Using the lines of the argument and the quotations create your own essay within 35 minutes ensuring you include your own intermediate summaries.
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Shi’a Islam is not compatible with Sunni Islam.

Bulleted summary

Against the statement

  • Both are recognised as Muslims – those who submit to Allah and this brings unity overall
  • Both follow the central beliefs and teachings e.g. Qur’an, pillars etc. and as such are more significant than any differences
  • In practice there is very little difference
  • There is as much difference within Sunni Islam e.g. jurisprudence as there is between Sunni and Shi’a
  • All Muslims are united by the Ummah worldwide
  • Apart from Ashura there is little else of great significance that differs.

In support of the statement

  • The differences in belief about Ali are quite significant e.g. reference in Shahada could be seen as shirk
  • Practices e.g. extra prayers, extra pilgrimage, addition to the Shahadah etc. underpins the view of a more complete Islam
  • Festival of Ashura elevates Hussein which some would see as shirk
  • Focus on martyrdom and suffering is crucial to Islam’s spiritual battle
  • Beliefs about the infallibility of the Imam are fiercely rejected by Sunni
  • Doors of ijtihad are open for Shi’a – once again this is fiercely rejected by traditional Sunni
  • Muta, Taqiyya, Imam and Mahdi are all extra to Sunni Islamic beliefs.

‘The Shi’a believe that they would not have been left without any guidance at all after the last Prophet. In making interpretations, they may use Aql, reasoning, to a greater degree than Sunni Imams, to interpret the original teachings to match the needs of the people for modern world situations.’ (Morar)

‘From a practical point of view, there is little to separate Shi’ite from Sunni in terms of everyday law and jurisprudence … In fact, there are arguably more differences – jurisprudentially, at least – between different Sunni groups than there are between Sunni and Shi’ites.’ (Turner)

‘The Shi’a, the party of Ali, are known as the largest minority sect in Islam. It is somewhat misleading to think of Muslims today as being made up of two sects: Shi’a and Sunni. In reality, it is far more complicated.’ (Morar)

‘It is important to state here, that Sunni also remember the same events as Shi’a on this day [Ashura], but do so with a different view of the circumstances surrounding their deaths and a different understanding of the significance of these events.’ (Gray)

‘Remembrance and ritual re-enactment of the tragedy at Karbala is a cornerstone of faith, personal and community identity, and piety.’ (Esposito)

‘Despite these differences, if you were to visit a typical Shi’a mosque and compare it to a Sunni mosque, you would see pretty much all the same features. The congregation would pray in almost exactly the same way, following the same Arabic Qur’an and focused on the same Allah, the One God, without any partners, idols or statues. All would believe in judgement and life after death, angels, holy books and Prophets. ‘ (Morar)

‘Setting the Shi'a apart from the Sunni most emphatically, however, is the great feast of mourning, remembrance, and atonement that is Ashura.’ (Vali Nasr)

‘ … a major form of devotion is the visitation of the tomb-shrines of the Holy Family and Imams at Karbala, Kazimiyya, Najaf, Kufa, Qum and Mashad. These holy sites draw hundreds of thousands of pilgrims throughout the year. Historically, for financial reasons and ease of access, these pilgrimages have been more popular and common than the hajj.’ (Esposito)

‘It would therefore appear that Shi’a Islam is more negative than Sunni and some could say that the focus on suffering differentiates Shi’a more sharply from Sunni.’ (Gray)

‘Salafis sometimes reject Sufi and Shi’a practices as incompatible with Islam, whereas some Sunni Muslims reject Salafis as outside the fold whereas the Shi’a are considered part of traditional Islam.’ (Morar)

‘Ali was one of the Prophet Muhammad’s closest companions. Shi’a Muslims believe that Allah inspired Muhammad to appoint Ali as his successor, and that Ali was infallible, that is he did not make sins or mistakes.’ (Morar)

The Sunni and Shi’a split in the days of early Islam created the biggest division in the religion. That said, Sunni and Shi’a agree that it is quite acceptable to join together and pray, and use each other’s mosques, and have done so throughout the centuries.’ (Morar)

‘Shi'as believe that the Prophet possessed special spiritual qualities, was immaculate from sin, and could penetrate to the hidden meaning of religious teachings. Shi'as further believe that Ali and his descendants had these special spiritual qualities too ... They could understand and interpret the inner meaning of Islam.’ (Vali Nasr)