by Ergun Caner
When Muhammed died in A.D. 632, Islam had no plans for future leadership. The many followers of Muhammed were splintered into factions as to who should become the next leader of the religion.
Because Muhammed was the final prophet of Islam, they would not be following another prophet, but instead a caliph, from the Arabic term alfa, meaning “successor.” One group believed that the leader must be a blood relative of Muhammed. Since Muhammed had no sons, this group believed his son-in-law, Ali, should become caliph so that his sons would be a direct blood link as caliph.
A significant majority of the Muslims, however, believed the leadership should fall to the first male convert to Islam and Muhammed’s best friend, Abu Bakr. Once Abu Bakr was made leader, Ali’s followers left the other Muslims and declared themselves the followers of Ali, or Shi’a. The majority of the Muslims became known as “people of the way,” or Sunni. These two groups compose well over 90 percent of Muslims to this day.
Other Islamic groups have developed over time, usually through mingling with other world religions. For example, Sufi Muslims incorporate into their beliefs Hindu concepts of becoming one with the mind of Allah. Alawite Muslims, strongest in Syria, celebrate Christmas. It is important to remember that each of these groups believes it alone is the true voice of Islam, and over the past 1,300 years they have fought against one another.
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