Society

Lesser-known Religions of the World: Shabakism

Shabakism is practiced by Iraq's Shabak people.

Religion is a popular subject throughout the world. It gives people a sense of identity and creates unity among members of a given religious group. Religion forms the basis of one’s faith, way of life, and character. From the traditional religions to the modern religions influenced by science and technology, more than 4,000 religions exist throughout the world. Although Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism are the most popular religions in the world, millions of people follow lesser-known religions. Some lesser-known religions of the world include the Church of All Worlds, Jainism, Raelism, Nation of Yahweh, the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Yezidi, and Shabakism. This article presents an overview of Shabakism.

Overview of Shabakism

Shabakism is a syncretic faith and religion practiced by the Shabak people, who primarily live in the Kurdistan region and Mosul area of Iraq. The religion incorporates certain elements of the Islamic, Christian, and Yezid practices. Although most Shabaks identify as Shia Muslims and a minority consider themselves Sunnis, their actual faith and rituals are different from the Islamic practices. The faith's primary religious text is the Bryuk, also known as the "Book of Exemplary Acts," written in Turkoman. Almost 70 percent of the population in the Mosul region of Iraq practices Shabakism, while the rest are Muslims.

Beliefs and Practices

Shabakism appears more like the Sufi order, with a unique interpretation of the “divine reality,” as the divine reality is placed above the literal interpretation of the Quran. The divine reality is understood through mediation led by a spiritual guide known as “Pir,” who also takes charge of other spiritual rituals. The mediation closely resembles that of the Yarsan. Pirs answer to the Supreme Head, also known as Baba. Shabakism also includes certain Christian rituals, such as confession and wine consumption, while the latter is outlawed in Shia. Like Shia Muslims, Shabaks also pilgrimage to places sacred to Yazidi, as well as locations sacred locations to the Shia, including Karbala. The poetry of Ismail I is also considered to be revealed by God to the Shabaks, and they recite this poetry during religious gatherings.

Threats to Shabakism

The Shabaks have been victims of repeated attacks and harassment by Kurdish militants. Those living in the disputed area of Ninewa, and especially Mosul, have been specifically targeted. The killing of more than 1,300 Shabaks since 2003 has significantly reduced the followers of Shabakism. In April 2013, gunmen attacked a Shabak Mosque in the village of Kokjali, killing eight Shabak police. In December 2013, a terrorist attacked Shabaks who were worshiping in the village of Ali Rasho. For their safety, more than 3,000 Shabaks have left their homes and fled to regions dominated by Shia Islam, where Shabakism has been easily neutralized. Apart from constant attacks by Kurdish militias, the growth of Islam, especially in Mosul, in recent years has led to many Shabaks abandoning their religions and converting to Islam. Shabakism is also an unpopular religion in other parts of Iraq and the rest of the world, ultimately hindering its influence and spread.

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