Sunni are the mainstream Muslim
religious sect. They are also referred to as Ahl as-Sunnah wa’l-Jamā‘h (Arabic: أهل السنة والجماعة) (people of the
Muhammad) and the community) which implies
that they are the majority, or Ahl as-Sunnah (Arabic: أهل السنة ) for short. The word Sunni comes from the word
Sunnah (Arabic : سنة ), which means the
words and actions or example of Muhammad. They represent the branch of Islam that accepted the caliphate of Abu-Bakr
and his successors, all chosen by the Shurah council.
Sunni accept four schools (madhab) of fiqh (jurisprudence)
The Hanafi, or Hanafite school was founded by Abu Hanifa (d. 767). His school is considered to have more reason and
logic than the other schools. Muslims of Pakistan, India and Turkey follow this school.
The Maliki, or Malikite school was Malik ibn Abbas(d. 795) preached in Mecca, where he supposedly knew one of the
last surviving companions of the Prophet, though this is improbable considering when he lived. His doctrine is recorded
in the Muwatta. That has been adopted by most Muslims of Africa except in Lower Egypt, Zanzibar and South Africa. The
Maliki legal school dominates in nearly all of Africa, except Egypt, the 'Horn' area and the East Coast countries.
The Shafi'i School or Shafi'ites was founded by Al-Shafi'i (d. 820). He was considered a moderate. He taught in Iraq
and later in Egypt. Muslims in Indonesia, Lower Egypt, Malaysia, and Yemen follow this school. He emphasized the
Sunnah of the Prophet, as embodied in the
Hadith, as a source of the
The Hanbali or Hanbalites were founded by Ahmad ibn Hanbal (d. 855). Hanbal lived in Baghdad and wasa student of al-Shafi'i.
Despite persecution, he persisted in claiming that the
Quran (Koran) was uncreated. This school of
law is followed primarily in the Arabian Peninsula.
Hanbali are the most conservative school, rejecting innovation and exegesis and preferring the Sunnah and Quran in all
cases of judgment. The Wahhabi of Saudi Arabia follow Hanbali law.
Synonyms and alternate spellings:
Shi'a or Shi'ite, Shiite
Further Information: See
History of Islam and the Arabs