LUCKNOW, India (RNS) At Eid al-Adha prayers this week, a hundred Shiite and Sunni Muslims offered joint prayers as a show of peace between two Muslim sects often better known for their bitter conflicts.
The prayer took place in a Shiite shrine but was led by a Sunni imam as part of an initiative by a volunteer group called Shoulder to Shoulder.
“In Uttar Pradesh sectarian tensions surfaced occasionally between the two sects,” said Arif Durrani, a member of Shoulder to Shoulder. “We came up with this idea of joint Shia-Sunni congregational prayer.”
Around 85 percent of world’s Muslims are Sunni and about 15 percent are Shiite. The groups rarely pray together.
Their differences date back to the 14-century-and involve a dispute over the succession to Prophet Muhammad for leadership of the Muslim community. Since that time, the sects’ religious rituals, traditions and customs — mostly related to legal codes — have followed two different routes.
But violence between Shiites and Sunnis has intensified in recent years, especially in Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and in areas controlled by the Islamic State group, which has launched fierce attacks against Shiites in west Asia.