The division between Shia and Sunni dates back to the question of who was to take over the leadership of the Muslim nation after Prophet Muhammed (PBUH). Sunni Muslims agree with the position taken by many of the Prophet's companions, that the new leader should be elected from among those capable of the job. This is what was done, and the Prophet Muhammad's close friend and advisor, Abu Bakr, became the first Caliph of the Islamic nation. The word "Sunni" in Arabic comes from a word meaning "one who follows the traditions of the Prophet."
On the other hand, some Muslims share the belief that leadership should
have stayed within the Prophet's own family, among those specifically
appointed by him, or among Imams appointed by God Himself. These were the Shia believers.
The Shia Muslims believe that after Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), the leadership should have passed directly to his cousin/son-in-law, Ali. Throughout history, Shia Muslims have not recognized the authority of elected Muslim leaders, choosing instead to follow a line of Imams which they believe have been appointed by the Prophet Muhammad or God Himself. The word "Shia" in Arabic means a group or supportive party of people. The commonly-known term is shortened from the historical "Shia-t-Ali," or "the Party of Ali." They are also known as followers of "Ahl-al-Bayt" or "People of the Household" (of the Prophet).
From this initial question of political leadership, some aspects of spiritual life have been affected and now differ between the two groups of Muslims.
Shia Muslims believe that the Imam is sinless by nature, and that his authority is infallible as it comes directly from God. Therefore, Shia Muslims often venerate the Imams as saints and perform pilgrimages to their tombs and shrines in the hopes of divine intercession. Sunni Muslims counter that there is no basis in Islam for a hereditary privileged class of spiritual leaders, and certainly no basis for the veneration or intercession of saints. Sunni Muslims contend that leadership of the community is not a birthright, but a trust that is earned and which may be given or taken away by the people themselves.
Shia Muslims also feel animosity towards some of the companions of the Prophet Muhammad, based on their positions and actions during the early years of discord about leadership in the community. Many of these companions (Abu Bakr, Umar, Aisha, etc.) have narrated traditions about the Prophet's life and spiritual practice. Shia Muslims reject these traditions (hadith) and do not base any of their religious practices on the testimony of these individuals. This naturally gives rise to some differences in religious practice between the two groups. These differences touch all detailed aspects of religious life: prayer, fasting, pilgrimage, etc.
Sunni Muslims make up the majority (85%) of Muslims all over the world. Significant populations of Shia Muslims can be found in Iran and Iraq, and large minority communities in Yemen, Bahrain, Syria, and Lebanon.
It is important to remember that despite all of these differences in opinion and practice, Shia and Sunni Muslims share the main articles of Islamic belief and are considered by most to be brethren in faith. In fact, most Muslims do not distinguish themselves by claiming membership in any particular group, but prefer to call themselves simply, "Muslims."
In order to be a muslim, one has to be content on the five basic pillars of faith,
1. To believe in Allah(SWT) alone and ascribe no partners to him. Follow Prophet Muhammad's(PBUH) exemplary life as a role model.
2. To remember Allah(SWT) at the prescribed times. This means offer 5 Salaat's daily in the manner described.
3. To offer Zakaah(Charity) to the poor. Zakaah wipes the sins and is usually taken out once in a year. It is basically is giving a very small portion of your savings in a year at a time. The percentage to saving given as Zakaah is 2.5% to 5% of the total saving in a year. It is usually given by people who can afford to give. Else you may give out monthly, daily or weekly Zakaah as per your income which ever is suitable. It is described that a person who can afford by Allah's grace to give Zakaah but however refrains to do so, the amount which is due becomes Haraam on him.
Another form of Charity is Sadqa, which is giving away to the poor their due. This means you can offer any amount in cash or kind to the needy as a protection amount to your & your family's life & wealth.
Both Zakaah & Sadqa should be given to the people really in need & should be muslims. One should always start searching for the needy one's at home or relatives & then look-out outside. This means, if you have some slaves or people who work for you who are firm in their believe towards Allah(SWT), theirs is the first portion. If you even have a relative who is struggling with financial needs or help otherwise, they should be given priority. On the other hand relatives should accept the amount willingly and not feel otherwise as this is a rule set by Allah(SWT). If you do not find anyone from the household then you may give the amount to needy muslims outside like an Islamic madarsa. It is said in a tradition that Sadqa should not be given to the muslims who are 'Syed's' as they are made of the higher rank.
4. To fast at the time of Ramadan. This is a Holy month when the Holy Quran descended from above & revealed to Prophet Muhammad(PBUH). It is mandatory for every muslim to hold fasts as it clenses them of their sins & brings them closer to their lord, Almighty Allah. It is the time when people who have the comfort of life by Allah's grace experience the hunger of poor & hence in this blessed month lot of charity is given. People who are healthy should keep all the fasts but it is not mandatory for people who are ill or cannot hold fast due to some valid reason.
