Comparison of Sunni and Shia Islam

MV: As you know in Islam, their are two major sects, The Sunnis and the Shia. While there are more of a population of Sunnis in the World yet in some countries their are a majority of Shia populated in them. We should not really treat either if your Shia or a Sunni to the other sect as different even through some factors can be a big difference, but as Muslims we should act as united. We should all remember that as Muslims we follow the main 5 pillars of Islam in which we all believe in the only God Allah and his messenger Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). But it is also important for one converting to know the differences. The chart below consists of how each is in relation to the other,

Thanks to Religious Facts for the chart.

Shia (or Shi’ah)
adherents called
Shiites, Shi’i
meaning of name
“well-trodden path” or “tradition”
“party” or “partisans” of Ali
current adherents
940 million
120 million
percentage of total Muslims
primary locations
most Muslim countries
Iran, Iraq, Yemen
none, but four major schools of Muslim law are recognized
Ithna ‘Ashariyah (Twelvers; the largest), Isma’iliyah and Zaydiyah
c. 632 CE; theology developed especially in 10th cent.
c. 632-650 CE; killing of Ali’s son Husayn in 680 CE is major event
did Muhammad designate a successor?
true successor of the Prophet
Abu Bakr, father of the Prophet’s favoured wife, ‘A’ishah (elected by people of Medina)
‘Ali ibn Abi Talib, husband of the Prophet’s daughter Fatimah (designated by the Prophet)
qualifications for ruler of Islam
tribe of the Prophet (Quraysh); later, any qualified ruler
family of the Prophet
current leaders
identity of imams
human leaders
infallible manifestations of God and perfect interpreters of the Qur’an
Al Mahdi
will come in the future
was already on earth, is currently the “hidden imam” who works through mujtahids to intepret Qur’an; and will return at the end of time
religious authority other than the Qu’ran
ijma’ (consensus) of the Muslim community
infallible imams
concealing faith for self-protection (taqiya)
affirmed under certain circumstances
temporary marriage (mut’ah)
practiced in the Prophet’s time, but now rejected
still practiced
holy cities
major holidays

32 thoughts on “Comparison of Sunni and Shia Islam

  1. Salam,
    Yes indeed Muslims are brothers. Diversity is a wealth for this nation. We must love each other and support each other.

  2. It seems that the following row is reversed?
    current leaders – imams – mujtahids

    Should it not be:
    current leaders – mujtahids – imams

  3. Yes actually I checked it out on and what you guys are saying does make sense but Sunni Muslims also follow the four Imams and I think the term mujtahid for Shi’it is more better since, ijtihad means, is a technical term of Islamic law that describes the process of making a legal decision by independent interpretation of the legal sources, the Qur’an and the Sunnah. and thats basically what Shi’ite do. (see

  4. No Saad, Shi’ah is very different from Sunnah. Shi’ah people call upon Ali, Imam Radha, Fatima Zahra, Zaynab and many other Imams just like Christians call upon Jesus and Mary. Islam came and banished to worship of other people, but that is what Shi’ah tries to bring back.

  5. Yes I get what your trying to say, but in the environment I was raised in, I was always told to treat Shia in the same respect as Sunni. But yes it is true that what Shia practice is not what Islam really is. In that respect their wrong.

  6. Hi All,

    As far as my reasearch goes, the Shias DO NOT worship anyone.(I was amazed to read this!!) I find it absolutely amazing that some Muslims say that they do!! It seems more appropriate to say that they call upon these figures and ask for their help in terms of a closer relation to the Lord. What I have gathered tells me that the people at the time of Islam’s prophet Muhammad (while he was alive) also used this manner of seeking help from the prophet in terms of obtaining a closer relation with God, and I dont see anything wrong in asking help from a source of purity after death.

    Would like to hear more about this


  7. May I also add this link which I have found very informative on Shia-related issues.

    One thing about this site which interests me very much is that you won’t find any “name calling” or abusive language towards other sects in Islam (Just like this blog, I am happy to say)

    As one who is seeking the Ultimate TRUTH, whenever I visit sites or come upon information which use abusive language or try to belittle someone else’s ideas I start doubting the very essence and intent of the adherents.

