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Islam: The Religion and the People by Buntzie Ellis Churchill, Bernard Lewis

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Chapter 6: Sunni, Shi‘a, and Others

Of the differences that arose among Muslims, by far the most important, from early times to the present day, have been between the Sunnis and the Shi‘a, and most of the Muslim world is divided between these two groups. Some have tried to explain this division by likening it to the split between Catholics and Protestants in Christendom. This is a false analogy and can easily be discredited by asking a simple question: “Which are the Protestants and which are the Catholics?” There can be no serious answer to this question, because the comparison itself is meaningless and misleading. The Christian difference between Protestants and Catholics—and earlier between the church of Rome and the Eastern (Orthodox) churches—arose ...

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