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Major Theological Divisions in the Islamic World

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Ansary suggests that “ they have followed the three Islamic sources of law namely, Hadith, Quran and Muslim consensus” . They consider themselves as those who have been saved by Allah; hence deriving the title of Najiyah. The major belief of the Sunnis is that they believe in the sovereignty and power of Allah over his creation, having the right to do whatever he pleases with his creation. The Caliphate office is considered to be the rightful ruler of the Sunni Muslims, having been a successor of the prophet. The government of Sunni Muslims is also through consensus of an elected head of state, the Khalifa, and basic democratic principles. The Shiite Muslims resulted from the division with the Sunni.

The assassination of the fourth Caliph (Ali) in 661 AD led to the formation of the Shiite Islam division. Shiites and the Sunnis disagreed in terms of the succession of Prophet Muhammad. The Sunni wanted the Khalifa to succeed the prophet, but the Shiites wanted the prophet to be succeeded by his son in law, Ali. The Shiite Muslims also believe that the future rulers of the Islam community should have been derived from the lineage of Ali through Fatima, his wife. One of the major ideological underpinnings of Shiite Muslims is the doctrine of the five supports, including Divine Unity (tawhid), resurrection (maad), prophesy (nubuwwah), Imamate (imamah), and justice (adl).

Divine Unity, prophecy and resurrection are also found in the Sunni, but they emphasize on different issues. The Imamate is a fundamental unique doctrine in the Shiite Islam theology. The historical significance of this theological division in Islam is that it kept the succession and lineage of Ali alive through its beliefs in Ali’ s succession.

Prior to the Mongol Conquests in the thirteenth century, “ the Shiites had believed that the first three Caliphs had denied Ali his rightful inheritance as the rightful heir of the Prophet” .The Caliphate was then followed by strong civil wars (fitna) in the seventh century.

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