    May the Lord show everyone His ultimate beauty in the form of knowledge of the ULTIMATE TRUTH.


  8. here’s an excerpt of the introduction to the book in the previous link:

    The Shi’a and Sunni schools of thought form the two wings of the Islamic nation that allow it to fly and carry out its lofty objectives. A great Muslim scholar once said, “Those who attempt to cause division between the Shi’a and Sunni are neither Shi’a nor Sunni.”

    Written under this premise, the book in hand should clarify some common questions and inquiries about the philosophy and practice of Shi’a Islam. The Shi’a and Sunni schools of thought differ primarily in jurisprudence and have far more similarities than differences. Every school of thought in Islam must be respected because they all can lead people to salvation.

    Hope this helps those who want to study Shia thoughts through authentic sources.


  9. @Eli

    I did not support the abusive language towards the Shia, please read my statement above the chart. Just to clarify, my site is open to all sects of Islam, all religions, all ages and all gender.

    But the thing here is that as you say the Shia DO seek help from other sources and this is true and Sunnis as well do the same. But (not to be offensive) curse out and show hatred towards the first Caliph (Abu Bakr) and the other two (Umar and Uthman) and they argue that they should have not been the next Caliph and it should have been Ali (RA). And also many extreme Shias argue that Ali (RA) should have been the Prophet. (USTAKFURULLAH!)

    And also to name another thing, Shias do the practice of Ashura, in which they hit them selves with thorns and make them selves bleed which is Haraam: “Do not kill yourself. Allah is Merciful unto you.” (Surat al-Nisaa’ 4:29)

    In addition, His Prophet SAWS (peace be upon him) said:

    “There is no harm or causing of harm (in Islaam).” (Arabic “laa darar wa laa diraar”)

    He SAWS (peace be upon him) also said:

    “A person will not be able to move on the Day of Judgment until he is asked about … his body as to what he engaged it in.”

    Smoking also goes against the saying of the Prophet SAWS:

    “Your body has a right on you.”

    So as clearly above stated, that act is Haraam and never practiced among the Prophets or ANY of his followers including Ali (RA). Rather their, “authentic” source you say made that up to remember the suffering of Ali’s son. Which again is Haraam to harm yourself.

    So rather (not to be offensive) it is the Shia who discriminate the Caliph and such. Thanks.

  10. Saad Riazuddin,

    I did not say that you supported anything abusive about the Shia. It was never my intention to accuse you of anything. I have found your blog very interesting and one which seems to be quite objective in approach. What I was saying was in reference to what one of the commentors (Sakina) had posted. Sorry for not making myself clear enough.


  11. Saad Riazuddin,

    Concerning what you said about the Shia “cutting their bodies” which is really sth hateful, I must say that in the sources that I have read on the Shia, it is ALSO forbidden by the Shia clergy to do such a thing and it seems that this particular act is one which is common among the ignorant and strongly forbidden by the verdicts of their Imams.

    I now know for SURE that Iran (a shia majority) forbids such acts and the supreme leader and many other Shia Imams have called it a *sinful act” and that the Iranian government and security force prevent such things. Ofcourse as I have found out, this practice was never really as common in Iran as it may be in some other Shia countries.

    What I believe is that in order to gain a fair understanding of any religion or belief it is best to read the original sources written by the wise adherents of that religion or sect. That is why, after reading many articles and books on the Shia sect, by Shia scholars, IRONICALLY, many of the misconceptions and questions that the Sunni muslims still have about the Shia have been answered and solved for me!!!!

    There are still many unanswered questions on Islam, about which I am doing extensive research and hope that the Lord guides me with His everlasting Light.

