Iranian Religious Groups
According to the articles 13 and 14 of Iran’s constitution the official religion of the country is the Twelver Shia Islam. Also, the followers of other Abrahamic religions such as the Jews, Zoroastrians and Sabians (a religious group and the follower of the Prophet Yahya) are free to do their religious celebrations in Iran; almost 9 percent of the Iranians are Sunnis and the other 2 percent are the religious minorities.
Other religion followers also live in Iran; other Islam which is official religion of the country and most of the Iranians follow it, Zoroastrians, Armenians, Assyrians and the Jews also live in Iran in peace and quiet.
According to census released by Statistical Center of Iran, the estimates put the number of Iran’s whole population at seventy million five hundred thousand people in 1385 (2006) that 70097741 of them were Muslims, 19823 were Zoroastrians, 109415 were Christians, 9252 were Jewish and 54234 people were the followers of other religions.
Islam in Arabic is taken from the root (س-ل-م) that means “succumbing”, “transferring”, “peace” and “quiet”. The word «سلام» is also taken from these three letters mentioned above. Muslim (مسلمان) is also a person who obeys Islam or is the person who succumbs to God. Allah (الله) is the special name for the only God in Quran and Islamic writings. Still, Persian Speakers usually use God instead of Allah. The prophet of Islam was born in Āmu l-Fīl –the Year of Elephant in which the Army of Abraha attacked Mecca in order to destroy the holy Kaaba. The prophet’s father’s name was Abdullah and his mother’s name was Ameneh. After he was born, they named him “Muhammad”. According to the reliable evidences, his father passed away after the birth of Muhamad. Abdulmotaleb his ancestor and then Abutaleb his uncle accepted the responsibility of duty of upbringing and care for Muhmmad. He lived in Saudi Arabia before his prophecy. There were only seventeen people in Mecca and eleven people in Medina who were literate. Kaaba was the center of monotheism and unification which was changed to an Idol House.
Muhamad was very famous to be a right person who is trustworthy when he was young, so he was known as “Amin” (امین) that means a person who we can totally rely on. Even the people chose him as the referee for the tribal wars. For instance, he mediated the peace talks between Arab tribes’ conflict on putting the Black Stone in the right place. Muhammad Amin signed the contract that was famous as Hilf al-Fudul or the treaty of the Cavaliers. This was the treaty that was signed by a group of people who were supposed to defend the downtrodden people. Prophet Muhammad attended this act when he was twenty years old, and he was proud of it.
Prophetic Mission and the Act of Spreading
Muhammad Amin spent some time alone in the cave of Hira every year. Gabriel, the angel from God descended over the earth in 610 A.D. and informed him of his prophetic mission by reading the following verses:
“In the name of God the Entirely Merciful, the Specially Merciful. Recite in the name of your lord who created, created man from a clinging substance. Recite and your lord is the most generous, who taught by the pen, taught man that which he knew not.”
He publicized Islam secretly for three years. After Khadijah, the messenger’s spouse, Ali (Alayhi as-Salām) converted to Islam, these were the only people who prayed with the messenger for a long time. Three years after the prophetic mission, Muhammad (Peace be upon him) publicly invited people to convert to Islam; he did it in two rounds, first invited his close family and then invited everybody in the society. From this time on, Quraysh did his best to confront the messenger. The prophet of Islam and his companions were surrounded by the Quraysh in Meccan boycott of the Hashemites for three years. After that, the messenger secretly immigrated to Medina and formed an Islamic government in a safe place. In the last ten years of the prophet’s life, Islam got quickly expanded and breached the boundaries. When the prophet of Islam was in Medina, he sent letters to the head empires and invited them each to Islam. One of these letters was sent to Khosro-Parviz, the Shah of Iran, but he did not answer the letter. After the prophet of Islam passed away, the Muslims attacked Iran and concurred approximately everywhere in the country except for Gilan and Mazandaran only in ten years. When the Muslims entered Iran, the Iranians also converted to Islam and became Muslims. The reasons why they converted to Islam were as follows:
The people were not satisfied with the Sasanian Empire
The government and the power attached to it put a great pressure on the people
Great injustice and the stratified society with a special group possessing all the advantages while a majority of the people were in poverty
Zoroastrianism became prosaic since the time of Qobad (a Sasani Shah) and its inability to respond to the spiritual and social needs of the people
The simplicity and candor of Islam and the emphasis on the justice and equality of the people
Having a reputation of a Din-i Ilahi in the society
The fundamental principles of Islam
1.Monotheism and Unification of God
There is only one God and he is unique in nature, behavior and adjectives.
God is the free power, he is able to do everything, and he is ubiquitous, knows everything and is kind and generous.
God never dies. He were, is and will always be there.
No one has given birth to God, he has no children and no physical appreance.
2.The Mission of the Prophets
Muhammad, Jesus, Moses, Abraham, Noah, Jacob, Job, Lot, Ishmael, Isaac, David, Solomon and so on are all prophets from God.
All of the prophets from God have been chosen by God and have a common message and mission, therefore, there is only one religion and that religion is the message that God has transferred to all his prophets.
Muhammad (Peace be upon him) is the last prophet from God and the religion of God is completed with his mission.
