The Most Famous

RELIGIOUS FIGURES from Iran

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This page contains a list of the greatest Iranian Religious Figures. The pantheon dataset contains 2,272 Religious Figures, 27 of which were born in Iran. This makes Iran the birth place of the 15th most number of Religious Figures behind Greece and Iraq.

Top 10

The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary Iranian Religious Figures of all time. This list of famous Iranian Religious Figures is sorted by HPI (Historical Popularity Index), a metric that aggregates information on a biography’s online popularity. Visit the rankings page to view the entire list of Iranian Religious Figures.

Photo of Zoroaster

1. Zoroaster (-2000 - -2000)

With an HPI of 89.80, Zoroaster is the most famous Iranian Religious Figure.  His biography has been translated into 112 different languages on wikipedia.

Zoroaster (, UK also ; Greek: Ζωροάστρης, Zōroastrēs), also known as Zarathustra (, UK also ; Avestan: 𐬰𐬀𐬭𐬀𐬚𐬎𐬱𐬙𐬭𐬀, Zaraθuštra), Zarathushtra Spitama or Ashu Zarathushtra (Modern Persian: زرتشت, Zartosht; Kurdish: زەردەشت, Zerdeşt), was an ancient Iranian prophet (spiritual leader) who founded what is now known as Zoroastrianism. His teachings challenged the existing traditions of the Indo-Iranian religion and inaugurated a movement that eventually became the dominant religion in Ancient Persia. He was a native speaker of Old Avestan and lived in the eastern part of the Iranian Plateau, but his exact birthplace is uncertain.There is no scholarly consensus on when he lived. Some scholars, using linguistic and socio-cultural evidence, suggest a dating to somewhere in the second millennium BC. Other scholars date him in the 7th and 6th century BC as a near-contemporary of Cyrus the Great and Darius I. Zoroastrianism eventually became the official religion of Ancient Persia and its distant subdivisions from the 6th century BC to the 7th century AD. Zoroaster is credited with authorship of the Gathas as well as the Yasna Haptanghaiti, hymns composed in his native dialect, Old Avestan and which comprise the core of Zorotoastrian thinking. Most of his life is known from these texts. By any modern standard of historiography, no evidence can place him into a fixed period and the historicization surrounding him may be a part of a trend from before the 10th century AD that historicizes legends and myths.

Photo of Ruhollah Khomeini

2. Ruhollah Khomeini (1902 - 1989)

With an HPI of 83.68, Ruhollah Khomeini is the 2nd most famous Iranian Religious Figure.  His biography has been translated into 99 different languages.