    Hope to learn more from you


  12. god says do not hit your self for no reson , but shias hit them selfs for a reason and for someone who risked his life to save islam , imam hussian and his family who got killed on the 10th day of ashura

  13. this is suppose to b a simple page comparing dversity of two islamic sects, but it is unfortunate to see people wrtinh against each other. Shame!

  14. this is suppose to b a simple page comparing diversity of two islamic sects, but it is unfortunate to see people writing against each other. Shame!

  15. you guys got this all wrong! Shia is the right path to follow, sinnies are sinners! i mean how could u believe that ummar was a good guy? do u know what he did? and yet u still think he should be worshiped, yeah right! he is probably burning in hell right now!(no offense) but really, when u think about it, a person who tortures innocent souls does not have any right to be living. and please dont tell me that yazeed was a good person to? cause if sinnies believe that than, good luck on judgment day! =)

  16. ^Aselamulaikum to the above poster.
    First can you please provide evidence from the Quran or hadiths that Umar (RA) was a sinner after he became Muslim? You should always have proof to back up your Islamic Knowledge prior in spreading the knowledge.

  17. to zainab

    I would like to start off by saying we do not worship Umar (R) we only worship Allah (SWT) the Most merciful the Most kind. To worship Umar will be shirk and that is greatest sin in islam. Umar (R) is a khalifa and a very devoted muslim in Islam, if you search the authentic books of hadith that you can learn about in our post About Sunnah you will see in these books of the 6 scholars Umar (R) is renowned to be a very good muslim in islam and a dear friend of the messenger of Allah (SWT). Are you questioning the khalifa that Prophet Mauhamad (S), the Messenger of God, has chosen?

    This is the link to our post About Sunnah if you want to do some research

  18. Well Zainab, if any group of Muslims are close to worshiping a human, than it would be the Shia because you worship Ali. He wasn’t a prophet. Why do you pray to him and not to Allah? Why do you believe that just by being a descendant of Prophet Muhammad, a person is better than everyone else? Why do you whip yourselves? Why are you so violent?
    Also, you’re very stupid. We don’t like Yazeed at all. He was horrible. We love our Prophet’s family and it would have been much better if Hassan or Hussain had become 5th caliph.

  19. Its unfortunate to see verbal abuse being used by both Sunni and Shia writers.

    If you are a real Shia and would like to show the Shia way, then the way you comment is far from right. I don’t think accusing important historic and religious figures of a sect( like Umar, Utman….) would prove that Shias are right! Far from it, it would make the followers more defensive and produce more hatred.

    I , as one who tries to be objective and look for the Real Truth without any preconception of any kind find your way of justifying your thoughts very weak and useless.

    On the other hand,
    @ All other Sunnis who still claim that Shias pray to Ali or consider him a prophet or God or anything else:

    It would really help if you did some research and without any preconceptions in mind try and find out the real truth about the Shia.

    I have done some research of my own and I think it would interest most of you. Here is the result:

    What you are saying concerning the worship of Ali is actually true about a minor sect of Shias (some very few whom I have found to be living in Iran-these people are I think a group of Sufis or something similar) which are in reality considerd HERETICS by All Major Shia clerics. This sect treats Ali as a God-like figure AND the very very interesting fact is that this group is tremendously funded by the west and especially the British Government who is also the real origin of this sect, both historically and finacially!!!

    Other things that have been mentioned about Shias harming themselves have already been answered in my previous comments, please refer to them and the site I have given a link to.

    What I want to get across is that we should not misjudge an idea because of the wrong conduct of the adherents. Actually this is the very problem Islam has in the eyes of the Western nations!!

    I’m sure you agree that not all Muslims (the majority of whom are Sunnis)behave the way Islam would want them to.

    There are groups like the Taliban or the Al-Qaeda who are terrorist organizations funded and MADE by the US who are constantly trying to show a terrible picture of Islam and lack of research on the western part has made many in the west equate Islam with them.
    As Muslims do you consider this a fair representation of Islam?

  20. ^To the above poster
    Very well put MashAllah. Thanks for you kind information for helping the other misinformed posters above. Jazakullah Khair.

