Majority of the Kurds are Muslim, mostly Sunni followed by Shia. Sunnis mostly belong to Shafi`i and Hanafi schools. In Southern Kurdistan (KRG) Hanbali school of Islam is also widespread.
Most of the Kurds in KRG adhere Sufism. There is also a significant Shia minority who are called Feyli. Feyli Kurds live mostly in southeastern corner of the Iraqi Kurdistan and borthering Kurdish areas which are occupied by Iran. Beside, there are large traditional Shia-Kurdish communities in Iraqi cities of Baghdad and Kut.
ISLAMIZATION OF KURDISTAN
Arab-Muslim conquest of Kurdistan in 7th Century forced the Kurds to convert to Islam. Battle of Jalawla in 632 played major role for Islamization of the region. People started to leave their ancient religions for Islam in fear of persecution.
Throughout the history, not every time people became Muslim by force. Some Islamic scholars named Sahabah spreaded their religion peacefully. They attracted the potential Muslims and made convert to Islam by will.
Some earliest Sahabahs were Kurdish: Jaban al-Kurdi (? – ca. 690), Zozan ( a female Sahabah lived in 7th Century) and Maymun al-Kurdi.
Majority of the Kurds in Iranian occupied Kirmashan, Ilam and Kordestan Provinces are Shia. There is a sizeable Shia minority in Iraqi Kurdistan as well. They are mostly concentrated in Southeastern corner of Iraqi Kurdistan, specifically in Khanaqin, Mandali, Badra and Jassan. They are called Feyli.
In recent years, Iran and Iraq have been imposing Shiazation policy on Alevi and Yarsani Shabaks. Shia clerics use common figures such as Ali in order to recruit Shabak Kurds.
Sunnism is the most widespread branch of Islam among the Kurds. Although the number and percentage is not certain, McDowall gives the rate as ‘around 75%’. There are various schools of Sunni Islam, most common ones in Kurdish society are Hanafi and Shafi’i.
15% of Kurdistan is supposed to be Alevi. Alevi Kurds live mostly in Dersim region and surroundings. Alevism is sometimes accepted as a secular branch of Shia Islam however there are this disputes over this theory.
ISLAM IN KURDISTAN TODAY
Today, Kurds are principally secular. In Kurdish-Muslim society, women have much more freedom than women in neighbouring Muslim ethnicities. By the way, number of atheists, agnostics and others with no religious affiliation growing in Kurdistan. This new trend intensified after the Islamic motivated war crimes against the Kurdish people. As a result many people use the term “Nominally Muslim”
- Van Bruinessen, “Religion in Kurdistan”
- KRG Official Page
- McDowall, David (1997). A Modern History of the Kurds. Bloomsbury, London: I.B. Tauris. p. 10