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Sunni Islam is the largest denomination in Islam, and is largly regarded as the more orthodox branch. Its beliefs are based on the Quran and the Kutub al-Sittah, the main collection of hadiths. Sunnis make up roughly 75% of the world's Muslims. The name itself comes from a collection of works (hadith) that are the supposed sayings and actions of Muhammad himself.
 Bodies of law/Schools of thought
There are four major schools of thought in Sunni Islam that differ predominately in how they understand non-Qu'ranic questions of faith (eg., the nature of God and the existence of free will), as well as the way particular rituals are practiced, and perhaps most significantly to non-Muslims, how they interpret and apply the Shari'ah (Islamic Law). Each school was started by famous Muslim scholars who established their schools based on specific ideas about the fiqh (legal interpretations of the Shari'ah).
- Hanafi-Muslims of Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, Central Asia, the Muslim areas of Southern Russia, the Caucasus, most of the Muslim areas of the Balkans and Turkey and parts of Iraq, all follow this school of jurisprudence. It is also the dominant school of Muslims in the United Kingdom and Germany.
- Maliki-adopted by most North African and West African countries like Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Nigeria and others except Egypt, Horn of Africa and Sudan. Also, the Maliki madhab is the official state madhhab of Kuwait, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.
- Shafi'i- Muslims in Indonesia, Lower Egypt, Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore, Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Coastal Maharashtra/Konkan and Kerala in India, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Palestine, Yemen and Kurds in the Kurdish regions follow the Shafi'i school.
- Hanbali - This school of jurisprudence is followed predominantly in the Arabian Peninsula.
- Zahiri - An extremely small school that was followed almost exclusively in Al-Andalus before the Reconquista. It is presently followed by very small minorities in Morocco and Egypt.
 Six articles of Belief
There are six articles of Belief that all Muslims agree with:
- Belief in God (Allah), the one and only one worthy of all worship (tawhid).
- Belief in the Angels (mala'ika)
- Belief in the Books sent by Allah (kutub) (including the Qurʾānm and for Sunni, the Hadith)
- Belief in the Prophets sent by Allah (rusul)
- Belief in the Day of Judgment (and therefore, afterlife) (qiyama)
- Belief in Predestination or Allah's will (qadar).
 Five Pillars of Islam
For followers of Sunni Islam, the Five Pillars of Islam are the core of their faith. Shi'a Muslims add a sixth.
- Saying the Shahadah, the Muslim creed: La ilaha ill'allah wa muhammadun rasulu'llah, which means "there is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet".
- Performing Salat, or prayer, five times per day. For Sunni, this is a direct personal communication with Allah, and is not a focused ritualized set of words, but rather a practice similar to meditation in that the prayer should be a focus on the mind of Allah. Traditionally, the observant attempts to face Mecca when praying, but if he or she cannot, they may symbolically face Mecca by placing an image or object that reminds them of Mecca on the wall they are using.
- Sawn is the fasting done during Ramadan, to remind oneself of the obligations to family, to God, to community; to sacrifice for family, God and community. It consists of abstaining from food, drink, sex and tobacco from sunrise to sunset, when the fast is broken with a small meal.
- Zakat and Sadaqah are the giving of charity. Zakat is a fixed portion of one's wealth, as an understanding that your blessings are not your own, even your own hard work, but are in fact a blessing of Allah's. Islam specifies who may and may not receive Zakat funds. Sadaqah is voluntary, and in any amount at any time and for any reason and to anyone in a moment of need.
- Hajj, the yearly pilgrimage to Mecca which every able Muslim is required to do at least once a lifetime.
 Sunni leadership
The Sunni believe that the relationship between Allah and any Muslim is a personal relationship and does not require any kind of priest or intercessor to act on the Muslim's behalf. Traditionally, male elders act as guides and teachers for Muslims on their path, as well as scholarly experts on the Qur'an, the Hadith, and the fiqh, but had little or no political or enforceable authority. Muslims who did not follow the guidance of the leaders of a particular mosque might be removed from the mosque, but that was the extent of authority.
In modern contexts, however political leaders have cloaked themselves in the garb of the religious, to add authenticity to their claims, and attempt to justify their "rule", their decrees, and their (often extreme) versions of fiqh upon the members of their community.
The religious structure of Sunni mosques and communities is as follows (listed from most common to most authoritative):
At the mosque or community level:
- A Sahib is any honorable and religious man whom the community holds in high regard. He holds no formal title in the mosque, but is often turned to for advice both secular and religious. It is a similar term to a "church elder". The Arabic word originally meant "lord" or "land owner".
- Mujtihad or Mufti is a specialist in Islamic law, and is questioned in civil disputes such as divorce, property disputes, debt resolution, and other family and community matters. (Compare Rabbi.) In Islamic countries where Sharia is no longer the ruling law over such disputes, the mufti is often also a trained professor or specialist in civil law. In modern contexts where a call to adherence to a more extreme interpretation of Sharia is made, it is often the muftis who gain power in communities, and who are fully complicit in enforcement of such extreme ordinances as stoning to death for apostates, requirements of stricter standards for clothing and personal appearance, and the horrific notion of honor killings.
- The Mullah is the cleric who has studied the Qur'an, who leads the Friday prayer, and most importantly, the one who helps people in their relationship with Allah. He is distinct from the mufti in that he is not concerned with daily civil life, but the spiritual life of the people.
At the Country or "School of Thought" level.
- Imam, in Sunni Islam, generally refers to the founder of the various schools of thought, and in some cases with well-known historical scholars of the Qur'an.
- The Grand Mufti is the highest religious leader in a country, be it a secular or Islamic country. In the modern world, the Grand Mufti may be appointed by the leadership of a country, or may be elected by the voting populace. Nations such as the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada and Australia frequently have Grand Muftis whom the government might interact with, or that only one section of the Muslim population accepts, since there is no official "Grand Mufti" position and there is no formal declaration of it.
- The term Caliph (khalifa) is sometimes encountered. This was the leader of the Islamic world, generally during the Ottoman empire and prior. Although the office of caliph no longer exists, some Muslims (mainly more hardline or fundamentalist Sunnis) call for the re-establishment of the caliphate as a political authority that rules over the entire Islamic world. See theocracy.