600 ce – 1450 ce the Life of Muhammad

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3. The Division of Muslims

The separation of Muslims into Sunni and Shi’ite branches had and continues to have a profound affect on the Islamic world. AP World History students are required to know the difference between the two groups of Muslims, how the branches split apart, and why there continued to be contention between the two branches.

  • Sunnis vs. Shi’ites

    • Muhammad died before choosing a successor

    • Caliph: successor to the prophet, combines religious and secular duties and authority in one person

    • Controversy over who should rightfully be caliph

    • Shi’ites: only a descendent of the family of Muhammad may be caliph

    • Sunni: any member of the umma (Muslim community) could be caliph

    • Sunni is larger branch

    • led to frequent, bloody conflicts that mirrored the political power struggle between family clans to control Muslim lands

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