ISLAM and MUSLIMS IN IRAN
Islamic Republic of Iran
National name: Jomhuri-ye Eslami-ye Iran
Land area: 631,659 sq mi (1,635,999 sq km); total
area: 636,293 sq mi (1,648,000 sq km)
Population (2008 est.): 65,875,223
Capital and largest city (2003 est.): Tehran,
7,796,257 (city proper)
Other large cities: Mashad, 2,061,100; Isfahan,
1,378,600; Tabriz, 1,213,400
Monetary unit: Rial
Languages: Persian and Persian dialects 58%, Turkic
and Turkic dialects 26%, Kurdish 9%, Luri 2%, Balochi 1%, Arabic 1%, Turkish 1%,
Ethnicity/race: Persian 51%, Azerbaijani 24%, Gilaki
and Mazandarani 8%, Kurd 7%, Arab 3%, Lur 2%, Baloch 2%, Turkmen 2%, other 1%
Religions: Islam 98% (Shi'a 89%, Sunni 9%);
Zoroastrian, Jewish, Christian, and Baha'i 2%
National Holiday: Republic Day, April 1
Literacy rate: 77% (2005 est.)
Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2007 est.):
$753billion; per capita $10,600. Real growth rate: 5.8%. Inflation:
Iran, a Middle Eastern country south of the Caspian
Sea and north of the Persian Gulf, is three times the size of Arizona. It shares
borders with Iraq, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Armenia, Afghanistan, and
The Elburz Mountains in the north rise to 18,603 ft
(5,670 m) at Mount Damavend. From northwest to southeast, the country is crossed
by a desert 800 mi (1,287 km) long.
The region now called Iran was occupied by the Medes
and the Persians in the 1500s B.C., until the Persian
king Cyrus the Great overthrew the Medes and became ruler of the Achaemenid
(Persian) Empire, which reached from the Indus to the Nile at its zenith in 525
B.C. Persia fell to Alexander in 331–330
B.C. and a succession of other rulers: the Seleucids
(312–302 B.C.), the Greek-speaking Parthians (247
B.C.–A.D. 226), the
Sasanians (224–c. 640), and the Arab Muslims (in 641). By the mid-800s Persia
had become an international scientific and cultural center. In the 12th century
it was invaded by the Mongols. The Safavid dynasty (1501–1722), under whom the
dominant religion became Shiite Islam, followed, and was then replaced by the
Qajar dynasty (1794–1925).
During the Qajar dynasty, the Russians and the
British fought for economic control of the area, and during World War I, Iran's
neutrality did not stop it from becoming a battlefield for Russian and British
troops. A coup in 1921 brought Reza Kahn to power. In 1925, he became shah and
changed his name to Reza Shah Pahlavi. He subsequently did much to modernize the
country and abolished all foreign extraterritorial rights.
The country's pro-Axis allegiance in World War II
led to Anglo-Russian occupation of Iran in 1941 and deposition of the shah in
favor of his son, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi. Pahlavi's Westernization programs
alienated the clergy, and his authoritarian rule led to massive demonstrations
during the 1970s, to which the shah responded with the imposition of martial law
in Sept. 1978. The shah and his family fled Iran on Jan. 16, 1979, and the
exiled cleric Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini returned to establish an Islamic
Islamic History and Muslims
The Islamic conquest of Persia (637-651) led to the
end of the Sassanid Empire and the eventual decline of the Zoroastrian religion
in Persia. However, the achievements of the previous Persian civilizations were
not lost, but were to a great extent absorbed by the new Islamic polity. Islam
has been the official religion of Iran since then, except short duration after
Mongol raid and establishment of Ilkhanate. Iran became an Islamic republic in
1979 after Islamic Republic of Iran on the basis of its constitution.
Before the Islamic conquest, the Persians had been mainly Zoroastrian, however,
there were also large and thriving Christian and Jewish communities. There was a
slow but steady movement of the population toward Islam, When Islam was
introduced to Iranians. The nobility and city-dwellers were the first to
convert, most likely to preserve the economic and social status and advantages;
Islam spread more slowly among the peasantry and the dihqans, or landed gentry.
