Did you know?
The Sunni-Shia split occurred as a result of the dispute over the Prophet’s successor. During his lifetime, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was both the recipient and expounder of divine revelation. His death in 632 A.D. began the debate over his successor in the nascent Muslim community. While the community agreed that he could not be succeeded by another prophet as he was the ‘seal of the prophets” (khatim al-anbiya), a successor was needed to lead the community and state. A large group of the community chose Abu Bakr as the successor to the Messenger of God (khalifat rasul Allah), hence the word ‘caliph’ in Western languages. A small group held that Ali was better qualified than any other candidate to succeed the Prophet. This minority group came to be known as Shi’at Ali, “party of Ali”, or simply the Shia.
It is the fundamental belief of the Shia that the Prophet had designated Ali as his successor, a designation instituted through divine command and revealed to the Prophet at Ghadir Khumm shortly before his death. The majority of the community came to be known as the Ahl al-Sunna wa’l-Jama’a (People of the Sunna and of the Community), or the Sunnis. The sunna refers to the custom or practice associated with the exemplary life of Prophet.
–Farhad Daftary, A Short History of Ismailis (Edinburg University Press, 1998)