5. Holy Pilgrimage to Mecca known as Hajj. It is required for every muslim who can afford the Holy Journey to Mecca to be on the Hajj at least once in a life time.
Apart from the above, there are other things a muslim must do to be among the best of believers,
1. Read the Holy Quran daily. For people who cannot understand Arabic, it is recommended to read the Quran first & then read the meaning of what was read. This way you will understand the Holy Quran. For people who cannot read Arabic, it is recommended to read the transliteration in any language & then understand the meaning of it. Once such site is http://www.transliteration.org. A lot of emphasis is laid to read the meaning of the verses of the Holy Quran to understand the literal meaning as favored by Allah(SWT) & not merely read it for the sake of it. Many people might fool you if you are not aware what your religion expects out of you. So you should always make it a habit of reading the Holy Quran with its meaning daily in small chapters.
2. To offer Friday Salah, salaat-ud-jumaah in congression. The best way is to visit a mosque & offer the Friday salah. Care should be taken to listen to the Friday iqamah carefully as is prescribed by our prophet. It is usually said that a person who deliberately misses 3 successive Friday salaah in congression, a sin is written against him. For the people who genuinely cannot go to a mosque and attend the prayers for reasons like job, illness etc, there is no harm & they can pray at home.
3. Always think of the after-life. Do good works to increase your deeds for the hereafter where you have to rest permanently. All good that you do here with be paid back to you in the Hereafter. This way you shall not fall prey to this materialistic world. Any gain or profit would be of no use to you once your eyes are closed. Having said this, it does not mean that you should not strive hard to succeed in this world but you should always ask Allah(SWT) from protection of your health & wealth and do good.
4. Always eat & spend of the money you earn of hard work. Money earned from corruption or black money is haraam. It will slowly eat all your good deeds. In literal sense, it means do not eat of the money which is earned by harming others. Muslims in different professions should be very careful not to do somethings which unnecessarily favors someone as an act of corruption or accept something as a bribe or something which is haraam on him. Remember Allah(SWT) watches everyone & will pay everyone at the appointed time.
5. Never treat Islamic saints, imams or ulemas in a manner that you subconsciously start worshiping them as you worship Allah(SWT), in other words there isn't anyone who or which can be compared to Allah(SWT), he does not have competition or comparison to anyone, he is independent and eternal. From him is everything and on him does everything depend, he is not dependent on anyone or anything. Allah(SWT) is the absolute and there should be absolutely no partners ascribed to Allah(SWT). You may do special prayers(at mazaar's/graves of saints) or give special respect to holy saints however always remember that Allah(SWT) is alone as your helper and the only one who listens to your prayers, no recommendation of anyone in anyway will benefit your prayers. He is the one who created you & can create millions like you in a fraction of a second. Hence, prostration is only in front of Allah(SWT) and haraam to anyone else(including prophet shrines). Whenever you meet a holy saint or visit a shrine do not prostrate or start kissing the feet or legs as some uneducated muslims may do and they say they have always seen their fathers and forefathers doing it. Your lord is the one, the absolute, Allah & he sees what you don't see.
6. Do not lie or do wrong to others. Even to non-muslims, as this is the basic tenant of faith. Islam teaches non-violence. You can reside in harmony with non-muslims too unless being wronged by them. If you have a threat then you may protect yourself else you should not fall for violence. Removing stones from the way for others is sunnah.
7. Do not fight with muslims. Muslims all over the world are bonded as brothers. To fight with a muslim over something which can be sorted or to maintain silence with another muslim in a way that you don't speak with him or her for 3 or more days is considered as a sinful act. In the event, you feel that you are right & still the other person is driving you to this, pray to Allah to sort things between you two.
8. Pride kills good deeds. Remember Allah(SWT) created you from a dingle drop of blood and then shaped you. You were powerless, speechless, sightless and depended completely on Allah(SWT) & others for nutrition. He able to create the like of you. You have no & absolutely no control of your own self. Even if you desired for a beautiful face, nose, fingers, height etc you still cannot have them. Every thing depends on Allah(SWT) including the one's that take shape. You have no control over it. So stop grinning over your color, shape of face, height etc as this is all given by Almighty Allah. The distinction is done by the humans and if there was no distinction, you would have liked every part of your body. Just like no one looks at your shoe sole to see what personality or character you have, if they started doing this you would curse yourself for this as well. So be thankful to the Almighty Allah for everything you have. He is the one who is in complete control of you. For what ever work that you do, never be filled with pride or treat others with rudeness as everything is in Allah's(SWT) control. For whenever you achieve success always invoke Allah's(SWT) blessing on it like for saying 'by Allah's grace I was able to get this work accomplished' or say 'inshallah(if Allah wills)' to anything which you are committing to others.
