Origins & Branches

Kaaba, Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Holiest site in Islam
Kaaba, Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Holiest site in Islam. Source: Basil D Soufi (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Islam's origins are from the city of Mecca, in modern day Saudi Arabia, in which Islam was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad in about 620 AD. Muslims believe that Allah sent many Prophets, as recognised by Jews and Christians: Adam, Abraham, Moses, David and Jesus.

Muhammad was the last Prophet sent by Allah and he received revelations from Allah through the Angel Gabriel. These revelations were passed on to his followers and the sacred text of the Islamic faith, the Qur’an, contains the laws followed by Muslims across the world.

Additionally, Muslims acknowledge the Torah revealed to Moses, the Psalms revealed to David and the Gospels revealed to Jesus.

Branches of Islam

Tree showing the relationships among different branches of Islam
Tree showing the relationships among different branches of Islam. Source: Angelpeream (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

There are a number of branches of Islam, resulting from differences that have developed over its 1400 year history:

  • Sunni: Represent approximately 85% of the Islamic world; they are considered mainstream and rely exclusively on the Qur’an for guidance
  • Shia or Shi’ite: Represent 15% of Muslims with the Alawi being a minority branch; they are followers of Ali, a successor of Muhammad who combined Islam with some Christian minorities
  • Sufi: Represent a small minority and are the mystical branch of Islam
  • Alawi or Alawite: Represent a minority who are frequently rejected as Muslims by mainstream Islam (see Minority Religions)
Mosque in Morocco

Most Muslims in Australia and overseas are Sunni, though Shias dominate in some communities. Most Muslims in Iraq, Bahrain, Lebanon and Iran are Shia.

The differences between the various branches or groups of Islam have caused tensions and conflicts both overseas and in local communities in Australia.

Further Reading & Materials