Although there is freedom of religion, Islam is of course the most important religion in Oman. Shortly after Mohammed's death in 632, the entire Arabian peninsula had been converted to Islam, often after bloody conquests and conversions. Mohammed died without leaving male heirs and without establishing a succession procedure. This quickly led to serious differences of opinion. Two movements emerged, the Shiites (shiat Ali=the party of Ali, the fourth caliph who became his successor after Mohammed's death) who believe that Mohammed's successors should only come from Mohammed's family, and the Sunnis (soena=usual) who accept the succession from the Umayyads, the rulers of Damascus. Today, 90% of all Muslims are Sunni.
Despite several battles on this succession issue, the Shiites did not succeed in defeating and converting the Sunnis. Disappointed Shiites then seceded under the name Kharijites. The moderates among them were led by Abd Allah ibn Ibad and fled to present-day Oman, among other places. After some time, these Ibadites managed to live together peacefully with the Sunnis. Ibadism is characterised by tolerance and moderation. They do not use torture, although the Sharia, Islamic law, prescribes this for certain crimes.
Oman is the only Islamic country in the world where the majority of the population belongs to the Ibadites. About 75% of Oman's Muslim population are Ibadites and about 25% are Sunnis. A small minority are the Shiites. The Ibadites live particularly in the central part of Oman. Sunnis and Shiites live mainly along the coast. One tribe consists of followers of Wahhabism who strictly adhere to the laws and regulations of Islam. Among the large group of foreigners one finds mainly Hindus (15%) and Christians.
Callan, L. / Oman & United Arab Emirates
Foster, L.M. / Oman
Medani Elsayed, M. / Reishandboek Oman en de Verenigde Arabische Emiraten
Van Deuren, G. / Oman, Verenigde Arabische Emiraten
CIA - World Factbook
BBC - Country Profiles
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