The large majority of Omanis are predominantly Ibadhis, an austere, tiny sect of Islam that is practiced perhaps, only in Oman. Ibadhism can lay claim to be among the oldest forms of Islam.
After the death of Prophet Muhammed, there was a period of uncertainty in Islam. Questions regarding succession coupled with issues of doctrinal interpretation bred factionalism within the early Islamic leaders. Some people felt that the caliph or successor to Prophet Muhammed should be from the Prophet’s family while others believed any devout and pious Muslim could assume the title. Muhammed’s son-in-law Ali became the fourth caliph in 654 A.D and soon became embroiled in a bitter war with Muawiya, a cousin of the third caliph, Uthman. The bitter struggle did not seem to end and Ali decided to call for a truce with Muawiya and took up an offer of arbitration. A small band of Ali’s followers thought this was wrong since they felt that Ali’s authority was directly from God and by working towards an arbitration, Ali was going against God’s will. This group of followers left Ali in anger and took refuge in Basra in Iraq. They became known as Kharajites or the ones who seceded.