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Sunni Religion in Iran

Sunni Religion in Iran

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Doctrines Sunni Muslims constitute approximately 8 percent of the Iranian population. A majority of Kurds, virtually all Baluchis and Turkomans, and a minority of Arabs are Sunnis, as are small communities of Persians in southern Iran and Khorasan. The main difference between Sunnis and Shias is that the former do not accept the doctrine of the Imamate. Generally speaking, Iranian Shias are inclined to recognize Sunnis as fellow Muslims, but as those whose religion is incomplete. Shia clergy tend to view missionary work among Sunnis to convert them to true Islam as a worthwhile religious endeavor. Since the Sunnis generally live in the border regions of the country, there has been no occasion for Shia-Sunni conflict in most of Iran. In those towns with mixed populations in West Azarbaijan, the Persian Gulf region, and Baluchestan va Sistan, tensions between Shias and Sunnis existed both before and after the Revolution. Religious tensions have been highest during major Shia observances, especially Moharram.The Sunni tThisfaith is one of the two main sectarian divisions in Islam (the other being Shi’a). A number of important principles govern the Sunni tradition.

  1. The Prophet and his revelation are of foremost authority.
  2. In order for the Qur’an to be used as a basis for sound judgement for subjects under dispute it is necessary to take sound hadiths into account.
  3. Qur’anic verses should be interpreted in the context of the whole of the Qur’an.
  4. In understanding the Qur’an rational thinking is subordinate to revelation. If the Qur’an or the Sunnah of the Prophet offers a clear judgement on anything, the Muslim is obliged to follow this judgement. If there is no clear judgement about anything in the Qur’an, then it is necessary to make a rational opinion (known as Ijtihad) which is consistent with Qur’anic teaching.
  5. The first four caliphs were the legitimate rulers of the early community.
  6. Faith and deeds are inseparable.
  7. Everything occurs according to the divine plan.
  8. Allah will be seen in the life after death.

The Sunni tradition also emphasises the importance of religion in the formation of public policy. This emphasis has, according to Sunni-Muslim scholars, given rise to two interrelated processes: the supremacy of the Shari’a and the sovereignty of the Islamic community. According to the Sunni tradition, if Islam is a legalistically oriented religion, concerned with the organization of human society, it follows that religious teaching must concern itself with matters of marriage and divorce, inheritance and ownership, commercial transactions and contractual dealings, government, banking, investment, credits, debts and so on. The proper execution of these contractual matters according to the principles of the shari’a based on the Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet constitutes an important part of the way to salvation.

History Islam is divided between the minority Shia tradition and the majority Sunni tradition. The minority group regard the Prophet’s Son in law, Ali, and his descendants as divinely authorised to rule the Muslim community. The majority group believed that the caliph should be appointed through the consensus of the community.
The Muslim community’s encounter with other cultures, coupled with further divisions in the community itself, brought home the need to formulate the principles of faith within a rational framework. In the 10th century much of the contents of the Muslim community’s theology was put into a set of propositions known as Sunni (orthodox) theology. The word Sunni derives from the sunnah, or example, of the Prophet, and indicates the orthodoxy of the majority community as opposed to the peripheral positions of schismatics who by definition must be in error.
A further response to schisms involved developing a trend of accommodation and synthesis. The principle of accommodation made it possible for diverse schools of thought to coexist and recognize each other. Thus, the two principal theological schools of al-Ashari and al-Maturidi accepted each other as orthodox while opposing minority traditions such as Mu’tazilah, Kharijites and Shi’a. The legal framework of the Sunni tradition was provided by the Hanafi, Shafi’i, Maliki and Hanbali schools.
The political leadership of the Sunni community, and therefore the symbol of orthodoxy has been the caliphate. After the first four caliphs the community came under the authority of the Ummayads, who set up their capital in Damascus. The period of the Ummayad caliphs (661-750) saw the conquest of North Africa and Spain. In 732 Muslim armies reached as far as Toulouse in the south-west of France. In the East, Muslim armies arrived in Afghanistan and the region that is present-day Pakistan. In 750 the Ummayad caliph was overthrown in rebellion led by the ‘Abbasids, who were to form the next caliphate. Remnants of the Ummayad family, however, were able to establish themselves in Muslim Spain, where they ruled until 1031.
The ‘Abbasids established their capital in Baghdad in 750. From then until the 10th century both the Muslim empire and the power of the ‘Abbasids continued to grow. However, from the 10th century the empire began to fragment. A rival caliphate, the Fatimids, was established in North Africa. The Mongol invasions and the capture of Baghdad in 1258 brought to an end the caliphate in Iraq. An ‘Abbasid caliphate was established in Cairo, but this was without any real political power.
The caliphate was taken over when the Ottomans invaded Egypt in 1517. The defeat of the Ottoman empire after the first world war, and the creation of a secular state in Turkey (which had been at the heart of the Ottoman empire) brought the caliphate to an end. For the first half of the twentieth century many regions of the Islamic world have sought to free themselves from European colonial rule. In the absence of the caliphate a pan-Islamic identity has been sought through organisations such as the Muslim World League and the Islamic Conference. Internal divisions have, however, impeded any real scope for Islamic unity.
Symbols See Islam. 
Adherents today Ahl-i Sunna/Sunnism is the madhhab of 90% of all Muslims. 
Main Centre



