Traveling through Islam. Differences between Sunni and Shia


Lately, events such as those in Tunisia, Syria or recently Yemen have mapped countries that share Islam as dogma. Many of you will surely have heard the frequent confrontations between the Sunni and Shiite community and you will surely ask yourself a question that goes around many of us. What There is a difference between Sunni and Shia?


We are fascinated by countries that share Islam as a religion. We have been dozens of times in Morocco, we have visited Gambia, Senegal, Tunisia, Algeria, Turkey, Jordan, Indonesia, Uzbekistan or India, so we can say that we have a traveling vision of this great community. They are really hospitable people. Many have offered us what they have, others are curious, most they are kind and as in all cultures many waste goodness. But as anywhere in the world where there is tourism and money people become, making them consumerist, commercially aggressive and rude, an image that many people take from these countries. We can say that more or less is true, but this it is not a religion issue, is a matter of humanity, and many countries have gone through it to reach prosperity, including Spain.

For those of us who live in Europe we it can shock your customs a lot, but as such you have to respect them. Sometimes the same thing happens to them, but like any human being where you are born or where you are raised, it is mainly what prevails, and it is what you take with you even if you move to another place in the world. Another thing is the extremism, but it is a subject that I am not going to enter because not only do I not share it, but it wilts what Islam represents to me.

Senegal, a country that hosts several religions and a large Sunni community

Differences between Sunni and Shia

Focusing on the subject, the difference between Sunnis and Shiites comes from far behind, specifically with the Death of Prophet Muhammad and the choice of his successor. We speak of the seventh century, where a tribal society not always united prevails. The death of the Prophet opened two sides. The first was for those who thought that the successor had to be of the same blood, similar to monarchies. In this case, the role of successor would touch Ali, cousin and son-in-law of the prophet. The second aspect was for those who thought that the right of succession should be like the Caliphs, a temporary figure chosen by the elite of the town for merits. In addition to these differences the first defended that the successor would have to have a figure of Iman, like the old Popes of the Renaissance, but instead the second aspect saw the Magnets as mere clerics.

The first group is what we call today as Shiites and the second group as Sunni, but the great tensions between both factions came with the murder of Ali, those of his two sons and much of his offspring that ended in an almost irreconcilable distancing. It may seem inhuman or medieval to us, but many European kings got their crowns by hitting similar actions.

Islam map

It is said that at the political level the major causes of not reaching a reconciliation is the cause of the major powers of this place on the planet, Iran and Saudi Arabia, Shia and Sunni respectively, since they dominate the Muslim landscape, with petrodollars in between, with very different visions and especially with friends little interested in a future friendship.

Today the Sunni community It is the most widespread in the Muslim world, with more than 80%. You can see on the following map how is the current distribution.

And the differences between Arabs or Persians?

Let's think about the differences between a Spaniard, a Frenchman or a Mexican. As in the case of Arabic and Persian, in many cases they are far from the historical level but all share similar religions. In the historical context the persian world It was one of the greatest empires of antiquity until the arrival of the TitanAlexander the Great. In those days the Arab world was only formed by small communities very scattered among themselves. It was not until the arrival of Islam and the expansion of several caliphates when the Arab world spread in such a way that even the great Persians converted to Islam. To the eyes of a Westerner they are seemingly similar worlds, perhaps by sharing many customs and especially religion, but that does not mean that a Persian is considered Arabic, quite the opposite, so the comparison of whether a Spanish is a Frenchman or a Mexican. They are people, yes, but from different cultures, although they can share the same belief.

Uzbekistan, Persian people
Morocco, Arab people

Don't screw up! We had the bad feeling of calling a Persian Arab in Uzbekistan. The person in question told us that for them it is rude to rude to call an Arab Uzbek.

Recommended reading

Books that can inspire you

  • Persian tales
  • In the shadow of the swords, Persia vs Rome
  • Islam, art and architecture
  • Sunni and Shia

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