بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
In the name of Allah the most beneficent the most merciful
SUNNI AND SHIA ARE ONLY SCHOOLS OF THOUGHT.
There are no sects whatsoever in Islam. Islam is just one. At best and very questionably there have been two sects in Islam one Sunni and the other Shian e Ali - followers of Ali. But they are not sects, they are schools of thought as mentioned above.
There are small differences in all fiqhs which are easily bearable. There is no need to have bad blood about it. We are still far far away from 72 sects (although that Hadith needs understanding). Any one who believes there is any God other than Allah or who does not believe in the finality of prophet hood with Mohammed SAW is not a Muslim. So the question it being a sect is precluded.
A fiqh (jurisprudence) is not a sect meaning it is not a firqa. Fiqh is not a firqa. Hanafi, Maliki, Hanballi and Shafei are the four fiqh all are acceptable and all are correct. But you follow any for consistency sake. And can draw on any other fiqh should you get stuck somewhere. Even then you have a problem you ask a certified learned scholar - Alim or Mufti who can give you a fatwa or an edict based on Quran, Sunnah and local conditions. Barelvis and Deobandis have a little needless differences but cannot be classified as sects. For me I recognise neither.
If you have the time then you can research it yourself in Quran and Hadith and help yourself but then the entire responsibility rests on you. Our Ummath mashallah is so big and vast and people so less educated that it is not feasible for each and every person to spend so much time on this. That he prays 5 times a day and does so many other things is exercise enough for him. Best and sensible thing is to leave it to experts. That also helps in not having different opinions for a subject which otherwise is a perfect recipe for disintegration when there is a different interpretation for one thing.
With due apology I must say those who attack the Fiqhs are a bit less informed. All Fiqhs contain edicts based on Quran and Sunnah. Imam Abu Hanifa also known as Imam Azam picked up the last practices. He was one of the Thaba Thabeeen, the earliest of all Imams barely 80 years after Huzoor SAW. So he was the nearest you have. All other are later. But they picked up earlier practices. If you are in management you know the latest order annuls the previous one. But due to distances other Fiqhs also evolved.
Fiqh is like a syllabus which all can follow. It is easy. Even an illiterate and they are in majority can follow Islam. Every single person does not have to be an Alim or an expert just as every body in society cannot be a doctor. Even if one studies lots of medical books does not qualify as a doctor. So why not in Islam. Is Islam inferior that any body without formal education in Islam can claim to be an expert? I rate Islam much much higher.
Ahle Hadith is not a fiqh. They say they follow Hadith. Good. But does it imply that others do not follow Hadith. All follow Hadith. Otherwise how would a Fiqh evlove? If one says that they don't then you are making a false allegation on such learned people who have devoted their life for the study and service of Islam and have lead pure clean God fearing lives. They had devised a mechanism of study, research, analysis and then a judgement would follow by the top jury. The world learnt from them the due process. But Ahle Hadith base their religion on Bukhari that appeared 400 years later. Hazrath Bukhari collected and compiled various Hadiths from people maintaining the full chain right up to Huzoor SAW. Ahle Hadith are also called Bukharis in places. Yet it is not a fiqh or a sect.
We must always try to play down the differences and not be judgmental and spoil relations. Allah is there to decide and He the almighty, the omniscient and the omnipotent and the omnipresent is all forgiving and merciful. May he guide us to the right path.Amen Summa Amen.
King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia when he went for thaziat of one Hazrath Maliki in Makkah told his children at that time. Follow what you want to. We recognise not four but six fighs. Hanafi, Maliki, Hanbali, Shafei, Jafariaya and Zaidi (Yemeni Shia). Quite a departure from the accepted practices there. This was narrated to me by an Arab friend and had said Aljazira (Arabic Daily or News Channel) had also reported.