AT THE CENTER
RELATED RESOURCES: MUSLIM
Sunni Islam is the largest denomination of Islam, comprising about 85 percent of the world’s over 1.5 billion Muslims. In contrast to the Shi'a, Sunnis see Islam as continuous with the teachings of Muhammad and his first four successors, the "rightly guided caliphs." (For Shi'a Muslims, the valid line of succession ran through Muhammad's relatives). Sunni Islam accepts a wide variety of hadith—accounts of the sayings and actions of the Prophet—as authoritative, and acknowledges the legitimacy of diverse schools of Islamic law (sharia) that govern proper roles and relationships in the family and society. In keeping with this internal diversity, Sunni Islam has no clear hierarchical structure. It emphasizes the direct relationship between the believer and God.