In the previous episode, you have learned the basic sects in Islam. As mentioned earlier Islam is mainly divided into two branches or sects. Shia and Sunni. This episode will be about, how and why Islam is divided into these sects.
After the death of Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him, Muslims had a disagreement. Sunnis believed that Muhammad’s successor should be AbuBakr and Omar, and the Shias believed that his successor should be Ali.
After the death of the prophet Muhammad, Abubakar succeeded him as the leader of Muslims. Muslims at that time were divided into two groups the Muhajireen and Ansar. Muhajireen were those who migrated with Prophet Muhammad from Makkah to Madina. Ansar were the native inhabitants of Madinah. Madinah was the center of the Muslim empire.
Prophet Muhammad’s death left Muslims without any leadership. Muslims themselves had to decide their leader. It was reported that Ansar was planning to nominate their own leader in a meeting. Omar and Abubakar arrived at the meeting and to avoid any chaos among Muslims, Omar nominated Abubakar as the successor of Prophet Muhammad. Abubakar was leading the Muslims in the congregational prayers during the last period of Prophet Muhammad as the prophet was not able to lead the prayers himself due to illness. Because of this, everybody accepted Abubakar as the successor of Prophet Muhammad.
All of the Muslims at that time swore allegiance to Abubakar. Ali ibn Talib who was the cousin and son-in-law of Prophet Muhammad was not present in the meeting as he was busy arranging the funeral of Prophet Muhammad. Shia believes that Ali never swore allegiance to Abubakar. Sunni believes that Ali swore the allegiance later.
Shia believes that in the event of Ghadir Khum during the farewell Hajj, Prophet Muhammad appointed Ali as his successor. So Ali was the right successor of Prophet Muhammad. Sunni believes that Prophet Muhammad praised and declared his love and esteem for Ali in the event of Ghadir Khum. He never appointed Ali as his successor.
Just 24 years after the death of Prophet Muhammad, Muslims were not able to remain united and had to face the first civil war.
Battle of the camel was the first battle in Islamic history where Muslims waged a war against Muslims. The battle of the camel was fought between Ali and the wife of Prophet Muhammad. This was the first war that divided Muslims into two parties. Both Shia and Sunni had different opinions on this battle. Sunni believed that the battle was not intentional, rather it was a result of a misunderstanding between the two parties. Shia believed that Aisha and her followers deliberately wage a war against Ali.
The second civil war was the battle of Siffin. The battle of Siffin was fought a year later between Ali and Muawiyah. This battle further lead to the division of Muslims.
In the early years of Islamic history, there was no “orthodox” Sunni or “heretical” Shiite, but rather of two points of view.
The dispute intensified greatly after the Battle of Karbala, in which Hussein the son of Ali, and his household were killed by the ruling Umayyads, and the outcry for revenge divided the early Islamic community.