Which Religions Are Practiced In The Middle East?

The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi.
The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi.

Historically, several religions have been practiced by the communities in the Middle East such as Zoroastrianism, Samaritanism, and Manichaeism. The largest Abrahamic religions in the world have their roots to the Middle East. In the modern era, the Middle East is considered to be a religiously diverse region due to a large number of religions, both major and minor, that are practiced in the region. The Middle East is also home to a significant number of people who are not affiliated with any religious group.


The most widespread religion in the Middle East is Islam. Apart from being the largest religion in the Middle East, it is also one of the largest religions in the world. Research indicates that close to 94% of Middle East's population belonged to Islam. Middle East's Muslim population accounts for roughly 20% of the world's Muslim population. The spread of Islam is closely linked with the history of the Middle East as the converts established some caliphates with their own laws based on Islamic law. In the modern era, most of the nations in the Middle East also use Islamic law as the basis of their legal system. The two main sects of Islam, Shia Islam and Sunni Islam, are widely practiced in the Middle East with Sunni Islam having a larger following of the two.


Another dominant religion that originated in the Middle East is Christianity, which traces its roots to modern day Israel. Even though Christianity traces its roots to the region in the modern era, it is considered one of the minor religions in the area since its adherents account for only 5% of the region's population. During the early 20th century, Christians accounted for only 20% of the region's populations. The only Middle Eastern nation that has a Christian majority is Cyprus where more than 70% of the country's population is made up of Christians. The most popular Christian denomination in Cyprus is Eastern Orthodox Christianity with the Greek residents of the country being the principal adherents of the sect.


Judaism, which also traces its roots to the region, is also practiced in the Middle East. Judaism is considered to be the most ancient of the Abrahamic faiths. Some of the central figures in Judaism such as Abraham and Sarah were believed to have lived within present-day Iraq. Another Middle Eastern country that is often mentioned in religious texts in Judaism is Egypt. In the past, a significant portion of the Jewish population lived in Arabic countries which greatly influenced their cultural practices as well as their language. Most of the Jews who lived in Arabic nations fled from those countries as a result of anti-Semitism. In the modern era, most of the Jews in the Middle East live in Israel where they make up more than 70% of the nation's population.


Another dominant religion practiced in the Middle East is Samaritanism which has close ties to Judaism. In the ancient era, Samaritanism had a large number of practitioners; however, some events led to a reduction in the number of practitioners. During the 6th century, Samaritanism was made illegal which reduced the number of believers of the faith. Most of the believers also converted to other faiths such as Islam and Christianity.


One of the minor religions practiced in the Middle East is Shabakism which is primarily practiced in the northern section of Iraq. The Iraqi government estimated that roughly 60,000 people practice the religion in the country.


Another minor religion in the Middle East is Mandaeism which is mainly practiced in Iran and Iraq. Globally, there are less than 100,000 practitioners of the religion. The practices and beliefs of Mandaeism are similar to those of other religions practiced in the Middle East such as Christianity and Judaism.


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