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(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.
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), 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
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). 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
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 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.
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 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 ?
Across the Middle East, Sunnis are experiencing a kind of vertigo.
Combination of the Shiite and Sunni blood in Sistan and Balouchestan in the fight against the Takfiris in Syria is a symbol of failure of the US strategies in the region," Naqdi said, addressing the funeral ceremony of the Sunni martyrs.
Iraqi Sunnis have started to leave Iraq, especially the middle and upper-middle classes, including former Baathists; they often migrate to Turkey, particularly ystanbul, Ankara, Gaziantep, Mersin and Konya.
He wanted to become a religious and political leader of Sunnis.
S officials say Sunni tribesmen in Iraq's Anbar province are being drawn to the fight against Daesh in increasing numbers, Reuters reported.
Sunni grievances mounted during the eight-year rule of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, widely seen as pursuing sectarian policies.
Although Iran's constitution guarantees equal job opportunities and freedom of religion (except for Baha'is), the country's Sunnis say they are deprived of their rights be cause they are unable to choose their own clerics, are not permitted to have a mosque In Tehran and are obliged to follow the Shia religious calendar, which differs from the Sunni calendar and makes it difficult to hold some religious ceremonies.
Sunni suspicion of the Shiite-led government was heightened by heavy-handed security operations in Sunni areas, and the arrest of senior Sunni politicians or their employees.
But most ordinary Sunnis and Shi'ites had already fled the belt for Baghdad or other big cities, leaving the Shi'ite IAF and militias to continue hammering places said to be ISIS bastions.
Shias vote for Shia candidates and Sunnis for Sunnis.
A Sunnis - the majority in the Muslim world - regard themselves as the traditional Muslims.
These protests were fueled by Sunni anger at the government for what they believe was a failure to provide unbiased security and judiciary institutions for Sunnis.