imams. They form a majority of the population in Iran, Azerbaijan, Bahrain and Iraq. Other smaller branches include the Ismaili and Zaidi, who dispute the Twelver lineage of Imams and beliefs.[13]

The Twelver Shi'a faith is predominantly found in Iran (90%), Azerbaijan (85%), Bahrain (75%), Iraq (65%), Yemen (45%), Lebanon (35%),[14] Kuwait (35%), Turkey (25%), Albania (20%), Pakistan (20%), and Afghanistan (20%).[15][16]

The Zaidi dispute the succession of the fifth Twelver Imam, Muhammad al-Baqir, because he did not stage a revolution against the corrupt government, unlike Zaid ibn Ali. They do not believe in a normal lineage, but rather that any descendant of Hasan ibn Ali or Husayn ibn Ali who stages a revolution against a corrupt government is an imam. The Zaidi are mainly found in Yemen.

The Ismaili dispute the succession of the seventh Twelver Imam, Musa al-Kadhim, believing his older brother Isma'il ibn Jafar actually succeeded their father Ja'far al-Sadiq, and did not predecease him like Twelver Shi'a believe. Ismaili form small communities in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, India, Yemen, mainland China, and Saudi Arabia[17] and have several subbranches.


Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim Part of a series on Shī‘ah Islam


The Fourteen Infallibles

Muhammad · Fatimah · Ali · Hasan · Husayn · al-Sajjad · al-Baqir · al-Sadiq · al-Kadhim · al-Rida · al-Taqi · al-Naqi · al-Askari · al-Mahdi

The Twelve Imams
Ali · Hasan · Husayn
al-Sajjad · al-Baqir · al-Sadiq
al-Kadhim · al-Rida · al-Taqi
al-Naqi · al-Askari · al-Mahdi


Fourteen Infallibles
Occultation (Minor · Major)
Akhbar · Usul · Ijtihad
Taqleed · 'Aql · Irfan


Judgement Day · Justice
Prophethood · Imamate


Prayer · Fasting · Pilgrimage
Charity · Taxes · Jihad
Command Justice · Forbid Evil
Love the family of Muhammad
Dissociate from their Enemies

Holy cities

Mecca · Medina · Jerusalem
Najaf · Karbala · Mashhad
Samarra · Kadhimayn


Usuli · Akhbari · Shaykhi
Nimatullahi · Safaviya
Qizilbash · Alevism · Alawism
Bektashi · Tabarie


Marja · Ayatollah · Allamah
Hojatoleslam · Mujtahid
List of marjas · List of Ayatollahs

Hadith collections

Peak of Eloquence · The Psalms of Islam · Book of Fundamentals · The Book in Scholar's Lieu · Civilization of Laws · The Certainty · Book of Sulaym ibn Qays · Oceans of Light · Wasael ush-Shia · Reality of Certainty · Keys of Paradise

Twelvers (also called Imamiyyah) are members of the group of Shi'a Islam who believe in twelve Imams. The twelfth Imam is believed to be in occultation, and will appear again just before the Qiyamah (Islamic view of the Last Judgment). The Shi`a Hadiths include the sayings of the Imams. Many Muslims criticise the Shia for certain beliefs and practices, including practices such as the Mourning of Muharram (Mätam). They are the largest Shi'a school of thought (80%), predominant in Azerbaijan, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon and Bahrain and have a significant population in Pakistan, Kuwait and the Eastern province of Saudi Arabia. The Twelver Shi'a are followers of the Jaf'ari madh'hab. Followers of the madh'hab are divided into the following sub-divisions, although these are not considered different sects:

  • Usulism

The Usuli form the overwhelming majority within the Twelver Shia denomination. They follow a Marja-i Taqlid on the subject of taqlid and fiqh. They are concentrated in Iran, Iraq, and Lebanon.

  • Akhbarism

Akhbari, similar to Usulis, however reject ijtihad in favor of hadith. Concentrated in Bahrain.