Sayyid Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini (UK: khom-AY-nee, US: khohm-; Persian: سید روح‌الله موسوی خمینی [ɾuːholˈlɒːhe xomejˈniː] (listen); 17 May 1900 – 3 June 1989), also known as Ayatollah Khomeini, was an Iranian political and religious leader who served as the 1st supreme leader of Iran from 1979 until his death in 1989. He was the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the leader of the 1979 Iranian Revolution, which saw the overthrow of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and the end of the Persian monarchy. Following the revolution, Khomeini became the country's first supreme leader, a position created in the constitution of the Islamic Republic as the highest-ranking political and religious authority of the nation, which he held until his death. Most of his period in power was taken up by the Iran–Iraq War of 1980–1988. He was succeeded by Ali Khamenei on 4 June 1989. Khomeini was born in Khomeyn, in what is now Iran's Markazi Province. His father was murdered in 1903 when Khomeini was two years old. He began studying the Quran and Arabic from a young age and was assisted in his religious studies by his relatives, including his mother's cousin and older brother. Khomeini was a marja ("source of emulation") in Twelver Shia Islam, a Mujtahid or faqih (an expert in Sharia) and author of more than 40 books. He spent more than 15 years in exile for his opposition to the last shah. In his writings and preachings he expanded the theory of welayat-el faqih, the "Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist (clerical authority)", to include theocratic political rule by Islamic jurists. This principle, though not known to the wider public before the revolution, was appended to the new Iranian constitution after being put to a referendum. According to The New York Times, Khomeini called democracy the equivalent of prostitution. Whether Khomeini's ideas are compatible with democracy and whether he intended the Islamic Republic to be democratic is disputed. He was Time magazine's Man of the Year in 1979 for his international influence, and Khomeini has been described as the "virtual face of Shia Islam in Western popular culture". In 1982, he survived one military coup attempt. Khomeini was known for his support of the hostage takers during the Iran hostage crisis, his fatwa calling for the murder of British Indian novelist Salman Rushdie, and for referring to the United States as the "Great Satan" and the Soviet Union as the "Lesser Satan." Khomeini has been criticized for these acts and for human rights violations of Iranians (including his ordering of attacks against demonstrators, execution of thousands of political prisoners, war criminals and prisoners of the Iran–Iraq War).Khomeini has also been lauded as a "charismatic leader of immense popularity", a "champion of Islamic revival" by Shia scholars, who attempted to establish good relations between Sunnis and Shias, and a major innovator in political theory and religious-oriented populist political strategy, being named Time Person of the Year in 1979. Khomeini held the title of Grand Ayatollah and is officially known as Imam Khomeini inside Iran and by his supporters internationally. He is generally referred to as Ayatollah Khomeini by others. In Iran, his gold-domed tomb in Tehran's Behesht-e Zahrāʾ cemetery has become a shrine for his adherents, and he is legally considered "inviolable", with Iranians regularly punished for insulting him. A cult of personality developed around Khomeini after the Iranian Revolution.

Photo of Esther

3. Esther (-600 - -500)

With an HPI of 81.81, Esther is the 3rd most famous Iranian Religious Figure.  Her biography has been translated into 50 different languages.

Esther is the eponymous heroine of the Book of Esther. In the Achaemenid Empire, the Persian king Ahasuerus seeks a new wife after his queen, Vashti, is deposed for disobeying him. Hadassah, a Jewess who goes by the name of Esther, is chosen to fulfill this role due to her beauty. Ahasuerus' grand vizier, Haman, is offended by Esther's cousin and guardian, Mordecai, due to his refusal to prostrate himself before Haman. Consequently, Haman plots to have all the Jewish subjects of Persia killed, and convinces Ahasuerus to permit him to do so. However, Esther foils the plan by revealing Haman's eradication plans to Ahasuerus, who then has Haman executed and grants permission to the Jews to kill their enemies instead, as royal edicts (including the order for eradication issued by Haman) cannot be revoked under Persian law.Her story provides the traditional explanation for the Jewish holiday of Purim, celebrated on the date given in the story for when Haman's order was to go into effect, which is the day that the Jews killed their enemies after the plan was reversed. The book exists in two distinct forms: a shorter Hebrew version found in Jewish and Protestant Bibles, and a longer Greek version found in Catholic and Orthodox Bibles.

Photo of Hassan-i Sabbah

4. Hassan-i Sabbah (1050 - 1124)

With an HPI of 81.17, Hassan-i Sabbah is the 4th most famous Iranian Religious Figure.  His biography has been translated into 37 different languages.

Hassan-i Sabbāh (Persian: حسن صباح) or Hassan as-Sabbāh (Arabic: الحسن بن الصباح الحميري, full name: Hasan bin Ali bin Muhammad bin Ja'far bin al-Husayn bin Muhammad bin al-Sabbah al-Himyari; c. 1050 – 12 June 1124) was the founder of the Nizari Isma'ili state and its fidā'i military group known as the Order of Assassins, often referred also as the Hashshashin. Since Marco Polo he has been known in the West as the Old Man of the Mountain. He later seized a mountain fortress called Alamut.

Photo of Abdul Qadir Gilani

5. Abdul Qadir Gilani (1078 - 1166)

With an HPI of 78.27, Abdul Qadir Gilani is the 5th most famous Iranian Religious Figure.  His biography has been translated into 44 different languages.