By the late 11th century, the majority of Persians had become Muslim, at least
nominally. From the beginning most Persian Muslims were Sunni, although much of
the nobility and most of the educated class were Shi'a Muslim, including
Avicenna, Al-Farabi, Al-Biruni and Nasīr al-Dīn al-Tūsī, as well as Ferdowsi,
the author of Iran's national epic Shahnameh. The authors of the Shi'a Four
Books were Iranian as well. Though Iran is known today as a stronghold of the
Shi'a Muslim faith, it did not become so until much later around the 15th
century. The Safavid dynasty made Shi'a Islam the official state religion in the
early sixteenth century and aggressively proselytized on its behalf. It is also
believed that by the mid-seventeenth century most people in Iran had become
Shi'as, an affiliation that has continued. Over the following centuries, with
the state-fostered rise of a Persian-based Shi'ite clergy, a synthesis was
formed between Persian culture and Shi'ite Islam that marked each indelibly with
the tincture of the other.
The Iranian Muslims projected many of their own Persian moral and ethical values
that predates Islam into the religion, while recognizing Islam as their religion
and the prophet's son in law, Ali as an enduring symbol of justice.
Nowadays Islam is the religion of 98% of Iranians, but unlike the majority of
the Islamic world the proportion of Shi'ah Muslims in Iran is higher than the
proportion of Sunni Muslims. Approximately 89% of Iranians are Shi'a and 9% are
Sunni, mostly Turkomen, a minority of Arabs (mainly in Hormozgan Province),
Baluchs, and Kurds living in the south, southeast, northeast and northwest.
Almost all of Iranian Shi'as are Twelvers.
Islamic conquest of Iran
Muslims invaded Iran in the time of Umar (637) and conquered it after several
great battles. Yazdegerd III fled from one district to another until a local
miller killed him for his purse at Merv in 651. By 674, Muslims had conquered
Greater Khorasan (which included modern Iranian Khorasan province and modern
Afghanistan, Transoxania, and Pakistan).
As Bernard Lewis has quoted
"These events have been variously seen in Iran: by some as a blessing, the
advent of the true faith, the end of the age of ignorance and heathenism; by
others as a humiliating national defeat, the conquest and subjugation of the
country by foreign invaders. Both perceptions are of course valid, depending on
one's angle of vision."
Under Umar and his immediate successors, the Arab conquerors attempted to
maintain their political and cultural cohesion despite the attractions of the
civilizations they had conquered. The Arabs were to settle in the garrison towns
rather than on scattered estates. They were not to marry non-Arabs, or learn
their language, or read their literature. The new non-Muslim subjects, or
dhimmi, were to pay a special tax, the jizya or poll tax, which was calculated
per individual at varying rates for able bodied men of military age.
In the 7th century AD, when many non-Arabs such as Persians entered Islam were
recognized as Mawali and treated as second class citizens by the ruling Arab
elite, until the end of the Umayyad dynasty. During this era Islam was initially
associated with the ethnic identity of the Arab and required formal association
with an Arab tribe and the adoption of the client status of mawali. There are a
number of historians who see the rule of the Umayyads as setting up the
"dhimmah" to increase taxes from the dhimmis to benefit the Arab Muslim
community financially and by discouraging conversion.Mass conversions were
neither desired nor allowed, at least in the first few centuries of Arab rule.
Islamization in Iran
Richard Bulliet's "conversion curve" indicates that only about 10% of Iran
converted to Islam during the relatively Arab-centric Umayyad period. Beginning
in the Abassid period, with its mix of Persian as well as Arab rulers, the
Muslim percentage of the population rose. As Persian muslims consolidated their
rule of the country, the Muslim population rose from approx. 40% in the mid 9th
century to close to 100% by the end of 11th century. Seyyed Hossein Nasr
suggests that the rapid increase in conversion was aided by the Persian
nationality of the rulers.
