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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 ?
Saffar noted that Baghdad's position on Syria is at odds with its strong condemnation of a crackdown by Bahrain's Sunnite government on protests led by the kingdom's Shiite-majority in March, the newspaper said.
But the fact that Sunnis cite Mu'tazilite interpretations, and that conversely al-Zamakhshari cites Sunnite views, does not of course mean that the Kashshaf was not a Mu'tazilite work.
L'attaque de vendredi a ete perpetree devant une mosquee sunnite oE priait notamment un ancien ministre provincial, Ali Madad Jatak, a indique a l'AFP Bashir Ahmad Brohi, un haut responsable de la police locale.
Les combats ont eclate dimanche apres une attaque contre un barrage de l'armee par des partisans de cheikh Ahmad al-Assir, un cheikh radical sunnite hostile au Hezbollah chiite qui combat aux cotes du regime en Syrie.
Cet assaut contre une localite a majorite sunnite a contraint le chef du Hezbollah Hassan Nasrallah, qui avait auparavant justifie l'intervention de son mouvement par la defense de villages et des lieux saints chiites en Syrie, a changer ses arguments.
The six additional MPs are distributed as follows: one MP for the Syriac Catholics, one MP for the Greek Catholics, in return for a Shiite, a Sunnite, and a Druze MP," Gemayel said.
Pres de Bassora, la grande ville portuaire du sud, l'imam d'une mosquee sunnite a ete abattu par des hommes armes, selon la police et un responsable sunnite.
NNA - Member of Parliament Bahia Hariri maintained Monday that there should only be legitimate and legal weapons in Sidon, in the wake of a frenzied clash between supporters of Hezbollah and Sunnite preacher Sheikh Ahmad Assir in this southern city yesterday.
La veille, 12 rebelles chiites, dits houthis, et 8 membres de tribus ont ete tues dans ces combats pour le controle de cette ville majoritairement sunnite prise par les rebelles la semaine derniere.
Il s'agit des violences les plus meurtrieres liees aux manifestations anti-Maliki lancees en janvier dans les regions a majorite arabe sunnite de ce pays a majorite chiite.
Geagea also saw that Christians had no room in the Sunnite-Shiite conflict, saying, "The conflict is not between Sunnites and Shiites.
Les elections donneront une indication sur la popularite dont le Premier ministre chiite Nouri al-Maliki, en delicatesse avec ses partenaires de coalition et la minorite sunnite, peut se targuer avant les legislatives prevues l'an prochain.