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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 2,238 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, was a religious reformer and the spiritual founder of Zoroastrianism. He founded the first documented monotheistic religion in the world and also had an impact on Plato, Pythagoras, and the Abrahamic religions, including Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Zoroastrians believe that he was a prophet who transmitted God's messages and founded a religious movement that challenged the existing traditions of ancient Iranian religion, while in the minority Ahmadiyya branch of Islam and in the Baháʼí Faith, he is also considered a prophet. He was a native speaker of Avestan and lived in the eastern part of the Iranian plateau, but his exact birthplace is uncertain. Most scholars, using linguistic and socio-cultural evidence, suggest a dating to somewhere in the second millennium BC. 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 compose 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.

Ayatollah Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini (17 May 1900 or 24 September 1902 – 3 June 1989) was an Iranian Islamic revolutionary, politician, 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 Iranian Revolution, which overthrew Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and ended the Iranian monarchy. 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 high ranking cleric in Twelver Shi'ism, an ayatollah, a marja' ("source of emulation"), a Mujtahid or faqīh (an expert in sharia), and author of more than 40 books. His opposition to the White Revolution resulted in his state-sponsored expulsion to Bursa in 1964. Nearly a year later, he moved to Najaf, where speeches he gave outlining his religiopolitical theory of Guardianship of the Jurist were complied into Islamic Government. 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", where he 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". 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. The subject of a pervasive cult of personality, Khomeini is officially known as Imam Khomeini inside Iran and by his supporters internationally. His funeral was attended by up to 10 million people, or 1/6 of the population, the largest funeral at the time and one of the largest human gatherings in history. 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. His supporters view him as a champion of Islamic revival, anti-racism and anti-imperialism. Critics accuse him of human rights violations (including his ordering of attacks against demonstrators, execution of thousands of political prisoners, war criminals and prisoners of the Iran–Iraq War).

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 (originally Hadassah) is the eponymous heroine of the Book of Esther. The story the book tells is as follows: Ahasuerus, the king of the Persian Achaemenid Empire, falls in love with the beautiful Jewish woman Esther and makes her his Queen. His grand vizier, Haman, is offended by Esther's cousin and guardian, Mordecai, who refuses to prostrate himself before Haman. Haman plots to have all the Jews in 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.The Book of Esther 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. Since the 1890s, several academics have “agreed in seeing [The Book of] Esther as a historicized myth or ritual” and generally concluded that Purim has its origin in a Babylonian, Persian, or Palestinian myth or festival (though which one is a subject of discussion).The book exists in two related forms: a shorter Biblical Hebrew-sourced version found in Jewish and Protestant Bibles, and a longer Koine Greek-sourced 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 Sabbah (Persian: حسن صباح, romanized: Ḥāsān-e Śaḇaḥ; c. 1050 – 12 June 1124) was a religious and military leader, founder of the Nizari Ismai'li sect widely known as the Hashshashin or the Order of Assassins, as well as the Nizari Ismaili state, ruling from 1090 to 1124 AD.Alongside his role as a formidable leader, Sabbah was an accomplished scholar of mathematics, most notably in geometry, as well as astronomy and philosophy, especially in epistemology. He came to be known in the West as the Old Man of the Mountain, a name given to him in the writings of Marco Polo that referenced the sect's possession of the commanding mountain fortress of Alamut Castle.

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.

Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani (Arabic: عبدالقادر الجيلاني, Persian: عبدالقادر گیلانی) was a Hanbali scholar, preacher, and Sufi leader who was the eponym of the Qadiriyya, one of the oldest Sufi orders.He was born in 1077 or 1078 in the town of Na'if, Rezvanshahr in Gilan, Persia, and died in 1166 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 (born Ḥusayn-ʻAlí; 12 November 1817 – 29 May 1892) was the founder of the Baháʼí Faith. He was born to an aristocratic family in Persia 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 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 a governmental 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 the Síyáh-Chál 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 Constantinople where the authorities became hostile to his religious claims and put him under 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 wrote at least 1,500 letters, some 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 and number between 5 and 8 million. 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 ʿAlí Muḥammad; ; Persian: علی محمد; 20 October 1819 – 9 July 1850) was the founder of Bábism, and one of the central figures of the Baháʼí Faith. He was a merchant from Shiraz in Qajar Iran who, in 1844 at the age of 25, claimed to be a messenger of God. The Báb was born in Shiraz on 20 October 1819, to a family of sayyids of Husaynid lineage, most of whom were engaged in mercantile activities in Shiraz and Bushehr. He was acclaimed by his followers as the Báb (; Arabic: باب; meaning "Gate" or "Door"), a reference to the deputy of the Hidden Imam, while instigating a millenarian movement — which proposed the abrogation of Islamic laws and traditions — and the establishment of a new religion. Though he was popular among the lower classes, he faced opposition from the orthodox clergy and government, which eventually executed him and thousands of his followers, who were known as Bábís. The Báb composed numerous letters and books in which he introduced the ideas of a new social order and a promise that a new divine messenger was coming soon. He encouraged learning arts and sciences, gave prescriptions to regulate marriage, divorce, and inheritance, and set never-implemented rules for a future Bábí society. Though several upheavals saw clashes between the government and Bábís defending themselves, the Báb taught his followers to be peaceful and not convert by the sword.When the Báb was executed for apostasy, he was tied up in a public square in Tabriz and faced a firing squad of 750 rifles. Following the first volley, the Báb was discovered to be missing and later found and returned to the square. He was eventually killed by the second volley. Accounts differ on the details, but all agree that the first volley failed to kill him. This widely documented event increased interest in his message. His remains were secretly stored and transported until they were interred in 1909 into the shrine built for them by ʻAbdu'l-Bahá on the slopes of Mount Carmel. To Baháʼís, the Báb fills a similar role as Elijah in Judaism or John the Baptist in Christianity: a forerunner or founder of their own religion. Adherence to the Báb as a divine messenger has survived into modern times in the form of the 5–8-million-member Baháʼí Faith, whose founder, Baháʼu'lláh, claimed in 1863 to be the fulfillment of the Báb's prophecy. The majority of Bábí adherents converted and became Baháʼís by the end of the 19th century.

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) was a Sasanian 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, as well as 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 Abu Lu'lu'a in Kashan. From the 16th century onward this shrine became the focus of a yearly anti-Sunni festival celebrating Abu Lu'lu'a's assassination of Umar, whose reign Shi'ites consider to have been oppressive and unjust. In the context of this festival, which is called Omar Koshan (lit. 'the killing of Umar'), Abu Lu'lu'a received the nickname Bābā Shujāʿ al-Dīn (بابا شجاع الدين, 'Father Courageous of the Faith').

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

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Deceased Religious Figures

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Newly Added Religious Figures (2022)

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