ʿAbdul Qādir Gīlānī, (Persian: عبدالقادر گیلانی, Arabic: عبدالقادر الجيلاني, romanized: ʿAbd al-Qādir al-Jīlānī) known by admirers as Muḥyī l-Dīn Abū Muḥammad b. Abū Sāliḥ ʿAbd al-Qādir al-Jīlānī al-Ḥasanī wa'l-Ḥusaynī, was a Sunni Muslim preacher, ascetic, mystic, jurist, and theologian, known for being the eponymous founder of the Qadiriyya tariqa (Sufi order) of Sufism.He was born on 11 Rabi' al-Thani 470 AH (March 23, 1078) in the town of Na'if in Gilan, Iran, and died on Monday, February 21, 1166 (11 Rabi' al-Thani 561 AH), in Baghdad. He was a Persian Hanbali Sunni jurist and Sufi based in Baghdad. The Qadiriyya tariqa is named after him.

Photo of Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj

6. Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj (817 - 875)

With an HPI of 78.01, Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj is the 6th most famous Iranian Religious Figure.  His biography has been translated into 49 different languages.

Abū al-Ḥusayn ‘Asākir ad-Dīn Muslim ibn al-Ḥajjāj ibn Muslim ibn Ward ibn Kawshādh al-Qushayrī an-Naysābūrī (Arabic: أبو الحسين عساكر الدين مسلم بن الحجاج بن مسلم بن وَرْد بن كوشاذ القشيري النيسابوري; after 815 – May 875 CE / 206 - 261 AH) or Muslim Nayshāpūrī (Persian: مسلم نیشاپوری), commonly known as Imam Muslim, was an Islamic scholar from the city of Nishapur (early Khorasan and present day Iran), particularly known as a muhaddith (scholar of hadith). His hadith collection, known as Sahih Muslim, is one of the six major hadith collections in Sunni Islam and is regarded as one of the two most authentic (sahih) collections, alongside Sahih al-Bukhari.

Photo of Bahá'u'lláh

7. Bahá'u'lláh (1817 - 1892)

With an HPI of 77.73, Bahá'u'lláh is the 7th most famous Iranian Religious Figure.  His biography has been translated into 78 different languages.

Baháʼu'lláh (1817–1892) was the prophet-founder of the Baháʼí Faith. He was born in Iran to an aristocratic family, and was exiled due to his adherence to the messianic Bábí Faith. In 1863, in Iraq, he first announced his claim to a revelation from God, and spent the rest of his life in further imprisonment in the Ottoman Empire. His teachings revolved around the principles of unity and religious renewal, ranging from moral and spiritual progress to world governance.Baháʼu'lláh was raised with no formal education but was well read and devoutly religious. His family was considerably wealthy, and at the age of 22 he turned down a position in the government, instead managing family properties and donating considerable time and money to charities. At the age of 27 he accepted the claim of the Báb and became among the most outspoken supporters of the new religious movement that advocated, among other things, abrogation of Islamic law, which attracted heavy opposition. At the age of 33, during an attempt to exterminate the movement, Baháʼu'lláh narrowly escaped death, his properties were confiscated, and he was banished from Iran. Just before leaving, while imprisoned in a foul dungeon, Baháʼu'lláh claimed to receive revelations from God marking the beginning of his divine mission. After settling in Iraq, Baháʼu'lláh again attracted the ire of Iranian authorities, and they requested that the Ottoman government move him farther away. He spent months in Istanbul where the authorities became hostile to his religious claims and put him in house arrest in Edirne for four years, followed by a harsh confinement in the prison of ‘Akká, where he spent his final 24 years. Baháʼu'lláh's wrote at least 1,500 letters, some of them book-length, that have been translated into at least 802 languages. Some notable examples include The Hidden Words, the Book of Certitude, and the Kitáb-i-Aqdas. Some teachings are mystical and address the nature of God and the progress of the soul, while others address the needs of society, religious obligations of his followers, or the structure of Bahá’í institutions that would propagate the religion. He viewed humans as fundamentally spiritual beings, and called upon individuals to develop divine virtues and further the material and spiritual advancement of society.Baháʼu'lláh died in 1892 near ‘Akká. His burial place is a destination for pilgrimage by his followers, known as Bahá’ís, who now reside in 236 countries and territories, number between 5 and 8 million, and represent the only independent world religion to emerge in the modern age. Baháʼís regard Baháʼu'lláh as a messenger or manifestation of God in succession to Buddha, Jesus, or Muhammad.

