Sunni Beliefs and Practices

Like other Muslims, Sunnis offer five daily prayers, give zakāt (religious tax), fast in the month of Ramadan, and perform the hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca, if they are able to do so.

Sunnis attach great importance to the salat al-jum'ah (Friday prayer), which is offered in congregation at zuhr time (after midday) on Fridays. The salāt al-jum'ah is wājib (necessary) and must be performed by all male adults except those who are travelers or who have some handicaps which apply to other fard (obligatory) prayers. Women are not bound to offer this prayer in congregation, but they may join it if it does not upset their household duties.

Like other Muslims, Sunnis also believe in the seven articles of faith (imān): belief in the Oneness of God, the angels, the Sacred Scriptures, the messengers of God, the Last Day, destiny coming from God-whether good or bad, and resurrection after death. Sunnis believe that God has created the universe and that He is its absolute Controller and Regulator; that everything in the universe has a predetermined set course (al-qadar) and nothing can happen without God's willing it and knowing it; that God knows the present, the past, and the future of every creature and that the destiny of every creature is already known to Him (XXV, 2-XXXIII, 38); that God has given free will to every human being by the exercise of which he can choose between right and wrong; and that God will judge every human being on the Day of Judgment on the basis of his actions in this world. The Sunnis also believe that on the Day of Judgment no one except the Prophet, with God's permission, will be able to intercede (shafa'ah) on behalf of anyone else. In other words, no Imam, no khalih, no walī Allāh (saint) will have any power of intercession.

After the assassination of the caliph 'Uthmān and the unsatisfactory arbitration between 'Alī and Mu'āwiyah in relation to their claims to the caliphate, there emerged three schools: the Kharijites, the Murji'ites, and the Shi'ites. Every school developed a different notion of its collective identity and began to view the boundaries of right belief differently.