Sunnis respond that, well, that was politics and politics is dirty. This is reflected in the fact that most Shia did not join government ranks of employment, leading them to occupy the extremes of wealth or poverty as they took on the merchant roles—risky ventures, with big potential payoffs but no job security—while the Sunnis became the middle class with secure government paychecks.
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This separation of state and religion changed with the Iranian revolution, when Khomeini upended centuries of belief and declared that the state is the religion. This led to the first merger of state and religion in Shia history, starting with the Iranian government and followed, now, by the Iraqi government. Which triggers another wave of resentment by Shia. This contrasting approach to political engagement has led to discord between Sunni and Shia in terms of their relationship with God.
4 simple reasons for the ongoing divide between Sunni and Shia Muslims
Shia believe that the religion should be interpreted in ways that reflect contemporary life and needs. Sunni argue that the religion should hew to the Quran and faithfully imitate the practices and behavior of the Prophet during his life. Sunnis believe that the individual has a direct relationship with God while Shia believe that the Imam is the mediator between the individual and God. There were points in history when tensions were heightened and points in history when the tension was muted or dissolved.
What drove these variations was leadership: the times when Muslim leaders encouraged the division versus the times when they suppressed it.
Today, as Sunni extremists call for Shia death, and as the Sunni religious leadership fails to condemn such extremist calls and counter them with words of peace and reconciliation, the political situation is exacerbated. Even with a just cause like fighting against ISIS, Shia leaders should be aware that when army members start chanting Shia slogans, Sunnis are alienated and the sectarianism within the country deepens. We always create the very demon we are fighting against when we operate out of hatred and fear.
Now is the moment for Sunni and Shia leaders to call for unity and inclusion within each Muslim country. After all, Islam is one religion, with one Prophet and one God for all.
Until such calls for unity are heard loud and clear, tension in the Middle East, especially between Sunni and Shia, will continue to tear the region apart. Indeed, even as I write this piece from inside Iraq, I am seeing this very scenario unfold. At the age of 23, she founded Women for Women International—a grassroots humanitarian and development organization dedicated to serving women survivors of war.
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Thanks and best wishes, the editorial team Register. Recommend Tweet Send via mail Print. In brief Zoom. Soon after its inception, Islam was divided into two denominations. The reason was a fight over who would succeed Prophet Mohammed. It erupted after his death in Add comment Log in or register to post comments. Young women, in particular, are unable to use contraceptives and plan their families as they wish. Non-communicable diseases.