Sunni Islam refers to one of the two branches of Islam. It is the largest branch with over 940 million adherents. Adherents of Sunni are called Sunnites or Sunnis and sometimes they call themselves Ahlus Sunnah wal-Jamaa’h. This implies the people of Muhammad tradition and consensus of Ummah or the ahl as-sunnah.
Globally, Sunni is the second largest body of religion after Christianity. It is also the second largest denomination in the world after Christianity. In some cases, Sunni is called the orthodox religion version. In Arabic, the word Sunni comes from Sunnah. Sunnah refers to actions and sayings of Prophet Muhammad as they were recorded in the hadiths.
The primary collection of the hadiths comprises of the Kutub al-Sittah is accepted by the Sunni orthodoxy and in conjunction with binding consensus and Quran form jurisprudence basis within the Sunni Islam. These are the basic sources of the law. In addition, juristic schools of Sunni Islam recognize different methods that are used in deriving verdicts. These include public welfare consideration, analogical reason as well as juristic discretion.
In countries outside Iran, Yemen, Iraq and Bahrain where Islam faith is professed, Sunni is the main Muslim sect. However, both Sunni and Shi’a trace the differences between them to 7th Century when there were disagreements over Prophet Muhammad successor.
According to Sunni, Muslim community was supposed to select a successor of Prophet Muhammad known as Caliph to lead. On the other hand, Shi’a believed that Prophet Muhammad chose Ali, his son-in-law to succeed him.
Although both Shi’a and Sunni agree on various practical and theological matters, Sunni are seen to put more emphasis on God’s power as well as his crucial role in determining the fate of human. Sunnis are also considered to be more inclusive in defining the meaning of being a Muslim. Sunni tradition places more emphasis on the role played by religion in political and public life. It places more weight on the Islamic law as a standard for the wide array of social issues such as marriage, inheritance, divorce and commerce among others.
Sunnis believe that Muhammad companions were best Muslims. The belief has its basis on traditions of the prophet such as the one Abdullah, Masud’s son narrated. In the narration, Muhammad said that “the best of the people are my generation, then those who come after them, then those who come after them”. According to Sunnites, this view is also supported by the Quran.
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