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Is Islam divided into two groups - Answers

Is Islam divided into two groups

World Map – Presence of different branches of Islam in different countries

No. Islam is divided into several branches and sub-sects.

There are four major branches of Islam; Sunni, Shia, Sufi and Ahmadiyya. Khawarij was a branch in the early centuries of Islam but later became extinct.

 Sunni Islam

There are around 1.2 billion Muslims worldwide with around 941 million being Sunni followers. The term ‘Sunni’ is derived from the word ‘Sunnah’ – the word of Prophet Muhammad. Sunnis also happen to be followers of Abu Bakr Siddique, who was a close friend and father-in-law of Prophet Muhammad.

After the death of Prophet Muhammad, Abu Bakr was elected as the first Caliph and leader of Islam and was followed by three other Caliphs, all of whom were referred as ‘al-Khulafā’ur-Rashidūn’ or the ‘Rightly Guided Caliphs’.

Sunnis follow four schools of law (Madhahib) as taught by four leading scholars:

1.    The Hanafi – named after Abu Haneefah an-Nu’man

2.    The Maliki – named after Malik ibn Anas

3.    The Shafi’i – named after Muhammad ibn Idris ash-Shafi’i

4.    The Hanbali – named after Ahmad bin Hanbal

Shia Islam

There are around 121 million Shia Muslims around the world with most living in Iran and Iraq. The Shia branch of Islam dates back to the period after the death of Prophet Muhammad, when a successor to him was to be chosen.

While Sunnis chose to follow Abu Bakr, the Shias believed that the rightful successor to Prophet Muhammad should come from the family and therefore they chose to follow Ali ibn Abi Talib as the next Imam, rejecting the Rashidūn Caliphs chosen by the Sunnis. Ali was the Prophet’s cousin and son-in-law.

The Shia faith got further strengthened after the martyrdom of Imam Hussain, son of Ali and Prophet Muhammad’s grandson, at Karbala.

Sub-sects of Shia Islam:

1.    Ismaili

2.    Jafri

3.    Zaidiyyah

Ismailism further evolved into the Seveners, Nizari and Musta’li sub-sects.

  • The Seveners then evolved into Qaramita (now extinct).
  • The Nizari evolved into Druze, which most Muslims reject as outside the faith of Islam.
  • Musta’li evolved into Tayibbi from which the Bohra sub-sect subsequently evolved.

Jafri evolved into Twelvers, Alawi and Alevi. Twelvers further evolved into Akbari and Usuli sects. Akbari further evolved into Shaykhi sub-sect

Zaidiyyah retained itself.

 Sufism

Sufism evolved from a mystical interpretation of Islam where the aim is to attain inner peace and harmony with God and nature. Followers of Sufism also referred as Sufis, consider themselves orthodox Muslims and believe in the word of the Quran.

Sufism stands on two major principles; Tawakkul – absolute trust in God; Tawhid – there is no deity but God.

The orders of Sufism include:

  • Chishti
  • Quadiriyyah
  • Mawlawin
  • Bektashi
  • Shahdil
  • Naqshbandi
  • Muridiyyah
  • Oveyssi
  • Tijaniyyah
  • Suhrawaradiyyah

 Ahmadiyya

The Ahmadiyya branch of Islam was founded by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad in 1889 in Qadian, a part of Punjab province in undivided India. There are around 10 million followers of the Ahmadiyya sect and are found mostly in Pakistan.

Mirza Ghulam Ahmad believed he was some form of reincarnation of Prophet Muhammad made him an outcast among the orthodox followers of Islam.

Ahmadiyya evolved into two sub-sects:

  • Qadiani – folowers who believe Mirza Gulam Ahmad was the Prophet’s incarnation
  • Lahore – followers who see him as a modern day reformer of Islam.

There are several other branches and sub-sects of Islam like the Nation of Islam (popular among Afro-American followers in the US), Muslim Brotherhood (popular in Egypt), Salafism and Wahabbism, among many others.

Top 20 Countries with largest Muslim populations (2016 estimates)

SN Country Population % Muslim Majority
1 Saudi Arabia 2,81,60,273 100% Sunni
2 Turkey 8,02,74,604 99.80% Sunni
3 Afghanistan 3,33,32,025 99.70% Sunni
4 Iran 8,28,01,633 99.40% Shia
5 Yemen 2,73,92,779 99.10% Sunni
6 Algeria 4,02,63,711 99% Sunni
7 Morocco 3,36,55,786 99% Sunni
8 Iraq 3,81,46,025 99% Shia
9 Sudan 3,67,29,501 97% Sunni
10 Pakistan 20,19,95,540 96.40% Sunni
11 Egypt 9,46,66,993 90% Sunni
12 Bangladesh 15,61,86,882 89.10% Sunni
13 Uzbekistan 2,94,73,614 88% Sunni
14 Indonesia 25,83,16,051 87.20% Sunni
15 Syria 1,71,85,170 87% Sunni
16 Malaysia 3,09,49,962 61.30% Sunni
17 Nigeria 18,60,53,386 50% Sunni
18 Ethiopia 10,23,74,044 33.90% Sunni
19 India 1,26,68,83,598 14.20% Sunni
20 China 1,37,35,41,278 1.80% Sunni

Related Maps:

Muslim Countries in the World
Muslim Countries in the World
Countries with Largest Muslim Population
Countries with Largest Muslim Population
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