These two are the biggest branches of Islam around the world and have some core issues on which they disagree, and therefore the main difference between them is easy to describe. Shia is the view that Prophet Muhammad appointed Ali as the caliph of Islam after him and do not accept Abu Bakr as the actual caliph. Sunni, on the other hand, are of the view that Prophet Muhammad did not designate anyone as the caliph and they accept Abu Bakr as the main caliph.
|Basis of Distinction||Shia||Sunni|
|Difference||Prophet Muhammad appointed Ali as the caliph of Islam.||Prophet Muhammad did not appoint anyone as the caliph.|
|Acceptance||They do not accept Abu Bakr as the actual caliph.||They accept Abu Bakr as the real caliph and the ones that followed.|
|Branches||Constitute around 10% of the total followers of Islam.||Constitute around 90% of the total followers of Islam.|
|Disagreement||Only the family of Prophet has the right to rule.||Anyone who is competent enough should be the ruler.|
|Holy Cities||Mecca, Medina, Jerusalem, Karbala, Najaf.||Mecca, Medina, and Jerusalem.|
This is one of the main branches of Islam which differs from others on various topics. The main difference they have over other forms is that Prophet Muhammad appointed Ali as the caliph of Islam after him and do not accept Abu Bakr as the actual caliph. This is the basis of the difference between the other types, and the people who follow this are known as Shias. It is the second biggest branch of Muslims after Sunni and is considered the most hyper of the types. This branch itself has different types within it, and the Twelver Shia are the biggest one which consists of 85% of the total Shia population. In Islam, it contributes towards 12% of the total Muslim population. Elaborating on the difference a little more, they believe that Prophet and his hadith are the primary focus from which it is visible that he wanted Ali as the main caliph after him. They also point out that the status of Imam can only be attained from someone that belongs to the family of the prophet and not someone outside it. Shia is of the view that these Imams hold more respect and power over the other Muslims and therefore are superior. Ali did get to be the caliph at a later time and was 4th in number after Abu Bakr, Umar, and Osman. They also have strong views about Hussain and Hasan and consider them as the stepping stones since they were from the family of Prophet who was killed in a war. They also remember the event at Karbala and commemorate this day as Ashura.
This is the biggest branch of Muslims and constitutes around 90% of the total followers of Islam. They have strong beliefs when it comes to the life of Prophet Muhammad. In Arabic, the life and actions and the words of Prophet are known as Sunnah and therefore the word has originated. The main difference they have is that they believe that Muhammad the Prophet nominated Abu Bakr as the first caliph of Islam and that all the others who followed him must be respected properly. They do not give importance to one or the other but believe in equality. They are also of the view that there was no proper successor nominated. It is safe to assume that they have the most authentic sources when it comes to the life of Prophet and the sources from which the end product has been produced. They have strong views about the companions of the prophet and believe that all of them were best Muslims and learning from their lives can be a good thing. They offer five prayers in a day as compared to three in the Shia branch, and they quote several hadiths for this argument that the family or Imam should not be preferred over each other based just one the family roots. This system does not have any particular clergy, and the principal source of knowledge is the Holy Book, and the central power belongs to the God, and that Prophet was the last messenger of God. They also focus on the pillars which are believing in the prophets and the two things mentioned above along with the point that life will end one day.
- Shia believes that Prophet Muhammad appointed Ali as the caliph of Islam while Sunni believes that Prophet Muhammad did not designate anyone as the main caliph.
- Shia does not accept Abu Bakr as the actual caliph of Islam while Sunni accepts him and the others that followed after him including Ali.
- Sunni is the biggest branch of Muslims and constitutes around 90% of the total followers of Islam while Shia is the second largest branch of Muslims and constitute 10% of the total followers of Islam.
- Sunni offer five prayers every day while Shia differs in the way that they offer three prayers in a day.
- Shia believes that only the family of Prophet has the right to rule over the Muslims while Sunni believes that anyone who is worthy should be the ruler.
- Shia believes that Imam Mehdi is already among people and will show himself at a particular time, while Sunni believes that he will come in the future.
- For Sunni people, the holiest cities include Mecca, Medina, and Jerusalem while Shia the holiest cities include these three and Karbala along with Najaf.