Society

Religious Beliefs In Afghanistan

Islam is the religion of the majority in Afghanistan.

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Officially known as the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Afghanistan is a state that is located in the southern region of Central Asia. For this reason, it is not surprising that most of the population in the country practices Islam with only a few minority religions. The constitution states that Islam is the national religion but also goes on ahead to state that other religions are free to practice. These minority religions include Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, and a few others.

Islam

As of 2017, the country had a population of about 29.2 million people. Of this population, a massive 99.7% practices Islam. However, this figure is an estimate since there has never been an official data collection initiative on the matter. Most of the sources agree on the dominance of Islam although they differ in the percentages of the different sects of the religion. The Pew Research Center estimates that about 90% of this Muslim population is part of the Sunni sect while the Shia sect makes up 7%. The Central Intelligence Agency’s Factbook has a slightly differing distribution where the Sunni sect makes up between 84.7 and 89.7% while the Shia sect makes up between 10 and 15% of the Muslim populace.

Christianity

In the whole country, there is only one Christian church that is considered legal, that is, the Catholic chapel located within the Italian Embassy. Despite the law recognizing other religions, there is a lot of prejudice and pressure directed toward people who convert from Islam. For most people, a transition from Islam to Christianity is a violation of the religion. Aside from the church, there are also a couple of religious facilities in military bases belonging to foreign nations. For example, the Romanian military base located in Kandahar has a branch of the Eastern Orthodox Church. Estimates by the US state department estimates that there are a number of secret Christians numbering between 500 and 8,000 individuals.

Hinduism and Sikhism

In total, these two groups have a total following of about 4,000 individuals living in places such as Kabul, Kandahar, and Jalalabad. Of these two groups, Sikhs have a more considerable following. The small number can be attributed to the Islamic conquest of Afghanistan, especially during the 11th century. Before that period, the population was considerably more diverse. However, the 11th century saw plenty of places of worship for these two religious groups destroyed or converted to mosques.

Bahá'í Faith

This faith has been present in the country since its introduction back in the 1880s. However, the first major community of this faith did not exist until the 1930s. Unfortunately, when the Soviets invaded the country in 1979 and the following Taliban rule from 1996, the people practicing this faith had to flee the country for fear of persecution. As of 2005, the number of Bahá'ís stood at around 15,000 people while the number dropped massively to only 400 people in 2007.

Judaism

Similar to Bahá'ís, Jews also had a considerable following before the invasion of the Soviets in 1979. These people fled to countries like the US and the UK. Some of them, between 500 and 1,000 Jews, were forced to become Muslims after the Taliban took power.

 

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