Religion in Azerbaijan |

Religion in Azerbaijan

Find out about the variety of religion you will find in Azerbaijan.

Posted on

18 November 2013

Last updated on 27 June 2017
Religion in Azerbaijan

The religions of Azerbaijan comprise different religious trends spread among the people and ethnic groups residing in the country. There are several confessions in Azerbaijan.

Approximately 95% of the population of Azerbaijan is Muslim. The rest of the population adheres to other faiths or are non-religious, although they are not officially represented. Among the Muslim majority, religious observance varies and Muslim identity tends to be based more on culture and ethnicity rather than religion. The Muslim population is approximately 85% Shi'a and 15% Sunni; differences traditionally have not been defined sharply. Other traditional religions or beliefs that are followed by many in the country are the orthodox Sunni Islam, the Russian Orthodox Church, and various Christian sects. Traditionally villages around Baku and Lenkoran region are considered stronghold of Shi'ism. In some northern regions, populated by Sunni people.

Azerbaijan is a secular country, in article 48 of its Constitution ensures the liberty of worship to everyone. Everyone has a right to choose any faith, to adopt any religion or to not practice any religion, to express one's view on the religion and to spread it. According to paragraphs 1-3 of Article 18 of the Constitution the religion acts separately from the government, each religion is equal before the law and the propaganda of religions, abating human personality and contradicting to the principles of humanism is prohibited. At the same time the state system of education is also secular.

The law of the Republic of Azerbaijan (1992) "On freedom of faith" ensures the right of any human being to determine and express his view on religion and to execute this right. The law seperates itself from the church and is therefore secular. Even though most of the population is Muslim, the countries laws remain secular.
Muslim Holidays

Gurban Holiday

The religious holiday of making sacrifice – the Gurban Holiday is celebrated every year by all Muslim worlds. The religious rites of making sacrifice have existed long before Islam. After the second year of Hijra when the prophet Mohammed has moved from Medina to Mecca, new patterns of making sacrifices in Islamic world have emerged and formed as extending assistance the poor and orphans, making good deeds to make desires come true. The religious ceremonial of making sacrifice takes its roots from the event that happened to Prophet Ibrahim. He dreamt that Allah orders him to sacrifice his son Ismail to test his belief in God. As a true follower, Ibrahim was ready to fulfill the Divine order as well as Ismail stood ready to be sacrificed. During Gurban holiday, every rich Moslem had to sacrifice an animal, share and distribute its meat to the poor and the orphans. The act of making sacrifice had to elevate anyone spiritually till the highest level of faith. The Koran says: “The Allah needs neither flesh, nor animal’s blood, but only your faith”. The Gurban holiday is celebrated 2 days.

Note: A new rule has been enacted from 2006 which stipulates that if the holiday is coinciding with a day off, the next following day is deemed a day off.

Ramadan Holiday

The holy month of Ramadan is defined as an important month for Moslems in second year of Hijra (year of 622). The month of Ramadan teaches everyone to love with all heart the deeds of Allah passing through testing of body and strengthening of moral spirit. Moslems are fasting during that month – the procedure is called orujlug.
The history of Orujlug dates back to the second year of Hijra when prophet Mohammed has determined the month of Ramadan for Moslems in the city of Medina. It is exactly during last 10 nights of the month of Ramadan Allah has gifted the Koran to Moslems. There is a saying that this handover is happened in the night from the 23rd to the 24th or in the night from the 26th to the 27th. This night is called “Laylat al-Qadr” - Night of Power and Might and described in the Koran as follows: “We have indeed revealed strength, might in the Night of Power; The Night of Power is stronger than a thousand months; The Angels descended down on the Earth and are waiting for the Allah's order; Peace in this Night until the rising of the dawn” (97:1 - 5).
During Orujlug, it is not allowed to eat in daytime, smoke and fulfill marital obligations etc. Only children, pregnant women, anyone who is seriously ill, warriors and travelers are free from fasting. Orujlug comes with the rise of a new Moon and lasts 29 – 30 days. The Koran says: “Eat and drink till you can make a difference between dark and white threads, and then respect your oruj till dusk” (2:187).
Orujlug existed even before Islam. The Koran says the following about it: “As you are instructed to respect your oruj, the same instruction was also given to your predecessors.” Orujlug finishes with the holiday called Eid ul-Fitr. During this day, all rich and known Moslems must help the poor Moslems. Starting from 1993, the Orujlug holiday is celebrated at State level.

Note: A new rule has been enacted from 2006 which stipulates that if the holiday is coinciding with a day off, the next following day is deemed a day off.

Muslim Calendar

Muslims do not traditionally "celebrate" the beginning of a new year, but we do acknowledge the passing of time, and take time to reflect on our own mortality. Muslims measure the passage of time using the Islamic (Hijrah) calendar. This calendar has twelve lunar months, the beginnings and endings of which are determined by the sighting of the crescent moon. Years are counted since the Hijrah, which is when the Prophet Muhammad migrated from Mecca to Madinah (approximately July 622 A.D.).
The Islamic calendar was first introduced by the close companion of the Prophet, 'Umar ibn Al-Khattab. During his leadership of the Muslim community, in approximately 638 A.D., he consulted with his advisors in order to come to a decision regarding the various dating systems used at that time. It was agreed that the most appropriate reference point for the Islamic calendar was the Hijrah, since it was an important turning point for the Muslim community. After the emigration to Madinah (formerly known as Yathrib), the Muslims were able to organize and establish the first real Muslim "community," with social, political, and economic independence. Life in Madinah allowed the Muslim community to mature and strengthen, and the people developed an entire society based on
Islamic principles.

The Islamic calendar is the official calendar in many Muslim countries, especially Saudi Arabia. Other Muslim countries use the Gregorian calendar for civil purposes and only turn to the Islamic calendar for religious purpose.