Shiite and Sunni: What are the differences?

While the two sects share the same basic beliefs, differences in hierarchy and doctrine make Catholics and Protestants an apt comparison.

By , Staff Writer

2. What are the religious differences?

  • close
    Posters of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Iraq. Sistani is Iraq's senior Shiite religious leader.
    View Caption

Shiite Islam is far more hierarchical than Sunni Islam. Shiites venerate the ancestors of Muhammad in a way that Sunnis do not. Almost all religious Shiites follow an Ayatollah, a senior Islamic scholar, as an “object of emulation.” They follow their Ayatollah’s edicts on how to square the facts of modern life with Islamic doctrine. Sunni Islam is far “flatter” in its organization, with less of a formal process needed to become a preacher and far less centralization of clerical power. In this respect, the differences between Shiite and Sunni Islam superficially approach the differences between the Catholic Church and most Protestant denominations.

In daily practice, there are subtle differences in the way a Shiite or a Sunni may pray or perform ritual ablutions.

2 of 3

Read Comments

View reader comments | Comment on this story
 
 
Make a Difference
Inspired? Here are some ways to make a difference on this issue.
Follow Stories Like This
Get the Monitor stories you care about delivered to your inbox.
 

We want to hear, did we miss an angle we should have covered? Should we come back to this topic? Or just give us a rating for this story. We want to hear from you.

Loading...

Loading...

Loading...