Photo of Báb

8. Báb (1819 - 1850)

With an HPI of 76.48, Báb is the 8th most famous Iranian Religious Figure.  His biography has been translated into 67 different languages.

The Báb, born Sayyed ʻAlí Muḥammad Shírází (; Persian: سيد علی ‌محمد شیرازی; October 20, 1819 – July 9, 1850) was the founder of Bábism, and one of the central figures of the Baháʼí Faith. The Báb was a merchant from Shiraz in Qajar Iran who, in 1844 at the age of 25, claimed to be a messenger of God. He took the title Báb (; Arabic: باب), meaning "Gate" or "Door", a reference to the deputy of the promised Twelver Mahdi or al-Qá'im. He faced opposition from the Persian government, which eventually executed him and thousands of his followers, known as Bábís. The Báb composed numerous letters and books in which he stated his claims and defined his teachings. He introduced the idea of He whom God shall make manifest, a messianic figure who would bring a greater message than his own. His ideas had roots in Shaykhism and possibly Hurufism and his writings were characterized by their extensive use of symbolism including the use of much numerical calculations. Abdu'l Baha summarises the Báb's impact: "Alone, He undertook a task that can scarcely be conceived... This illustrious Being arose with such power as to shake the foundations of the religious laws, customs, manners, morals, and habits of Persia, and instituted a new law, faith, and religion."To Baháʼís, the Báb fills a similar role as Elijah or John the Baptist in Christianity: a predecessor or forerunner who paved the way for their religion. Baháʼu'lláh, the founder of the Baháʼí Faith, was a follower of the Báb and claimed in 1863 to be the fulfillment of the Báb's prophecy, 13 years after the Báb's death.

Photo of Ibn Majah

9. Ibn Majah (824 - 886)

With an HPI of 73.42, Ibn Majah is the 9th most famous Iranian Religious Figure.  His biography has been translated into 26 different languages.

Abū ʻAbdillāh Muḥammad ibn Yazīd Ibn Mājah al-Rabʻī al-Qazwīnī (Arabic: ابو عبد الله محمد بن يزيد بن ماجه الربعي القزويني; (b. 209/824, d. 273/887) commonly known as Ibn Mājah, was a medieval scholar of hadith of Persian origin. He compiled the last of Sunni Islam's six canonical hadith collections, Sunan Ibn Mājah.

Photo of Mordecai

10. Mordecai ( - )

With an HPI of 72.58, Mordecai is the 10th most famous Iranian Religious Figure.  His biography has been translated into 27 different languages.

Mordecai (; also Mordechai; Hebrew: מָרְדֳּכַי‎, Modern: Mŏrdoḵay, Tiberian: Mārdoḵay, IPA: [moʁdeˈχaj]) is one of the main personalities in the Book of Esther in the Hebrew Bible. He is described as being the son of Jair, of the tribe of Benjamin. He was promoted to Vizier after Haman was killed.

Pantheon has 27 people classified as religious figures born between 2000 BC and 1960. Of these 27, 1 (3.70%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living religious figures include Reza Hosseini Nassab. The most famous deceased religious figures include Zoroaster, Ruhollah Khomeini, and Esther. As of October 2020, 7 new religious figures have been added to Pantheon including Piruz Nahavandi, Muhammad ibn Ya'qub al-Kulayni, and Ibn Babawayh.

Living Religious Figures

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Deceased Religious Figures

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Newly Added Religious Figures (2020)

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Which Religious Figures were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 7 most globally memorable Religious Figures since 1700.