2.1.3 Why Is Islam So Different in Different Countries?

11th century North African Qu’ran in the British Museum by Wikimedia user LordHarris

Today, there are more than one and a half billion Muslims worldwide, making Islam the second-largest religion on the planet after Christianity. But it is a rich and variegated religion. And this variation must be taken into account when dealing with it (The Conversation, 2016).


This article is part of a series on contemporary Islam and the Islamic State published in The Conversation. The author Aaron Hughes is Professor of Jewish Studies at the University of Rochester. The article provides an accessible overview of the diversity of schools and sects in Islam. Although elementary for scholars, the relationship of religious diversity to history, geography, and culture is a theme that threads through this volume, and it is helpful to engage it from as many perspectives as possible. It is also helpful to view the different schools of Islam in a chart format, as well as to see the distribution of sects on a world map through the categories of Sunni, Shi’a, and Ibadi.


Read: Why is Islam So Different in Different Countries? // The Conversation


Guiding Questions:
  1. Why is Islam practice differently in different places and at different times?
  2. What religious practice does the author compare visiting Sufi shrines to? What are other similarities and differences between them?
  3. What do you think has led to the tension between Sufism and more conservative visions of Islam?
Thumbnail: “11th Century North African Qur’an.” Photo Credit: British Museum, Wikimedia Commons user LordHarris. CC BY-SA 3.0.