ISLAM and MUSLIMS IN AZERBAIJAN

      

General Information

Republic of Azerbaijan

National Name: Azarbaycan Respublikasi

Land area: 33,436 sq mi (86,600 sq km); total area: 33,436 sq mi (86,600 sq km)

Population (2008 est.): 8,177,717

Capital and largest city (2003 est.): Baku, 2,118,600 (metro area), 1,235,400 (city proper), a port on the Caspian Sea

Other large cities (2004 est.): Ganja, 303,000; Sumgait, 280,500

Monetary unit: Manat

Languages: Azerbaijani Turkic 89%, Russian 3%, Armenian 2%, other 6% (1995 est.)

Ethnicity/race: Azeri 90.6%, Dagestani 2.2%, Russian 1.8%, Armenian 1.5%, other 3.9% (1999). Note: almost all Armenians live in the separatist Nagorno-Karabakh region

Religions: Islam 93%, Russian Orthodox 3%, Armenian Orthodox 2%, other 2% (1995 est.)

National Holiday: Founding of the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan, May 28

Literacy rate: 98.8% (1999 est.)

Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2007 est.): $72.2 billion; per capita $9,000. Real growth rate: 31%. Inflation: 16%.

Azerbaijan is located on the western shore of the Caspian Sea at the southeast extremity of the Caucasus. The region is a mountainous country, and only about 7% of it is arable land. The Kura River Valley is the area's major agricultural zone.

Northern Azerbaijan was known as Caucasian Albania in ancient times. The area was the site of many conflicts involving Arabs, Kazars, and Turks. After the 11th century, the territory became dominated by Turks and eventually was a stronghold of the Shiite Muslim religion and Islamic culture. The territory of Soviet Azerbaijan was acquired by Russia from Persia through the Treaty of Gulistan in 1813 and the Treaty of Turkamanchai in 1828.

After the Bolshevik Revolution, Azerbaijan declared its independence from Russia in May 1918. The republic was reconquered by the Red Army in 1920 and was annexed into the Transcaucasian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1922. It was later reestablished as a separate Soviet Republic on Dec. 5, 1936. Azerbaijan declared independence from the collapsing Soviet Union on Aug. 30, 1991.

Islamic History and Muslims

Approximately 93.4 to 96 percent of the population of Azerbaijan is nominally 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 is relatively low and Muslim identity tends to be based more on culture and ethnicity rather than religion; however, imams reported increased attendance at mosques during 2003. The Muslim population is approximately 85% Shi'a and 15% Sunni; differences traditionally have not been defined sharply. Most Shias are adherents of orthodox Ithna Ashari school of Shi'a Islam. Other traditional religions or beliefs that are followed by many in the country are the orthodox Sunni Islam, the Armenian Apostolic Church (in Karabakh), the Russian Orthodox Church, and various other Christian sects. Traditionally villages around Baku and Lenkoran region are considered stronghold of Shi'ism, and in some northern regions, populated by Sunni Dagestani people, Salafi sect gained great following. Folk Islam is widely practiced, but organized Sufi movement is absent. There are fairly sizable expatriate Christian and Muslim communities in the capital city of Baku; authorities generally permit these groups to worship freely.

Islam arrived in Azerbaijan with Arabs in the seventh century, gradually supplanting Zoroastrianism and Azerbaijani pagan cults. In the seventh and eighth centuries, many Zoroastrians fled Muslim persecution and moved to India, where they became known as Parsis. Until Soviet Bolsheviks ended the practice, Zoroastrian pilgrims from India and Iran traveled to Azerbaijan to worship at sacred sites, including the Ateshgah Temple in Surakhany on the Apsheron Peninsula.

In the sixteenth century, the first shah of the Safavid Dynasty, Ismail I (r. 1486-1524), established Shi'a Islam as the state religion, although large numbers of Azerbaijanis remained Sunni. The Safavid court was subject to both Turkic (Sunni) and Iranian (Shi'a) influences, however, which reinforced the dual nature of Azerbaijani religion and culture in that period. As elsewhere in the Muslim world, the two branches of Islam came into conflict in Azerbaijan. Enforcement of Shi'a Islam as the state religion brought contention between the Safavid rulers of Azerbaijan and the ruling Sunnis of the neighboring Ottoman Empire.

In the nineteenth century, many Sunni Muslims emigrated from Russian-controlled Azerbaijan because of Russia's series of wars with their coreligionists in the Ottoman Empire. Thus, by the late nineteenth century, the Shi'a population was in the majority in Russian Azerbaijan. Antagonism between the Sunnis and the Shi'a diminished in the late nineteenth century as Azerbaijani nationalism began to emphasize a common Turkic heritage and opposition to Iranian religious influences.

There is also a small Jewish community in Azerbaijan. There are three sinagogues in Baku and a few in the provinces. Sheikh-ul-Islam Allahshukur Pashazade (head of Azeri Shi'a) has donated USD 40,000 for construction of Jewish House in Baku in 2000. In 1806, Azerbaijan was conquered by the Russians. In 1918, Azerbaijan declared independence from Russia, but was incorporated into the Soviet Union in 1920.