  • Shaykhism

Shaykhism is an Islamic religious movement founded by Shaykh Ahmad in the early 19th century Qajar, Iran, now retaining a minority following in Iran and Iraq. It began from a combination of Sufi and Shi‘a and Akhbari doctrines. In the mid 19th-century many Shaykhis converted to the Bábí and Bahá'í religions, which regard Shaykh Ahmad highly.



The Ismailis and Twelvers both accept the same initial Imams from the descendants of Muhammad through his daughter Fatima Zahra and therefore share much of their early history. However, a dispute arose on the succession of the Sixth Imam, Ja'far al-Sadiq. The Ismailis are those who accepted Ja'far's eldest son Ismail as the next Imam, whereas the Twelvers accepted a younger son, Musa al-Kazim. Today, Ismailis are concentrated in Pakistan and other parts of South Asia. The Nizari Ismailis, however, are also concentrated in Central Asia, Russia, China, New Zealand, Afghanistan, Papua New Guinea, Syria, Australia, North America (Including Canada), the United Kingdom, and in Africa as well.

  • Nizari – The Nizāriyya are the largest branch (90%) of Ismaili, they are the only Shia group to be have their absolute temporal leader in the rank of Imamate, which is currently invested in Aga Khan IV. Their present living Imam is Mawlānā Shah Karim Al-Husayni who is the 49th Imam, who is also believed to be the manifestation of God and Godhead in his unity. The Nizāriyya believe that the successor-Imām to the Fatimid caliph al-Mustansir was his elder son al-Nizār. However, the Fatimid Regent appointed al-Mustansir's younger son al-Mustaˤlī as caliph and as a result, an-Nizār died in prison after he failed to claim the throne by rebellion. Most Nizaris keep the tenets of their faith secret. Some claim to be Muslim, some do not, though the Nizari faith itself abides by some of Islamic principles.
  • Mustaali – The Mustaali group of Ismaili Muslims differ from the Nizāriyya in that they believe that the successor-Imām to the Fatimid caliph, al-Mustansir, was his younger son al-Mustaˤlī, who was made Caliph by the Fatimad Regent Al-Afdal Shahanshah.

In contrast to the Nizaris, they accept the younger brother al-Mustaˤlī over Nizar as their Imam. The Bohras are an offshoot of the Taiyabi, which itself was an offshoot of the Mustaali. The Taiyabi, supporting another offshoot of the Mustaali, the Hafizi branch, split with the Mustaali Fatimid, who recognized Al-Amir as their last Imam. The split was due to the Taiyabi believing that Tayyab Abī al-Qāsim was the next rightful Imam after Al-Amir. The Hafizi themselves however considered Al-Hafiz as the next rightful Imam after Al-Amir.

The Bohras believe that their 21st Imam, Taiyab abi al-Qasim, went into seclusion and established the offices of the Da'i al-Mutlaq (الداعي المطلق), Ma'zoon (مأذون) and Mukasir (مكاسر). The Bohras are the only surviving branch of the Mustaali and themselves have split into the Dawoodi Bohra, Sulaimani Bohra, and Alavi Bohra.

  • Dawoodi Bohra – The Dawoodi Bohras are a denomination of the Bohras. After offshooting from the Taiyabi the Bohras split into two, the Dawoodi Bohra and the Sulaimani Bohra, over who would be the correct dai of the community. Concentrated mainly in Pakistan and India.
  • Sulaimani Bohra – The Sulaimani Bohra named after their 27th Da'i al-Mutlaq, Sulayman ibn Hassan, are a denomination of the Bohras. After offshooting from the Taiyabi the Bohras split into two, the Sulaimani Bohra and the Dawoodi Bohra, over who would be the correct dai of the community. Concentrated mainly in Yemen.
  • Alavi Bohra – Split from the Dawoodi Bohra over who would be the correct dai of the community. The smallest branch of the Bohras.
  • Hebtiahs Bohra – The Hebtiahs Bohra are a branch of Mustaali Ismaili Shi'a Islam that broke off from the mainstream Dawoodi Bohra after the death of the 39th Da'i al-Mutlaq in 1754.
  • Atba-i-Malak – The Abta-i Malak jamaat (community) are a branch of Mustaali Ismaili Shi'a Islam that broke off from the mainstream Dawoodi Bohra after the death of the 46th Da'i al-Mutlaq, under the leadership of Abdul Hussain Jivaji. They have further split into two more branches, the Atba-i-Malak Badra and Atba-i-Malak Vakil.[18]
  • Druze – The Druze are a small distinct traditional religion that developed in the 11th century. It began as an offshoot of the Ismaili sect of Islam, but is unique in its incorporation of Gnostic, neo-Platonic and other philosophies. Druze are considered heretical and non-Muslims by most other Muslims because they are believed to address prayers to the Fatimid caliph Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah, the third Fatimid caliph of Egypt, whom they regard as "a manifestation of God in His unity." The Druze believe that he had been hidden away by God and will return as the Mahdi on Judgement Day. Like Alawis, most Druze keep the tenets of their Faith secret, and very few details are known. They neither accept converts nor recognize conversion from their religion to another. They are located primarily in the Levant. Druze in different states can have radically different lifestyles. Some claim to be Muslim, some do not, though the Druze faith itself abides by Islamic principles.


