Origin stories are roots; roots can split and grow. Constructing a narrative about origin stories that concern splits, disagreements, and the consequences of root divisions is the intention of this new book about the genealogies and origins of Islam and the impact on the politics of the Middle East today.
The Caliph and the Imam: The Making of Sunnism and Shiism, by Toby Matthiesen, due for publication March 2023 from Oxford University Press, explores these origin stories.
"In 632, soon after the Prophet Muhammad died, a struggle broke out among his followers as to who would succeed him. Most Muslims argued that the leader of Islam should be elected by the community's elite and rule as Caliph. They would later become the Sunnis. Others—who would become known as the Shia—believed that Muhammad had designated his cousin and son-in-law Ali as his successor, and that henceforth Ali's offspring should lead as Imams. This dispute over who should guide Muslims, the Caliph or the Imam, marks the origin of the Sunni-Shii split in Islam."