Let’s understand & Compare the Differences between Shia’s Vs Sunni’s

Below are the brief Differences & Similarities between Shias Vs Sunnis. Lot of Muslims and non-Muslim ask this question or need to know about this. This is just a high-level chart which we have tried to explain as both are having their own reasons and justifications.

Those who are interested to figure out who is correct should deep dive in to their differences and reason by understanding / learning from many books written on this subjects. 

Comparison or Differences between Sunni Vs Shia
Belief Sunni Shia
God Belief in One God (ALLAH) Belief in One God (ALLAH)
Prophets believe in 1,24,000 Messengers Believe in 1,24,000 Messengers
Last Prophet Belief in Holy Prophet (s.a.w) as last prophet and messenger Belief in Holy Prophet (s.a.w) as last prophet and messenger
Holy Book Belief In Quran as only Holy Book Belief In Quran as only Holy Book
Day Of Judgement Believe in Qiyamat , Hell and Heaven Believe in Qiyamat , Hell and Heaven
Prayers Offer daily obligatory prayers of 17 Units in 5 times a day Offer daily obligatory prayers of 17 Units in 5 times a day
Fasting Observe obligatory fasting for the Month of mahe Ramzan Observe obligatory fasting for the Month of mahe Ramzan
Hajj Perform Hajj e Baitullah once in a year and Umrah Perform Hajj e Baitullah once in a year and Umrah
Zakat Removes Zakat, Removes Zakat,
Sunnah Believes in Sunna of Holy Prophet s.a.w Believes in Sunna of Holy Prophet s.a.w
Reason for their Split after Holy Prophet (s.a.w)
The question of Imamate and Caliphate has torn the Muslim community apart and has affected the thinking and philosophy of different groups so tremendously that, not only it has effected their practices and actions but the core beliefs. This is the most debated subject of Islamic theology. Muslims have written thousands of books on this subject.
Belief regarding Sucessor’s Appointment by Holy Prophet s.a.w. Believe that Holy Prophet (s.a.w) left with out appointing the successor and people to decide/select as per their opinion. No guidelines, All were made by people as per the situation & opportunity Shia believe that Muhammad (s.a.w) announced his succession during his lifetime at Dawat Zul Asheera then many times during his prophet-hood and finally at Ghadeer e Khum. Also they support this view with many traditions and Quranic verses
Title used for sucessor Caliph (means the successor)
In Islamic terminology, Khalifa practically signify the same meanings as Imam
1. Imam, (universal authority in all religious and worldly affairs in succession to the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.).
2. Caliph (means the successor)
3. Wasi : the executor of the will
4. Hadi (The guide)
5. Wali (custodian, protector, helper)
Whom they recognize as their first rightful sucessor Hazrat Abu Bakr was the first
caliph of the Holy Prophet of Islam (s.a.w.a.).
Hazrat Ali b. Abi Talib (a.s.), is the first caliph of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and the first Imam.
Selection of First Sucessor method Selected by Conseus (Ijma) in a place called as Saqifa Selected as per
Divinely appointment by Allah &
Nomination by Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.)
Belief on Authority/Ways to appoint sucessor As a head of state, a caliph should be elected by Muslims or their representatives
1. Election/Selection by Conseus (Ijma)
2. Nomination by previos Calip
3. Selected by comitte (Shura)
4. Militry power,
As Imam is Head of State, Islamic Law and Sprituality; he must be appointment by Allah only and
declaration by Holy Prophet (s.a.w) as Islam it is not the government of the people; it is the
Government of Allah. How do people govern themselves?
Selection of other Sucessors All the Caliphs they believe were made by either 4 of the ways and methods as mentioned above As Islam is till qiyamant , than leadrship should also be till Qiyamat and from Allah (s.w.t) All the 12 Imams they believe are as per
1. Divinely appointment by Allah &
2. Nomination by Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.)
Qualification of Sucessor 1) that he be of age (i.e. crossed puberty)
2) that he be of sound mind
3) that he be free, not a slave
4) that he be male and not female
5) that he be able to conduct battles and be aware of war
6) that he be courageous
7) that he be accessible and not be concealed or hidden
8) that he be Muslim
9) that he be just (Adil)
10) that he be able to judge and pass religious verdicts, i.e., he
be a Mujtahid.
1. Superiority (In all aspect and Virtues i.e Knowledge of divine law, bravery, piety, worship, charity, conduct etc…)
2. Ilme Gaib (Unseen Knowledge )
3. Mojiza (Miracle)
4. Ma’soom (sinless)
List of Sucessor Rashidun Caliphs (8 June 632 – 661)
1.Abu Bakr
2.Umar ibn al-Khattab
3.Uthman ibn Affan
4. Ali ibn Abi Talib
5. Imam Hasan a.s
Umayyad Caliphs (661 – 750)
6.Mu’awiyah I
7. Yazid I
8. Mu’awiyah II
9. Marwan I
10. ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan
11. Al-Walid I
12. Sulayman ibn ‘Abd al-Malik
13. ‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al-‘Aziz
14. Yazid II
15. Hisham ibn ‘Abd al-Malik
16. Al-Walid II
17. Yazid III
18. Ibrahim ibn al-Walid
19 Marwan II
Abbasid Caliphs (750–1258)
Somewhat 40 Caliphs in Bani Abbas
The 12 Imams are Divinely guided leaders from the lineage of Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w).