Doctrines Malikiyyah is the second of the Islamic schools of jurisprudence. The sources of Maliki doctrine are the Qur’an, the Prophet’s traditions (hadith), consensus (ijma’), and analogy (qiyas). The Malikis’ concept of ijma’ differed from that of the Hanafis in that they understood it to mean the consensus of the community represented by the people of Medina. (Overtime, however, the school came to understand consensus to be that of the doctors of law, known as ‘ulama.)
Imam Malik’s major contribution to Islamic law is his book al-Muwatta (The Beaten Path). The Muwatta is a code of law based on the legal practices that were operating in Medina. It covers various areas ranging from prescribed rituals of prayer and fasting to the correct conduct of business relations. The legal code is supported by some 2,000 traditions attributed to the Prophet.
History Malikiyyah was founded by Malik ibn Anas (c.713-c.795), a legal expert in the city of Medina. Such was his stature that it is said three ‘Abbasid caliphs visited him while they were on Pilgrimage to Medina. The second ‘Abbasid caliph, al-Mansur (d.775), approached the Medinan jurist with the proposal to establish a judicial system that would unite the different judicial methods that were operating at that time throughout the Islamic world.
The school spread westwards through Malik’s disciples, becoming dominant in North Africa and Spain. In North Africa Malikiyyah gave rise to an important Sufi order, Shadhiliyyah, which was founded by Abu al-Hasan, a jurist in the Malikite school, in Tunisia in the thirteenth century.
During the Ottoman period Hanafite Turks were given the most important judicial in the Ottoman empire. North Africa, however, remained faithful to its Malikite heritage. Such was the strength of the local tradition that qadis (judges) from both the Hanafite and Malikite traditions worked with the local ruler. Following the fall of the Ottoman empire, Malikiyyah regained its position of ascendancy in the region. today Malikite doctrine and practice remains widespread throughout North Africa, the Sudan and regions of West and Central Africa.
Symbols As a school of law Malikiyyah has no symbols. 
Adherents There are no figures indicating the size of the school. 
Main Centre
 The school has no headquarters or main centre.



