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Azerbaijan: Religions

Azerbaijan: Religions

Religion in Azerbaijan

Though Azerbaijan is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country,  Islam is the predominate religion and has been since the Middle Ages. However, religion in Azerbaijan can be traced back first millennium BCE.

Together with the other territories of the Persian Empire, Azerbaijan was primarily a Zoroastrian state until the Arab invasion in the 7th century. Today the religion, culture, and traditions of Zoroastrians are celebrated in Azerbaijan, and places like Yanar Dag and Ateshgah are part of the country’s cultural heritage.

Fire temples like Ateshgah are places of worship for Zoroastrians. The current temple of Ateshgah was built in 17th century, but the location has long been sacred ground of Zoroastrian for roughly 2,000 years.

In the 7th Century, Arab invaders brought Islam to Azerbaijan. As the Arabs took over, many Zoroastrians fled to India, where the majority of Zoroastrians live today. There are fewer than 200,000 Zoroastrians in the world today.

Today, Islam is the main religion of Azerbaijan and approximately 99% of the country’s population are Muslim. About 85% of Azerbaijani Muslims practice Shia Islam while 15% are Sunni Muslims.

These two sects (or schools of thought) in Islam agree on almost everything. The only major difference between them is in regards to the leadership of the Muslims after the death of the Prophet Mohammad. Sunnis believe that the Prophet never selected anyone to lead the Muslims after him, and left the issue up to the Muslims (his companions) themselves to decide. Shias believe that the Prophet did appoint leaders for the Muslims.

Freedom of religion is guaranteed in Azerbaijan, and in addition to the religions mentioned above Christians, Jews, and Hindus freely practice their beliefs.



watch: A quick intro to Islam


watch: An Intro to Hinduism

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