Shi'ite Sunni Conflict Essay

2092 words - 8 pages

Iraq and Iran have been subjected to a civil war since the seventh century (Murphy 1). This existing problem began because of political and theological divergence, but with the help of outside forces such as Britain, Russia, and North America, it developed into a more complex crisis.
Many non-Muslims believe the cause of the Shi’ite and Sunni violence originated from their religious differences. However the differences in tradition, education, law, and religious practices are a small factor in this escalating problem. The core of their faith is practically identical. Both factions believe that Muhammad, their prophet, was the messenger of Allah. They also believe that all Muslims must abide by Muhammad’s teachings as outlined in their sacred book, the Qoran. They do this by following the five pillars of the Muslim faith: prayer, faith, almsgiving, fasting, and pilgrimage (Qoran 90:7).
The Shi’ite and Sunni conflict stems not only from different religious beliefs, but also from different political views. The commencement of the conflict among the Shi’ites and the Sunnis goes back to 632 A.D., on the Arabian Peninsula when Muhammad died without leaving an appointed successor (Shuster 1). The Islamic state and the united community he produced disagreed about who should rightfully succeed. The majority of Muslims felt that Abu Bakr was worthy to lead. Abu Bakr had been Muhammad’s close friend and follower and was already respected in their community. When Muhammad became too ill to continue the congregation’s prayers he bestowed the obligation to Bakr. To many of Abu Bakr’s followers they saw it as a sign from God. Those who believed Abu Bakr was the rightful leader became known as Sunnis which means “followers of the prophet” (Islam’s Sunni-Shi’ite Split 1).
Shiat- Ali, also known as Shi’a, Shia, Shi’ite, or Shiite, were the “partisans of Ali,” the supporters of Muhammad’s cousin (Islam’s Sunni Shi’ite Split 1). Ali shared the same blood as Muhammad. In their opinion, this made Ali holy. Shi’ites saw caliphs more as spiritual and temporal leaders rather than rulers. Each side had its rational notions, but since more people followed Bakr, he was appointed the next caliph. Shi’ite remained under his guidance, but felt it was an abomination.
Two more leaders, Umar and Utham, followed, each appointed by Sunnis. The Shi’ite then began to act on their beliefs and some of Ali’s dedicated followers murdered Utham, bringing his reign to an abrupt end. In 656 A.D. Ali became the successor ( Sunni Shi’a 2).
Many Muslims knew the cause of Utham’s death and were angry at Ali, for he had not brought Utham’s killers to justice, one of whom was Mu’awiya, who had been the governor of Damascus and cousin of Utham. When Ali was assassinated in 661 A.D., Mu’awiya felt great pleasure in his death and found his revenge in stealing Ali’s old position; there was, yet again, another Sunni leader. Mu’awiya lead the Sunni Muslims through a prosperous time, the Umayyad...

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