If Faith can unite individuals and communities on the basis of beliefs and customs, it can separate them too. This can very well be observed in the two main sects of the Muslim community – the Sunnis and the Shias.
The split in their relation occurred after the death of the Prophet Muhammad, over who should head the Muslim community. The rest is history. History has encountered occasions where Sunnis and Shias have fought over religious difference, though their origin remains the same.
The difference in their beliefs lies in various customs related to law,rituals,theology and religious organization. Leading Islamic countries like Pakistan, Syria, Iraq have forseen many occasions where the religious sects had conflicts related to Islamic matters. This has resulted in the sectarian divide of the community.
However, exceptions to this is in urban Iraq, where intermarriage between Sunnis and Shias was very common.
About the Sunnis and their beliefs
Sunni Muslims are known to be a part of the traditionalist form of Islam. The word Sunni is derived from “Ah al-Sunna” meaning the people of tradition. The word ‘tradition’ in this context refers to the religious practices based on the actions of the Prophet and his camaraderies.
Sunnis revere all the prophet’s sayings in the Holy Koran,but particularly regard Muhammad as the final prophet. All other notable Muslim leaders are seen to be temporal figures.
The Sunni religious leaders and teachers are under the state control. The tradition of the Sunnis rules out a codified system of laws and devotion to four schools of Islamic law.
About the Shias and their beliefs
In the history of Islam, the Shias were a political faction, “Shiat Ali” meaning, the party of Ali.
The Shia claimed to have the right of Ali, who was the son-in-law of Prophet Muhammad. Ali was killed in the struggle for power over who should be the next caliph,leader of the Muslims. His two sons – Hussein and Hassan, also tried to struggle to capture the caliphate. Both Hussein and Hasan died during the struggle.
These subsequent events led to the rise of the Shia community and the rituals of grieving.
Contrary to the Sunnis, the Shias practice the independent and ongoing interpretation of the Islamix religious texts.
Shia population accounts for about one-tenth of all the Muslim population.
Shia-Sunni conflicts in Iraq
In countries which are headed and governed by the Sunnis, Shias become a part of the poorest section of the society. They feel oppressed and victimized. There are instances where the extremist Sunni doctrines have hate speech for the Shias. This leads to the conflict between the two communities. Differences in ideologies,social structure and economic disparity.
In the year of 1979, The Iranian revolution launched a radical Shia Islamist agenda which was observed as a threat to Sunni regime, particularly in the Gulf.
The Shias also gained a strong political voice in Lebanon, during the civil war because of the military activities in Hazbollah.
In Pakistan, the Sunni groups of militants have attacked the Shia place of worship. In Iraq, the conflict is getting worse. Young militants are joining rebel groups which establishes the ideologies of al-Qaeda.
This on-going battle between the Sunnis and the Shias have take another turn with both the religious forces joining large extremist groups like the Al-Qaeda and Taliban. History has witnessed examples of death and destruction in the name of religion. The two sects have taken their battle to a level where there is only gun-firing in the name of God. It is a very complicated matter which dates back to centuries ago. The scars and the wounds of those who are oppressed have not gone. Therefore, they succumb to vengeful means to destroy the world. In between their struggle for revenge and power, thousands lose their innocent lives. Due to poverty, young-minds are brainwashed and encouraged to join military organizations. This has also lead to the emerge of terrorists and suicide-bombers who continue to take their own lives as well as of others, in the name of God.
The whole issue begins with battle of different ideologies which takes it’s course to create mayhem in the world. Learned religious men should be encouraged to send out messages of peace and harmony for the world. Conflicts will only give rise to conflicts with no solution. Differences must be accepted and everyone should live the life according to their beliefs and faith.