1.Imam Ali (a.s) [Ameer al-Mumineen]
2.Imam Hasan (a.s) (al-Mujtaba)
3.Imam Husayn (a.s) (Sayyid ash-Shuhada)
4.Imam Ali ibn Husain (a.s) [Zayn Al-Abidin, Sajjad]
5.Imam Muhammad Al-Baqir (a.s)
6.Imam Ja’far Al-Sadiq (a.s)
7.Imam Musa Al-Kadhim (a.s)
8.Imam Ali Al-Ridha (a.s)
9.Imam Muhammad Al-Jawad (also al-Taqi) (a.s)
10.Imam Ali Al-Hadi (also Al-Naqi) (a.s)
11.Imam Hasan Al-Askari (a.s)
12.Imam Muhammad Al-Mahdi (a.s).
Imam Al-Mahdi (a.s) is the living but in occultation and will reappear to fill the earth with Justice and one Islam.

Imam Mahdi (a.s) They belive Imam Mahdi (a.s) from  Muhammad’s lineage and his successor but who is yet to come. He will fill the earth with fairness and justice They believe Mahdi was born but disappeared and will remain hidden from humanity until he reappears along side Jesus to fill the world with justice, a doctrine known as the Occultation. For Twelver Shia, this “hidden Imam” is Muhammad al-Mahdi, the Twelfth Imam.

Major differences is because of Sources used for: 

Belief (Theology), Islamic Laws (Practices) and Spirituality

Sunnah & Belief Source

(Main and root of diffrence between the Shia’s and Sunni)

