The Islamic movement is one of the main branches of Islam.
Some of these branches were formed as a result of the religious divergence during the reign of the Umayyads (a dynasty of Caliphs that ruled in the Damascus Caliphate until the middle of the eighth century).
The division trend continued during the Abbasid rule. Even though Islam brought people together based on a common religion, Muslims did not cease to clash with each other based on ethnic and confessional contradictions.
According to official sources, about 85% of Muslims are Sunnis. The remaining 15% include Shiites and minor Islamic sects (Ahmadiyya, Druze, Ibadism, etc.).
The majority of Russian Muslims adhere to Sunni Islam and share the ideas of the Hanafi and Shafi’i madhhabs (theological and legislative schools). Shiism is professed by more than 60% of Russian Azerbaijanis, who share the norms of the Jafarite madhhab, as well as small groups of Tatars and Lezgins.
The Sunnis encompass the largest movement in Islam, and the adherents consider the first rulers of the Caliphate to be the true heirs of the Prophet Muhammad:
Besides the Koran, the Sunnis recognize many legends (Sunnas) concerning the Prophet Muhammad as authoritative sources of faith. The most authoritative of these are the collections of the Hadiths of Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim).
Sunnis proclaim the truth of the Islamic values contained in the Holy Tradition (texts on the teachings of Islam sent by Allah) and also recognize the supremacy of the community in dealing with particularly important issues.
The Sunnis have formed four schools of theology and law (madhhab) that recognize each other’s legitimacy:
Sufism and Salafi
The Sufis adhere to the doctrine of cleansing the soul from everything other than God and the Path through which Allah is cognized and achieved. Sufis believe that the main goal of each person is to establish an individual spiritual connection with God. At the same time, there are organizations (tarikats, orders), where the leaders are the spiritual successors of the ancient teachers. In some countries, Sufism is the dominant component of Islam.
Salafiyah, which means “ancestors or predecessors” in Arabic, is an association of Muslim leaders who endeavour to follow the lifestyle of the righteous ancestors and the faith of the early Muslim community. All transformations in this area are characterized by the Salafis as “bidah” brought in from the West.
In the eighteenth century in the territories of future Saudi Arabia, a movement called “Wahhabism”, named after the father of Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab at-Tamimi, arose on a religious and political basis. He believed that real Islam was learned and practised only by the first three generations of the followers of the Prophet Muhammad. The Wahhabis denied all subsequent innovations as being introduced from abroad.
The Sunnis have organized numerous religious centres, associations and movements that cultivate their ideas. These include Al-Wasat, the Habashites, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Nation of Islam, and others.
Shiites are the second largest branch of Islam. Shia was formed after the death of Muhammad. Shiites have always believed that only the descendants of the Prophet have the right to rule the community, such as the children of Muhammad’s daughter Fatima and his cousin Ali. In their opinion, the right to Imamate (supreme leadership of the community) was granted to the clan of Ali by God himself.
Initially, the Shiites appeared as a political party. Later, during the reign of the sixth Imam Jafar al-Sadiq, Shia became an independent religious and legal doctrine. Shi’ism adherents represent both moderate and extreme traditions. The moderate groups include:
The extreme branches of the Shiites are represented by the Ismailis, as well as by the Alawites and Alevists. Ismaili adherents make up the majority, and have offshoots in the form of Druze and Karmat.
Alevis and Alawites, as well as some other radical Islamic movements (Ghurabiyya, Dhammiyya, Bazighiyya, Kaysanites, etc.), are referred to as Ghulāt (Islamic sects). Their adherents believe that the descendants of Muhammad and Ali – the Shiite imams – have been endowed with divine powers.
The main differences between Sunni and Shiite Muslims are apparent in the transfer of power in the Muslim community, recognition or denial of the infallibility of imams, as well as legal schools and the authority of certain collections of hadiths. Also, there are contradictions concerning temporary marriages, holidays, mourning days and places of pilgrimage.
Kharijism (translated from Arabic – “speaking out”, “abandoned”) is a religious and political movement whose representatives adhere to radical views. Kharijism arose during the reign of Caliph Ali after the Battle of Siffin. Some of the Muslims were dissatisfied with the policy of the two opposing imams, Ali and Mu’awiyah, and declared themselves their enemies and started a war against them.
At the end of the seventh century, after several schisms, the Kharijites became divided into many religious Islamic movements (for example, the Muhakkimas, Ajradis, Sufris, etc.).
The total number of supporters of Kharijism is between one and three million people. This movement prevails in Oman thanks to a group of Ibadis who have become more loyal to non-Muslims.
Since the first centuries of Islam, Muslims have often come into conflict based upon their religious beliefs. Controversies have appeared concerning the following issues:
Most Ash’arites follow the norms of the Shafi’i (in Indonesia, Syria, Iraq, Chechnya, etc.) and Maliki (North African) madhhabs. The Maturidies, who are close in their views to the Ash’arites, share the position of the Hanafi madhhab.
In Islam, two ideologies have formed due to the presence of acute religious and political issues: Islamism and Pan-Islamism. The first is an activity aimed at resolving any contradictions within the community, between the state with the local Muslims, as well as the regulating of intergovernmental relations through Sharia norms.
Unlike Islamism, Pan-Islamism emphasizes the spiritual unity of Muslims around the world, regardless of their belonging to a social group, nationality, or state. Followers of Pan-Islamism also believe that the Muslim people need a political unification under the rule of the Caliph, who is to be the supreme spiritual head of their community.
Shiite and Sunni scholars agreed that it is unacceptable to regard any Muslim as a non-believer, no matter to which Islamic branch or movement he/she belongs. Yet both traditions still disagree on many issues and are accusatory towards each other. Religious divisions have led to the formation of terrorist groups and violent wars.