The division between Sunnis and Shias is nearly as old as Islam itself. Although the two main branches of Islam share most of their beliefs and practices, political and theological divisions have become much more prominent in recent years. Events like the war in Syria and sectarian violence in Iraq and Pakistan have polarized the two communities, even in the UK.
In conversation with Egyptian journalist Shaimaa Khalil, Cambridge Islam scholar Tim Winter (better known to many Muslims as Abdal Hakim Murad) provides a Sunni perspective on how the division began and what it consists in today.
He explains how different groups started to go their separate ways over the question of who should succeed the Prophet Muhammad, and provides a Sunni critique of the Shia way of commemorating the event which has become a cornerstone of Shia identity: the killing of the Prophet’s grandson Hussain in Kerbala in what is now Iraq.
And, despite the deep political rift between the Sunni and Shia power blocks in the Middle East today, he shows that the differences in worship and practice are far smaller than those between some Christian denominations.
Listen to the second part to this podcast, The Great Divide – a Shia perspective, featuring Shia researcher and lecturer Mohammed al-Hilli here.