The Vagaries of Muslims

The talk pertaining Muslim’s disposition of Sunni and Shi’ite (Shia) can’t be dismantled easily. One of my colleagues recommended the starkest expert of this issue, Karen Armstrong, a British author of myriad of comparative religion. Her book titled A History of God asserted detailed-history of the three major monotheistic traditions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. I haven’t finished reading the book, but am eager to pry every chapter by discussions.

By outlining the background, even Sunni of Muslims are many. It doesn’t stop at Sunni or Shi’ite, or they fight each other whatsoever. By claiming yourself as a Sunni Muslim, you must comprehend if other people ask whether you are Wahhabi or Aswaja (Alsunah Wal Jamaah). Wahhabism has been variously depicted as orthodox, ultraconservative, and austere. Saudi Arabia is an example of Wahhabism branch of Sunni. As of 2015 Mohammed bin Abd-Al-Wahhab’s teachings re state-sponsored and are the official form of Sunni Islam in 21st century Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, Aswaja is the most majority of moderate Muslim stream in Indonesia, such as Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) which is established by Hasyin Asy’ari.

Shi’ite or Shia is another story. I don’t earmark the imperative distinctions among all branches. However, little did I know, Shia primarily contrasts with Sunni Islam and has been divided into several branches. Among the branches are Emami, Ghulat, Ismaili, Zaidi. Even in those four sects divided into several sub-sects. Although there are myriad Shia subsects, modern Shia Islam has been divided into three main grouping: Twelvers, Ismailis and Zaidis.

Between Sunni and Shia, there’s one big distinction. There are four caliphs (the successor of Muhammad prophet in Muslim: Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman ibn Affan, and Ali ibn Abi Talib. Sunni Muslims acknowledge them as the Rightly Guided Caliphs, while Shia fiercely opposes three of the caliphs and only recognizes Ali caliph as the right one.

Also, the way Sunni and Shia praying (salat) is quite different one another. Shia Muslims never touch their foreheads straight to the floor, usually using a plank of wood or a hard tabled made of clay from karbala to rest their heads, while Sunni touch their heads directly to the ground. Shia Muslims pray three times in a day (Maghrib and Isha) whereas Sunni Muslims pray five times a day.

While doing salat, the position of their hands is also different. While Shia Muslims don’t fold arms, Sunni fold their arms. The difference mentioned sometimes called as bid’ah (rules that is practically applied but isn’t written in Hadith nor Qur’an).

Lastly, Shia Muslim scholars prohibit the use of word Amen during the namaz (praying time) whereas Sunni Muslims consider it as a must.


Lupita Wijaya