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Diversity & Extremes

1. Introduction

2. Major doctrinal divisions
Sunni doctrine
Shi'i doctrine
Ibadi doctrine

3. Major ideological divisions
Traditional Islam



Major doctrinal divisions

The source for the information on this page is research work published in the book, The 500 Most Influential Muslims 2010. To download this PDF book for free, click here. To go to the book's homepage, click

Sunni doctrine

About 90% of all Muslims are Sunnis.

The two main schools of doctrine are the Ashari (Abu al Hasan al Ash'ari, 874-936 CE) and the Maturidi (Muhammad Abu Mansur al Maturidi, 853-944 CE). These two have minor differences that are so small that discussions about the differences are generally the domain of scholars of doctrine, and not the man in the street. Both doctrines insist on the trust in Revelation as well as reason, but Maturidis put slightly more emphasis on human reasoning.

The Salafis have specific doctrinal beliefs that noticeably differentiate them from the majority of Sunnis. Salafis place emphasis on literal interpretation of the Qur'an and Hadith, with skepticism towards the role of human reason in theology.

Shi'i doctrine

About 9% of all Muslims are Shi'as. Shi'as believe that the leaders of the Muslims should be direct descendents of Prophet Muhammad through his daughter, Fatima (with her husband, Ali).

There are three main schools of Shi'i doctrine:

The Twelvers believe in the infallibility of the 12 Imams that are descendent from Prophet Muhammad, starting with his son-in-law, Ali, and believe that these Imams should be in charge of Muslims politically and spiritually.

The Isma'ilis (also called the Seveners, as they believe that Ismail bin Jafar was the seventh and final leading Imam) believe that the complete true meanings of the Quran and Hadith lie solely with the prevailing Imam.

The Zaidis (also called the Fivers, as they believe that Zaid Ibn Ali was the fifth and final leading Imam) reject the ascription of infallibility to the 12 Imams, and hold that any of the descendants of Prophet Muhammad can be the Imam.

Ibadi doctrine

Ibadis believe that God created the Qur'an at a certain point in time, and that
God will not be seen on the Day of Judgment. They also believe in the eternal
nature of hell for all those who enter it.