9. Do works which are in accordance with the Islamic Shariyah. Islam is a religion which has given a lot of liberty to things which obviously comes with little restrictions which are of-course for your own benefit. We may have lot of questions on the things laid out for us to follow, no one stops us to question them. Ask these questions to your imam or any learned Islamic scholars to get answers. But without answers do not do anything which goes against your Shariyah. It is mandatory not to drink(hard-drinks) or to eat or consume anything which is 'habit-forming' or to have sexual intercourse with someone before marriage or with someone else other than your spouse after marriage. We live in the modern world & are tempted to these as we see this to be a part of our daily lives. If you have doubt's read the holy Quran which has answers to everything, if you are not able to locate or understand an answer and want theoretical or logical explanation, visit your Imam or an Islamic scholar. These days there are number of websites where you can get online answers to your queries or doubts. Remember there is reason behind everything and that's why certain things have been permitted and certain haven't. Also keep in mind that the wrath of Allah(SWT) is very hard. Though His mercy prevails his wrath. Humans are bound to do mistakes as the time or the era we belong to is changing very fast. Everything is happening as mentioned is the Holy books, people are given to adultery, corruption, killings etc. The world is also fast changing. It is therefore utmost important to save ourselves from these evil deeds by refraining ourselves to interact with such people who can imbibe in us the disliking of the instructions as is given in the holy books. People from the past have been changing the scripts in the holy books to their likes. You may dislike going to a discotheque but with a lot of pressure from your friends you may tell yourself that you will be there for only for few hours and whatever happens around is not what you would fall prey of. This will be the first step of Satan, slowly you may start liking certain kind of music or under the pressure from your friends taste liquor as may think that you will just take one sip and stop. Eventually you have come into Satan's plot and with much more examples you will be pushed away from your basic faith. Remember to ask help of Allah(SWT) to refrain from the evil whisperings of Satan.
10. In the modern day, a muslim is expected to lower his gaze whenever he comes across anything which is haraam as per his religion. It is said that a person who lowers his gaze kills his temptation for the right. For example, a muslim who is given to rememberance of Allah(SWT) throughout the day comes across a non-muslim lady who is wearning revealing clothes. His first reaction will be to lower his gaze and let that lady go. But Satan will tell you to have a quick glance of that girl's beauty and even though you may hate yourself for looking at her being a muslim you have the privilege of repenting to Allah. With this, you may fall prey to Satan's plot and one gaze after the other and finally you will have absolutely no control on your sight. This comes in accordance with the psycological human behavior where a man who has given up the materialistic world is shown a lot of things time after time, his power to resist his desire slowly goes away & then he falls a prey to the temptations or things which have been forbidden.
11. No good deed is small, reciting a single word from the holy Quran has its blessings & benefits, alim-laam-meen not being one word, 'alif' being an independent word, 'laam' and 'meem' each being independent too. Removing stones from the path of other people, feeding the poor & the needy(even to non-muslims), feeding the birds, eagerly helping everyone etc may seem like tasks which only saints or only a handful people do as to where in the current world every one is given to hatred & self-centered-ness. But Allah(SWT) sees everything & rewards you for even the tiniest of deeds you do.
12. Treating everyone as equal. Treat every human as equal, your slaves, your neighbours, people whom you come across daily. No one should be discreminated on grounds of color, sex, money etc. If you are given to this, then the Satan beguils you to be of the wrong-doers. It should be our endavour to always treat everyone as equal. Here treating everyone as equal does not relate to give the same comfort which you have to others, rather it means to treat them with same respect as Allah(SWT)'s creatures.
13. Try watching nice Islamic documentaries. The one's with people giving lectures are only good for understanding the religion. Watch Islamic videos of the life of the Holy Prophet(PBUH), Mecca, Islam etc. This purifies heart & the person's heart becomes close to Allah. It is known that after some time our ibadah keeps on losing focus & concentration. This is just like a pencil which needs to be sharpened to get its fine show. The same way watching good Islamic video's fills closeness to Allah in the hearts of muslims.
For suggested islamic videos please visit the audio-video section of islamworld.freewebs.com
14. Keep on reading the small dua's at the prescribed times, like after waking up, before going to wash-room, before leaving the house, before sleeping etc. This ensures that you are constantly remembering Allah most of the times during the day. By doing this, our heart always stays close to Allah.
