The Sects within Islam

UI – Part 529 – The Sects within Islam

There are many factions within the Muslim world, some estimate as many as 260.  Dominated by the Sunni, those that follow rightly guided leaders, not descendants of Muhammad, are over 90%.  However within the Sunni sector there are many sub-groups.

The Shia represent the remainder.  The line of scholars, the ulema or their Mullahs and Ayatollahs, are in the line of Muhammad through his daughter Fatima, having married Ali. The largest concentration of Shiites is in Iran, the base also that most influences the teachings and directives for Muslims of this order. There were 11 great Imams of Shia, followed by a 12th, who disappeared. This is the Mahdi.  He is alive and in hiding, to appear with Jesus when people are willing to accept his leadership.  The Shia until the Ayatollah Khomeini, the leader empowered in 1979 when the revolution in Iran occurred, were not political.  That has since changed.

Map of Sunni and Shiite Areas


There are other groups, small in number, like the Motazillas and the Ahmadi’s.  It is difficult to define their association with Shia or Sunni. They both adhere to the basics of Islamic Law, with the Ahmadi’s less inclined to declare death for apostasy.

The Sunni’s break into 4 primary groups (Sufisim), the Hanfi’s, the Maliki’s, the Shafi’s and the Hanbali’s.  Most Sunni are Hanfi’s.

The sub-sets of Shia are Athna-Ashaia’s, Ismailya’s and Zaidya’s.

To understand all these elements is not easy.  Within the schools of Sunni there are the mystics, or the Sufi’s, which many denounce. Without the mysticism Sufism continues to be taught in the schools of Sunni jurisprudence and theology.  There are the Wahhabi’s directed by the strict interpretation of the Quran and Hadiths by a 17th century Saudi ulema, Abdul Wahhab. Wahhabis is found dominant today in the more strident thinking of Islamists, with a particular emphasis on Saudi Arabia.  Then there are the Salafi’s.   The Salafi’s and Wahhabi’s resist Sufism.

The Salafi and Wahhabists are more militant, both ultra-conservative.  The salaf are the first 3 prophets after Muhammad, Abu Bakr, Umar and Uthman.  It is the traditions they established that the Salafi’s adhere to. They reject religious innovation. You’ll find the Salafi’s in Saudi Arabia (23%), the UAE (45%), and Qatar (47%) as significant minority groups. Salafi’s and Wahhabi’s overlap, with major similarities. Salafi’s tend to be the more violent against those they consider an enemy of Islam. Western ideas have little appeal versus the 7th century way of life of the founder of Islam. A legitimate expression of Islam for them is violent jihad against their designated enemies, using the Quran and chosen hadiths to define. They actively try to root out any seeds of modernity within Islam. They comprise a large percentage of our terrorists, the males that is.

Note that Wahhabism is even more strict than Salafism. Groups such as C.A.I.R. and the Muslim Brotherhood pride themselves on their adherence to Wahhabism principles. It is, according to the German intelligence service, the fastest-growing Islamic movement in the world.

Control of Medina and Mecca give the Wahhabis great influence on Muslim thinking and culture. Also oil has provided significant funding to advance Wahhabis curriculums throughout the world.  In addition, oil wealth supports large numbers of Imams world-wide who teach and preach Islam, their way.  These scholars’ education is limited to the principles they believe. When transported into the West, where the need for Imams is great, they are faced with challenges most of which oppose their logic, their education, and their lack of tolerance.  They become spokespersons for the law of Islam they know.  Osama “Bin Laden’s global jihad was of Islam in general and Wahhabi in particular,” according to Natana De Long-Bas, a senior research assistant at the Prince Alwaleed Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at George Washington University.

It has been noted that the Saudi’s oppose the Muslim Brotherhood, even when we know they adhere to Wahhabis ideals.  There is a reason for that.  When it comes to jihad, waging jihad, the decision is to be made by the rulers, not by individual believers, as claimed by the Saudi’s.

In the Sunni camp the Salafi’s and Wahhabis are the more militant, aggressive jihadists.  From a base estimated at as many as 50 million, we have the scholars of this Islamic strident group migrating and spreading their ideology.  The more developed countries experiencing immigration from the Middle East are exposed to Islamist educators, providing financial support via organizations such as the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the Muslim Brotherhood and affiliates, that strive to maintain the Muslims now living in these new areas, modern areas, close and informed as to the ways of Islam, as the only path to follow.  The immigrants represent candidates for the army of Allah, if not already enlisted.

It is clear the differences between the Sunni and Shia are significant within the regions where they live.  Iran since the 1979 Revolution has been intent on the creation of a Shia Crescent through Iraq into Syria and Lebanon. Fighting against the Sunni’s and the rulers of Saudi Arabia, for hegemony in the area, Iran has also sought to surround Saudi Arabia with support for the Shia Houti’s in Yemen (47% Shia). The intent of the Ayatollah (Khomeini) and the Revolution he begun (1979) was to export and make his ideology of Islam the more legitimate. Bridging the gap between Sunni and Shia, an attempt at unification, was an objective.  There are sizable concentration of Shias in Afghanistan and Pakistan as well.  Iraq is now 75% Shia (Arab) with deliberate actions being taken in the region to increase the Shia population even more. Hezbollah, in Lebanon, and Hamas, in Palestine, are outgrowths of Shia Iran, supported by Iran. They are militant.  Iran’s leadership today embraces more core shia values and in less concerned about a Sunni-Shia settlement. Death squads of Shia in Iraq killing Sunni’s is evidence of that.   Estimates of the total number of Shiites are difficult to come by, with guesstimates of 200 to 300 million. There are 70 million in Iran (Persian), and in India also (although the total population of that country exceeds 1.3 billion).

Religion and Terrorists

Note that in their book The Age of Sacred Terror, Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon, claim Islamic terrorist attacks are purely religious.  So any analysis categorizing the number of terrorists on the more strident in their ideological belief, basics and practices, is more than justified.  The terrorists simply want to restore the moral order of the universe as corrupted by the enemy of Islam, as defined by the Islamists, to include Muhammad, the salafs (the earlier Caliphs), and scholars subsequent to Muhammad’s death.  In most cases Islamic Law was structured hundreds of years after the Prophets death and infused with the desires of the rulers and Islamic leaders over time.  The Hadiths, of which there are thousands and thousands, first appearing 200 years after Muhammad, are used, picked through and chosen by scholars as they prefer, to form the basis of the jurisprudence of Islam.  One can argue Sharia Law is contrived and useful for the purposes of the controlling entities.  The errors of their thinking and logic are repeated and taught over and over, instilled into and policed by the religious scholars themselves, with the help of the leadership in their given domains.

With 50 million Salafi’s, the most literal and focused on the example of Islam and the Law of Islam, that yields millions of identified extremists preaching and teaching and trying to guide the less pious to piety and in turn jihad.

Within Muslim majority nations the battle rages on as to who are and what is ‘true Islam.’  While outside the regions, where the emigrants migrate, it appears the Wahhabis curriculum dominates, to which, in its most restrictive form, even the Shiites can agree.  For all intensive purposes Islam will spread with an emphasis for those not pious enough to become so, thus to be re-islamized into to the cadre, the army of jihadists, mostly male, shouting Allah Akbar so others may know who they are and what they plan.

So you know too, it is a world All for Allah.

Grace and Peace

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s