Ahl al Sunnah wal Jamaat (Sunni) and Ahl al Bayt (Shia) are the two largest denominations of Islam, themselves comprised of many subgroups and schools of thought (madhab). Contrary to some media reports, the two denominations are not at war with one another.
While it’s true a profound disagreement over who should lead the Muslims after Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, was the root that caused this split; that was nearly one and a half millennia ago!
Until relatively recently, there was no conflict at all between any Sunnis and Shias. When scholars got together, they debated and discussed with proper adab. Renowned scholars of each denomination respect one another to this day, regardless whether or not they disagree on some matters.
Any conflict attributed to sectarian violence between Sunni and Shia is between extremist factions, who have nothing to do with mainstream Sunni/Shia Islam.
We must be on our guard against this fitnah, and encourage people to return to the teachings of Allah SWT in the Holy Qur’an, which all Muslims believe to be the revelation of Allah SWT to his messenger Muhammad, peace be upon him.
Paul Salahuddin Armstrong
Co-Director, The Association of British Muslims