Doctrines Shafi’iyyah was the third school of Islamic jurisprudence. According to the Shafi’i school the paramount sources of legal authority are the Qur’an and the Sunnah. Of less authority are the Ijma’ of the community and thought of scholars (Ijitihad) exercised through qiyas. The scholar must interpret the ambiguous passages of the Qur’an according to the consensus of the Muslims, and if there is no consensus, according to qiyas. 
History The Shafi’iyyah school of Islamic law was named after Muhammad ibn Idris al-Shafi’i (767-819). He belonged originally to the school of Medina and was also a pupil of Malik ibn Anas (d.795), the founder of Malikiyyah. However, he came to believe in the overriding authority of the traditions from the Prophet and identified them with the Sunnah.
Baghdad and Cairo were the chief centres of the Shafi’iyyah. From these two cities Shafi’i teaching spread into various parts of the Islamic world. In the tenth century Mecca and Medina came to be regarded as the school’s chief centres outside of Egypt. In the centuries preceding the emergence of the Ottoman empire the Shafi’is had acquired supremacy in the central lands of Islam. It was only under the Ottoman sultans at the beginning of the sixteenth century that the Shafi’i were replaced by the Hanafites, who were given judicial authority in Constantinople, while Central Asia passed to the Shi’a as a result of the rise of the Safawids in 1501. In spite of these developments, the people in Egypt, Syria and the Hidjaz continued to follow the Shafi’i madhhab. today it remains predominant in Southern Arabia, Bahrain, the Malay Archipelago, East Africa and several parts of Central Asia.
Symbols The school has no symbol system. 
Adherents There are no figures for the number of followers of the school. It has some adherents in the following countries: Jordan, Palestine, Syria, the Lebanon and Yemen. It has a large following in the following countries: Egypt, Indonesia, the Philippines, Brunei, Singapore, Thailand, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, and among the Kurdish people. 
Main Centre
 The school does not have a headquarters or main centre.


Doctrines Kharijite belief is distinguished from that of mainstream Islam through its particular emphasis on good actions as well as belief. For the Kharijites the mere profession of the faith – “There is no God but Allah; Muhammad is the prophet of God” – was not sufficient in itself to make a person a Muslim; the profession had to be accompanied by righteousness and good works. Contrary to the Sunni view and practice, the Kharijites interpreted the Qur’anic command concerning “enjoining good and forbidding evil” to mean the vindication of their beliefs through the sword. With regard to the question of who should lead the community of Muslims, the Kharijites claimed that the community could only be led by those who were pious and righteous. It was deemed acceptable to overthrow a ruler whose conduct fell short of these ideals. 
History Kharijiyyah emerged in the first century of Islam as a result of disputes within the community over the question of who should lead it. During the reign of the third caliph, ‘Uthman, certain groups accused the caliph of nepotism and misrule, and this discontent led to his assassination in 656. After ‘Uthman’s death Ali, the cousin of the Prophet, was invited by the Muslims at Madina to accept the caliphate, which he did, and thus became the fourth caliph (656-661). Ali’s rule was opposed by Uthman’s nephew, Mu’awiyah, who rebelled against Ali, but subsequently agreed to settle the issue of who should lead the community through human arbitration. The principle of the use of human arbitration for this purpose was opposed by certain groups within the community, who became known to history as the Kharijites (a term which means “those who go out, go off”).
Because of their belief that the pursuit of truth was done through the use of the sword, they embarked upon endless campaigns against the community. Gradually they were subdued, and within two centuries of the birth of Islam were wiped out.
Symbols The Kharijites had no distinctive symbol system. 
Adherents The group has no contemporary adherents. However, a moderate group called Ibadites, who refer themselves back to the Kharijites but reject their aggressive methods, are to be found in the sultanate of Oman and North Africa. 
Main Centre
 The Kharijites were centred around the marshes around Basra and on the left bank of the Tigris, a location which afforded them the opportunity to escape to the mountainous regions of the Iranian plateaus if defeated in battle.


