Are there different types of Muslims? Who are these people and what does their religion teach? These days, many folks wonder about Islam and Muslim people. To answer the first question, Islam is not a single group of people. Actualy Islam has many groups and branches, much like Christianity.
The Main Branches
Although there are many variations among Muslim groups, the two main branches of Islam are Sunni and Shi’a. Sunni Islam accounts for approximately eighty-five percent of Muslims worldwide and Shi’a Islam makes up about fifteen percent, mainly in Iran, Yemen, and parts of Iraq. The people in the two groups are referred to as Sunnis and Shi’ites.
Why the Differences?
The two groups differ over which of its caliphs (early leaders) are considered to be rightly guided by Allah and, therefore, legitimate successors to Muhammad in leading all of Islam. Because of the differences in which caliphs the different groups follow, Sunni and Shi’a have somewhat different interpretations of portions of the Qur’an, which in turn, result in differing customs, traditions and practices. Each of these main branches has numerous sub-groups with their own unique interpretations as well.
A More Complete Explanation
I recently discussed this issue on the My ConVersation program on KAIL television. You can view the 1 minute 23 second video clip of the program at this link:
How did the spread of Islam happen? The actual Youtube video by by Dr. Bill Warner was titled: Jihad vs. the Crusades. I love the way Dr. Warner graphically demonstrates how islam spread relentlessly in the Middle Ages and beyond.
In previous blogs, I posted the similar graphic representations of the spread of Christianity from its beginnings to the present. Like the spread of Christianity videos, this one is simplistic, but it does a great job of showing how how things changed on the map over time. Keep in mind that not everyone who lived under the rule of Islam was Muslim. Christians, Jews, and others were allowed to live in these regions under certain conditions. The value of the map is that it shows the influence / dominance of Islam as it spread, and in some cases retreated (as in the case of Spain and Portugal).
An Important Difference
I would like to point out one simple difference between Christianity and Islam. Christianity began as a religion of peace (turn the other cheek, etc.). Because of this value, most often Christianity relied upon persuasion to win converts. Yes, it is true that there were episodes of Christian military conquest. For example, Charlemagne’s “conversion” of the Saxons of north Germany in the eighth and ninth centuries, or the Crusades of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. But these are clearly the exceptions. Islam is quite the opposite. Although Islam was able to use persuasion at times, it was born in armed conflict under the prophet Muhammad and tended to option for its tried and true method: jihad, or armed force.
I hope this video is helpful. Feel free to share this video with your friends, but be sure to give credit to Dr. Warner.