Much of the knowledge they have about Muhammad (s.a.w) is narrated through
1. Abu Bakr’s daughter, Aisha
2. Abu Huraira and
3. From all the companions
Much of the knowledge they have about Muhammad s.a.w is narrated through
1. Ahlebait i.e (Core family members) [Ali ibn Abu Talib (a.s) & Fatema Zehra (s.a) and their descendants]
2. Only rightful companions who supported the prophets family (Ahle bait) – list mentioned below
Source of dereiving practical applications of Islam Guided by the wisdom of Muhammad’s (s.a.w), companions and Caliphs.
More emphasize on all Companions
Guided by the wisdom of Muhammad’s (s.a.w), Companions, His descendants Ali ibn Abutalib and his 11 sucessors (As majority are twelvers).
More emphasize on Ahlebait (a.s) [family of Holy prophet s.a.w] and right companions
Ahle Bait (a.s)
(May Allah Be Pleased With Them All)
Ahl Al-Bait , according to the Sunnis, has various meanings. The best single definition of this term is “the followers of the Prophet Muhammad in the faith of Islam.” It is also defined as “the pious and God-fearing people of the Prophet’s ummah (nation of believers).” It is also said that the term refers to the believing relatives of Muhammad, from the tribes of Haashim and ‘Abdul-Muttalib According to the Shi’ites,  the term Ahl Al-Bait refers only to Panjetan ie. ‘Ali bin Abi Taalib a.s, Fatema Zehra (s.a) to some of his sons, and to the descendants ‘of those sons.
Opinion on Companions of
Holy Prophet s.a.w
It is unanimously agreed that the noble Companions deserve our utmost respect, and are absolutely trustworthy. As for the discord which occurred among them, it is to be considered as the consequence of the sincere exercise of personal conviction and opinion. The discord was resolved and is a thing of the past. It is not permissible for us to hold, on the basis of past differences among the Companions, grudges and ill will which continue for generations. The Companions are those whom Allah has described in the best of terms; He has praised them upon many occasions. It is not lawful for anyone to make any accusation against them or cast suspicion upon them, and there is no benefit to be derived therefrom. 1. There are some verses in Qur’an which admired the first faction among the companions Nevertheless, these verses do not include ALL the companions.
2.When Allah states I WAS pleased with them till today, it does not imply that they will also be good tomorrow. It is inconceivable that Allah will give a permanent immunity to some people who supposedly have done some good things earlier, but they shed the blood of thousands of innocent Muslims later after the departure of Prophet.
3.Allah points out that among them are many rebellious transgressors.
4. Shi’a do not discredit all the companions. The Shi’a divide the companions into three factions:
as below
First, are those who believed in Allah (SWT), believed in the Prophet (S), and gave all they could for the sake of Islam.
These companions (May Allah (SWT) be Pleased With Them), the Shi’a and the Sunnis have no quarrel about These companions always supported the Prophet and were with him. They never disobeyed him in every other issue, nor did they ever accused him of talking non-sense! (may Allah protect us). Examples include, but are not limited to, ‘Ali Ibn Abi Talib (as), Abu Dharr al-Ghifari, Salman al-Farsi, Miqdad, Amar Ibn Yasir, Jabir Ibn Abdillah al-Ansari, Ibn Abbas …
May Allah (SWT) be pleased with them.
These are the highest in rank as per Shias
The Second group, are those who were Muslims, but were not sincere in their acts. We should respect ALL of the companions and follow ALL of them, even those among them who were having disagreement between them.
As for the discord which occurred among them, it is to be considered as the consequence of the sincere exercise of personal conviction and opinion
This is a clear indication that some of the companions were lazy during the call to Jihad and other activities, and,
1. Thus, deserved reprimand by Allah (SWT) in below verses. (Qur’an 9:38-39), (Qur’an 47:38), (Qur’an 4:93)
2. Authentic traditions inclduing from sunni source confirm that there have been some companions who used to oppose the Prophet’s order and quarrel with him in several occasions.
They don’t consider this group as rightful companion
The third group, are those who became apostate after the death of Prophet as al-Bukhari recorded We should respect ALL of the companions and follow ALL of them, even those among them who were having disagreement between them.
It is not lawful for anyone to make any accusation against them or cast suspicion upon them, and there is no benefit to be derived therefrom.
There is a whole chapter in the holy Qur’an addressing them: “al-Munafiqun –The Hypocrites — Ch. 63”, and beside that there are many other verses in this regard as well. Allah (SWT) states in the Qur’an:

In fact some hypocrites were among the companions. If hypocrites were known among the companions they would be no longer hypocrites and would become known enemy.

Doctrine/Principles of Emaan
1. Reality of the one true God (Tawhid)
2. Existence of the angels of God
3. Authority of the books of God which are scrolls of Abraham, the scrolls of Moses, the Torah, the Psalms, the Gospel, and the Quran
4. Following the prophets of God
5. Preparation for and belief in the Day of Judgment
6. Supremacy of God’s will, i.e. belief in predestination good or bad is from God alone
1. Monotheism:  God is one and unique (Tawhid).
2. Justice: the concept of moral rightness based on ethics, fairness, and equity, along with the punishment of the breach of said ethics.
3. Prophethood:  the institution by which God sends emissaries, or prophets, to guide mankind.
4. Leadership:  a divine institution which succeeded the institution of Prophethood. Its appointees (imams) are divinely appointed.
5. Last day of Judgment: God’s final assessment of humanity.
School of thoughts in Islamic Laws Total- 4 School of thought
1. Hanfi
2. Maliki
3. Shafi
4. Hanbali
Only one i.e Ja’fari
Major Books 1. Sahih Bukhari of Muhammad al-Bukhari
2. Sahih Muslim of Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj
3. Sunan al-Sughra of Al-Nasa’i
4. Sunan Abu Dawud of Abu Dawood
5. Sunan al-Tirmidhi of Al-Tirmidhi
6. Sunan Ibn Majah of Ibn Majah
7. Sunan al-Darimi of al-Darimi
8. Al-Muwatta of Malik ibn Anas
9. Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal of Ahmad ibn Hanbal
1. Kitab al-Kafi of Kulayni
2. Man la Yahdhuruhu’l Faqih of Shaikh Saduq
3. Tahdhib al-Ahkam by Abu Ja’far al-Tusi
4. Al-Istibsar by Abu Ja’far al-Tusi
5. Nahjul Balaga by Sayyad Razi.
6. Book of Sulaym ibn Qays —by Sulaym ibn Qays
7. Wasael ush-Shia  by Shaikh al-Hur al-Aamili.
8. Mustadrak al-Wasael by Mirza Hussayn Nuri
9. Bihar al-Anwar by Allama Majlesi

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