Key strains and institutions of Islam explained

Sunnis: followers of the sunnah, or tradition, of the Prophet Muhammad. They make up more than 80% of Muslims worldwide.

Shia: followers of the Prophet’s son-in-law, Ali, and his descendants.

Salafists: followers of the al-salaf al-salih (the pious ancestors) who want to return to what they see as the original, pure, Islam of the Prophet. Sponsored by Saudi Arabia, they span a spectrum from piety to extreme violence.

Ahmadis: a Muslim sect considered heretic by many Sunnis for proclaiming its 19th-century founder in India, Mirza Ghulam Ahmed, as the Messiah.

Deobandis: a 19th-century anti-British movement that originated in colonial India and is now the most influential strain of Islam in Britain.

Muslim Brotherhood: a political ideology founded in Egypt in 1928 to oppose British rule. It is now banned in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE as a terrorist organisation. Its European and American followers reject violence. They are active in communal organisations but often hide their affiliation.

Milli Görü (National Vision): a Turkish Islamist movement with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. Founded in 1969, it opposes the secular Turkish republic.

Diyanet Isleri Baskanligi: a branch of the Turkish president’s office with a staff of 120,000, dealing with all religious matters for Sunnis of Turkish origin at home and abroad. It acts as the highest religious authority in matters of doctrine and practice.

DITIB (Turkish abbreviation for Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs): the German arm of the Diyanet, based in the Central Mosque of Cologne.

Muslim World League: a body founded in 1962 to promote Saudi leadership of Islam worldwide. It finances the construction of mosques, distributes Korans and Islamic literature, organises Islamic classes and supports the spread of Salafism.

Jihad: Arabic for struggle. This can refer to an individual purging of the soul or the pursuit of a “just” war against heresy. For extremists, this is the most important pillar of Islam.

Sharia: God’s will expressed in law. For traditionalists, it is immutable; for modernisers, ever-changing.

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