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Islam can be roughly divided into Sunni and Shia. In Qatar people adhere to a Sunni variant of Islam, Wahhabitism.


Sunnis (from Arabic sunnah = custom, especially the normative custom of the prophet Muhammad, expressed in his words and actions, which serve as examples for the believers and are recorded in the hadith), Muslims who trace back their rules and beliefs on Muhammad. Since virtually all Islamic groups and sects do this, strictly speaking, almost all Muslims are Sunnis. In common parlance, the term generally refers to the vast majority of Muslims who are not Shia or Charijite. In the field of constitutional law, the Sunnis hold the view that the caliph must come from the Kuraish tribe. In law, they belong to one of the four Sunni schools of law (madzhab).


Shiites (from Arabic Shi'at Ali = the Party of Ali), is a collective name for a large group of different Islamic sects, which have as their common premise the view that Ali and his descendants are the rightful successors of Muhammad as leaders (imam) of the Muslim community. They do not recognize the caliphate of Abu Bakr, Umar and Uthman (compare Sunnis).

The Shi'at Ali emerged as a political group in 661 when the Umayyads seized the caliphate. Ali's sons Hasan and Hussein (the second and third Shia Imam respectively) died during this time as martyrs for the Shia cause.

The teachings of the various Shia groups differ widely, but some common elements can be identified, such as the worship of the Imams, where the qualities attributed to them differ greatly. Some regard the imams as people with a divine mission, others see them as bearers of the divine light or incarnations of the divine or at least animated by divine inspiration. Most Shiites regard the Imams as sinless and infallible. Many Shia groups believe in a disappeared imam, who lives on in secrecy and will eventually return to earth as a mahdi.


As in Saudi Arabia, the majority of Qataris adhere to the Wahhabi version of Sunni Islam. However, the Qataris are not as strict as the Saudis. For example, it is difficult to get alcohol in Qatar and women are allowed to drive cars.

The Wahhabis were an ultra-Orthodox Islamic sect in Central Arabia and are named after its founder, the priest and judge Mohammed ibn Abd al-Wahhab (1703-1791).

The lack of respect for Islam by the Bedouin of Central Arabia led him to advocate a return to the traditional principles and traditions of the Hanbali school. This means a strict way of life according to the Qur'an and the hadith, the records of the words and deeds of the prophets.

There is also a significant minority of Shiites in Qatar, in addition to scattered Hindus and Christians. Qatar has about 60,000 Catholics and 10,000 Orthodox Christians. In December 1999, the government of Qatar approved the construction of the first church in the country. Policy on such matters has eased since current Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani came to power in 1995.


Robison, G. / Bahrain, Kuwait & Qatar
Lonely Planet

Whetter, L. / Live & work in Saudi & the Gulf
Vacation Work

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated June 2024
Copyright: Team The World of Info