Zaidiyyahs historically come from the followers of Zayd ibn Ali, the great-Grandson of 'Ali b. Abi Talib. They follow any knowledgeable and upright descendant of al-Hasan and al-Husayn, and are less esoteric in focus than Twelverism or Ismailism.


Alawites are also called Nusayris, Nusairis, Namiriya or Ansariyya. Slightly over one million of them live in Syria and Lebanon.[19]


Alevis are sometimes categorized as part of Twelver Shi'a Islam, and sometimes as its own religious tradition, as it has markedly different philosophy, customs, and rituals. They have many Sufi characteristics and express belief in the Qur'an and the Shi'a Imams, but reject polygamy and accept religious traditions predating Islam, like Turkish shamanism. They are significant in East-Central Turkey. They are sometimes considered a Sufi sect, and have an untraditional form of religious leadership that is not scholarship oriented like other Sunni and Shia groups. They number around 25 million worldwide, of which 22 million are in Turkey, with the rest in the Balkans, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Azerbaijan, Iran and Syria.

Kharijite Islam

Kharijite (lit. "those who seceded") is a general term embracing a variety of Muslim sects which, while originally supporting the Caliphate of Ali, eventually rejected his legitimacy after he negotiated with Mu'awiya during the 7th Century Islamic civil war (First Fitna).[20] Their complaint was that the Imam must be spiritually pure, and that Ali's compromise with Mu'awiya was a compromise of his spiritual purity, and therefore of his legitimacy as Imam or Caliph. While there are few remaining Kharijite or Kharijite-related groups, the term is sometimes used to denote Muslims who refuse to compromise with those with whom they disagree.

The only surviving Kharijite sect is the Ibadi. The sect developed out of the 7th century Islamic sect of the Kharijites. Nonetheless, Ibadis see themselves as quite different from the Kharijite. Believed to be one of the earliest schools, it is said to have been founded less than 50 years after the death of Muhammad.

It is the dominant form of Islam in Oman, but small numbers of Ibadi followers may also be found in countries in Northern and Eastern Africa. The early medieval Rustamid dynasty in Algeria was Ibadi.

Ibadis usually consider non-Ibadi Muslims as unbelievers, though nowadays this attitude has highly relaxed. They approve of the caliphates of Abū Bakr and Umar ibn al-Khattab, whom they regard as the "Two Rightly-Guided Caliphs". Specific beliefs include: walāyah- friendship and unity with the practicing true believers and the Ibadi Imams, barā'ah- dissociation and hostility towards the unbelievers and sinners, and wuqūf- reservation towards those whose status is unclear. While Ibadi Muslims maintain most of the beliefs of the original Kharijites, they have rejected the more aggressive methods.

The Sufris (Arabic: سفريين‎) were a sect of Islam in the 7th and 8th centuries, and a part of the Kharijites. They believe Sura 12 (Yusuf) of the Qur'an is not an authentic Sura.