For suggested short dua's, please visit the dua's section of islamworld.freewebs.com
15. Try to peform as many salah's in congression as possible. Try to perform all 5 salah at their prescribed times, be very punctual and give salah the number one priority. Usually we are caught up in worldly affairs and we perform the salah at the last minute. Even while doing so we keep thinking of all the things we have to do or have done. This reduces our concentration in salah considerably and we get rewarded of only a part of the salah. We know of instances where Prophet Mohammed(PBUH) has many times told his followers to go back and pray as the prayers offered were from careless hearts and mind. We should always strive for 'khushoo' in our salah's. For this we should give priority to our salah's over any other work. Try not to perform the salah at the time you are feeling sleepy, try doing it before or in a state when you are fresh and can easily concentrate. Before the start of your salah read the 'aaytul kursi' to ward off any Satanic whisperings during the salah by which you tend to remember about your work, political life, friends etc and are not able to concentrate. Just after the Iqamah, give a pause for 2 seconds and in those two seconds think that you have to get 100% reward of this salah which you are going to perform. Then by thinking that Allah(SWT), the Almighty is constantly watching you, perform your salah.
The Divine Scriptures (Books of Allah) are big and small. They were revealed to the Prophets. The big ones are called the Books, and the small ones are known as the Scrolls (Sahifas). The four famous Divine Books, and who are the Prophets upon whom these were revealed?
The Holy Taurat (Torah) was revealed to Prophet Musa (Moses) (Peace be upon him).
The Holy Zabur (Psalms) was revealed to Prophet Da'ud (David) (Peace be upon him).
The Holy Injil (The New Testament) was revealed to Prophet Isa (Jesus) (Peace be upon him), and the;
The Holy Qur'an, was revealed to our Holy Prophet Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him).
The exact number of the Divine Scrolls (Sahifas) is not known. Nevertheless, some of them were revealed to Prophet Adam (Peace be on him), some to Prophet Sheeth (Peace be on him) and some to Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham), peace be on him. Apart from theses there are other Scrolls that were revealed to some other prophets.
The Allah's Messengers (Rasuls) are human beings, and Allah's servants. Allah appointed them to convey His messages to the other human beings. They were truthful; never lie, and did not commit sin. They showed miracles on Allah's commands; convey His messages in full, without adding, or leaving out anything from the orders of Allah. Nor did they withhold any of His messages. The Prophets (Nabi) were also human beings, and Allah's servants, They convey the commands of Allah to His beings; were truthful and never told a lie, nor committed any sins. They did not subtract or add anything in the commands of Allah, nor did they hide any Divine orders.
There is a minor difference between a Messenger (Rasul), and a Prophet (Nabi). A Rasul is that Messenger, who is given a new Shariat (Divine Law) and a new Book. All Messengers are also known as Prophets, whether or not they are given a new Shariat (Divine Law). Thus, a Nabi may followed the previous Shariat and the Book. The prophet were appointed only by Allah's choice; meaning that there were no role for human effort, or intentions in this regard. This bestow, solely, depends on Allah's will. Many Messengers and Prophets came to this world only Allah knows their exact number. A Muslim should believe and testify that all of them were true and right Messengers of Allah. The first Prophet was Prophet Adam (Peace be on him)., The last Prophet was The Holy Prophet Muhammad Mustafa (Peace be on him). The Muslims believe that the appointment of the Prophets and Messengers ended with The Holy Prophet Muhammad Mustafa (Peace be on him). No new Prophet will come until the Day of Judgement. After Prophet Muhammad (Peace be on him), whosoever claims to be a prophet, is a liar. Prophet Muhammad (Peace be on him) is the most exalted and glorious of all the Messengers and Prophets. He, too, is Allah's servant and obedient to Him. He is the most exalted after Allah, the Almighty.
The most single certain and uncertain event in this world is related to the death, everyone certain that he or she will die one day but they are not certain when they will die. It is a fundamental belief of a Muslim that one day this universe will perish on the day of Qiyamma (Doomed day) when Angel Isra'fil (Peace be on him) will blow the trumpet. Its sound will be so frightening and intense that it's shock will kill every living thing and every material will be shattered and destroyed. That day all human beings and living souls Shall die; the entire universe will perish. Mountains will fly like cotton flakes, and the planets and stars etc. will disintegrate and fall down. The Day of Judgement (Qiyamat) is about to come. But no one known its exact time. except Allah. All that is we known is that it will be on (a) Friday, the 10th of Muharram. Our Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace be on him) has foretold some signs of Qiyamat. By observing those signs, nearness of the Day of Judgement can be determined. they are:
Sins begin to increase in the world.
People begin to disobey their parents, and become harsh towards them.
There is breach of trust.
Singing, dancing, and revelry is in abundance
The new generation begins to find fault in their forefathers.
Uneducated, and the ill-educated become the leaders.
Shepherds etc. and lowly placed people begin to build lofty buildings.
Incompetent and unworthy persons are appointed to high positions.
When the above things happen, take that the Qiyamat is near.