According to Bernard Lewis:
"Iran was indeed Islamized, but it was not Arabized. Persians remained Persians.
And after an interval of silence, Iran reemerged as a separate, different and
distinctive element within Islam, eventually adding a new element even to Islam
itself. Culturally, politically, and most remarkable of all even religiously,
the Iranian contribution to this new Islamic civilization is of immense
importance. The work of Iranians can be seen in every field of cultural
endeavor, including Arabic poetry, to which poets of Iranian origin composing
their poems in Arabic made a very significant contribution. In a sense, Iranian
Islam is a second advent of Islam itself, a new Islam sometimes referred to as
Islam-i Ajam. It was this Persian Islam, rather than the original Arab Islam,
that was brought to new areas and new peoples: to the Turks, first in Central
Asia and then in the Middle East in the country which came to be called Turkey,
and of course to India. The Ottoman Turks brought a form of Iranian civilization
to the walls of Vienna."
In the 9th and 10th centuries, non-Arab subjects of the Ummah, especially
Persians created a movement called Shu'ubiyyah in response to the privileged
status of Arabs. This movement led to resurgence of Persian national identity.
Although Persians adopted Islam, over the centuries they worked to protect and
revive their distinctive language and culture, a process known as
Persianization. Arabs and Turks also participated in this attempt.
As the power of the Abbasid caliphs diminished, a series of dynasties rose in
various parts of Iran, some with considerable influence and power. Among the
most important of these overlapping dynasties were the Tahirids in Khorasan
(820-72); the Saffarids in Sistan (867-903); and the Samanids (875-1005),
originally at Bokhara. The Samanids eventually ruled an area from central Iran
to Pakistan. By the early 10th century, the Abbasids almost lost control to
the growing Persian faction known as the Buwayhid dynasty(934-1055). Since much
of the Abbasid administration had been Persian anyway, the Buwayhid, who were
Zaidi Shia, were quietly able to assume real power in Baghdad.
The Samanid dynasty was the first fully native dynasty to rule Iran since the
Muslim conquest, and led the revival of Persian culture. The first important
Persian poet after the arrival of Islam, Rudaki, was born during this era and
was praised by Samanid kings. The Samanids also revived many ancient Persian
festivals. Their successor, the Ghaznawids, who were of non-Iranian Turkic
origin, also became instrumental in the revival of Persian.
In 962 a Turkish governor of the Samanids, Alptigin, conquered Ghazna (in
present-day Afghanistan) and established a dynasty, the Ghaznavids, that lasted
to 1186. Later, the Seljuks, who like the Ghaznavids were Turks, slowly
conquered Iran over the course of the 11th century. Their leader, Tughril Beg,
turned his warriors against the Ghaznavids in Khorasan. He moved south and then
west, conquering but not wasting the cities in his path. In 1055 the caliph in
Baghdad gave Tughril Beg robes, gifts, and the title King of the East. Under
Tughril Beg's successor, Malik Shah (1072–1092), Iran enjoyed a cultural and
scientific renaissance, largely attributed to his brilliant Iranian vizier,
Nizam al Mulk. These leaders established the observatory where Omar Khayyám did
much of his experimentation for a new calendar, and they built religious schools
in all the major towns. They brought Abu Hamid Ghazali, one of the greatest
Islamic theologians, and other eminent scholars to the Seljuk capital at Baghdad
and encouraged and supported their work.
A serious internal threat to the Seljuks during their reign came from the
Ismailis, Nazari Ismaili sect, with headquarters at Alamut between Rasht and
Tehran. They controlled the immediate area for more than 150 years and
sporadically sent out adherents to strengthen their rule by murdering important
officials. Several of the various theories on the etymology of the word assassin
derive from these killers.
Shiaism in Iran before Safavids
Although Shi'as have lived in Iran since the earliest days of Islam, and there
was one Shi'a dynasty in part of Iran during the tenth and eleventh centuries,
but according to Mortaza Motahhari the majority of Iranian scholars and masses
remained Sunni till the time of the Safavids.
