from Shane's Muslim Connect
It almost goes without saying: This taxonomy is incomplete, overly simplified, and in some cases wrong! Learn Islam from Muslims, not white guys!
Second, by way of reminder: Christianity is every bit as diverse as Islam. There are people who call themselves Christian with whom I disagree regarding essential issues. And likely people who look at me and say, “I do not think it means what you think it means!”
Muslims use a myriad of factors and distinctions by which to categorize and even divide themselves. Few if any of these factors exist in isolation but rather combine with others in varying degrees of strength to form a given Muslim group’s sense of identity. Additionally, these factors strengthen and weaken over time.
The result is a dynamic and fascinating kaleidoscope. One which honestly exceeds my capacity to depict in a pleasant format!
Muslim = Someone who follows the religion of Islam.
Two main divisions: Sunni (80%) and Shia (20%).
Sects and schools of thought: Muslims sort themselves into a plethora of subsets of thinking based on religious interpretation. See this amazing graphic.
Ethnicity and region of origin. Muslim does not equal Arab, nor the inverse. Muslims come from hundreds of distinct cultures and ethnic backgrounds. While Arabic may be the "tongue of Heaven," near countless languages and dialects are spoken by Muslims who are as different from each other as you are from them.
Orthodoxy and practice: While more or less following the Qur'an, Muslims believe different things to be true. Additionally, they believe those things with varying intensity and practice them with varying faithfulness. Some Muslims mix Qur'anic belief with local, animistic practices.
There are Muslims who are Fundamental, Progressive, Practicing, Nominal, Syncretistic, and Former.
Then there are the Sufis, found throughout Islam, practicing a more mystical form of the faith. And there are Ahmadiyyas, a reform movement held at arm’s length by most of the Muslim world.
Is your head spinning yet? Mine, too! When we feel like we don’t totally understand. . . we are totally right!