Sunnis and Shia: Islam’s ancient schism

The divide between Sunnis and Shia is the largest and oldest in the history of Islam. Members of the two sects have co-existed for centuries and share many fundamental beliefs and practices. But they differ in doctrine, ritual, law, theology and religious organisation. Their leaders also often seem to be in competition. From Lebanon and […]

Who are the Coptic Christians?

The clue to the identity of this small religious minority survives in the art and archaeology of ancient Egypt – and reveals a most magnificent ancestry Attacks on churches, communal divisions – Cairo has recently seen conflicts between some Muslims and Coptic Christians. But who exactly are the Copts and how did they come to be […]

Discovery of ‘oldest’ Qur’an fragments could resolve enigmatic history of holy text

For the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims, the idea that the Qur’an is a seventh century text disseminated by Islam’s founder, the Prophet Muhammad, is neither news, nor particularly controversial. But in academia the history of this holy text is much more opaque. For researchers in Islamic studies, historical evidence dating the Qur’an back to Islam’s foundational era […]