3.The Day of Resurrection
The creation is not absurd and the world has begun for a reason.
Death is not the end of life and the life of the human will continue in another world with a different nature.
Everyone will be there in in the world hereafter and the day of resurrection; they will respond to God for what they did in the world.
God is just and loves justice, he never tyrannize anyone.
God has made the world on the basis of justice.
No one will be responsible for the behavior of others.
When a person accepts oppression he is a confederate.
Imamah is the continuation of prophecy and the command of God to complete the religion.
The completeness and universality of the religion from God is the essence of the successor of the prophet in all eras.
The prophet did not have the time and possibility of interpreting, teaching and performing the rules of God, thus, both wisdom and religion suggest that this responsibility should be given to the right successors of the prophet who are the Imams.
6.The significant bases of Islam
Human is the best creation of God. God has given the humans wisdom and intelligence to benefit from it. Belief is based on wisdom. Muslim is a person who obeys God willingness.
Being Muslim does not depend on the type of family, country, geography, race, color and gender. When one accepts Islam and its principles, he/she should do it logically and by doing research not just intrinsically. Knowledge in Islam is invaluable.
The life of humans starts innocently with no sins. Every individual will be responsible of all their deeds since he/she reaches their puberty. As far as everybody is responsible for his/her deeds, he/she should be always aware and should not lose the control of his behaviors. Therefore, what makes humans be unaware and lose their control such as drinking wine or so on are Haram (Not Allowed) in Islam.
If we want to talk with God or we want to pray, there is no need for someone else. In Islam, we demand forgiveness directly from God. God is the creator of the angels and the human can reach a higher place of an angel if he acts well or he could descend to far worse places than of the angels if acts wrong in the world. If we kill an innocent human, it is like we have killed everybody.
7.Common religions before Islam
Some of the common religions before Islam are the ones that used to have supporters in different eras among the Iranians:
“Zarathushtra Spitama or Ashu Zarathushtra” was born 3600 years before the birth of Christ Takht-e Soleymān in Azerbaijan. His mother’s name was “Daqdoo” and his father’s name was “Pourušaspa”. He was chosen as a prophet by “Ahura Mazda”, the creator and sole God of Zoroastrianism. He began working to publicize the new religion when he was forty years old. Zarathustra divides the human behaviors into three categories: Belief or “trait”, Talk or “speech”, behavior “interaction”, he thinks that when the human beings reach the highest stages of prosperity and becomes close to God, finds a place in heaven to reform all these three features and as a result possesses Good Thought, Good Words and Good Deeds.
There are some traces from some of the business people and Christian bishops in Ctesiphon, Shush and Fars. In the second century AD, the Christian organizations have been established while the Ashkani’s empire reigned in Iran that manifests the freedom of religion at that time. The church of Nestorians was accepted by the Muslims in the Islamic era and subsequently five episcopal regions were founded. According to the written historical accounts, Iranian Armenians are the people who lived in Iran before the third century AD. On the other hand, the relationship between the Armenians as the citizens of Armenia with the Iranians goes back to the ancient history. These are the people who have complete freedom to do their religious affairs like the other religious minorities as stated in the constitution.
Assur is an old land which is located in the mid-part of Tigris and the adjacent mountains. God of species were taken from Assur. The first capital of the Assyrians was Assur then Kalhu and after that Nineveh. According to the available evidences and documents, the Assyrians stayed in Iran for centuries, therefore, we cannot determine the exact time when they came to Iran. The Iranian Assyrians have one representative in the Islamic Consultative Assembly although they are very few in Iran (Their population is fewer than the population of a city).
The Jews have been in Iran since 2700 years ago. The names of the Iranian kings such as Cyrus, Dariush, Xerxes, Ardashir and the Iranian epithets are mentioned in the holy book and hundreds of words with Iranian root is seen in Talamud (Oral Torah). The common oral traditions among the Iranian Jews as well as the prophets’ graves in Iran such as the Tomb of Daniel in Shush, Esther and Mordechai in Hamadan, Jiqu in Tuyserkan, Shrine of Saze-Tab-Asher near Isfahan, Se Yaz Danial (Isaiah, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah,) in Qazvin and the tombs of Harav Oshargah in Yazd and high rabbi Malamesheh Halavi in Kashan relates the ancient residence of the Jews in Iran.
Other Creeds in Iran before Islam
Some of the religions before Islam that are still there in Iran are Mithraism, Manichaeism and Mazdakism:
It is about the primitive Indo-European people who immigrated to Iranian Plateau and India. This was the time when some common believes were emerged between the Iranian and Indian nations. This historical background goes back to two thousand four hundred years before the birth of Christ.
This religion came out in the third century AD. Mani (Manes) was the founder of this creed: He was born in 215 or 216 AD (the fourth year of Ardavan kingdom, the last king of Ashkani) in a village named Mardiner in “Masan” in the Ancient Babol. Mani found himself as the reformer of Zoroastrianism after reading it.
Mazdak (Mazdak Bamdadan or Madak Poor Bamdad) was a person from Istakhr in Fars province. He claimed to be a prophet when Qobad the first was the king of Iran in Sasani era. This creed is a branch of Manichaeism. In Mazdakism, the economical and religious issues are intertwined.