After the death of the prophet Muhammad (or Mohammed), the founder of Islam and author of the holy book Qur’an, there was a dispute process to decide who should succeed him, since Islam was not just a religion disconnected from political power. Islam, in itself, is structured in a proposal of civilization that articulates religious and political principles.
From the dispute for the right of legitimate succession of the Prophet, two currents became the majority: the Shiites and the Sunnis. Such a dispute began in AD 632, when the caliphs (Muhammad’s successors), who were also Muhammad’s in-laws, Abu Bakr and Omar, tried to organize the transmission of political power and religious authority. This attempt was successful until the year 644 A.D., when a member of the Umayyad family, also Muhammad’s son-in-law, called Othma, became caliph and came to be challenged by Islamist Arabs living near the Medina. Othman ended up being murdered.
The murder of Othman was associated with the figure of Ali, Muhammad’s cousin who would succeed the murdered caliph. Muslims opposed to Ali declared war on the caliph and his supporters. The most prominent figure who contested Ali’s authority was then responsible for Syria’s power, Muhawya. The latter decided to investigate the murder of Othman and investigate Ali’s participation in the case. That was enough for another Muslim group to conspire against Ali, who was also murdered.
Muhawya then became a powerful caliph and moved the caliphate capital from Medina to Damascus, Syria’s current capital. His opponents, who defended the succession of the caliphate through heredity, that is, by the descendants of the Muhammad family, became known as Shiites, a group that is still a minority today and which is characterized by being traditionalist, preserving the ancient interpretations of the Qur’an and Islamic Law, Sharia.
Already members of the other group, much larger in the number of adherents today, constituting about 90% of the Islamic population, became known as Sunnis, first for diverging from the Shias’ conception of succession and, second, for always updating their interpretations of the holy book of the Qur’an and Islamic Law, taking into account the transformations that the world has gone through and drawing on another source besides those mentioned, the Suna – book where the great deeds and examples of the prophet Muhammad are compiled. Hence the Sunni name.