Country Listing

Oman Table of Contents


Oman -- Society


The majority of Omanis are Ibadi Muslims, followers of Abd Allah ibn Ibad (see Shia Islam , ch. 1). Approximately 25 percent are Sunni (see Glossary) Muslims and live primarily in Sur and the surrounding area and in Dhofar. They form the largest nonIbadi minority. The Shia (see Glossary) minority live along the Al Batinah coast in the Muscat-Matrah region. This minority includes the Khojas, the Baharina of Iraqi or Iranian descent, and the Ajam, of vague origin but generally considered to originate in Iran.

Ibadism is an outgrowth of the Kharijite movement, a variant form of Islam practiced by descendants of a sect that seceded from the principal Muslim body after the death of the Prophet Muhammad in A.D. 632. Kharijites reject primogeniture succession of the Quraysh, the tribe of Muhammad, and assert that leadership of Islam, the caliphate, should be designated by an imam (see Glossary) elected by the community from candidates who possess spiritual and personal qualities. Ibadi leadership is vested in an imam, who is regarded as the sole legitimate leader and combines religious and political authority. The imam is elected by a council of prominent laymen or shaykhs. Adherence to Ibadism accounts in part for Oman's historical isolation. Considered a heretical form of Islam by the majority Sunni Muslims, Ibadis were not inclined to integrate with their neighbors.

Data as of January 1993