ISIS and the Sunni-Shia conflict

As militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) continue their takeover of Iraq, international spotlight is once again on the ancient Sunni-Shia conflict at the root of much of the violence. The Religion News service has a brief primer on the Sunni-Shia conflict:

Q: Who are the Sunnis and who are the Shia?

A: Both are branches of Islam and the adherents of both are Muslims, all bound by the same Quran, the same five pillars of Islam – belief in one God, daily prayer, fasting, charity, and hajj, or pilgrimage. Where they mainly differ is on the question of who should have succeeded the Prophet Muhammad, who founded Islam in 620.

Q: What is at the root of their conflict?

A: Basically, Sunnis and Shiites differ on who should have succeeded Muhammad after his death in 632. Sunnis supported the succession of Abu Bakr, the prophet’s friend; Shiite Muslims felt the rightful successor was the prophet’s son-in-law and cousin, Ali bin Abu Talib.

For the rest of the primer, please visit the Religious News Service here.

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