Sectarian Division in Islam: A Comparative Analysis of the Historical and Contemporary Shia-Sunni Schism



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Through the use of primary and secondary sources, as well as several hundred responses to a survey sent to Muslim communities, this thesis examines sectarianism in Islam, its roots, historical narratives, and recent political events. More specifically, this thesis attempts to address whether certain divisions are irrevocably in place, whether they have been fostered for generations by familial transference, and whether there can ever be reconciliation between Muslims of different sects. In this thesis, I specifically seek to comparatively analyze the historically documented rifts between Shia and Sunni Muslims with the contemporary existence of sectarianism. Moreover, the aspect of politicization is included due to its significant role in the rift. Not only does this thesis provide insight into a millennium-long feud between members of the two largest Islamic sects, but it also gives modern-day Shia and Sunni Muslims a platform to express their own feelings about the internal schism. The disunity that exists within a faith which emphatically promotes brotherhood and unity is, in every sense of the word, paradoxical. Therefore, by examining key secondary sources, as well as amassing data and personal statements from a wide range of individuals who identify with one or the other sect, I provide a clearer view of the contemporary conflict. In the end, I hope that the understanding of these differences – from the point of view of historical and contemporary Muslims – illuminates the inherent desire for undisturbed unification.



Islam, Muslim, Shia, Sunni, Shia-Sunni schism, Shia-Sunni sectarianism, Islamic sectarianism, Shia-Sunni unity, Politicization of Islam, Early Islamic history, Generational transference, Intrafaith work, Restorative justice, Islamic politics