However it doesn't mean Shia was rootless in Iran. The writers of The Four Books
of Shia were Iranian as well as many other great Shia scholars.
Muhaqqiq Hilli mentions the names of the great Islamic jurists which most of
them were Iranian.
In view of the fact that we have a great number of Fuqaha(Islamic jurists) who
have copiously written on the subject, it is not possible for me to quote all of
them. I have selected from those who were best known for their research and
scholarship, quoting their Ijtihad, and the opinions they adopted for action.
From amongst the earlier ones, I have selected Hasan ibn Mahboob, Ahmed ibn Abi
Nasr Bezanti, Husain ibn Saeed Ahvazi, Fadhl ibn Shadhan Nisaburi, Yunus ibn Abd
alRahman. They lived during the presence of our Imams. From the later group, I
quote Muhammad ibn Babawayh Qummi and Muhammad ibn Yaqoob Kulaini. As for the
people of Fatwa, I consider the verdicts of Askafi, Ibn Abi Aqeel, Shaykh Mufid,
Seyyid Murtadha Alamul Huda and Shaykh Tusi.
The domination of the Sunni creed during the first nine Islamic centuries
characterizes the religious history of Iran during this period. There were
however some exceptions to this general domination which emerged in the form of
the Zaydīs of Tabaristan, the Buwayhid, the rule of Sultan Muhammad Khudabandah
(r. Shawwal 703-Shawwal 716/1304-1316) and the Sarbedaran. Nevertheless, apart
from this domination there existed, firstly, throughout these nine centuries,
Shia inclinations among many Sunnis of this land and, secondly, original Imami
Shiism as well as Zaydī Shiism had prevalence in some parts of Iran. During this
period, Shia in Iran were nourished from Kufah, Baghdad and later from Najaf and
However, during the first nine centuries there are four high points in the
history of this linkage:
* First, the migration of a number of persons belonging to the tribe of the
Ash'ari from Iraq to the city of Qum towards the end of the first/seventh
century, which is the period of establishment of Imamī Shī‘ism in Iran.
* Second, the influence of the Shī‘ī tradition of Baghdad and Najaf on Iran
during the fifth/eleventh and sixth/twelfth centuries.
* Third, the influence of the school of Hillah on Iran during the
* Fourth, the influence of the Shī‘ism of Jabal Amel and Bahrain on Iran during
the period of establishment of the Safavid rule.
Sufism era and transition period
Shiaism and the Safavids
After Ismail I captured Tabriz in 1501 and established Safavids dynasty,
proclaimed Twelver Shiʿism as the state religion, ordering conversion of the
Sunnis. "a search of all Islamic libraries unearthed only one book on Shi'ism."
Ismail brought Arab Shia clerics from Bahrain, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon in order
to preach the Shi'a faith. Isma'il's attempt to spread Shi'ite propaganda among
the Turkmen tribes of eastern Anatolia prompted a conflict with the Sunnite
Ottoman Empire. Following Iran's defeat by the Ottomans at the Battle of
Chaldiran, Safavid expansion slowed, and a process of consolidation began in
which Isma'il sought to quell the more extreme expressions of faith among his
While Ismail I declared shiism as the official state religion, it was in fact
his successor, Tahmasb, who consolidated the Safavid rule and spread Shiʿism in
Iran. After a period of indulgence in wine and the pleasures of the harem, he
turned pious and parsimonious, observing all the Shiʿite rites and enforcing
them as far as possible on his entourage and subjects. Under Abbas I, Iran
prospered. The monarch continued the policy begun under his predecessors of
eradicating the old Sufi bands and ghulat extremists whose support had been
crucial in building the state. Abbas instituted the practice of immuring infant
princes in palace gardens away from the promptings of intrigue and the world at
large. As a result, his successors tended to be indecisive men, easily dominated
by powerful dignitaries among the Shi'ite 'ulama'—whom the shahs themselves had
urged to move in large numbers from the shrine cities of Iraq in an attempt to
bolster Safavid legitimacy as an orthodox Shi'ite dynasty. Succeeding Safavid
rulers promoted Shi'ism among the elites, and it was only under Mullah Allamah
al-Majlis - court cleric from 1680 until 1698 - that Shi'ism truly took hold
among the masses.