Doctrines The Mu’tazilite school of theology emerged out of the question raised by the Kharijites whether works are integral to faith or independent of faith. On the question of the relationship between faith and works, the Mu’tazilites adopted the position that someone who commits a grave sin without repenting occupies a middle state between being a Muslim and not being a Muslim.
A second doctrine concerned the nature of God. God is pure Essence and, therefore, without eternal attributes such as hands. Passages in the Qur’an that ascribe human or physical properties to God are to be regarded as metaphorical rather than literal.
The Mu’tazilites also argued that the Qur’an was created and not eternal. The basis of this doctrine was the claim that the eternal coexistence of the Qur’an beside Allah gave the impression of another god beside Allah.
Human acts are free and, therefore, people are entirely responsible for their decisions and actions. Divine predestination is incompatible with God’s justice and human responsibility. God, however, must of necessity act justly; it follows from this that the promises of reward that God has made in the Qur’an to righteous people and the punishments he had issued to evildoers must be carried out by him on the day of judgement.
Mu’tazilites are generally seen as responsible for the incorporation of Greek philosophical thought into Islamic theology. This is particularly apparent in their belief that knowledge of God can be acquired through reason as well as revelation.
History The term Mu’tazilah derives from the Arabic al-mu’tazilah, which means the one who separated. It was applied to the school established in Iraq by Wasil b. ‘Ata (699-749), a student of the distinguished scholar Hasn al-Basri (642-728).
At the time of the rise of the ‘Abbasids in 750 the Mu’tazilites began to become prominent in the Islamic world. In the 9th century the ‘Abbasid caliph, al-Ma’mun, raised Mu’tazilah doctrine to the status of the state creed. Openly supported by the caliphate, the Mu’tazilites became increasingly intolerant and began to persecute their opponents. On one occasion the eminent Sunni scholar and founder of one of the four orthodox jurisprudential schools, Ahmad b. Hanbal (d.855), was subjected to flogging and imprisonment for his refusal to subscribe to the Mu’tazilite doctrine that the Qur’an was created in time.
Always unpopular with the ordinary people, the Mu’tazilites’ power gradually began to wane. They lost the support of the caliphs and by the 10th century the Traditionist (Sunni majority) opposition to Mu’tazilah found a spokesman in Abu al-Hasan al-Ash’ari (d.935), who himself had previously been a Mu’tazilite. Al-Ash’ari’s new school of theology and the school of Abu Mansur al-Maturidi (d.945) provided the new basis of orthodox Islamic theology, leading to the complete disappearance of the Mu’tazile movement.
Symbols Mu’tazilah does not identify itself through the use of any symbol system. 
Adherents The school has no contemporary adherents. 
Main Centre
 When the school was in existence its main centres were in Basra and Baghdad.


Doctrines The Hanafiyyah school is the first of the four orthodox Sunni schools of law. It is distinguished from the other schools through its placing less reliance on mass oral traditions as a source of legal knowledge. It developed the exegesis of the Qur’an through a method of analogical reasoning known as Qiyas (see Sunni Islam). It also established the principle that the universal concurrence of the Ummah (community) of Islam on a point of law, as represented by legal and religious scholars, constituted evidence of the will of God. This process is called ijma’, which means the consensus of the scholars. Thus, the school definitively established the Qur’an, the Traditions of the Prophet, ijma’ and qiyas as the basis of Islamic law. In addition to these, Hanafi accepted local customs as a secondary source of the law. 
History The Hanafi school of law was founded by Nu’man Abu Hanifah (d.767) in Kufa in Iraq. It derived from the bulk of the ancient school of Kufa and absorbed the ancient school of Basra. Abu Hanifah belonged to the period of the successors (tabiin)of the Sahabah (the companions of the Prophet). He was a Tabi’i since he had the good fortune to have lived during the period when some of the Sahabah were still alive. Having originated in Iraq, the Hanafi school was favoured by the first ‘Abbasid caliphs in spite of the school’s opposition to the power of the caliphs.
The privileged position which the school enjoyed under the ‘Abbasid caliphate was lost with the decline of the ‘Abbasid caliphate. However, the rise of the Ottoman empire led to the revival of Hanafi fortunes. Under the Ottomans the judgement-seats were occupied by Hanafites sent from Istanbul, even in countries where the population followed another madhhab. Consequently, the Hanafi madhhab became the only authoritative code of law in the public life and official administration of justice in all the provinces of the Ottoman empire. Even today the Hanafi code prevails in the former Ottoman countries. It is also dominant in Central Asia and India.
Symbols The Hanafi school of jurisprudence has no distinctive symbol system. 
Adherence There are no official figures for the number of followers of the Hanafi school of law. It is followed by the vast majority of people in the Muslim world. 
Main Centre
 The school has no headquarters as such. It is followed by the majority of the Muslim population Of Turkey, Albania, the Balkans, Central Asia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, India and Iraq.