Not strictly a denomination, Sufism is a mystical-ascetic form of Islam practiced by many Sunni and Shi'a Muslims. By focusing on the more spiritual aspects of religion, Sufis strive to obtain direct experience of God by making use of "intuitive and emotional faculties" that one must be trained to use.[21] Sufis usually considered Sufism to be complementary to orthodox Islam, however it has widely been criticized by many Muslims on the whole for being an unjustified Bid‘ah or religious innovation. One starts with sharia (Islamic law), the exoteric or mundane practice of Islam and then is initiated into the mystical (esoteric path of a Tariqah (Sufi Order). Sufi followers consider themselves as Sunni or Shi'a, while there are also others who consider themselves as just 'Sufi' or Sufi-influenced.


The Qadiri Order is one of the oldest Sufi Orders. It derives its name from Abdul-Qadir Gilani (1077-1166), a native of the Iranian province of Gīlān. The order is one of the most widespread of the Sufi orders in the Islamic world, and can be found in Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Turkey and the Balkans and much of East and West Africa. The Qadiriyyah have not developed any distinctive doctrines or teachings outside of mainstream Islam. They believe in the fundamental principles of Islam, but interpreted through mystical experience.


The Bektashi Order was founded in the 13th century by the Islamic saint Hajji Bektash Wali, and greatly influenced during its fomulative period by the Hurufi Ali al-'Ala in the 15th century and reorganized by Balim Sultan in the 16th century. Because of its adherence to the Twelve Imams it is classified under Twelver Shi'a Islam. Bektashi are concentrated in Turkey and Albania.


The Chishti Order (Persian: چشتیہ) was founded by (Khawaja) Abu Ishaq Shami ("the Syrian") (d. 941) who brought Sufism to the town of Chisht, some 95 miles east of Herat in present-day Afghanistan. Before returning to the Levant, Shami initiated, trained and deputized the son of the local Emir, (Khwaja) Abu Ahmad Abdal (d. 966). Under the leadership of Abu Ahmad's descendants, the Chishtiyya as they are also known, flourished as a regional mystical order.


The Naqshbandi order is one of the major Sufi orders of Islam. Formed in 1380, the order is considered by some to be a "sober" order known for its silent dhikr (remembrance of God) rather than the vocalized forms of dhikr common in other orders. The word Naqshbandi نقشبندی is Persian, taken from the name of the founder of the order, Baha-ud-Din Naqshband Bukhari. Some have said that the translation means "related to the image-maker," some also consider it to mean "Pattern Maker" rather than "image maker," and interpret "Naqshbandi" to mean "Reformer of Patterns", and others consider it to mean "Way of the Chain" or "Golden Chain."


The Oveyssi Order was founded 1,400 years ago by Uwais al-Qarni from Yemen. Uways received the teachings of Islam inwardly through his heart and lived by the principles taught by him, although he had never physically met Muhammad. At times Muhammad would say of him, "I feel the breath of the Merciful, coming to me from Yemen." Shortly before Muhammad died, he directed Umar (second Caliph) and Ali (the first Imam of the Shi'a) to take his cloak to Uwais. According to Ali Hujwiri, Farid ad-Din Attar of Nishapur and Sheikh Muhammad Ghader Bagheri, the first recipient of Muhammad's cloak was Oveys.

The Oveyssi order is still in existence today, with over 500,000 students and numerous centers worldwide. The present Pir—Molana Salaheddin Ali Nader Shah Angha—was officially appointed as the forty-second Sufi master in the unbroken chain of transmission on September 4, 1970, when the cloak of Muhammad was bestowed upon him by his father Shah Maghsoud Sadegh Angha.


The Suhrawardiyya order (Arabic: سهروردية‎) is a Sufi order founded by Abu al-Najib al-Suhrawardi (1097–1168).

Other groups



Islamism is a term that refers to a set of political ideologies derived from various fundamentalist views, which hold that Islam is not only a religion, but a political system governing the legal, economic and social imperatives of the state. Many Islamists do not refer to themselves as such and it is not a single particular movement. Religious views and ideologies of its adherents vary, and they may be Sunni Islamists or Shia Islamists depending upon their beliefs. Islamist groups include groups such as Al-Qaeda, the organizer of the September 11, 2001 attacks and perhaps the most prominent; and the Muslim Brotherhood, perhaps the oldest, which also forms the largest opposition grouping in Egypt. Although violence is often employed by some organizations, not all Islamist movements are violent.


