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Sunnis and Shiites really do not get along very well.  Iraq is majority Sunni but has a large Shiite minority.

Sunni is dominant (approx 85% of all Muslims), with only Iran, Iraq, Azerbaijan and Bahrain having a majority of Shiites among Islamic countries.  Yemen is majority Sunni, but only slightly.  Lebanon has more Shiites than Sunnis, but they do not constitute a majority overall.

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Sunni vs Shia (Shiite)


After the death of Muhammed in 632, a series of caliphs ruled the Muslim community.  The fourth caliph, Ali, had become caliph in 655 during a time of much dispute and dissention within Islam.  Ali was assassinated in 661, having been struck with a poisoned sword.  He lingered for two days and during this time he dictated what might be called a last will and testament, with the emphasis on testament.


Other caliphs succeeded Ali (but not Ali's sons Hassan and Hussein) and the caliphate lasted continuously until the fall of the Ottoman empire.  Sunni Muslims accept the selection process for caliphs that occurred subsequent to Ali and hence the fall of the Ottoman empire and the end of the caliphate is considered a severe blow. 


However, Shiite Muslims consider Ali to be the only true successor to Muhammed and that therefore only direct descendants of Ali can be successors to Muhammed.  Since neither of Ali's sons succeeded him, subsequent caliphs are considered illegitimate by the Shiites. 


In contrast to the Sunnis, the Shiites look for the return of the 12th Imam.  To Shiites, an Imam is a leader - possibly a prophet - that is appointed by Allah alone.  The 12th Imam is supposed to be a direct descendant of Muhammad and has divine status.  Here is the key - the 12 Imam is Abu al-Qasim Muhammad (also called Muhammad al Mahdi), the son of the 11th Imam, who went into hiding centuries ago.  Shiites look forward to the return of the 12th Imam, who is to return just before the end of the world.  His return will be preceded by three years of tyranny, chaos and oppression in the world. 


Sunni Muslims look forward to the return of the caliphate - Osama bin Laden was a Sunni.  ISIS is Sunni.  Their objective: to restore the caliphate.


Shiites look forward to the return of the 12th Imam.  Iran is overwhelmingly Shiite, and many think that Iran wishes to pave the way for the return of the 12th Imam.  This preparation requires the world to be in a state of chaos and subjugation.


It is clear that we in the West have much to be concerned about regarding both of the dominant strains of Islam.  But it is also clear that the objectives of Sunni and Shia are not only different, they are in conflict.  This is why Iran is actively fighting ISIS.




This summary only highlights some of the difference between Sunni and Shiite.  For much, much more information, go here.

(new) Another good article: Shia vs. Sunni: The Schism Western Politicians Don’t Understand and Won’t Discuss.  


There are many more divisions within both the Sunni and Shiite sects of Islam.

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