Doctrines The Hanbali school is the fourth orthodox school of law within Sunni Islam. It derives its decrees from the Qur’an and the Sunnah, which it places above all forms of consensus, opinion or inference. The school accepts as authoritative an opi nion given by a Companion of the Prophet, providing there is no disagreement with anther Companion. In the case of such disagreement, the opinion of the Companion nearest to that of the Qur’an or the Sunnah will prevail. 
History The Hanbali school of law was established by Ahmad b. Hanbal (d.855). He studied law under different masters, including Imam Shafi’i (the founder of his own school). He is regarded as more learned in the traditions than in jurisprudence. His status also derives from his collection and exposition of the hadiths. His major contribution to Islamic scholarship is a collection of fifty-thousand traditions known as ‘Musnadul-Imam Hanbal’.
In spite of the importance of Hanbal’s work his school did not enjoy the popularity of the three preceding Sunni schools of law. Hanbal’s followers were regarded as reactionary and troublesome on account of their reluctance to give personal opinion on matters of law, their rejection of analogy, their fanatic intolerance of views other than their own, and their exclusion of opponents from power and judicial office. Their unpopularity led to periodic bouts of persecution against them.
The later history of the school has been characterised by fluctuations in their fortunes. Hanbali scholars such as Ibn Taymiyya (d.1328) and Ibn Qayyim al-Jouzia (d.1350), did display more tolerance to other views than their predecessors and were instrumental in making the teachings of Hanbali more generally accessible.
From time to time Hanbaliyyah became an active and numerically strong school in certain areas under the jurisdiction of the ‘Abbassid Caliphate. But its importance gradually declined under the Ottoman Turks. The emergence of the Wahabi in the nineteenth century and its challenge to Ottoman authority enabled Hanbaliyyah to enjoy a period of revival. today the school is officially recognised as authoritative in Saudi Arabia and areas within the Persian Gulf.
Symbols Hanbaliyyah does not possess a distinctive symbol system. 
Adherents There are no official figures identifying the number of people associated with the school. 
Main Centre
 The school has no headquarters or main centre.


Doctrines Ash’ariyyah theology represents a reaction against the extreme rationalism of the Mu’tazilah. It holds that human reason should fall under the authority of divine revelation. Human reason is incapable of discerning good and evil; the goodne ss or evil of a particular action depends upon God’s declaring it to be so. Humanity can only acquire religious truths through revelation.
A second aspect of Ash’ariyyah theology concerned the nature of the divine attributes. Contrary to the Mu’tazilites, who understood Qur’anic references to God’s physical attributes metaphorically, Ash’ari theology argued for the veracity of these attributes while rejecting all crudely anthropomorphic conceptions of God.
Thirdly, contrary to Mu’tazilah theology, Ash’ariyyah taught that the Qur’an was eternal and, therefore, uncreated. Human actions, however, are entirely dependent upon God’s providing the means and power to act. This teaching had the purpose of preserving the doctrine of divine omnipotence, but gradually led to the formation of a deterministic outlook.
History The systematization of Sunni theology in the tenth century was done in reaction to the emergence of heterodox schismatic groups in previous centuries, particularly Mu’tazilah. The founder of Ash’ariyyah, Abu al-Hasan (873-935), was formerly a Mu’tazilite. He wrote a number of important books which became the foundation of Ash’arite theology such as the Kitab al-Ibanah (The Book of Elucidations) and also an extensive work on the views of various Islamic schools and sects called Maqalat al-Islamiyyin (Doctrines of the Muslims).
Another major figure in the development of Ash’arite theology was the Sufi theologian and jurist al-Ghazzali (1058-1111). Through al-Ghazzali and other prominent theologians – such as Al-Baqillani (d.1013), al-Baghdadi (d.1038), al-Djuwayni (d.1085) and al-Shahrastani (d.1153) – Ashariyyah spread throughout the Sunni Islamic world. It is now dominant in Iraq, Syria, Egypt and Northwest Africa, and has a strong presence in Central Asia and Anatolia and to a lesser extent in India and Pakistan.
Along with the Maturidiyyah school of theology, Ashariyyah remains the dominant source of theology in the Sunni world.
Symbols As a school of theology, Ash’ariyyah does not identify itself through the use of symbols. 
Adherents The majority of those who follow the Malikite jurisprudential madhhab, which is comprised of 13% of worldwide Sunni Muslims, and some 75% of those who follow the Shafi’ite jurisprudential madhhab, which constitutes some 33% of worldwide Sunni M uslims, and a very small proportion of those who follow the Hanafite and Hanbalite jurisprudential madhhabs follow the Ash’arite school of theology. 
Main Centre
 The school has no headquarters or main centre.


