Vol.1, No.2, Spring & Summer 2015
Ayatullah Muhammad TaqiMisbahYazdi – Shia Conference – Philadelphia – July 1993
Even though all Muslims agree upon certain universal religious ideas such as fundamental beliefs, ethical standards and judicial rules (including those related to rituals, civil codes, civil rights, penal law, international law, and other dimensions of Islam), they differ with regard to some particular beliefs as well as some details of the rules and laws. These differences divide them into various sects and orders. It is possible to take two main areas into consideration where these differences are manifested [the most]: One is that of beliefs, which is related to theology. The second is the area of law (in the general meaning of this term), which is related to jurisprudence. A prime example of difference in the first area is the difference between the Asharites and the Mutazilites in theological issues; and an example of the second area where such differences arise is the difference of opinion between the four Sunni schools in jurisprudential problems.
One of the well known differences between the Islamic sects is the difference of opinion between the Shias and the Sunnis with regard to the problem of Imamate. The Twelver Shia consider Ali ibn Abi-Talib(a) to be the Imam and vicegerent of the Holy Prophet (s) after his demise. This goes against the beliefs of the Ahl-as-Sunnah who count him to be the fourth Caliph. In reality, the belief in the Imamate of the Twelve Imams (a), with their three qualities of infallibility, God-given knowledge, and designation by God, are the main features of the Imamiyah.