As a center of early civilization, Iraq is a land with a rich cultural history. While the majority of its people identify with Arab culture, Iraq is home to Kurds, Assyrians, Turkomans, Chaldeans, Armenians, Yazidians and Jews. In this ethnic diversity, there are various religions and divisions of faith practiced within Iraq’s borders.
Islam is the faith practiced by more than 95% of Iraq’s people. Islam first came to Iraq in 637 A.D. when Caliph Umar and his armies defeated the Sassanians. As in the rest of the Arab world, there are two major divisions of Islam, Shia and Sunni. ,In Iraq, unlike the rest of the Muslim world, Iraqi’s Shias are the majority and Sunnis are the minority.
Sunnis make more than one third of the Muslims in Iraq, while Shias make up about 60% of the remaining Muslim population in Iraq. There are various schools of thought in each division which are regional.
Christianity became a practiced faith in Iraq around 33 A.D. and today, Christians make up about 3% of the republic’s population. Identified as Syriac Christians, this religious minority includes the Nestorians, Chaldeans, and the Jacobites. The faith, first based with the Assyrians, spread to the Chaldeans. There are Roman Catholic Iraqis as well as Nestorians, who helped spread Christianity throughout the Arab world, India and China.
Under the rule of King Nebuchadnezzar in the sixth century B.C.E, Judaism came to Iraq. The republic once had a thriving Jewish community, but time and persecution has reduced those numbers. Many Iraqi Jews have since fled to Israel, but a small group still remain in their homeland.
Yazdanism predates pre-Islam Iraq and is a monotheistic faith which believes that seven benevolent divine beings protect the world again seven malicious beings. The faith is practiced in isolated groups among Kurds. It has three schools of thought which include Yazisim, Alevism and Yarzan.
The Shabak people are a ethno-religious group that live in villages in Northern- Iraq. There independent faith has similarities to Christianity and Islam, but focuses on divine reality and confession.
Mandaeism, a gnostic religion, is one of the oldest faiths in the world and has been practiced in Iraq nearly two centuries. Mandaeians, sometimes called Subba, revere patriach Adam and consider John the Baptist the last great prophet.
Zoroastrianism, also called Mazdaiam, is another one of Iraq’s minority religions and has been practice for more than two millenia. The faith based on the teachings of the prophet Zoroaster, who stated that the Creator, Ahura Mazda, is all good and that evil originates from other sources.
Whie Iraq’s national identity is Arab and its people primarily practice Islam, there are a number of religious groups in the republic. These various faiths are linked to Iraq’s culturally rich people and history.
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