Liberal and progressive movements have in common a religious outlook which depends mainly on ijtihad or re-interpretations of scriptures. Liberal Muslims believe in greater autonomy of the individual in interpretation of scripture, a critical examination of religious texts, gender equality, human rights, LGBT rights and a modern view of culture, tradition, and other ritualistic practices in Islam.

Euro-Islam or European Islam, Progressive Muslim Union, Canadian Muslim Union, Muslim Canadian Congress, Ittifaq al-Muslimin etc. are liberal Islamic denominations. Progressive Muslim Union and some other liberal organizations support same-sex marriage, LGBT rights, female imams, and feminism.

Qur'an Alone

Qur'an-Aloners, or Qur'anists refer to those who follow the Quran alone without additional details or hadiths. There are multiple "Qur'an-Aloner" groups and movements based on the ideology.

Heterodox groups


The Ahmadiyya movement was founded in India in 1889 by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, who claimed to be the promised Messiah ("Second Coming of Christ") the Mahdi awaited by the Muslims and a 'subordinate' prophet within Islam. The followers are divided into two groups, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community ("Qadianis") and the Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement for the Propagation of Islam ("Lahoris"), the former believing that Ghulam Ahmad was a non-law bearing prophet and the latter believing that he was only a religious reformer though a prophet in an allegorical sense. Ahmadis consider themselves Muslims and claim to practice the pristine form of Islam as re-established with the teachings of Ghulam Ahmad. They are, however considered non-Muslim by a majority of mainstream Muslims because of the issue of Ghulam Ahmad's prophethood.

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is the larger community of the two arising from the Ahmadiyya movement and is guided by the Khalifa (Caliph), currently Khalifatul Masih V, who is the spiritual leader of Ahmadis and the successor to Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. He is called the Khalifatul Masih (successor of the Messiah).

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community believes that Ghulam Ahmad was the 'Promised One' of all religions, fulfilling the messianic prophecies found in world religions.[22] They believe that his claims to being several awaited personalities converging into one person were the symbolic, rather than literal, fulfillment of the messianic and eschatological prophecies found in the literature of the major religions.

The Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement believes Mirza Ghulam Ahmad to be the Mujaddid (reformer) of the 14th century Hijra and not a prophet in the true sense of the word. They assert that he intended his use of the terms "Nabi" and "Rasool" to be metaphorical, when referring to himself.[23] Members of the movement are often referred to colloquially as Lahori Ahmadis.


Mahdavi's ("Mahdavism") spread under Muhammad Jaunpuri in the Indian subcontinent including Pakistan, as well as in Afghanistan and some parts of Iran. Its followers are presently in the Deccan and Gujarat regions of India and, in a related Zikri form, in Karachi, Pakistan. Communities of Mahdaviya historically lived in makeshift thatches, surrounded by a fence, called Daira, which in Arabic means circle, boundary, or engulfment. These settlements were away from urban centers which contained thousands of followers who had left their worldly desires, pleasures, and properties for the sole purpose of Deedar (Vision of Allah the almighty). This was the important aspect for which Imam Mahdi-e-Maood (AHS) came into this world. Today, some Dairas can be found in Channapatna, near Bangalore, Chanchalguda in Hyderabad and in some parts of Gujarat.

Zikri is claimed to be based around the teachings of Muhammad Jaunpuri, a 15th-century Mahdi claimant. In religious practice, the Zikris differ greatly from mainstream Muslims. A main misconception that Zikris perform prayers called dhikr five times a day is a major one, in which sacred verses are recited, as compared to the orthodox practice of salah. Mehdavis also pray five times a day (salah).Most Zikris live in Balochistan, but a large number also live in Karachi, the Sindh interior, Oman and Iran.

