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Islam in Iran
The population of Iran is approximately 99 percent Muslim, of which approximately 89 percent are Shi'a and 10 percent are Sunni, mostly Turkomen, Arabs, Baluchs, and Kurds living in the southwest, southeast, and northwest. In contrast, the majority of Muslims throughout the world follow Sunni Islam. Of the several Shi'a sects, the Twelve Imam or Twelver (ithna- ashari), is dominant in Iran; most Shi'as in Bahrain, Iraq, and Lebanon also follow this sect. Sufi orders are popular, but there are no reliable figures available regarding the size of the Sufi population.
Bahá'ís, Jews, Christians, Mandaeans, and Zoroastrians constitute less than 1 percent of the population combined. The largest non-Muslim minority is the Bahá'í community, which has an estimated 300,000 to 350,000 adherents throughout the country. Estimates on the size of the Jewish community vary from 20,000 to 30,000. This figure represents a substantial reduction from the estimated 75,000 to 80,000 Jews who resided in the country prior to the 1979 Islamic revolution.
Shi'a Islam in Iran
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, it is believed that most Iranians were Sunnis until the seventeenth century. The Safavid dynasty made Shi'a Islam the official state religion in the 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.
Sunni Muslims constitute approximately 8 percent 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. The main difference between Sunnis and Shi'as is that the former do not accept the doctrine of the Imamate. Generally speaking, Iranian Shi'as are inclined to recognize Sunnis as fellow Muslims, but as those whose religion is incomplete. Shi'a clergy tend to view missionary work among Sunnis to convert them to true Islam 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.
Islamic revolution in Iran
See: Iranian Revolution
Islam in present Iranian society
- to be written.
Status of Religious Freedom
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