Followers of the Prophet's directions, the name of one of the two main divisions of Islam, the other being the Shi`ites (q.v.).
The Sunnites, who accept the orthodox tradition (Sunna) as well as the Koran as a source of theologico-juristic doctrines, predominate in Arabia, the Turkish Empire, the north of Africa, Turkestan, Afghanistan and the Mahommedan parts of India and the east of Asia; the Shi`ites have their main seat in Persia, where their confession is the state religion, but are also scattered over the whole sphere of Islam, especially in India and the regions bordering on Persia, except among the nomad Tatars, who are all nominally Sunnite.
Even in Turkey there are many native Shi`ites, generally men of the upper classes, and often men in high office (see generally Mahommedan Religion).
(2) The partisans of Ali, the Shia (Shi`ites), who in proportion as their influence with the Arabs declined, contrived to strengthen it by obtaining the support of the non-Arabic Moslems, aided thereto, especially in the latter period, by the Abbasids, who at the decisive moment succeeded in seizing the supreme power for themselves.
Ziyad then came himself, arrested the leader of the Shi`ites, and sent fourteen rebels to Damascus, among them several men of consideration.