Nation of Islam

The Nation of Islam was founded by Wallace Fard Muhammad in Detroit in 1930,[24] with a declared aim of "resurrecting" the spiritual, mental, social and economic condition of the black man and woman of America and the world. It is viewed by almost all Muslims as a heretical cult, the group believes Fard Muhammad was God on earth,[25][24] this is viewed as shirk among mainstream Muslims, furthermore it does not see Muhammad as the final prophet, but Elijah Muhammad as the "Messenger of Truth", plus it only allows people of black ethnicity and believes they are the original race on earth. In 1975 however, the teachings were abandoned and the group was renamed to American Society of Muslims, by Warith Deen Mohammed, the son of Elijah Muhammad.[26] He brought the group into beliefs of Sunni Islam, establishing mosques instead of temples and promoting to follow the Five pillars of Islam.[27][28] Thousands (estimated 2 million) of African Americans joined Imam Muhammad into mainstream Islam,[29] however very few were dissatisfied, these include Louis Farrakhan, who revived the group again in 1978, with the same teachings of the previous leaders, currently it has from 30,000 to 70,000 members.[30]

The comparison of beliefs between mainstream Islam and the Nation of Islam:[31]

Belief Mainstream Islam Nation of Islam
God Allah is one, who has no partners (God is spirit) Wallace D. Fard came as God incarnate (God is man)
Muhammad The final prophet of Islam, no one comes after him Elijah Muhammad is the prophet to tell about incarnation of Fard
Race All are equal regardless of color of skin, judged on behavior The Black race is superior than others, whites are devils
Creation Allah created the universe, first humans were Adam and Eve Black scientists created the plan which repeats every 25,000 years
Qur'an Revealed to Muhammad from God through the Angel Gabriel Black scientists created and revealed the Bible and the Qur'an
Sharia law Sacred rules and laws of Islamic life, based on Qur'an and Sunnah Not followed, own-created such as 4-6pm meal or avoid white flour cake meals

Moorish Science

This faith was founded by Timothy Drew in 1913 in the United States. Its main tenet is that African-Americans were descended from the Moors and thus were originally Islamic. Its followers claim it to be a sect of Islam but it also has almost equal influences in Buddhism, Christianity, Freemasonry, Gnosticism, and Taoism. They have their own book that they call "Circle Seven Koran".


The United Submitters International (USI) is a religious group, founded by Dr. Rashad Khalifa. Submitters considers themselves to be adhering to "true Islam", but prefer not to use the terms "Muslim" or "Islam," instead using the English equivalents: "Submitter" or "Submission." Submitters consider Khalifa to be a Messenger of God. Specific beliefs of the USI include: the dedication of all worship practices to God alone, upholding the Qur'an alone with the exception of two rejected Qur'an verses,[32] and rejecting the Islamic traditions of hadith and sunnah attributed to Muhammad. The main group attends "Masjid Tucson"[33] in Arizona, US.

Related faiths


In 1844 a young man from Shiraz, Iran proclaimed to be the Mahdi and took on the title of "The Báb". The religion he began officially broke away from Islam, and gained a significant following in Iran. His followers were called heretics by the state, and in 1850 the Báb was publicly executed. Most Babis accepted the claims of Bahá'u'lláh, henceforth considering themselves Bahá'ís.[34]

Bahá'í Faith

Following the death of the Báb almost all Bábís turned to Bahá'u'lláh, as the fulfillment of the Báb's prophecy of man yazhiruhu'lláh, "He Whom God shall make manifest." Baha'u'llah was a respected leader of the Bábís community. The Bábís eventually called themselves Bahá'ís. Bahá'ís believe that the Bábí and Islamic prophecies of the end times and the return of the Mahdi and Jesus were fulfilled. As does the Shaykhi school of Islamic interpretation, to which this group is historically connected, Bahá'ís interpret Islamic (and other) eschatology symbolically and metaphorically. Bahá'ís believe Bahá'u'lláh to be a Manifestation of God, a messenger on par with Muhammad. Due to its background and history, it is sometimes categorized as a sect of Islam, which is denied by its adherents and the Muslim mainstream. Bahá'ís have been persecuted as apostates in some Islamic countries, especially Iran.