  21. @ Eli:

    I can’t help it if Shias say “Ya Ali” instead of “Ya Allah”. Or the fact that they believe that the descendants of Ali are spiritually better than everyone else. You can’t ignore the facts. They are Muslims, but a lot of their beliefs are contrary to what Islam is about.

  22. @Zulfiqar:

    Shias also say “Ya Zahra”, “Ya Imam Reza”, “Ya Imam Zaman”….. BUT it is not as you say “INSTEAD” of “Ya Allah”.
    I think you need to get to know more about them before prejudging.

    Also about descendants of Ali being spiritually better, you have to know that this is not something about “All” descendants but particular ones. Once again I suggest more research and an open mind for the truth.

    Good luck to you and to all those looking for peace and the ultimate Truth

  23. Thank you “The MV (Saad)”.

    My aim is to learn the Truth and I try to be as objective as possible in my journey for the Truth.

    It saddens me to see Muslims cursing each other while they are buried under poisonous clouds of misconceptions.

    From the start of my journey it has become more and more obvious to me that the outlook towards the Shia is a very dark very harsh sort of an outlook. This turned out to be all due to lack of knowledge and by learning about the Shia ways through their authentic sources and also numerous Sunni sources!! I have come to realize that their Sunni brothers are in need of urgent clarifications.

  24. An interesting or perhaps alarming note about his translation and comments on the Quran is that according to ,”later editions of his Qur’an translation and commentary have undergone tampering such that favorable references to Imam Husayn have been deleted, amongst other changes!(*) Perhaps there are some out there who want to see the memory of Imam Husayn wiped out.
    The Shi’a Encyclopedia team……”!!
    (*) A detailed and documented case study is now available on Tahrif! Investigating Distortions in Islamic Texts on the following link

    Should the Sunnis know about this? I would say yes they should!
    May our Dear Lord enlighten our hearts, strengthen our will and make us ready to accept the Truth.

  25. An interesting or perhaps alarming note about his translation and comments on the Quran is that according to ,”later editions of his Qur’an translation and commentary have undergone tampering such that favorable references to Imam Husayn have been deleted, amongst other changes!(*) Perhaps there are some out there who want to see the memory of Imam Husayn wiped out.
    The Shi’a Encyclopedia team……”!!
    (*) A detailed and documented case study is now available on Tahrif! Investigating Distortions in Islamic Texts on the following link

    Should the Sunnis know about this? I would say yes they should!

    May our Dear Lord enlighten our hearts, strengthen our will and make us ready to accept the Truth.

  26. Ustakfuruallah…!
    The link which is mentioned above is misguiding people…

    Please provide a proof stating that Ali (RA)himself wanted to be a 1st khalifa ? Or Ali (RA) fought against other sahaba to become a leader? Did Ali (RA) get any information from jibrail (AS)that Allah have choosen him as a leader or shorthen the prayer timing? He himself did not reduce or did extra practice of islam which nabi(PBUH) instructed to do…as per nabi(PBUH) and Quran who ever did more or less other than what it is said they will be called as ppl of ignorance and nabi’s followers never did that..instead they have informed and guided the mankind about the practice of salah and hadiths and the last day…

    Please think about it and get the prove


  27. Shiasm and the concept of imamate is self contradictory. The Shias say Imam’s knowledge of the universe is like a coin in the palm of a hand but they conveniently forget that if this was the case then imamat would be greater than prophethood… Read Hazrat Sulaiman (AS) (The prophet)’s story, he did not know everything

  28. @ zainab
    Plz hold your tongue.Don’t you know it is a gunah kabeera to abuse the sahaba R.A…plz if u cannot say something good better stay quiet…No muslim can bear it..and how do u know who is in hell and who is in heaven…Don’t be judgemental…sorry if my words were offensive but ur words offended me more…May Allah guide us Aameen..this post wasn’t meant to judge who is on right path and who is wrong.Only Allah knows so plz think a thousand times before judging someone’s faith especially of sahaba.JazakAllah khair.

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