What is sad to me about this question is that it is one that I get a lot. What is more sad is that although Muslims ask me this question, non Muslims ask me this question more.
The sad part is that nonMuslims automatically think of Islam as having this division - between the two "sects."
That's a terrible portrayal of our religion. As a matter of fact, it is one of the reasons I did not agree with Christianity.
I used to wonder, "if people think Christianity is 'right,' then why are there Catholics, Protestants, Lutherans, Mormons....?"
And, I wish that Islam did not have the same stigma. I will answer the question though.
So, AM I SUNNI OR SHI'AA?
Shocking I know, and yes, I know you want to know which sect I follow. But I don't have an answer. And the next question many Muslim people ask is "do you pray like thissss or like thissss?" as they mimic the two different positions of prayer pictured above.
Again, I'm Muslim.
For the explanation:
I was listening to a Sheiyk from London, my favorite Sheiyk, talk about Ramadan once. He told a story of a man who came to the Prophet Muhammad (saws) and said he saw the moon to begin fasting a day earlier than the rest of the community expected. He asked the Prophet what he should do! No one in the community would listen to him, but he knew that he was right and that Ramadan had started and that everyone should fast. He asked if he should tell every single person in the community this, hoping they would fast with him, OR if he should fast by himself in private, OR what he should do!
The Prophet Muhammad (saws) said - and I'm paraphrasing because it's a translation and I'm too lazy to find the exact specifics -
"It is better for us to all act as one ummah and do the wrong thing, than for half of us to do what is right and half of us to do what is wrong."
How powerful is this quote?! Oh my goodness! I can't believe people don't cite this example more often. The story ends that the man was advised not to fast and to follow the rest of the community.
After I heard this, I realized it's haram to say if you are Sunni or Shi'aa. Prophet Muhammad was most concerned with us being united. Dividing us up and saying "you're Sunni, I'm Shi'aa" is against Islam!
Now, no one lets me get away with just this explanation. They want to know more.
"but, but, you have a lot of Shi'aa friends! and you go to a Sunni masjid! And sometimes you cover your chin with your hijab like a Shi'aa!"
This is true. I have a lot of Sunni friends, and a lot of Shi'aa friends.
I pray Taraweeh (a Sunni "tradition") and I've been to the masjid during Ashura (Shi'aa "tradition").
I love Omar, Abu Bakr, and the sahaba (companions of the Prophet), but I also LOVE ahlyl bayt.
I love Aisha, and I think Ali was one of the greatest martyrs.
AND, there are some "Sunni customs" I don't agree with, and there are some "Shi'aa customs" I don't agree with.
And, I have a terrible chin! I look like Jay Leno when I let it hang out. Let me cover it!
But, at the end of the day, we all say: لَا إِلَّهَ إِلَّا الله مُحَمَّدٌ رَسُولُ الله
"There is no god, but God, and Muhammad is his messenger"
And, that's enough for me.
I know there are battles between Sunnis and Shi'aas.
I know families have been ruined because of this difference.
And I know two people who may be soulmates won't be able to get married because their parents think the delineation between the two is TOO IMPORTANT.
I'm not trying to downplay the issue, as I know it is a major problem. I think of it this way, however, in that the issues that caused the separation happened AFTER the Prophet Muhammad's death. Not during his life. We don't have his example to go by on if we should be Sunni or Shi'aa, but do have his explanation of the importance of unity.
Also, this was hundreds of years ago.
And God's Will worked out in exactly the way it always does.
Moreover, God is The Judge of everyone. All the people who died in His cause, died shaheed. This means they will be among those who live in the throats of the little birds that circle around Allah's Throne in Heaven.
What can I possibly do that would affect their place in Heaven? Nothing.
We cannot change God's Will.
I hope that in the near future, we will all stop this division, and realize that it is much more important that we stand together for what we have in common. Which is 98% of the religion.
Finally, I hope that Heaven is filled with Shi'aa and Sunnis praying side-by-side, and until we get to Heaven, I hope our masjids start being filled this way, too.