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Shia (Shi'a) Muslim Countries

While most global Muslims are Sunni, a handful of countries have Shia majorities or pluralities.

Countries With Shia Muslim Majority

Shia is an Islamic branch that holds the belief Muhammad designated Ali Abi Talib as his immediate successor. Sunni and Shia Muslims, who are the largest Muslim sects in the world, have differed on who should have been the real successor of Muhammad as the Sunni group backed Abu Bakr. However, the Bakri finally became the successor because of the Sunni majority. Today, both Sunni and Shia agree on Allah as the one true God and Muhammad his messenger. They also uphold the five pillars of Islam and believe in the Koran, Muslim’s holy book. Currently, there are 1.6 billion Muslims around the world with Shia accounting for almost 20%. While most global Muslims are Sunni, a handful of countries has Shia majorities or pluralities. These countries include;

Iran

In Iran, Shia Muslims make up the majority with 92.2% of all Muslim population in the country belonging to this sect. Initially, Iran was a Sunni majority until 1500 when Shah Ismail I conquered Iran and forced a conversion of Sunni Muslims to Shia Islam with several Sunnis murdered in the process. The conversion and murdering of Sunni Muslims continued for two centuries during which the number of Shia Muslims increased immensely. Currently, there are only 5% Sunni Muslims in Iran. Other religious groups in the country are Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians. Atheism is not allowed in Iran, and most must declare themselves as a member of one of the four religions in the country. The constitution of Iran recognizes Shia as the official religion in the country

Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan and Iran were both conquered by Shah Ismail I around the same time where he also forced a conversion of Sunnis to Shia Islam. Azerbaijan has the second highest Shia Muslim population in the world accounting for 83.6% of the total population while the sect accounts for 85% of the Muslim population in the country. Sunni accounts for only 15% of the country’s total population. Most Shia population in Azerbaijan follows orthodox Ithna Ashari and orthodox Hanafi school of Shi’a Islam traditional religion. Religious extremism is on the rise among the Shia Muslims in Azerbaijan due to the persistent poverty, corruption, and disillusionment on the support from the West. Some of the sect members have joined terrorist groups in Syria.

Iraq

63.7% of the Iraq’s national population is Shia Muslims. The sect accounts for 63% of all Muslims in Iraq. The country is home to some of the Shia common pilgrimage sites and holy cities including Najaf, the tomb of Ali ibn Abi Talib, Muhammad’s successor and Karbala, the tomb of Husayn ibn Ali, Muhammad’s grandson. Shia continues to fight Sunni Muslims in the country as a result of US inversion of Iraq in 2003. The tension between the sects has led to 2.7 million people displaced from their homes.

Other Countries With Shia Majority

Bahrain and Lebanon also have a notable number of Shia Muslims forming a majority of their population. 65% of the Bahrain population identify with Shia while the sect makes 45.6% of the Muslim population. In Lebanon, 51% of the national population is Shia while the sect accounts for 28% of all Muslims in the country.

Shia (Shi'a) Muslim Countries

RankCountryShia Among Total Population; Shia Among National Muslim Population
1Iran92.2%; 92.5%
2Azerbaijan
83.6%; 85%
3Iraq63.0%; 63.7%
4Bahrain45.6%; 65%
5Lebanon28%; 51%

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