Before Soviet power was established, about 2,000 mosques were active in Azerbaijan. Most mosques were closed in the 1930s, then some were allowed to reopen during World War II. The Soviet rule promoted an Azerbaijani national consciousness as a substitute for identification with the world Islamic community.

In the 1980s only two large and five smaller mosques held services in Baku, and only eleven others were operating in the rest of the country. Supplementing the officially sanctioned mosques were thousands of private houses of prayer and many secret Islamic sects.

Azerbaijanis believed they suffered greater repression than their South Caucasian neighbors, Armenia and Georgia, because of their identification with the world of Islam.

Gradually, during the Soviet imperial twilight, signs of religious reawakening not only multiplied but surfaced into the open. According to Soviet sources, during the late 1970s around 1,000 clandestine houses of prayer were in use, and some 300 places of pilgrimage were identifiable. This growth proved the prelude to the public openings of hundreds of mosques in the following decade.

During World War II, Soviet authorities established the Muslim Spiritual Board of Transcaucasia in Baku as the governing body of Islam in the Caucasus, in effect reviving the nineteenth century tsarist Muslim Ecclesiastical Board. During the tenures of Leonid I. Brezhnev and Mikhail S. Gorbachev, Moscow encouraged Muslim religious leaders in Azerbaijan to visit and host foreign Muslim leaders, with the goal of advertising the freedom of religion and superior living conditions reportedly enjoyed by Muslims under Soviet communism.

Beginning in the late Gorbachev period, and especially after independence, the number of mosques rose dramatically. Many were built with the support of other Islamic countries, such as Iran, Oman, and Saudi Arabia, which also contributed Qur'ans and religious instructors to the new Muslim states. A Muslim seminary has also been established since 1991. After independence, the laws regarding religion are quite clear. In Article 6 of the constitution, Azerbaijan is declared a secular state. This point is driven home in Article 19 with the statement of the separation of religion and state and the equality of all religions before the law as well as the secular character of the state educational system.

Secular politicians in Azerbaijan have raised concerns about the rise of political Islam, but others argue that Islam in Azerbaijan is a multifaceted phenomenon. Islam plays only a very limited role in the political sphere and only a small part of the population supports the idea of establishing an Islamic order. This is due to the long tradition of secularism in Azerbaijan and to the fact that the nationalistic opposition movement is secular in character. Yet, according to some analysts, on the longer run, if the politicians do not manage to improve the conditions of life of the vast majority of the people, the population may express its discontent through political Islam. A current center of conservative Shia Islam, is the settlement of Nardaran, near Baku renowned for its 13-century shrine.

 

Juma mosque in Ganja, built in 1606.

  A Mosque in Baku.

The new mosque, Maraza. It's called the Heydar mosque

Martyrs mosque

  Islamic Centers and Organizations

Jami Mosque, Baku, aze
Phone: 4478788

Juma Mosque (Icheri Sheher), Baku, aze
URL: www.azerislam.com   Phone: 0503195150

Abulfazl masjid, Damirchi, Baku


INTERNATIONAL ISLAMIC RELIEF ORG., Baku, Yasamal
Phone: 0099-412-4-380497

Shehid's Mosque, Baku


Mosque of Qatar Found, Kakhi, Azerbaijan


Haji Sultan Mosque, Baku
Phone: 99412-4954556

Asia Muslims Committee, Baku
Phone: 99412-4983821

Islamic University, Baku


masjid QOBUSTAN, Baku
Phone: +994-544-4653

  Abu Bakr mosque, Baku
  Abu Bakr mosque, Baki
  Abulfazl masjid, Damirchi
  Ajdarbey Mosque, Baku
  Ar Rahman, Ali-Bayramli
  Bibiheybet Mosque, Baku
  Bijo Masjid (Bico mascidi), Bico
  Elmler masjed, Baku
  Haji Sultan Mosque, Baku
  ILAHIYYAT MOSGUE, Baku
  Jami Mosque, Baku
  Juma Mosque (Icheri Sheher), Baku
  Main Juma Mosque of Sheki, Shekili
  masjid QOBUSTAN, Baku
  Meshedi Dadash Mesjid, Baku
  Mosque of Qatar Found, Kakhi
  Seyid Ashraf Masjidi, Horadiz Stansiyasi
  Shah Abbas Masjid, Ganca
  Shehid's Mosque, Baku
  Sheki Juma Mosque, Sheki
 
مسجد, Xaldan

Asia Muslims Committee, Baku
  AzeriMuslims Media, Baku
 
INTERNATIONAL ISLAMIC RELIEF ORG., Baku

  Islamic University, Baku

   Muslim Owned Business

  Flowers, Baku

References
Islam in Azerbaijan  ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islam_in_Azerbaijan   , September, 2008).
Info please ( http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0107305.html ,  September, 2008).
Islam Finder ( http://www.islamicfinder.org/cityPrayerNew.php?country=azerbaijan   , September, 2008).
Anonymous, Documents from Representatives of Islamic Organizations in Azerbaijan , September 2008.