New Testament Bible Class

Islam & its Denominations

The information below is drawn from several sources.

Wahhabism associates itself with the Sunni “denomination” of Islam although not all Sunni accept them.  Here’s a bit of information drawn from several sources.

Islam consists of a number of religious denominations that are essentially similar in belief but which have significant theological and legal differences. The primary division is between the Sunni (85%) and Shi’a (15%).

The schism developed in the late 7th century following disagreements over the religious and political leadership of Islam.  Sunnis believe that the first four caliphs were the rightful successors to Muhammad; since God did not specify any particular leaders to succeed him, those leaders had to be elected.  The Shi’a believe in the political and religious leadership of infallible Imams from the descendents of Ali ibn Abi Talib, the cousin and son-in-law of Muhammad who they believe was his rightful successor.  They call him he first Imam (leader), rejecting the legitimacy of the previous Muslim caliphs. Although the Shi’a share many core practices with the Sunni, the two branches also disagree over the proper importance and validity of specific collections of hadith (oral traditions relating to the words and deeds of the Islamic prophet Muhammad; hadith tell Muslims something to have been said or done by Muhammad which are not in the Qur’an).

Wahhabism or Wahabism is a name sometimes applied to the conservative 18th century reformist call of Sunni Islam attributed to Muhammad ibn Abd-al-Wahhab, an Islamic scholar from what is today known as Saudi Arabia, who became known for advocating a return to the practices of the first three generations of Islamic history. Wahhabism formed the creed upon which the kingdom of Saudi Arabia was founded and is the dominant form of Islam found in Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, as well as some pockets of Somalia, Algeria and Mauritania. It is now often referred to as a “sect” or “branch” of Islam, though its supporters reject such designations. 

Followers of Wahhabism include Afghanistan’s Taliban and terrorist Osama Bin Laden.

Followers of Wahhabism include Afghanistan’s Taliban and terrorist Osama Bin Laden.

Countries that are mainly Sunni

     Saudi Arabia –and the home of Wahhabism.




     Afghanistan (although about 19% are Shi’a)

     Palestinians – about 2% are Christian with most in the West Bank but some are in the Gaza Strip; Hamas (AKA Islamic Resistance Movement) is Sunni. 

Mainly Shi’a



     Iraq – but more than 50% are Shi’a (this explains why some there are associated with Shi’a Iran).  “Mixed” Iraq is strategically located between Shi’a Iran and the other Arab Muslim countries which are all mainly Sunni. 

     Lebanon –  53% Muslim evenly split between Shi’a and Sunni, 41% Christian, 7% Druze (a religious community whose traditional religion is said to have begun as an offshoot of Islam.  Many Islamic scholars label the Druze as a non-Muslim sect.); Hezbollah –  Shi’a, is determined to destroy Israel and is supported by Shi’a Iran.

 Israel (according to the CIA website:

     Jewish 76%,

     Muslim 16%, – most are Sunni

     Christians 2%,

     Druze 2% (defined above)

     Unspecified 4%


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