Shias are Muslims just like Catholics are Christians. Shia is a branch of Islam. The two main branches of Islam are Sunni and Shia; Sunnis constitute the vast majority of the Muslim diaspora but there are some regions where Shias are either in the majority or form a powerful minority.

Comparison chart

Islam versus Shia comparison chart
Edit this comparison chartIslamShia
Place of worship Mosque/masjid, any place which is considered clean by Islamic standards. Mosque, Imambarah or Ashurkhana, Eidgah
Use of statues and pictures Images of God or prophets not permitted. Art takes the form of calligraphy, architecture etc. Muslims distinguish themselves from other groups by not drawing lifelike human works, which could be mistaken as idolatry. No image is representative of God Not permitted
Clergy Imam leads congregational prayer in a mosque. Sheikh, Maulana, Mullah and Mufti Imaam (divinely guided), Ayatollah, Mujtahid, Allamah, Maulana, Hojatoleslam, Sayed, Mollah (colloquial)
Marriage Islam is totally opposed to monasticism and celibacy. Marriage is an act of Sunnah in Islam and is strongly recommended. Men can only marry the "people of the book" i.e., Abrahamic religions. Women can only marry a Muslim man. Man may marry up to 4 women.
Original Language(s) Arabic Arabic, Farsi
Population 1.6 billion Muslims 200 million
Second coming of Jesus Affirmed Affirmed
imams identified as Shiites believe they are the successors of Ali; Sunnis regard them as their clergy. Divinely guided. Considered as the only legitimate interpreters of the Quran.
Belief of God Only one God (monotheism). God is the one True Creator. God has always existed, none existed before him and will exist forever. He transcends life and death. No part of His creation resembles Him, He cannot be seen, but sees all. One God
Founder Prophet Muhammad. According to Islamic scripture, all people who follow God's revealed guidance and the messengers sent with it 'submit' to that guidance, and are considered Muslims (ie. Adam, Moses, Abraham, Jesus, etc.). Ali
Holy Days Ramadan (month of fasting), Eid-ul Adha (feast of the sacrifice), Eid-ul Fitr (sweet festival at the end of Ramadan). Ashura, Eid al Fitr, Eid al Adha, Eid al ghadeer, Ashura
Literal Meaning Islam is derived from the Arabic root "Salema": peace, purity, submission and obedience. In the religious sense, Islam means submission to the will of God and obedience to His law. A Muslim is one who follows Islam. party of Ali
Scriptures The Qur'an, and traditions of the Holy Last messenger Muhammad, called 'Sunnah' which is found in narrations or 'hadiths' by the men around him. The Quran
Followers Muslims Shiites
View of the Buddha N/A. Islamic scripture does not discuss or mention Gautam Buddha. N/A.
Day of worship Prayer five times daily is obligatory. Friday is the day of congregational prayer, obligatory for men, but not for women. Friday.
Belief Belief in one God, who has sent messengers with revelation and guidance for humanity so they may be guided to good & who have came with both good news and a warning, the last & final messenger being Muhammad صلى الله علي One God, and Muhammad is his prophet.
Status of Muhammad Deeply loved and revered in Islam. The last Prophet, but is not worshipped. Only God (the creator) is worshipped in Islam; God's creation (including prophets) are not considered worthy of worship. The seal of the prophets.
Angels Angels are created from light and remain unseen as they worship and follow God's commands. Angels obey God's commandments. They have limited free will, though no drive to sin.
Prophets God sent thousands of divinely inspired messengers to guide mankind. These include Adam, Solomon, David, Noah, Abraham, Ismail, Issac, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad. There are 124,000 prophets, who were sent to all the world's nations. Highly venerated, especially Muhammad, & his daughter Fatimah.
Position of Mary Mary (Mariam/Miriam) receives significant admiration from Muslims. She is said by the Prophet Muhammad to be one of the four best women that God created. She is free of sin as the mother of Jesus. Mother of Jesus. Although Mary receives far more exultation from Muslims than the average Protestant, Fatimah, the daughter of Muhammad, is venerated more than Mary, in Shia.
Jesus Muslims believe Jesus to be a perfect, sinless, highly revered Prophet and a messenger of God. His name in Arabic is Isa ibn Mariam (Jesus the son of Mary). Jesus was immaculately conceived through God, but is not God or the son of God. Prophet and messiah, but, not the son of God, and did not die on the Cross.
Abrahamic Lineage The ancestor of Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم is Abraham (Ibrahim) through his son Ismael. Ismael.
Position of Abraham A great prophet and a perfect, sinless example of the divine guidance of God. Father of the faithful.
Ressurection of Jesus Denied because God raised Jesus to him and he will return before end of time to finish his life, correct any confusion about his teachings and restore order to the world. Denied, as is His Crucifixion and Death.
Use of statues Not allowed Forbidden.
Status of Vedas N/A N/A.

Origins of the Shia sect

Almost immediately after the death of Muhammad, there had been a split within the religion he had founded. Many of his followers believed that his son-in-law, Ali, should be his successor. Others did not. So, the followers of Ali formed their own sect called Shia. They revered him almost as much as they had revered Muhammed. Ali was eventually murdered by other Muslims who opposed his succession, and his death recalled by Shias, during the holiday of Ashura.

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