Sikhism has had strong influence from both Islam and Hinduism but more from the latter.

Guru Nanak visited Hijaz to learn Holy Scriptures of Islam - Qur'an and Hadees. He was disillusioned with discrimination in Islam and Hinduism and the essence of Sikh teaching is summed up by Nanak in these words: "Realisation of Truth is higher than all else. Higher still is truthful living". Sikhism believes in equality of all humans and rejects discrimination on the basis of caste, creed, and sex. Sikhism also does not attach any importance to asceticism as a means to attain salvation, but stresses on the need of leading life as a householder.

Five Percenters

An offshoot of the Nation of Islam, this group was formed in Harlem, New York City in the 1960s by Clarence 13X, who proclaimed himself to be Allah (God). The group believes God is black and focuses on bringing justice to African-American youth. They have little relation to mainstream Islam, except that they use the expression Allahu Akbar.


At various times known as the Ansaaru Allah Community, Nubian Islamic Hebrews, and Nuwaubians, this group no longer claims to be Muslim. Its founder and leader, Malachi Z. York, was known as As Sayyid Al Imaam Issa Al Haadi Al Mahdi and other similar names when he was claiming to be a Muslim and the successor to Elijah Muhammad. The Nuwaubian teachings are now based on ancient Sumerian and Egyptian texts with extraterrestrial revelations from the alien spirit said to be inhabiting York.


  1. So Many Different Groups of Muslims by Yusuf Estes
  2. Why are Muslims divided into different Sects/Schools of Thought by Zakir Naik on
  3. Corbin (1993), pp. 45–51
  4. Tabatabaei (1979), pp. 41–44
  5. Dakake (2008), pp.1 and 2
  7. New York Times: Religious Distribution in Lebanon
  8. How many Shia?
  9. Demographics of Kuwait
  10. Demographics of Turkey
  11. Demographics of Albania
  12. Discrimination towards Shia in Saudi Arabia
  13. Tabatabae (1979), p. 76
  14. The Revenge of the Shia
  15. Religious Minorities in the Muslim World
  16. A History of Islam from a Baha'i Perspective
  17. International Crisis Group. The Shiite Question in Saudi Arabia, Middle East Report N°45, 19 September 2005
  19. Alawi Islam
  20. Overview of Kharijite islam
  21. Trimingham (1998), p.1
  22. Invitation to Ahmadiyyat” by Mirza Bashir-ud-Din Mahmood Ahmad Part II, Argument 4, Chapter “Promised Messiah, Promised One of All Religions”
  23. "Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Sahib of Qadian never claimed prophethood (in the light of his own writings)", Accusations Answered, The Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement
  24. 24.0 24.1 Milton C. Sernett (1999). African American religious history: a documentary witness. Duke University Press. pp. 499-501.
  25. Elijah Muhammad. History of the Nation of Islam. BooksGuide (2008). pp. 10.
  26. Richard Brent Turner (2004-08-25) Mainstream Islam in the African-American Experience Muslim American Society. Retrieved on 2009-06-22.
  27. Evolution of a Community, WDM Publications, 1995.
  28. Lincoln, C. Eric. (1994) The Black Muslims in America, Third Edition, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company) page 265.
  29. Rosemary Skinner Keller, Rosemary Radford Ruether, Marie Cantlon (2006). Encyclopedia of Women and Religion in North America. Indiana University Press. pp. 752. ISBN 0253346851, 9780253346858
  30. 2008-02-14 America's black Muslims close a rift The Christian Monitor. Retrieved on 2009-06-22.
  31. Abraham Sarker (2004). Understand My Muslim People. Barclay Press. pp. 90
  32. 9:128-129 Two False Verses Removed from the Quran
  33. Masjid Tucson (Mosque of Tucson)— Official Website
  34. Religious Dissidence and Urban Leadership: Bahais in Qajar Shiraz and Tehran, by Juan Cole, originally published in Iran: Journal of the British Institute of Persian Studies 37 (1999): 123-142

See also

External links

This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Islamic schools and branches. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.