New games! PlayTrivia andBirthle.

The Most Famous

RELIGIOUS FIGURES from Iran

Icon of occuation in country

This page contains a list of the greatest Iranian Religious Figures. The pantheon dataset contains 2,238 Religious Figures, 31 of which were born in Iran. This makes Iran the birth place of the 16th most number of Religious Figures behind Russia 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 86.19, Zoroaster is the most famous Iranian Religious Figure.  His biography has been translated into 113 different languages on wikipedia.

Zoroaster, also known as Zarathustra, is regarded as the spiritual founder of Zoroastrianism. He is said to have been an Iranian prophet who founded a religious movement that challenged the existing traditions of ancient Iranian religion, and inaugurated a movement that eventually became a staple religion in ancient Iran. 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 to the 7th and 6th centuries BC as a near-contemporary of Cyrus the Great and Darius the Great. Zoroastrianism eventually became the official state religion of ancient Iran—particularly during the era of the Achaemenid Empire—and its distant subdivisions from around the 6th century BC until the 7th century AD, when the religion itself began to decline following the Arab-Muslim conquest of Iran. Zoroaster is credited with authorship of the Gathas as well as the Yasna Haptanghaiti, a series of hymns composed in his native Avestan dialect that comprise the core of Zoroastrian thinking. Little is known about Zoroaster; most of his life is known only from these scant 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 77.83, Ruhollah Khomeini is the 2nd most famous Iranian Religious Figure.  His biography has been translated into 101 different languages.

Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini (UK: khom-AY-nee, US: khohm-;Persian: روح‌الله موسوی خمینی, romanized: Rūḥallāh Musawī Khumaynī [ɾuːholˈlɒːhe xomejˈniː] (listen); 17 May 1900 – 3 June 1989) was an Iranian political and religious leader who served as the first 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 an ayatollah (high-ranking cleric), and a marja' ("source of emulation") in Twelver Shi'ism, a Mujtahid or faqīh (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 Velâyat-e 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. 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 76.09, Esther is the 3rd most famous Iranian Religious Figure.  Her biography has been translated into 51 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 75.87, Hassan-i Sabbah is the 4th most famous Iranian Religious Figure.  His biography has been translated into 40 different languages.

Hasan-i Sabbāh (Persian: حسن صباح) or Hassan as-Sabbāh (Arabic: حسن بن الصباح الحميري, full name: Hassan 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 72.71, Abdul Qadir Gilani is the 5th most famous Iranian Religious Figure.  His biography has been translated into 48 different languages.

ʿAbdul Qādir Gīlānī, (Arabic: عبدالقادر الجيلاني, romanized: ʿAbd al-Qādir al-Jīlānī; Persian: عبدالقادر گیلانی) known by admirers as Muḥyī l-Dīn Abū Muḥammad b. Abū Sāliḥ ʿAbd al-Qādir al-Jīlānī al-Baḡdādī al-Ḥasanī al-Ḥusaynī (March 23, 1078 – February 21, 1166), was a Sunni Muslim preacher, ascetic, mystic, jurist, and theologian belonging to the Hanbali school, known for being the eponymous founder of the Qadiriyya tariqa (Sufi order) of Sufism. The Qadiriyya tariqa is named after him.He was born on 1 Ramdhan 470 AH (March 23, 1078) in the town of Na'if, Rezvanshahr in Gilan, Iran, and died on Monday, February 21, 1166 (11 Rabi' al-Thani 561 AH), in Baghdad.

Photo of Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj

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

With an HPI of 70.61, Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj is the 6th most famous Iranian Religious Figure.  His biography has been translated into 53 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, 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 70.07, Bahá'u'lláh is the 7th most famous Iranian Religious Figure.  His biography has been translated into 81 different languages.

Baháʼu'lláh (1817–1892) was the prophet-founder of the Baháʼí Faith. He was born to an aristocratic family in Persia (Iran), 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 two years of harsh confinement in the prison-city of ‘Akká. His restrictions were gradually eased until his final years were spent in relative freedom in the area surrounding ‘Akká. 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 68.09, Báb is the 8th most famous Iranian Religious Figure.  His biography has been translated into 70 different languages.

The Báb, born Sayyed ʿAlí 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 65.81, Ibn Majah is the 9th most famous Iranian Religious Figure.  His biography has been translated into 30 different languages.

Abū ʿAbd Allāh Muḥammad ibn Yazīd Ibn Mājah al-Rabʿī 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 Piruz Nahavandi

10. Piruz Nahavandi (700 - 644)

With an HPI of 63.79, Piruz Nahavandi is the 10th most famous Iranian Religious Figure.  His biography has been translated into 21 different languages.

Abū Luʾluʾa Fīrūz (Arabic: أبو لؤلؤة فيروز; from Middle Persian: Pērōz), also known as Bābā Shujāʿ al-Dīn (بابا شجاع الدين), was a Sassanid Persian slave known for having assassinated Umar ibn al-Khattab (r. 634–644), the second Islamic caliph, in November 644. After having been captured in battle during the Arab-Muslim conquest of Persia, Abu Lu'lu'a was brought to Medina, the then-capital of the Rashidun Caliphate, which was normally off-limits to non-Arab captives. However, as a highly skilled craftsman, Abu Lu'lu'a was exceptionally allowed entrance into the city in order to work for the caliph. His motive for killing the caliph is not entirely clear, but medieval sources generally attribute it to a tax dispute. At one point, Abu Lu'lu'a is said to have asked the caliph to lift a tax imposed upon him by his Arab master, al-Mughira ibn Shu'ba. When Umar refused to lift the tax, Abu Lu'lu'a attacked him while he was leading the congregational prayer in the mosque, stabbing him with a double-bladed dagger and leaving him mortally wounded. According to historical accounts, Abu Lu'lu'a was either captured and executed in Medina or committed suicide there. In retaliation, Ubayd Allah ibn Umar (one of Umar's sons) killed Abu Lu'lu'a's daughter; Hurmuzān, an ex-Sassanid military officer; and Jufayna, a Christian man from al-Hira (Iraq) who worked as a private tutor for a family in Medina. However, according to later legends that were first recorded in the Safavid era, the prophet Muhammad's cousin and son-in-law Ali (later revered as the first Shi'ite Imam), saved Abu Lu'lu'a from his pursuers and miraculously transported him to the city of Kashan (Iran), where Abu Lu'lu'a married and lived out the rest of his life. At some point, a shrine was erected for him there, which from the 16th century onward became the focus of a yearly anti-Sunni festival celebrating Abu Lu'lu'a's assassination of Umar (whom Shi'ites consider to be the most oppressive early caliph), called Omar Koshan (lit. 'the killing of Umar').

Pantheon has 31 people classified as religious figures born between 2000 BC and 1960. Of these 31, 1 (3.23%) 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 April 2022, 3 new religious figures have been added to Pantheon including Jaʻfar ibn Yahya, Al-Hakim al-Nishapuri, and Ibn Khuzayma.

Living Religious Figures

Go to all Rankings

Deceased Religious Figures

Go to all Rankings

Newly Added Religious Figures (2022)

Go to all Rankings

Which Religious Figures were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 8 most globally memorable Religious Figures since 1700.