Religion in Iraq is at the same quite diverse and almost monolithically Muslim. Iraq is officially a Muslim country and around 97 percent of its population is Muslim. However, there is a fair range of diversity within the Muslim population. All told, people from all the following Iraq religion can be divided among the following groups:
- Christian – within the Christian community, there are further religious subdivisions into:
- Roman Catholics
Islam came to Iraq as part of the Muslim Conquest around 1500 years ago. The main religious division among Iraq’s Muslim population is between the Shi’a, who make up almost two-thirds of the country’s population, and the Sunni, who account for another 32 to 37 percent. There is no ethnic distinction inherent between the Sunni and Shi’a as both branches of this religion in Iraq are mostly Arab. There have been, however, different branches of Islam that have been more prominent among some different ethnic groups.
The Shi’a population is primarily Ja’fari. This specific religion in Iraq is mostly followed by its southern population, but its followers are also a majority in Baghdad. The Sunni in Iraq are mostly Hanafi. One of the ethnic distinctions of Iraq religion is that its Kurdish population, who aren’t Arab, are mostly Sunni. However, unlike the Hanafi Sunni majority, the Kurds typically follow the Shafi’i branch of Sunni Islam. There is also a strong strain of Sufi mysticism, another subdivision of Islam, that many Kurds follow.
The Yazidis and Mandeans are both very small religious minorities. The Iraqi Yazidis are mostly in the northern area around Mosul. There are Yazidis in other countries in the region as well. Their religious practice is a mixture of local Kurdish traditions and beliefs, Islamic Sufi’ism, and aspects of Zoroastrianism. In recent years, many Yazidis have been emigrating to Europe due to hostility from the Muslim majority population.
The Mandeans are even more private about their community and religious beliefs than the Yazidis. They are believed to have been in Iraq and Middle East for at least two thousand years, thus they predate Islam. They are said to hold figures from a range religions in esteem, such as Adam, Noah, and John the Baptist. However, they reportedly hold a fair amount of antipathy towards Jesus.
The Christian community has been in Iraq for two thousand years as well. It’s many sects can be divided into two main categories:
- – eastern sects, such the Chaldeans and Assyrians
- – western sects, such as the Catholics and Protestants
The Christian Armenian population in Iraq arrived in the early twentieth century as they fled massacres in next door Turkey.
Jews have been in Iraq since it was called Babylonia, around 2500 years ago. Indeed, Judaism had been so long an Iraq religion that by the early twentieth century, most of the local Jewish community considered themselves to be ethnically Arab and religiously Jewish. However, since the middle of the twentieth century, most of Iraq’s Jewish population has left, leaving fewer than 10 Jews by the early twenty-first century.