As in the case of the early Sunnite caliphate, Safavid rule had been based
originally on both political and religious legitimacy, with the shah being both
king and divine representative. With the later erosion of Safavid central
political authority in the mid-17th century, the power of the Shia scholars in
civil affairs such as judges, administrators, and court functionaries, began to
grow, in a way unprecedented in Shi'ite history. Likewise, the ulama began to
take a more active role in agitating against Sufism and other forms of popular
religion, which remained strong in Iran, and in enforcing a more scholarly type
of Shi'ism among the masses. The development of the ta'ziah—a passion play
commemorating the martyrdom of Imam Husayn and his family — and Ziarat of the
shrines and tombs of local Shi'ite leaders began during this period, largely at
the prompting of the Shi'ite clergy.According to Mortaza Motahhari, the majority
of Iranians turned to Shi'ism from the Safavid period onwards. Of course, it
cannot be denied that Iran's environment was more favorable to the flourishing
of the Shi'ism as compared to all other parts of the Muslim world. Shi'ism did
not penetrate any land to the extent that it gradually could in Iran. With the
passage of time, Iranians' readiness to practise Shi'ism grew day by day. Had
Shi`ism not been deeply rooted in the Iranian spirit, the Safawids (907-1145/
1501-1732) would not have succeeded in converting Iranians to the Shi'i creed
and making them follow the Prophet's Ahl al-Bayt sheerly by capturing political
In conclusion, it was the Safavids who made Iran the spiritual bastion of
Shi’ism against the onslaughts of orthodox Sunni Islam, and the repository of
Persian cultural traditions and self-awareness of Iranianhood, acting as a
bridge to modern Iran. According to Professor Roger Savory:
“ In Number of ways the Safavids affected the development of the modern Iranian
state: first, they ensured the continuance of various ancient and traditional
Persian institutions, and transmitted these in a strengthened, or more
'national', form; second, by imposing Ithna 'Ashari Shi'ism on Iran as the
official religion of the Safavid state, they enhanced the power of mujtahids.
The Safavids thus set in train a struggle for power between the urban and the
crown that is to say, between the proponents of secular government and the
proponents of a theoretic government; third, they laid the foundation of
alliance between the religious classes ('Ulama') and the bazaar which played an
important role both in the Persian Constitutional Revolution of 1905–1906, and
again in the Islamic Revolution of 1979; fourth the policies introduced by Shah
Abbas I conduced to a more centralized administrative system.
Contemporary ers:Challenges of modernity and
rise of Islamism
During the 20th century Iran underwent significant changes such as the 1906
Constitutional Revolution and the secularism of the Pahlavi dynasty.
According to scholar Roy Mottahedeh, one significant change to Islam in Iran
during the first half of the 20th century was that the class of ulema lost its
informality that allowed it to include everyone from the highly trained jurist
to the "shopkeeper who spent one afternoon a week memorizing and transmitting a
few traditions." Laws by Reza Shah that requiring military service and dress in
European-style clothes for Iranians, gave talebeh and mullahs exemptions, but
only if they passed specific examinations proving their learnedness, thus
excluding less educated clerics.
In addition Islamic Madrasah schools became more like `professional` schools,
leaving broader education to secular government schools and sticking to Islamic
learning. "Ptolemaic astronomy, Aveicennian medicines, and the algebra of Omar
Kahayyam" was dispensed with.
Islamic revolution in Iran
The Iranian Revolution (also known as the Islamic
Revolution, Persian: انقلاب اسلامی, Enghelābe Eslāmi)
was the revolution that transformed Iran from a monarchy under Shah Mohammad
Reza Pahlavi to an Islamic republic under Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the
leader of the revolution and founder of the Islamic Republic. It has been
called "the third great revolution in history," following the French and
Bolshevik revolutions, and an event that "made Islamic fundamentalism a
political force ... from Morocco to Malaysia."