Doctrines Maturidiyyah, along with Ash’ariyyah, forms the basis of orthodox Sunni theology. Maturidi theology can best be understood in comparison with that of Mu’tazilah and Ash’ariyyah.
One of the principal theological questions with which each of these schools engaged concerned the role of human reason in the development of religious faith. Unlike the school of al-Ash ‘ari which claimed that knowledge of God derives from revelation through the prophets, Maturidiyyah argues that knowledge of God’s existence can be derived through reason alone.
Another major issue that concerned all three schools was the relationship between human freedom and divine omnipotence. Maturidiyyah claims that although humanity has a free will God is still all-powerful and in control of history. It is humanity’s ability to distinguish between good and evil that means that humanity is responsible for whatever good or evil actions are performed.
The third major issue concerned God’s attributes. Ash’ariyyah teaches that what the Qur’an says about God’s attributes must be accepted as correct even though we do not properly understand the meaning of many of the statements about God.
History Maturidiyyah is a Sunni theological school named after its founder Abu Mansur al-Maturidi (d.944). In the Mamluk age the school came to be widely recognised as the second orthodox Sunni theological school beside Ash’ariyyah. Resident in Samarqand in Central Asia, al-Maturidi had little impact on mainstream Islamic intellectual life during his lifetime. Maturidiyyah only came to be important as a result of its acceptance by the Turkish tribes of Central Asia. The Maturidi school of theology gradually came to prevail among the Hanafite communities everywhere. Because the Turks were mostly Hanafite the Turkish expansion through the Ottoman empire enabled the Hanafite and Maturidite schools to spread throughout western Persia, Iraq, Anatolia, and Syria. 
Symbols As a school of law Malikiyyah has no symbols. 
Adherents today nearly 53% of Sunni Muslims are Hanafites, and the majority of Hanafites are Maturidites. Maturidiyyah is now present in Turkey, the Balkans, Central Asia, China, India, Pakistan and Eritrea. 
Main Centre
 The school has no headquarters or main centre.


Doctrines Wahabbiyyah is not a new sect within Islam but a movement whose purpose is to purify Islam of perceived heretical accretions. The Wahhabis claim to base their doctrines on the teachings of the fourteenth century scholar Ibn Taymiyya and the rulings of the Hanbali school of law, the strictest of the four recognised in the Sunni consensus. They believe that all objects of worship other than Allah are false, and anyone who worships in this way deserves to be put to death. To introduce the name of a prophet, saint or angel into a prayer, or to seek intercession from anyone but Allah constitutes a form of polytheism. Attendance at public prayer is compulsory, and the shaving of the beard and smoking are forbidden. Mosques should be architecturally simple, not luxurious or ornate. Prohibited are the celebration of the Prophet’s birthday, making offerings at the tomb of saints, and playing music. The injunctions of the Qur’an are to be taken literally. 
History Wahhabiyyah emerged in the middle of the 18th century in Arabia as both a religious and political movement responding to the decline of the Ottoman empire and the increasing strength of Shi’a in Iran. Its founder, Ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab (1703-92), had witnessed many examples of laxity, superstition, and blind allegiance to Walis (Sufi saints) during his travels through Iraq and Arabia.
The political character of the movement took the form of opposition to the ruling Ottoman empire. In 1744 Ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab formed an alliance with a local chieftain, Muhammad Ibn Sa’ud (1765), who accepted his doctrine and undertook its defense and propagation. The demolition of shrines, tombstones and the capture of Mecca caused alarm in the Ottoman government which despatched an army to crush the movement. The decisive defeat of the bedouin troops in 1818 brought to an end the first Sa’udi-Wahhabi venture.
A remnant of the Wahhabi movement survived in a pocket of Central Arabia. In 1902 Abd al-Aziz Ibn Sa’ud, who was from the Sa’udi family and a follower of the bedouin faith of the Wahhabiyyah, took Riyadh, an event which led to his gradual conquest of the interior of the Arabian peninsula. In 1927 Sa’ud signed a treaty with the British (who at that time were controlling parts of the Arabian peninsula) which gave him full independence in exchange for his recognition of British suzerainty over the Gulf sheikdoms. Finally in 1932 he named his state the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Wahhabiyyah then became the official doctrine of the state. today the Saudi state remains firmly rooted in the Wahhabi creed.
Symbols The movement has no distinctive symbol system. 
Adherents Wahhabiyyah is the official ideology of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. There are no official statistics for the number of Muslims who follow the doctrines of Wahhabiyyah. 
Main Centre
 The movement has no headquarters.


