What is the difference between Shia and Sunni muslims?

This neat explainer finds that Sunni muslims are:

  • After the death of Prophet Muhammad, the supporters of Abu Bakr, a friend of the prophet became Sunnis. They make up 80% of muslims today.
  • While both follow five pillars of Islam, Sunnis rely on Prophet and his teachings (the sunna), which is why Shias accuse Sunnis of dogmatism.
  • Sunnis consider Shias to have committed heresy (see below).

Shia muslims are:

  • After the death of Prophet Muhammad, the supporters of Ali, Prophet’s cousin and son-in-law, became Shias (short for “shiaat Ali”, partisans of Ali).
  • While both follow five pillars of Islam, Shias rely on their ayatollahs (first 12 of whom were direct descendants of Ali) as the reflection of God on Earth. (This is what Sunnis consider heresy).
  • Mindful of their minority, Shias have mostly chosen to remain at peace with the Sunnis, unlike the sectarian violence that occurred among the Christians.

Why we speak in euphemisms

“If you could pass the salt, that would be awesome” is better than “Pass the salt” some times. “Would you like to go out for a drink with me?” is better than “Do you want to have sex with me?” at other times.

We speak in such euphemisms because, Steven Pinker explains, language is meant to do two things at once. First it needs to convey content. Second it helps to maintain a social relationship.

Using euphemism, one party can indirectly convey content when making a request and the other party can accept or decline requests, while still maintaining the social relationship. Both parties understand without directly acknowledging the said change in relationship.

A formula for happiness

We now know from twin studies that nearly half of our happiness is genetically inherited from our parents. Another 40% is dependent on the singular events, and that happiness is usually short-lived. It may come from achieving a goal or getting a bonus. The remaining 10%, however, is something that has a sustainable effect and you can control. That 10% depends on three factors: family, friends and work.

It is not surprising that family and friends contribute. But does work really? Apparently so. And it’s not the money from work that helps but the earned success at work.

So Franklin D. Roosevelt may have been right: “Happiness lies not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort.” Decide the non-monetary currency you value (people, social contribution, self-development or something else) and then pursue that full-heartedly at work.

Further reading: Arthur C. Brooks in The New York Times

Speed reading techniques

Of the many techniques I read about, the following seemed the most convincing to me:


1. Improve your physical and mental conditions.

2. Remove distractions from reading device and environment.

3. Locate important bits of the text. Hotspots help (sub-heads, bold, italics, graphs)

4. Push self to read fast


1. Read phrases instead of words, which needs avoiding sub-vocalisation

2. Use a guiding tool (finger, pen or index card)

3. If the text is familiar (topic, characters, style), ensure you do a flash mental review before you read.


If said reading is important and worth remembering, make a short note. Perhaps a tl;dr version.