Religion in Iran

Religion in Iran

Most Iranians are Muslims; 90% belong to the Shi'a branch of Islam, the official state religion, and about 8% belong to the Sunni branch, mainly Kurds and Iran's Balochi Sunni. The remaining 2% are non-Muslim religious minorities, including Bahá'ís, Mandeans, Hindus, Sikhs, Yezidis, Yarsanis, Zoroastrians, Jews, and Christians.cite web
url =
title = CIA - The World Factbook -- Iran
accessdate = 2008-04-18
author = U.S. Central Intelligence Agency
date = 2008-04-15
publisher = U.S. Central Intelligence Agency
] The latter three minority religions are officially recognized and protected, and have reserved seats in the "Majlis" (Parliament). However the Bahá'í Faith, Iran's largest religious minority, is not officially recognized, and has been persecuted during its existence in Iran. Since the 1979 revolution the persecution of Bahá'ís has increased with executions, the denial of civil rights and liberties, and the denial of access to higher education and employment.cite web |date=2003-08-01 |title=Discrimination against religious minorities in Iran |author=International Federation for Human Rights | |accessdate=2007-03-19 |url=] cite web | author= Iran Human Rights Documentation Center |publisher=Iran Human Rights Documentation Center | title= A Faith Denied: The Persecution of the Bahá'ís of Iran | date= 2007 |accessdate=2007-03-19|url=]


Islam has been the official religion of Iran since the Islamic conquest of Iran except short duration after Mongol raid and establishment of the Ilkhanate. Iran became an Islamic republic in 1979.

Islam is the religion of 98% of Iranians of which approximately 89% are Shi'a and 9% are Sunni, mostly Turkomen, a minority of Arabs (mainly in Hormozgan Province), Baluchs, and Kurds living in the southwest, southeast, northeast and northwest. [ [ CIA - The World Factbook - Iran ] ] Almost all of Iranian Shi'as are Twelvers.

Therefore, Iran has mostly Shi'a activities going on and more people follow the "Shi'a" ways rather than "Sunni."

Other faiths

There are several major religious minorities in Iran.

Bahá'í Faith

The largest non-Muslim minority in Iran is the Bahá'ís. There were an estimated 350,000 Bahá'ís in Iran in 1986. The Bahá'ís are scattered in small communities throughout Iran with a heavy concentration in Tehran. Most Bahá'ís are urban, but there are some Bahá'í villages, especially in Fars and Mazandaran. The majority of Bahá'ís are Persians, but there is a significant minority of Azarbaijani Bahá'ís, and there are even a few among the Kurds.

The Bahá'í Faith originated in Iran during the 1840s as a messianic movement out of Shia Islam. The Shia clergy, as well as many Iranians, have continued to regard Bahá'ís as heretics, and consequently Bahá'ís have encountered much prejudice and have sometimes been the objects of persecution. The situation of the Bahá'ís improved under the Pahlavi shahs when the government actively sought to secularize public life. Their position was drastically altered after 1979. The Islamic Republic did not recognize the Bahá'ís as a religious minority, and the sect has been officially persecuted.


Christianity in Iran has had a long history, dating back to the very early years of the faith. It has always been a minority religion, overshadowed by the majority state religions—Zoroastrianism in the past, and Shia Islam today. Christians of Iran have played a significant part in the history of Christian mission. As of 2004, there are approximately 300,000 Christians, the majority of whom are ethnic Armenians and Assyro-Chaldeans. [ [ Iran. International Religious Freedom Report 2004, Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor] ]


Zoroastrians in Iran have had a long history, being the oldest religious community of that nation to survive to the present-day. Prior to the Muslim Arab invasion of Persia (Iran), Zoroastrianism had been the primary religion of the Persian people. Zoroastrians mainly are ethnic Persians and are concentrated in the cities of Tehran, Kerman, and Yazd. The Islamic Republic government estimates the number of Zoroastrian is 35,000, Zoroastrian groups in Iran say their number is approximately 60,000. [ [ Iran. International Religious Freedom Report 2004, Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor] ]

Since the fall of the Sassanid Zoroastrian empire by the Arab conquest of Persia, Zoroastrians in Iran have faced much religious discrimination including forced conversions, harassments, as well as being identified as najis and impure to Muslims, making them unfit to live alongside Muslims therefore forcing them to evacuate from cities and face major sanctions in all senses ("See Persecution of Zoroastrians").


Judaism is one of the oldest religions practiced in Iran and dates back to the late biblical times. The biblical books of Isaiah, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, Chronicles, and Esther contain references to the life and experiences of Jews in Persia.

Iran supports by far the largest Jewish population of any Muslim country, [ IRAN: Life of Jews Living in Iran] ] with an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 living there. Emmigration has lowered the population of 75,000 to 80,000 Jews living in there prior to the 1979 Islamic revolution. [ [ Iran. International Religious Freedom Report 2004, Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor] ] According to The world Jewish Library, most Jews in Iran, live in Tehran, Isfahan (3,000), and Shiraz. BBC reported Yazd is home to ten Jewish families, six of them related by marriage, however some estimate the number is much higher. Historically, Jews maintained a presence in many more Iranian cities.

Today, the largest groups of Jews from Persia are found in Israel, which in 1993 was home to 75,000 people, including second-generation Israelis [Harvard reference|Surname=Yegar|Given=M|Authorlink=|Year=1993|Title=Jews of Iran|Journal=The Scribe|Volume=|Issue=58|Pages=2|URL= In recent years, Persian Jews have been well-assimilated into the Israeli population, so that more accurate data is hard to obtain.] and the United States, which is home to a community of some 45,000 people, of first-generation only - especially in the Los Angeles area and Great Neck, New York.


Hinduism in Iran has a history stretching back to the middle ages. Presently, Hindus are known to travel to Iran, but the vast majority consist of migrant workers from India. This situation is similar across the Middle East, and information in that respect can be found in Hinduism in Arab states.

Out of Iran's population of 68,017,860, there are 68,017 recorded Hindus, making them 0.1% of the total population (The percentage of Hindu population of Iran was taken from the United States Department of State's International Religious Freedom Report 2004 [] ). Hinduism is the fastest growing religion in Iran, spurred mainly by interest in New Age gurus like Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and Mahesh Yogi. [ [ Many hues of a rainbow] The Hindu - June 11, 2006]

Religious freedom

Iran is an Islamic republic. The Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran mandates that the official religion of Iran is Islam (see: Islam in Iran) and the Twelver Ja'fari school, though it also mandates that other Islamic schools are to be accorded full respect, and their followers are free to act in accordance with their own jurisprudence in performing their religious rites and recognizes Zoroastrian, Jewish, and Christian Iranians as religious minorities. The Bahá'í Faith, Iran's largest non-Islamic religious minority, is not recognized and is persecuted.cite web | date = 2003-08-01 | title = Discrimination against religious minorities in Iran | author = International Federation for Human Rights | publisher = | accessdate = 2006-10-20 | url =] There have been reports of imprisonment, harassment, intimidation, and discrimination based on religious beliefs.cite web
url =
title = International Religious Freedom Report 2006 - Iran
accessdate = 2006-11-08
author = U.S. Department of State
date = 2005-09-15
publisher = U.S. Department of State

The continuous presence of the country's pre-Islamic, non-Muslim communities, such as Zoroastrians, Jews, and Christians, had accustomed the population to the participation of non-Muslims in society; however, government actions continue to create a threatening atmosphere for some religious minorities.


ee also

*Iranian religions

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