Doctrines Ahmadiyyah is a missionary-oriented sect of Indian origin, founded in Qadiyan by Miraz Ghulam Ahmad (1839-1908). The sect believes its founder to be the madhi, the Christian Messiah, an avatar of the Hindu god Krishna, and a reappearance of M uhammad. The sect believes that Jesus did not die in Jerusalem but feigned death and resurrection, and escaped to India where he died at the age of 120.
Although Ahmadiyyah departs from mainstream Sunni Islamic doctrines in terms of its belief in the special status of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, they follow most of the main duties of Islam such as prayer, fasting, pilgrimage and almsgiving, as well as the basic Sunni interpretations of Islamic theology. Of the two branches of Ahmadiyyah in existence today, the minority Lahore branch, is considered to be within mainstream Sunni theology. The majority Qadiyanis are, however, not considered to be part of Islam by orthodox Muslims.
History The founder of the Ahmadiyyah sect, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, was born into the leading family of the small town of Qadiyan in the Punjab, India in about 1839. He received a good traditional education, learning how to meditate and acquired a deep kno wledge of religion. On 4 March 1889 he announced that he received a special revelation from God and gathered a small group of disciples around him. Opposition from the Muslim community began two years later when he announced that he was the Messiah an d the Mahdi (a figure whose arrival is believed by some Muslims to herald the end of the world). In 1896 he gave a sermon called al-Hutbat al-Ilhamiyyah which he claimed to be unique because it was divinely inspired in pure Arabic. After this sermon h e came to be referred to by his followers as a prophet, a title which he regarded as honorary since he did not claim to bring a new revelation or new law. However, in spite of his denial of doctrinal innovation in 1900 he claimed that he was the Second Advent of Jesus and an avatar of Krishna.
On the death of the founder in 1908, a successor called Mawlawi Nur ad-Din was elected by the community. In 1914 a schism occurred over whether or not Ghulam Ahmad had claimed to be a prophet (nabi) and if so how he saw his prophetic role. The sece ssionists, led by one of Ghulam Ahmad’s sons, rejected the prophetic claims of Ghulam Ahmad, regarding him only as a reformer (mujaddid), and established their centre in Lahore (in modern day Pakistan). The majority, however, remained at Qadiyan and cont inued to recognise Ghulam Ahmad as a prophet. Following the partition of India and Pakistan, the Qadiyanis, as the majority group came to be known, moved their headquarters to Rabwah in what was then West Pakistan. They remain both highly organised and very wealthy, due largely to the monthly dues received from their members.
The Lahore group, which is known as the Ahmadis and is considerably smaller than the Qadiyanis, has sought to win converts to Islam rather than its own particular sect. The Lahore group was also much more involved with the Indian Muslim struggle ag ainst the British presence in India.
Both groups are noted for their missionary work, particularly in the West and in Africa. Within Muslim countries, however, strong opposition remains to the Qadiyani group because of its separatist identity and its claim that Ghulam Ahmad was a prophet.
Symbols The sects’ members are identified through their wearing a red cowl and a red veil. The Qadiyanis also employ a red banner. 
Adherents The Qadiyanis currently have a presence in many countries, including most western countries. Their world wide numbers are estimated as high as 10 million (Harris et al 1994, 79). 
Main Centre
 The Qadiyanis have their headquarters in Rabwah in Pakistan; the Ahmadis have their headquarters in Lahore in Pakistan. 


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