It is a little more complicated than your list shows.
GENERALLY, There are two major divisions or sects among muslims today: Shia and Sunni. The majority of both these groups accept the Quran, their
divisions occur more from conflicts involving succession rather than any actual theology. The shi'ites believe that Ali (the Prophet Muhammad's
nephew) should've been the first Caliph (vicegerent of Islam), while Abu Bakr was chosen and accepted by the others.
The only major theological point here is (and if some Shi'a person could pop in and explain better than I understand it, then that'd be great) the
Shi'ite belief in the holiness of the seed of Abraham, thus all the Caliphs should be descendants or from the same line as the Prophet Muhammad.
Sunnis on the other hand, believe that any muslim can be the Caliph.
Aside from these two, there are some minor sub-groups that don't identify as either Sunni or Shia, such as the Ibadis. Most of the remaining subgroups
of muslims in the world are either derived from Sunnis or Shias.
Sunnis have 4 or 5 major "madhabs" (meaning schools of thought or interpretation)- the hanafi, hanbali and shafi. Many madhabs were formed by their
relevant teachers or scholars using different methods (some interpreted some hadith one way, some interpreted it another way), but then they were
later whittled down to these ones. You can't REALLY consider these separate sects, because they all acknowledge the validity of the others, they just
have minor differences in the interpretations of certain sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, like one group saying shellfish is not permitted to be
eaten, while another saying it is okay.
Groups that were derived from Sunni Islam, but are not anymore, and some muslims don't consider them even to be Muslim are Ahmadiyahs.
Aside from these madhabs, among the Sunnis there are also, the salafis, or the "ahl-as-sunnah" or "ahl-al-hadith" ("People of the Sunnah" or "People
of the Hadith") as they sometimes like to be called. These people sometimes disregard the madhabs, and say they only follow what is known of up to the
generation or two after the Prophet Muhammad. Wahabis are one group of the Salafis (although they don't really use the name "Wahabi" to
Among the Shi'ites the major madhabs are the Twelvers/Jafari, Ismaili and Zaidi. I'm not to familiar with the details of these individual groups, but
again, most acknowledge the validity of the others, so you can't really classify them as separate sects.
Groups that sprang from Shi'ites, but are not generally considered so anymore (and in some cases are not considered muslims, or do not self-identify
as muslims) are, for example, the Alevi, the Druze, and Baha'i.
Sufiism and Sufis can be both Sunni OR Shi'ite. They follow the traditional practices and understandings, but along with that focus on the
I've only talked about groups present today. Groups like the kharjites haven't existed in centuries, and thus aren't really relevant in today's
- 4 Major Madhabs:
- Minor Sunni Madhabs, eg. Zahiri
- Salafis (may or may not also adhere to specific madhabs) eg. Wahabis
- Completely separated groups:
- Mahdavi and Zikri
- 3 Major Madhabs:
- Nizari (largest group of Ismailis, they follow the Agha Khan)
- Dawoodi Bohra
- Sulaimani Bohra
- Alavi Bohra
- Hebtiahs Bohra
- Atba-i-Malak Badra
- Atba-i-Malak Vakil
- Completely separated groups:
- Alevi (derived from Twelvers)
- Ahl-e Haqq/Yarsan (mostly Kurdish Group)
- Druze (derived from Ismailis, some do not self-identify as muslims)
- Baha'i (also derived from Twelvers, but do not self-identify as muslims)
- Minor Groups which may or may not be accepted within the general muslim body:
- Submitters (Do not accept Hadith, only the Quran)
- RAGS International/Messiah Foundation International
- African-American Centric Groups:
- Nation of Islam
- Moorish Science Temple of America
Apologies for any missing, and apologies for any incorrect impressions by listing fairly minor (numbering in the thousands) groups along with major
I've also not included the Sufis in this list, as that would really complicate the whole thing. There are specific Shi'ite Sufis, there are specific
Sunni Sufis, there are Sufis that have chains from both Shi'ite and Sunni scholars. While many Sunni and Shi'ite groups divided up and split up from
their "parent groups" due to who they considered to be their leader, in Sufiism, the divisions are more according to the chain of teachers going back
to the Prophet Muhammad. So the different branches are divided up according to different "spiritual lineages".
Major Sufi groups are: Ba 'Alawiyya, Chishti, Naqshbandi, Jerrahi, Nimatullahi, Uwaissi, Qadiriyyah, Qalandariyya, Sarwari Qadiri, Shadhliyya and
Suhrawardiyya. Most of these follow some specific Shi'ite or Sunni Madhab. These can be further subdivided depending on which student of which teacher
in which chain the person follows. Again, none of this involves theological differences, it is mostly about having a chain going back to the
These chains go all the way from student to teacher, to teacher of that teacher, etc. all the way back to the Prophet, usually through his nephew Ali,
or through Abu Bakr (or both), or one of the other companions, or (in the case of Uwaissi Sufiism), through Uwais Qarni, who although he lived during
the Prophet Muhammad's time, he never met him, but had a "spiritual connection" with him.
Whew...that was a long one...
edit on 18-6-2012 by babloyi because: (no reason given)