(redirected from Sunni Islam)
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Wikipedia.


(so͞o`nī) [Arab. Sunna,=tradition], from ahl al-sunnah wa-l-jamaa [Arab.,=the people of the custom of the Prophet and community], the largest division of Islam. Sunni Islam is the heir to the early central Islamic state, in its ackowledgement of the legitimacy of the order of succession of the first four caliphs (see caliphatecaliphate
, the rulership of Islam; caliph , the spiritual head and temporal ruler of the Islamic state. In principle, Islam is theocratic: when Muhammad died, a caliph [Arab.,=successor] was chosen to rule in his place.
..... Click the link for more information.
), in contrast to the Shiite rejection of the first three as usurpers. It can also be seen as the aggregate of the adherents to the four extant schools of religious law (fiqh), the Hanafi, Maliki, Shafii, and Hanbali schools (see shariasharia,
the religious law of Islam. As Islam makes no distinction between religion and life, Islamic law covers not only ritual but many aspects of life. The actual codification of canonic law is the result of the concurrent evolution of jurisprudence proper and the so-called
..... Click the link for more information.
). With no centralized clerical institution, Sunni Islam should be understood as an umbrella identity, grouping close to 90% of the world's Muslims, stretching geographically from the Indonesian islands to the African steppes, through the Indian subcontinent, central Asia, and the Arab world, and ideologically from ecstatic SufismSufism
, an umbrella term for the ascetic and mystical movements within Islam. While Sufism is said to have incorporated elements of Christian monasticism, gnosticism, and Indian mysticism, its origins are traced to forms of devotion and groups of penitents (zuhhad
..... Click the link for more information.
 to the puritanic literalism of the WahhabisWahhabi
or Wahabi
, reform movement in Islam, originating in Arabia; adherents of the movement usually refer to themselves as Muwahhidun [unitarians]. It was founded by Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahab (c.
..... Click the link for more information.
 and Salafias, through scholasticism and secularism. The scholastic formulation, the most constant expression of Sunni Islam throughout its history and geographic span, proposes the relation of the human being with the Divine as essentially individual, with no intermediaries. In actual practice, however, religious scholars (ulama), together with mystic shaykhs, pious persons, and popular saints (awliya), are often recognized as enjoying a religious authority of varying degrees. The Sunni theoretical characterization of the Prophet Muhammad as a mere executor of Divine will has not precluded the intensive devotional rituals directed to his person that flourish in a diversity of forms across the Sunni world. The prime center of scholastic learning in Sunni Islam is the mosque-university of al-Azhar in Cairo.


See L. Hazleton, After the Prophet (2009).

References in periodicals archive ?
Sunni Islam The largest branch of Islam, sometimes referred to as the orthodox version of the religion.
The pan-African hip hop umma is transnational in its focus and commitment, and so, not surprisingly, it demonstrates the "ascendancy of Sunni Islam in black youth culture" (102), rather than the race-based theology of the Nation of Islam, or its splinter group, the Five Percenters.
She does not pay much attention to law, which differs little from that of Sunni Islam.
Meanwhile, analysts say that growing anti-Assad sentiments within Sudanese Islamists, who ascribe to Sunni Islam, can be explained by the fact that the Syrian president belongs to Alawis religious group which is a branch of Sunni Islam.
A crowd of onlookers threw rocks at the demonstrators outside Al-Azhar mosque, the most important center of learning in Sunni Islam.
The Imam of the al-Azhar University in Cairo, an institution considered the highest authority of Sunni Islam, demanded this week an end to the killing of demonstrators and "bloodshed" in Syria Beirut's AN NAHAR and others reported on Thursday.
The majority of the schools of Islam both Shia and Sunni view dogs as ritually unclean, however the Maliki School, one of four schools of Sunni Islam, disagrees with this view.
lt;br /> Kurds are closely related to the Iranian people and most practice Sunni Islam.
Saudi Arabia applies an austere Wahhabi version of Sunni Islam and minority Shi'ites say that, while their situation has improved under reforms launched by King Abdullah, they still face restrictions in getting senior government jobs.
Unlike Catholicism and Shia Islam, Sunni Islam was established and maintained through decentralised governance.
The pro-Western Yemeni government is also fighting al-Qaeda, which is also seeking to destabilize Saudi Arabia, a bastion of Sunni Islam.
FBI agents have arrested members of a radical Sunni Islam group in the US, killing one of its leaders in a shootout at a Michigan warehouse.