Current situation of Islam
Map showing ethnic and religious diversity among the population of Iran.
Map showing ethnic and religious diversity among the population of Iran.
Sunni Muslims constitute approximately 9% of the Iranian population. A majority
of Kurds, virtually all Baluchis and Turkomans, and a minority of Arabs are
Sunnis, as are small communities of Persians in southern Iran and Khorasan. Shia
clergy tend to view missionary work among Sunnis to convert them to Shi'ism as a
worthwhile religious endeavor. Since the Sunnis generally live in the border
regions of the country, there has been no occasion for Shia-Sunni conflict in
most of Iran. In those towns with mixed populations in West Azarbaijan, the
Persian Gulf region, and Sistan and Baluchistan, tensions between Shi'as and
Sunnis existed both before and after the Revolution. Religious tensions have
been highest during major Shi'a observances, especially Moharram.
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.
Statistics of religious buildings according to آمارنامه اماکن مذهبی which has
been gathered in 2003.
Imam Reza A.S. shrine, the greatest religious place in Iran, Mashhad
Imam Square, the biggest historic square in the world, in Isfahan was the
symbolic center of the Safavid Empire. The square is surrounded by the walls
of Imam mosque in the south, Lotfollah mosque in the east, and the Ali Qapu
Palace in the west. The Imam mosque was built by Shah Abbas I at the
beginning of the 17th century.
Yazd, the Masjid-e Jame (meaning Friday Mosque) in Yazd has the highest
minarets of all the mosques in Iran. It dates back to the 11th century, and
has magnificent tile-work.
Masjed-e-Sheikh Lotfallah (Sheikh Lotfallah Mosque) - 1602
Islamic Centers and Organizations
الفاروق, Bandare Moqam
ودارالقرآن الإمام الشافعي, Buchir
islamic school, Shiraz, fars
farogh Azam(raz), Asalem, Gilan
صدر الاسلام, Khamir, hormozgan
Jami-e Shahr, Gonabad
إشاعة التوحید سراوان, Saravan, بلوچستان
صدیق اکبر (رض) سراوان, Saravan, بلوچستان
Shafei, Paveh, Dara Basam
Beedshahr islamic school, Shiraz
MaktabMohammadi, Zahedan International Airport
المرتضی للدراسات والدعوة الاسلامیة, Zahedan
الإسلاميه السنيه الأحوازيه, Ahwaz
Embassy School Jumma Prayer, Tehran
ديني صدر الاسلام, Khamir
علوم اسلامی امام ابو حنیفه , Saravan
الفقهی لأهل السنة بزاهدان, Zahedan
علميه عين العلوم گشت سراوان, Saravan
علمیه إشاعة التوحید سراوان, Saravan
العلوم زاهدان, Zahedan International Airport
محمدیه اسلام آباد زابل, Zabol
اهل السنة, Kangan
ben Valid Mosque, Sanandaj
farogh Azam(raz), Asalem
Imam Shafei, Paveh
Masjedehazrat omare bene khatab, Saghez
Jami-e Shahr, Gonabad
Jameh Bastak, Bastak
NOOR, Kish Island
اکرم (ص) اهل سنت ماکو, Maku
أبوبكر صديق, Khamir
سنت ميناب, Minab
صدیق اکبر (رض) سراوان, Saravan
عثمان غنی (رض), Torbat-e Jam
الفاروق, Bandare Moqam
عمربن خطاب, Khamir
المکی الکبیر بزاهدان, Zahedan
عثمان بن عفان رضي الله عنه, Moghuyeh
ودارالقرآن الإمام الشافعي, Buchir
Muslim Owned Business
Cooporation of Handmade Carpet Producers of Diwandere, Diwan Darreh
Islam in Iran (
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islam_in_Iran , September, 2008).
Info please (
http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0107640.html , September, 2008).
Islam Finder (
Anonymous, Documents from Representatives of Islamic Organizations in Iran,