Of the numerous schools of Islamic belief and law, the majority of Omanis belong to Ibadiyah, a branch of the faith which is marked by its tolerance as well as holding firm to the basic tenets of Islam and, though it goes back to the year 700, could be a model for modern times
Ibadhism, as a politically, philosophically and theologically defined branch of Islam is based on the principle that every theologically trained Muslim believer is a potential candidate for the office of Imam, the religious and administrative head with complete authority to govern. In the eyes of Ibadhis the Imam is the “first among equals”, just as man is God’s creature amongst all God’s creatures. The umma, the community of Muslims, elects from within its own ranks an educated believer, whom they think best suited for the office.
On the other hand, Ibadhis do not require that there always be a head of the community – a major difference to the other Sunni schools of thought. If no-one is considered to be fit for the high demands of the office of Imam, then the post remains temporarily unfilled. An elected Imam who fails to live up to expectations can be voted out of office.
Of course not all Omanis are Ibadhis; in the coastal regions there also live many Shi’ites and Sunnis. Although in some places highly decorated new mosques dominate the townscape, life in the country is marked by the fundamental tolerance that is the spirit of the Ibadis. In Oman you can see Muslims of various persuasions going to pray together in the mosque; fanatics have no place here.