The Separation of Sects
By Sehba Imtiaz

April 2, 2007
Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Shinto, and Taoism: these are all religions. People believe in them and worship their God(s) and/or Goddess(es). But why in the world do we have different sects in each religion? All of the above religions have different sects in them, different beliefs. They are all separated, and we discriminate and commit acts of violence because we are all different, whether it is because of color, race, gender, or religion.
Buddhism was introduced from China and Korea, and in those days, Buddhist monks had random kinds of scientific and medical knowledge. Buddhist sects kept changing due to the capital moves because of the political situation in Japan, and thus it was theoretical Buddhism. They studied the meaning of sutras, but it was not practical. When the capital moved to Kyoto, two large sects formed, Shingon and Tendai. Afterwards, when the political power moved to Kamakura, “Kamakura Buddhism” formed, and six sects were formed along with it; Shin, Jodo, Giin, Soto, Rinzai, and Nichiren. Then, in the Edo era, the Obacu sect was formed, and was similar to Rinzai, as they both practiced Zazen, or enlightment.
Judaism was at one time related to Samritanism. Samaritans no longer refer to themselves as Jews, and both are viewed as separate religions. In the 1st century A.D. there were several large sects, and each seeked different messianic salvation: The Pharisees, Sadducees, Zealots, Essenes, and Christians. After 70 C.E. these sects vanished, while Christianity survived and broke away. Pharisees survived in the form of Judaism we have today. Over time, sects developed into distinct ethnic groups: Ashkenazi, of Eastern Europe and Russia; Sephardi, of Spain, Portugal, and North Africa; and Yemenite, of the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula. It was a cultural split, and many are “untraditional,” or have their own traditions.
Christianity has many various sects and churches, as the original Apostolic Church gradually disintegrated. The Lutherans, Calvinists, and Presbyterians were the first sects formed in or after the 16th century. Baptists, Adventists, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Pentecostals, etc. were formed when several “heretic” groups broke away from the Church. There are so many different churches such as the Orthodox, and the Roman Catholic, that many people wonder which one of these is the “True Church”, or if there even is one.
In Islam, there are two main sects, Sunni, (traditionalists) and the Shi’ites, (7 or 12 successors). The Shi’ites split with the Sunni over succession after the death of the Prophet, (Peace Be Upon Him). The Shi’ites say that the caliphate should have been hereditary, while the Sunnis say that the caliphate should have been elective. Besides these two sects, there are other sects as well. The Wahhabis, Kahrijites, Ghulat or Ahmadiyyas, or Sufis. Sufism is the mystical branch of Islam, and many say that Sufis are not true Muslims. Islam has 72 sects in total, and some of them are: Zahirism, Alawis, Zaydiyyah, Shafii, Maliki, Ismailism, etc.
The idea of separation goes around in a circle and never stops. It’s what leaves us lonely in the end. But we are all the same underneath. In the end, we believe in a supreme deity, we all have the same skeletal structure. So what if we are different or if our deity has a different name? We all have different cultures, and if we can accept different cultures, then why can’t we accept different beliefs, even in the same religion?


1. Ed. Bishop Alexander (Mileant). “Where is the True Church? Information on Churches and Sectarianism.” Missionary Leaflet. Sep. 9, 2001.

2. Roshi, Nishijima. “The Origin of Buddhist Sects in Japan.” Buddhist Information.

3. “Islamic Sects.” Tebyan.

4. “Judaism: Jewish sects and denominations.” One Little Angel.

5. “Sects of Islam.” Muslim Hope. March 2005.

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