Iranian have been true believers in God throughout the nation's long history. These beliefs have appeared as various religions that were and still are being practiced in Iran.
According to the 1986 population census, a great majority of Iranians are moslems while there are also religious minorities who believe in different faiths:
-Moslems : % 99.38
-Zoroastrians : %0.02
-Jews : %0.05
-Christians : %0.30
-Other Religions: %0.17
Religion has always been an important factor in sociopolitical developments in Iran. However, it has twice played a crucial role in Iranian politics. Interestingly, in both of those turning points , the end of the Sassanid rule in 6th century Persia and the 1979 Islamic revolution, Islam has been the costructive cause and the focal motivation.
Most of Iranians are Shi'ite moslems although other major religions are also practiced by some Iranians. As an Islamic sect, Shi'ism is not a new religion. In fact, some scholars believe that it did began with the beginning of Islam. However, the sect emerged when the issue of succession to holy prophet broke out.
From the Shi'ite point of view, the religion is divided into two sections; namely knowledge and practice. The matters concerning knowledge are the fundamentals of religion. These fundamentals are categorized under five topics: monotheism, prophethood , vicegerency , justice and the resurrection
Based on the principle of monotheism , moslems bbelieve in God's oneness and divinity. According to the same principle , man should ascribe no partner to god
On the basis of Islamic beliefs, all the prophets were appointed by God. Prophet Mohammad (s.a.w.), however, is the final prophet and God has ssent no other prophet after him. God almighty revealed the Koran, the holy book of Islam, to the holy prophet.
What distinguishes the Shi'ite sect from all the others is the sect's treatment of the matter of succession to the prophet. Shi'a people bellieve that Imam Ali (a.s.) and his sons and grandsons are the Imams of moslems; and that the 12th Imam lives in the occult. This is the principle that separates Shi'ism as a school of thought from the other schools.
Justice is one of the attributes of God accoording to Shi'ite teachings, based on which God is not unjust to anybody nor does he commit any action that may be judged as bad by man's primordial sensse
Like all moslems, the foollowers of the Shi'ite sect also believe that God will bring all people to life again after their death and that man shall be accountible before God on the day of judgement. The resorrection involves the appearance of every person before God in exactly the same bodily form they had while they lived on earth.
An order of the Islamic code exists for every matter of life in Shi'ism. There is no action of a sane adult, including mutual transaction, trade, marriage, etc. which is not covered by this code which says whether an action is right or wrong. Like all other moslems, Shi'as believe that religious orders are based upon either the Koran or the sayings , teachings , practise or approval of the prophet. They add to this intellectual reasoning and consensus of opinions as bases from which religious orders are derived.
Actios governed by these orders are either concerned with the relationship betweem man and God (like prayers , fasting and pilgrimage), between man and society (transactions, marriage, etc.) or they may be personal matters like tthe way one eats and drinks and the clothes one may choose to wear.
All these actions are dealt with orders and commandments that are part of jurisprudence. These actions are classified under heaings like prayers, fasting, taxation, pilgrimage to Mecca , Jihad or the holy war , the enjoinment of good and the prevention of evil; not to mention the laws of marriage, inheritance, jurisdiction and trade that are discussed in lengthy details in the Islamic jurisprudence. Based on the Shari'ah, the divine code of living, every one of man's actions may fall within one of the categories of wajib (compulsory) , haram (unlawful), mustahabb (desirable), makruh (undesirable) and mubah (lawful).
Another scholar puts the same idea in other words , saying that the religion is divided into three parts, namely beliefs , ethics and commandments. Based on the Islamic beliefs, God has created the world with an organized order thanks to his infinite power and knowledge. No creature falls outside the purview of the laws of God; and what is more immportant, nothing has been created uselesslly. God has sent instructions by his proophets for man's well being, happiness and prosperity. There is an afterlife in which man's deed will be judged and duely rewarded.
The religion , thus, through certain commandments, encourages praiseworthy qualities , good nature and commendable attributes like conscientiousness, benevolence, philanthropy, kindness, faithfulness, justice and pleasing conduct and appearance. Islam teaches man not to transgress his own and his fellow beings' rights and not to encroach upon the property , dignity and lives of people. Islam promotes the search for knowledge and encourages moderation in all affairs of life.
Mashhad, Iran's holiest city, is located 850 kilometers North East of Tehran. Back in the 9th century, Imam Reza was poisoned and martyred in the city. He was the eighth Imam (head spiritual leader) of Shi'ate Islam. His holy position made his tomb a sacred place for pilgrims to worship.
Religious Minorities Churches, Synagogues, Adrians
The constitutional law of the Islamic Republic of Iran respects the rights of those who believe in religions other than Islam. Religious minorities are entitled to the same civil rights enjoyed by their moslem brothers and sisters. They have their own representatives at the country's national assembly (The Majlis) and practice their own religious rites and rituals in tens of churches , synagogues, adrians and temples in Tehran and scores of other places all across the country. Some communities have enough resources to afford the publication of their own newspapers and journals.
A visit to Zoroastrian fire temples near the city of Yazd , particularly at the time of one of the annual festivities can be an interesting part of a tour to central Iran. Equallly interesting, is a traditional religious event taking place every year in a monumental church in the mountains of Urmia province in Northeastern Iran , although traditional Jewish ceremonies in Shiraz and Tehran may be equally spectacular.
Visitors interested in Islamic arts , however , may find Isfahan extremely interesting thanks to the existence of numerous historical buildings including the 13th century Safavid period mosques, schools , bridges and palaces in the city.
Religious minorities in Iran have their own facilities to perform their rituals. Some of these facilities arc listed in this chapter. Religious minorities in Iran have equal rights with all other citizens, however, they are represented in the Iranian parliament and their representatives are actively involved in the country's law making process. Renowned travelers have praised Iran as a country where members of various religions and ethnic groups leave peacefully together and thus named Iran as the paradise on Earth. According to Koranic tcachings, Islam embodies all other religions, therefor Moslems respect and defend all other religions. Although all the establishments listed here are in Tehran, there are many others in other cities. One of the most well known establishments of this kind is the historically significant Vank Church in lsfahan