Sunni Islam- Sub Sects

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I. Introduction

The Islamic culture is basically divided into two sects: the Sunni Islam and the Shia Islam and these two sects are further divided into many sub-sects. This division between the Sunni and the Shia Islam happened upon the disagreement on how was the real and the first successor of Muhammad. The Sunni Muslims believed that Abu Bakr was Muhammad’s first successor whereas the Shia Muslims believed that Ali Ibn Abi Talib was his true successor. This disagreement continued and led to the division of the Islamic culture into two main sects. Apart from this also there were several political and social tensions between the two; that can also be till now. This was also one of the reasons why these two Muslims separated.

It is well-known that the Sunni part of the Islamic culture has been dominating the religion for many years now. The majority of Muslims from all over the world belong to the Sunni sect. According to a survey, almost 87-90% of the world’s Muslims belong to this community. The Sunni Muslims are referred to as the traditionalists one. They follow all the customs and the traditions religiously and with the evolution of consensus they have also admitted new customs and values in their culture but these values do not have a great presence in their holy book Quran.[1]


II. More About the Sunni Islam

The word Sunni comes from a common word named Sunnah which means habit, usual practice, or tradition. In Arabic, the word literarily means pertaining to Sunnah or pertaining to their religious beliefs and customs. It means for them that they are living in the habitat of their great idol Muhammad. As said before the Sunni Muslims are very orthodox people who religiously follow their culture, customs, traditions, and beliefs. The Sunni Muslims believed and trusted the companions of their idol Muhammad to transmit Islam positively to the world. Also, it is known to be true that the culture of the hierarchy is not present in this culture. There are no formal leadership criteria. The position of leader is open to all the Muslims and one can become a leader by gaining influence of the Islamic culture or its theology. People of this culture believe that if any person has the will and the capability to handle the culture can become its leader.

The Islamic culture has some very intellectual traditions such as legal schools among others. These schools help the world to know about various laws, traditions, and viewpoints of the Islamic culture. The Sunni schools are broadly divided into three groups. These are the Hanafi, the Zahirite, the Shafi’ite, the Malikite, and the Hanbalite. These are divided as per different motive. The first school is the school that represents reason. The second school represents the Islamic tradition and the last three schools are the middle schools for children. All these schools had their own culture, traditions, rules, regulations, and different ways of interpreting jurisprudence and legislation. Apart from these schools, the Sunni culture also has to follow a set of basic principles. These are belief in the oneness of God, angels of God, prophets of good, the religious books, preordainment, and the resurrection on the final death day. Following these principles shows the faith of Muslims in their god and his power.[2]

Next comes the Islamic philosophy termed as Kalam. This word in Arabic means speech. There are many schools of philosophy (Kalam) but the main schools in Sunni Islam are Maturidi and Ash’ari.

Maturidi: This school was formed and founded by Abu Mansur al-Maturidi. This school follows the Hanafi law which is the law of reason. The studies in this school state that the belief of a person towards his religion does not increase or decrease suddenly, it is a constant in life but it is actually the piety that might increase or decrease. It also states that human beings have a sense of reason in them through which they can easily identify good or bad without any help from others.[3]

Ash’ari: This school of theology was discovered in the 10th century by Abu al-Hasan al- Ash’ari. This school believed that the belief of a person in his culture can be increased and decreased it is not a static factor. They argued that human beings do not have the power of reason in them. They cannot identify what is good or bad for them without any help from outside. They just stress on the fact that human beings have no identity of their own and it is just the eternal power of the god that is always guiding and helping them. They basically argued and stressed for everything against the principles of Maturidi school.

After Kalam (Islamic Philosophy) is the Traditionalist theology. It included all the scholars who rejected the idea of reason and rationalism and just preferred strict interpretation of their holy book Quran. It is basically following the conventional and the traditional way. It consists of people who believed that the Quran or Sunnah was the sole and the ultimate decision-maker and there is no use of rationality and reason to make a decision or verify a truth.[4]

Murji’ah: It is one of the early Sunni Islamic sects which was the name for an old political and religious movement. This sect believed that God had the right to make a final judgment whether a Muslim has become an apostate. This school is no longer being used and has become extinct.

Qadariyyah: It is one of the earliest philosophical schools in the culture of Islam. It is based on the basic principle of free will. The word is originally a derogatory word which was dedicated to scholars who stated that human can have free will and are responsible for their actions.


These were some of the traditional and philosophical sects of the Sunni Islamic culture. There are many other schools too which either have been extinct or are not being popularly used across the globe.


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