A Look at the Diversity of the People of
The Religions of Iran
Mohammad Reza Najafian Jazi
As an instance, some of them no longer pray or fast or read Quran. They believe that they are born in Muslim families and were not
given the right to make their own decision. So, they are supposedly called Muslim-Zadeh, a person who is born in a Muslim family, but
doesn’t believe in Islam. In an interview with a distinguished Iranian teacher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who wanted to be
interviewed on the condition of anonymity, told me her belief about the prophet Mohammad. She arguably believes that there is no such
a person at all. In her point of view, somebody has claimed to be a prophet years ago and people had accepted the claim. Since people
knew nothing about anything else than religion, since they were simple-minded and were gullible, they had to comply with whatever
rules that clergymen dictated at that time; otherwise, they would have been executed, imprisoned, and deprived of having a normal life.
As an Iranian, I would like to say that I know many Iranian Muslims who don’t pray or practice Islam in the way they should do. After
thinking about this issue for days and talking with different people, I have come to the conclusion that at least I am kind of Muslim-
Zadeh or theist. I can’t talk on behalf of others, but I, to some extent, believe that they might be on the same page with me regarding
this case. Having said that, I should note that this is Iranian people who have kept Islam alive and not Arabs with which my Arab
The next religion in Madison is Zoroastrians who are all extended family members. After talking with a friend of mine who is
Zoroastrian, he says that they don’t have any religious gatherings. They only occasionally get together to spend time with each other
and have fun. After asking him the question of whether they would not be able to live in Iran comfortably, practice and advertise their
religion, he told me that they didn’t have any sort of problem in Iran and they did not move to the U.S. because of religious problems.
Nonetheless, he told me that if I asked the same question from Zoroastrians in California, they would give me different answers mainly
because there are more Zoroastrians in California than there are in Madison. Zoroastrians believe in the existence of one universal
god, Ahura Mazda. In the Avestan language, Ahura means being and Mazda means mind. They respect light a lot and deem that it
keeps evil away. There is a fire festival in which people set piles of wood on fire and exult over its light, warmth, since it keeps bad
memories at bay and helps you overcome bad feelings and bad thoughts. It is believed that people spread its ash over their farms in
the hope of having a productive land in the year ahead. Iranian people themselves do something different, after the fire is over, they go
to people’s house with a veil over their head and a plate and spoon in their hands. They then hit the spoon and the plate to each other
while asking for candy, nuts and any other sort of edible things. Iranians who are not Zoroastrians jump over fire to have fun and chat
with each other while spending the night out with each other. There is a city in Iran called Yazd which is the center of Zoroastrian
culture, located 270 miles south east of Esfahan. There is a fire temple in the city which has been kept on for more than 400 years. One
of the main reasons that they have been able to keep it on for that long period of time is that there is a Zoroastrian chosen by the
Zoroastrian community who fuels the fire with almond wood. The wood is unique in that it doesn’t burn quickly nor does it produce
smoke. More wood is added every day to keep the fire alive.
Furthermore, there is another group of people whose religion is Baha’i. They have a lot of members in Madison, but not all of them are
Iranian. Baha’is believe that the last messenger of god, Bahá’u’lláh, has come whom they follow. In Islam, the last messenger is
known as the Promised Mahdi in Islam. They believe that men and women are equal which is an antithetical to that of Islam’s sphere.
There should be unity among all community members, particularly among families, hence they are rudiments of societies. In Islam, the
Promised Mahdi is said to be the last messenger who would come and save people for the bads of societies. He is who leads people
towards the right path. However, according to the Baha’i’s religious book, Aghdas, written by the Baha’u’llah, there won’t be any other
descendent for about one thousand years ahead. The belief that Baha’is follow the Baha’u’llah who is among people make their lives
totally difficult in Iran. Iranian clergymen don’t think that such a thing is true at all. Relevantly, Iranian clergymen don’t even recognize
their religion. Accordingly, they are not allowed to have any religious gatherings. Likewise, they don’t have the right to promote or
advertise their religion either. If they do so, they will be detained or even executed in the worst case scenario on charges of
conspiracy and treason against the Islamic Republic of Iran. They don’t have any candidate in the Iranian parliament. They are deprived
of the right of educating at universities or getting a governmental occupation. Sadly, they are not even allowed to run any business.
They are raided from time to time and their properties are confiscated without any cogent reason. All of these things have made them to
desert their birth country and settle in other countries like Israel, the U.S. and many other countries.
Finally, there are another handful number of people Jews in Madison. One of them is Albert Borokhim running a carpet business on the
Monroe Street in Madison. In general, he says that Madison is almost his home city because he has lived in Madison since the 1970s.
He doesn’t feel comfortable talking about his religion and how free Jews are in Madison in comparison to other Jews living in Iran
which is quite understandable. The main thing is that they, Iranian Jews living in Iran, cannot speak their mind and they are either
imprisoned or executed because of the kind of relationships they have with Israel and that Iranian government are extremely against
anybody who communicates with Israelis.
By Mohammad Reza Najafian Jazi
Like any other nationalities, Iranian people have various religions in their country of residence.
There are Muslims including Shiites and Sunnis, Christians, Jews, Baha’is, Zoroastrians,
naturalists, atheists, theists, and so on. Iranian residents in Wisconsin-Madison are Muslim,
Zoroastrians, Baha’is and Jews in the order of their population density.
Muslims are followers of the great prophet, Mohammad, who pray three to four different times of
day or even more which is contingent upon different months. Usually, the first time is at sunrise,
the next one is at about noon, the third one is at sunset, and the last one is at night. Muslims fast
in Ramadan and sometime in Sha’ban which might be out of ordinary in comparison with other
religions. It is different in that they wake up before sunrise and have a light supper. They then
start praying and reading Quran or any other kind of religious book to enrich their knowledge.
Afterwards, they should avoid eating any sort of food till sunset. More importantly, it is believed
that people should resist temptation, be abstemious, and respect others through which they can
educate their soul and mind to reach maturity and perfection. This sort of fasting not only helps
you stay healthy, but it enormously helps you to take advantage of every opportunity in your life.
Having said that, it is very unfortunate to say that people don’t comply with their religion rules in
the way they are supposed to.