Sunni, who acknowledge the elected RashidunCaliphs and their descendants, from the Shia, who acknowledge the Imams or descendants of Muhammad; these two branches are then subdivided by their views on the further course of the succession.
The historic background of the Sunni–Shia split lies in the schism that occurred when the Islamic prophetMuhammaddied in the year 632, leading to a dispute over succession to Muhammad as a caliph of the Islamic community spread across various parts of the world, which led to the Battle of Siffin. The dispute intensified greatly after the Battle of Karbala, in which Hussein ibn Ali and his household were killed by the ruling Umayyad Caliph Yazid I, and the outcry for his revenge divided the early Islamic community.
Sectarian violence persists to this day from Pakistan to Yemen and is a major element of friction throughout the Middle East. Tensions between communities have intensified during power struggles, such as the Bahraini uprising, the Iraq War, and most recently the Syrian Civil War and the formation of the self-styled Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and its advancement on Syria and Northern Iraq.
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