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1. Orientations
a. Figures
2. Koran
3. Theology
4. Concept of divine
5. Sharia
6. Muhammad
7. Cult and Festivals
8. Mecca
9. Cultic personalities
10. Caliph
11. Structures
12. Popular religion
13. Others
14. Calendar

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Islam / Orientations /
Arabic: sunniyy

Sunnis by country
Figures in 1000.
Last column: % Sunnis of the population
Algeria 32,800 99.0%
Bahrain 170 24.0%
Egypt 64,600 90.0%
Iran 7,000 10.0%
Iraq 9,000 36.0%
Israel 950 16.0%
Jordan 4,700 80.0%
Kuwait 1,600 58.0%
Lebanon 750 20.0%
Libya 5,600 97.0%
Mauritania 3,100 100.0%
Morocco 31,100 99.7%
Oman 380 14.0%
Palestine 3,700 86.0%
Qatar 500 76.0%
Saudi Arabia 19,000 76.0%
Spanish North Africa 35 27.0%
Sudan 27,500 69.0%
Syria 14,400 72.0%
Tunisia 10,070 99.7%
Turkey 55,000 75.0%
United Arab Emirates 2,200 47.0%
Western Sahara 900 100.0%
Yemen 12,500 53.0%
Total *) 307,600 67.0%

*) Calculated for the total population of North Africa and the Middle East, approx. 460,000,000.

Main group in Islam, making up 90% of the religion's adherents. Has been dominating almost continuously since 661, when the Shi'is departed from the main fold (the Kharijis left in 658). Sunni Islam claims to be the continuation of the Islam as it was defined through the revelations given to Muhammad and his life, a claim which is substantiated through the fact that Shi'i Islam for a number of decades had very little following and had no real, formal organization. As for the theology, Sunni Islam represents no more of a continuation of Islam than the other orientations.
Hence one should be careful about thinking of Sunni Islam as mainstream Islam, and clearly refrain from calling it "orthodox". None of the 3 orientations of Islam coming out of the schisms of the 7th century, can do no less than trace their origins back to the very first Muslim societies, and for the bystander none of the orientations must be deemed as inferior to the others.
Sunni Islam has its name from its identification with the importance of the Sunna (the examples from the hadiths), which earlier than in Shi'i Islam was established as a central element in Islam, and central to understanding the full truth in the religion. There was a need to establishing a law, called Shari'a (for which the hadiths served as a central source), as Sunni Islam was the religious orientation of the rulers, while the Shi'is did not establish administrative organizations for yet a long time to come.
The actual theological and ritual differences between Sunni and Shi'i Islam, came over a couple of centuries with development. For a long time, Sunni Islam was defined from Shi'i Islam by its adherence to the Caliph as the leader of the Muslim world. But there are many small and some large differences between Sunni and the other orientations, in all aspects of the religion. Sunni and Shi'i Islam share only three core doctrines, oneness of God, the belief in the revelations of Muhammad, and the belief in resurrection on the Day of Judgment.
Sunni Islam has a different set of hadiths from Shi'i Islam. Sunni Islam puts far more importance into the hajj to Mecca, while Shi'i Islam has some other very important pilgrimages as well. Sunni Islam revere Ali, but does not hold him up as the only true continuation of the tradition from Muhammad, and has no emphasis on him bringing on a divine light from the Prophet.

By Tore Kjeilen