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Sunni Islam

Sunni Islam (/ˈsni/ or /ˈsʊni/) is the largest branch of Islam; As of 2009 Sunni Muslims constituted 87-90% of the world's Muslim population.[1] Its adherents are referred to in Arabic as ahl as-sunnah wa l-jamāʻah (Arabic: أهل السنة والجماعة‎), "people of the tradition of Muhammad and the consensus of the Ummah" or ahl as-sunnah (أهل السنة) for short. In English, its theological study or doctrine is called Sunnism, while adherents are known as Sunni Muslims, Sunnis, and Sunnites. Sunni Islam is the world's second largest religious body (after Christianity)[2] and the largest religious denomination for any religion in the world. Sunni Islam is sometimes referred to as the orthodox version of the religion.[3][4] The word "Sunni" is believed to come from the term Sunnah (Arabic: سنة‎), which refers to the sayings and actions of the Islamic prophet Muhammad as recorded in the hadith.[5]

The primary collections consisting of Kutub al-Sittah accepted by Sunni orthodoxy, in conjunction with the Quran and binding consensus, form the basis of all jurisprudence within Sunni Islam. Laws are derived from these basic sources; in addition, Sunni Islam's juristic schools recognize differing methods to derive legal verdicts such as analogical reason, consideration of public welfare and juristic discretion.

Lexicology

Sunnī (Classical Arabic: سُنِّي /ˈsunniː/) also commonly referred to as Sunnīism is a broad term derived from sunnah (سُنَّة /ˈsunna/, plural سُنَن sunan /ˈsunan/) meaning "habit", "usual practice",[6] "custom", "tradition". The Muslim use of this term refers to the sayings and living habits of the prophet Muhammad. In its full form, this branch of Islam is referred to as "Ahl al-Sunnah wal Jamaah" (literally, "People of the Sunnah and the Community"). People claiming to follow the Sunnah (tradition of the prophet) who can demonstrate that they have no action or belief against the prophetic Sunnah can consider themselves to be Sunni Muslims. One who espouses political Sunnite beliefs or specialises in Sunnism is sometimes called a Sunnist.[7] Some regions that are heavily Sunni-populated have been coined with derived neological terms such as Sunnistan or Sunni belt and a demonym for an inhabitant of this roughly defined geo-cultural region is a Sunnistani.[8][9]

History

Main article: Caliphate

After the death of Prophet Muhammad, Muslims who accepted Abu Bakr as the first Caliph became known as Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jama'ah or "the people of tradition and unification" in order to differentiate them from the Shi'a, who rejected Abu Bakr's authority in favor of Ali, whom Sunnis accepted as the fourth Caliph rather than the first.

The first four caliphs are known among Sunnis as the Rashidun or "Rightly-Guided Ones". Sunni recognition includes the aforementioned Abu Bakr as the first, Umar as the second, Uthman as the third, and Ali as the fourth.[10]

After the first four caliphs, the Caliphate was upheld as a political system by dynasties such as the Abbasids, the Ottomans, and the Mughal Empire of South Asia.[citation needed] It was also upheld for relatively short periods of time by other competing dynasties in Spain, North Africa and Egypt.[citation needed]

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk abolished the system of the Ottoman caliphate after Abdülmecid II was deposed and expelled from what was once the Ottoman Empire, whereby the Republic of Turkey was founded in 1923 upon secular principles.

Adherents

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Countries with more than 5% Muslim population.[11] Sunni              Shia              Ibadi     

Sunnis believe that the companions of Muhammad were the best of Muslims. This belief is based upon prophetic traditions such as one narrated by Abdullah, son of Masud, in which Muhammad said: "The best of the people are my generation, then those who come after them, then those who come after them." Support for this view is also found in the Quran, according to Sunnis.[12] Sunnis also believe that the companions were true believers since it was the companions who were given the task of compiling the Quran. Furthermore, narrations that were narrated by the companions (ahadith) are considered by Sunnis to be a second source of knowledge of the Muslim faith. A study conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2010 and released January 2011[13] found that there are 1.62 billion Muslims around the world, and it is estimated over 75–90% are Sunni.[14]

Organizational structure

Islam does not have a formal hierarchy or clergy. Leaders are informal, and gain influence through study to become a scholar of Islamic law, called sharia. According to the Islamic Center of Columbia, South Carolina, anyone with the intelligence and will can become an Islamic scholar. During Midday Mosque services on Fridays, the congregation will choose a well educated person to lead the service, known as an imam (one who leads).[15]

Schools of law

File:Madhhab Map3.png
Distribution of Sunni, Shia, Ibadi and Ahmadi branches of Islam

There are several intellectual traditions within the field of Islamic law, often referred to as legal schools. These varied traditions reflect differing viewpoints on some laws and obligations within Islamic law. While one school may see a certain act as a religious obligation, another may see the same act as optional. Historically, the schools were often engaged in violent conflict with one another,[16] though today these schools aren't regarded as sects; rather, they represent differing viewpoints on issues that are not considered the core of Islamic belief.

Historians have differed regarding the exact delineation of the schools based on the underlying principles they follow. Many traditional scholars saw Sunni Islam in two groups: Ahl al-Ra'i, or "people of reason," due to their emphasis on scholarly judgment and discourse; and Ahl al-Hadith, or "people of traditions," due to their emphasis on restricting juristic thought to only what is found in scripture.[17] Ibn Khaldun defined the Sunni schools as three: the Hanafi school representing reason, the Ẓāhirīte school representing tradition, and a broader, middle school encompassing the Shafi'ite, Malikite and Hanbalite schools.[18][19]

During the Middle Ages, the Mamluk Sultanate in Egypt delineated the acceptable Sunni schools as only Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi'i and Hanbali, excluding the Ẓāhirī school.[20] The Ottoman Empire later reaffirmed the official status of four schools as a reaction to the Shiite character of their ideological and political arch rival, the Persian Safavids,[16] though former Prime Minister of Sudan Al-Sadiq al-Mahdi, as well as the Amman Message issued by King Abdullah II of Jordan, recognize the Ẓāhirī and keep the number of Sunni schools at five.[21][22]

Differences in the schools

File:Kairouan Mosque Stitched Panorama.jpg
The Great Mosque of Kairouan (also known as the Mosque of Uqba) was, in particular during the 9th, 10th and 11th centuries, an important center of Islamic learning with an emphasis on the Maliki Madh'hab.[23] It is located in the city of Kairouan in Tunisia

Interpreting Islamic law by deriving specific rulings – such as how to pray – is commonly known as Islamic jurisprudence. The schools of law all have their own particular tradition of interpreting this jurisprudence. As these schools represent clearly spelled out methodologies for interpreting Islamic law, there has been little change in the methodology with regard to each school. While conflict between the schools was often violent in the past,[16] today the schools recognize one another as viable legal methods rather than sources of error or heresy in contrast to one another. Each school has its evidences, and differences of opinion are generally respected.

The six pillars of iman

Main articles: Iman (concept) and Islamic theology

Sunni Islam has six articles of faith known as the six pillars of iman that all Sunni Muslims are united upon in belief,[24] along with the 105 key points of creed mentioned in "Aṭ-Ṭaḥāwī's Islamic Theology".[citation needed]

  • Reality of the one true God (see Tawhid)
  • Existence of the angels of God
  • Authority of the books of God which are Books of Abraham, the Torah, the Psalms, the Gospel, and the Quran
  • Following the prophets of God
  • Preparation for and belief in the Day of Judgment
  • Supremacy of God's will, i.e. belief in predestination good or bad is from God alone

Theological traditions

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