Day 13: Islam, a Religion Divided and All-American Muslim

Islam, a Religion Divided

Like all religions, somewhere along the line the followers of Islam had differences of opinions. This led to a split which led to more splits and eventually we ended up with a bunch of sects. Honestly, there are so many denominations it kind of makes my head spin – especially since some of the divisions are based on minor aspects.


The largest denomination of Islam is Sunni Muslims. Sunni Muslims believe in following the Qur’an and the teachings/examples of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

The second largest denomination of Islam is Shia Muslims. Shia Muslims also believe in following the Qur’an and the teachings/examples of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

HOWEVER, the major split occurred after the death of the Prophet. Upon his death there were differing opinions on who should take his place as the next leader of the community.

Sunni Muslims believe that Muhammad (PBUH) did not specifically appoint a successor. Rather, eventually they democratically elected Muhammad’s (PBUH) father-in-law who became the first caliph.

On the other hand, Shia Muslims believe that the Prophet’s family, specifically the male descendants, had a special spiritual quality and political duty within the community. Therefore, only they should be leaders within the community, within Islam.

There are other differences, but this is the main one and the one that started it all.

Then, there are divisions and confusion within these two denominations, in addition to the other sects.

All- American Muslim on TLC

At the end of 2011 a show called All-American Muslim premiered on TLC here in America. My cousins saw a few episodes, and I watched one out of curiosity. I wanted to see how it would be handled especially in a post 9/11 America. The show centers around five Lebanese-American Shia Muslim families in Dearborn, Michigan. Dearborn happens to have the largest Muslim community in the United States. (I totally didn’t know that before this show. I thought the largest population was in Texas.)

The TLC general manager said she wanted to show that there’s diversity even within the Muslim community. Only, I don’t recall it ever being clear that these families were Shia Muslims or that there were various denominations within Islam.

The show ended up getting cancelled after one season. Some say due to low ratings, others say it was too controversial. Regardless, here’s episode one (linked through the show’s YouTube page.)

I’ll admit, I did have a lot of problems with this show. While I appreciated the effort to shed light on the religion, to share information when there are a lot of people afraid, especially of things they don’t know or understand, the Islam showcased in AAM was heavily influenced by culture and there was no effort made to clarify this. Of course religion is going to be influenced by culture, but AAM presented it as the norm.


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