The Islamic Split
Islamic faith split after the death of Prophet Mohammed creating Sunni and Shi’ite factions. The fundamentalist factions of both Shi’ites and Sunnis believe in jihad which is a holy war waged against infidels and personal weaknesses (Ess, O’Kane & Goldbloom 2017). During the beginning of American invasion of Iraq, a Sunni led government was ruling a majority Shi’ite population. Consequently, Sunni extremists formed the Islamic State group claiming territory in Iraq. The war on terrorism and the war in Iraq are a result of Sunnis Islamic State group and the Al-Qaeda who wage wars against the Shi’ite government and the population they deem to have personal weaknesses. They want to replace supposedly weak governments with the dictatorial Islamic States ruled by the sharia.
Despite the Shi’ite and Sunni factions of Islam having many common agreements on the aspects of Islam, they have numerous irreconcilable differences. Studies by Ess et al. (2017), shows the Shi’ites consider Ali, Mohammed’s son in law, and the leaders who came after him as Imams. On the other hand, Sunnis hold that Abu Bakr as-Siddiq, who was one of Mohammed’s closest companions as the specifically designated man to have taken over from Mohammed.
Another difference between the Islamic factions is on the Mahdi, the rightly guided one, whose duty is to spread Islam globally (Ess et al., 2017). Shi’ite Muslims hold that the Mahdi has already been here and went into hiding but will emerge from hiding. In contrast, Sunnis believe that the Mahdi has not been here and will come back if he wills.
Shi’ites holds the Imam as without sin naturally and has infallible authority emanating from God. In this light, Shi’ites visit shrines and tombs belonging to Imams hoping to gain holy intercession since they view them as saints. Contrary to these practices, Sunnis believe that Imams are not saints and thus cannot intercede for them.
These fundamental differences shape political leadership of Iraq and the Middle East at length. The knowledge that there exist differences is one possible way for mediating peaceful coexistence by the international community shunning away from taking sides since this will lead to increased animosity.
According to Jackson, Hunter, Campo, Hashimi, Keasley, and James (2016), militant Islam developed with the vow to take the word of Allah to the kingdoms of the world by sword and fire. In my opinion, recent notable Islamic extremists such as Osama Bin Laden greatly got influenced by this new development. Osama Bin Laden while professing unwavering faith, tried to achieve this vow by any means necessary including mass murder and violence. Research by Kamolnick and Army War College (U.S.) (2017) reveals that in showing readiness to employ violence to achieve his eventual goals, Osama indicated that Islamic governments could only come into existence by riffles and bombs. He strongly supported bombings, assassinations, and destruction as the way Islam should be built.
Mohammed, regarded as the last prophet, led all tribes in signing an agreement to defend the city of Medina from all external threats in the seventh century (Jackson et al., 2016). This can be viewed as a vow to use all means possible to defend their faith and territories. This trend is seen to continue with the rise of Abu Bakr who was a close friend and confidant to Mohammed where under him the Islam religion spread. In what seemed like succession woes, assassinations took place to install Ali ibn Abi Talib as a Caliph resulting in the first civil war. Ali is one of the greatest contributors to the Islam and was the main reason for the split of Islam. He was a distinguished warrior who participated in major battles setting the pace for Islamic jihadists. Ali was devoted to the cause of Islam, a person of authority and standing in the Muslim community.
Ess, J, O’Kane, J., & Goldbloom, G. (2017). Theology and society in the second and third centuries of the Hijra: A history of religious thought in Early Islam.
Jackson, S. A., Hunter, S., Campo, J. E., Hashimi, N., Keasley, A., & James, K. (2016). Radical Islam: A historical perspective.
Kamolnick, P., Army War College (U.S.), & Army War College (U.S.). (2017). The al-Qaeda organization and the Islamic State organization: History, doctrine, modus operandi, and U.S. policy to degrade and defeat terrorism conducted in the name of Sunni Islam.