Religions of Central Asia:
The two main branches of Islam are Shia and Sunni. Shia Islam recognizes the Prohphet Mohammad's son-in-law and cousin, Ali, as the his sucessor and first Caliph. Sunni Islam holds that the Prophet Mohammad's companion Abu Bakr is the the Prophet's true sucessor. There are three main subsects of Shia Islam : Twelver, Ismaili, Zaydi.
Twelvers believe that 12 Imams succeed the Prophet Mohammad, starting with Ali and ending with Muhammad al-Mahdi who lives in occultation and will one day return as the Mahdi.
- Twelver Shiites, or Ithna Ahariyah
- Islam in Iran vii. The Concept of Mahdi in Twelver Shiism
- Twelvers/Ithna Ashari Islam
- Twelvers/Ithna Ashair Islam (the most comprehensive global database on terrestrial and marine protected areas; joint project of IUCN and UNEP)
Ja'far al-Sadiq, the 6th Imam, was the last Imam to be recognized by all the Shia sects. The Isamili recognize Ja'far's oldest son, Isamil ibn Ja'far, as the 7th Imam. The Twelvers recognize a younger son, Musa al-Kadim as the 7th Imam because Ismail pre- deceased his father.
Another difference between Twelver and Ismaili thought is that the Isamilis focus on the mystical path and nature of God, whereas the Twelves focus on the divine law and the deeds and saying of the Prophet.
- Aga Khan Development Network-The Isamili Community (Agha Khan is the title used by the Nizari Isamailis since 1818.)
- The Ismaili Community
- Who are the Shia Ismaili Muslims: A Primer with Visual Charts
The Zaydi emerged out of Shia Islam in the 8th century and is named after Zayd ibn 'Ali. It emerged after a failed uprising against the corruption of Ummayd Caliph Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik
Zaydi's are different from Twelvers and Ismailis in that they don't believe in the falability of Imams nor in the Mahdi. They also don't believe that Imams have to follow a strict decendent line. In Zaydi Islam, any male decended from 'Ali can be Imam.
- Oxford Bibliographies : Zadiyya
- Zaidi Fiver Shia Isalm Prezzi
- Aqueduct: Measuring and Mapping Water Risk (global, interactive maps of water risk; initiative of the World Resources Institute)
- Aralkum - a Man-Made Desert: The Desiccated Floor of the Aral Sea (Central Asia) (Berlin: Springer, 2012, edited by Siegmar-W. Breckle, Walter Wucherer, Liliya A. Dimeyeva, and Nathalia P. Ogar)
Sufism, or Tasawwuf, is the inner, mystical, or psycho-spiritual dimension of Islam.
- "What is Sufism?" The Nimatullahi Sufi Order
- "Sufiam" Oxford Islamic Studies Online
- "An Introduction to Sufism" The International Association of Sufism
- Practical Sufism and Philosophical Sufism The International Association of Sufism
- Sufism Dr. Alan Godlas, University of Georgia
Zoroastrianism was founded by an Iranian Prophet in the 6th century B.C.E. The Avesta is one of the primary religious texts. The religion focuses on the responsibility of man and the opposition between good and evil, light and dark. Ahura Mazda is the creator.
- The Avesta (CMS) (Website about the primary collection of sacred texts of Zoroastrianism)
- World of Traditional Zoroastrianism
- BBC - Religion : Zoroastrianism (LHNet's focus is on preserving and restoring all large herbivores in Eurasia in the wild)
- An Introduction to Zoroastianism (created by Prods Oktor Skjærvø, Aga Khan Professor of Iranian (Emeritus) at Harvard University)
Tengriism is the Central Asian religion characterized by features of shamanism, animism, totemism, both polytheism and monotheism, and ancestor worship.
- Kyrgyzstan's Sky Worshippers Seek Recognition (Eurasianet.org)
- Tengrism (Tengri Community)
- Tengriism (New World Encyclopedia)
Nestorianism emphasizes the disunion between the human and divine nature of Jesus. The Persian Empire had a strong Nestorian Church that sent missionaries to Central Asia and China.
- The Tarsakan Pages Syriac Christianity in Central Asia
- Nestorian Christianity in Central Asia by Mark Dickens
During much of the Soviet Era, the Russian Orthodox Church was heavily suppresed. A revival started in the 1980s, but recently the church has faced a lot of competition in the form of Evangelical Christianity.
- The Russian Orthodox Church and Islam in Central Asia : An Example of Good-Neighbors.
- Biggest in the Central Asia Orthodox Church Opened in Bishkek (Tibet)
In 1620, the first synagogue was constructed in Bukhara City. Prior to this, the Jews of the city had worshipped alongside Muslims at the Mosque Magori Attoran. In the 18th century Jews faced much discrimination and persecution. This along with forced conversion, closing of Jewish centers and isolation from the rest of the Jewish community led to a widespread lack of knowledge of how to practice the Jewish faith. There was a revival from 1876-1916 where Jews were able to freely practice their religion and were also able to hold many prestigious jobs. This ended with the establishment of Soviet rule. Today, most Bukharan Jews live outside of Bukhara.
- The History of Bukharan Jews
- Bukharan Jews- History and Cultural Relations
- The Exodus from Bukhara-Time Magazine
Buddhism spread in Central Asia along the Silk Road. The Dharmaguptaka Sect spread outside China more than any other sect and was the first to send missionaries into Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Iran.