The major difference between Sunni and Wahabi is the beliefs and rituals. Sunnis are in majority and almost 90% percent of Muslims around the world belong to Sunni sect whereas the members of Wahabi movement are located in Saudi Arab. There are a few main and major as well as many secondary differences between the Sunni and Wahabi Muslims which caused these sects to be cut off from each other and emerge independently.
The major difference between them is that Wahabis believe that Prophet Muhammad should be praised only as a human being whereas Sunnis show extra special care and respect towards the Prophet of Islam.
Sunni Muslims celebrate the birthday of the Holy Prophet and arrange Meelaad. Meelaad is a form of gathering in which the Sunni Muslims get together and praise the Holy Prophet. The birthdays of Sufi saints are also celebrated with much dedication and enthusiasm. The day of their deaths are commemorated in the form of Urs. Wahabi Muslims do not believe in celebrating and practicing all these events which are very strongly rooted in Islam. Wahabis call these practices of events as unlawful and wrongful innovations. Wahabis also believe that this is as close as to shirk or polytheism and Sunnis follow the ways of infidel Hindus.
Sunni Muslims believe that Prophet Muhammad is Nur and still present in this world. Whereas Wahabis do not believe in using pious individuals as intermediaries when asking Allah as they consider it shirk or polytheism. Sunnis believe in the saints and mysticism whereas Wahabis do not believe in mysticism, intercession and prostration as well. Sunni Muslims visit the tombs of the saints and perform tawassul for the blessings of Allah whereas it is the greatest sin for a Wahabi.
Sunni Muslims believe in four imams of fiqah or Islamic laws such as Hanfi, Hanbli, Malakii and Shaafeyii whereas Wahabi does not follow an Iman in Fiqh. Wahabi Muslims are a group of fundamentalists and have an orthodox version Islam. Wahabis in Saudi Arab do not allow their females to work side by side with their men and they also are not allowed to drive a car. The women are treated as third rate citizens and they are bound to wear a long abayaa or garment to cover them from head to toe. Sunni Muslims are moderate and believe in the equality of women as suggested by Islam.
There are many differences present in their rituals of praying, marriage ceremonies, dresses etc. Wahabi Muslims have separate mosques and schools. Wahabi Muslims are followers of Mohammed ibn Abdul Wahab in the 18th century in Arabia, and his movement came up against a lot of opposition from the Indians Sunni Muslims. Members of the Wahab movement in Saudi Arabia believe their role as a restorer or reformer to free Islam from negative deviances, heresies, innovations, superstitions and idolatries. Wahabis prefer to eliminate music and listening to songs. They are against watching television and drawings of living things which contain a soul.
1. Wahabi Muslims are followers of Muhammad ibne Abdul wahab present in the 18th century in Saudi Arabia whereas Sunni Muslims are followers of Prophet Muhammad and his companions.
2. Sunni Muslims believe in intercession and mysticism whereas Wahabis call them as deviants and wrongful innovations in Islam.
3. Sunni Muslims strictly follow one of the four schools of thoughts or madhabs of fiqah or Islamic jurisprudence whereas Wahabis follow their sheikh.
4. Wahabis do not observe annual Sufi festivals, events or the birthday of Prophet Muhammad.
5. Sunni Muslims wear charms and believe in healing powers unlike Wahabi beliefs like visiting tombs or shrines of saints.