Although seemingly quite similar to its neighboring countries, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, Oman has historically been less connected to these countries than others further afield on the trade route. It has only been since 1970 with the Sultan since 1970, Qaboos bin Said Al Said’s bloodless coup, that Oman has become a bigger player in the region. This separation has, at least partly, been caused by religious differences, as well as geography.
Another contributing factor to Oman’s regional separation is its official religion which is a denomination of Islam distinct from the Sunni and Shi’a branches, and therefore distinct form the denominations of Oman’s surrounding countries. The denomination is called Ibadi or Ibāḍiyya and is believed to be a division of the Khawaji school of Islam. Formed some fifty years after the death of Mohammed, Ibadi is a dominant form of Islam in Zanzibar and Oman, although there are also Ibadis in the Nafus mountains in Libya, the Mzad valley in Algeria, the island of Jerba in Tunisia and East Africa.
Ibadi differs from the larger denominations of Islam in certain ways. For example, Ibadis reject the practice of Qunut (special supplications in a standing position for certain prayers) which is otherwise common amongst Sunnis. They also believe they will not see God on the day of judgement; that once in Hell (or Hellfire, another name, as Hell is believed to be made of fire) they will be there forever (Sunnis believe you serve only a certain time). In addition to these, there is a belief that the Quran was created by God at one certain point in time, where as Sunnis believe it was not created as it stands as the word of God. Probably the main religious difference however, is the Ibadis’ self-imposed disassociation from non-believers.