The Most Famous

RELIGIOUS FIGURES from Iraq

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This page contains a list of the greatest Iraqi Religious Figures. The pantheon dataset contains 3,187 Religious Figures, 35 of which were born in Iraq. This makes Iraq the birth place of the 15th most number of Religious Figures behind Greece, and Russia.

Top 10

The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary Iraqi Religious Figures of all time. This list of famous Iraqi 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 Iraqi Religious Figures.

Photo of Abraham

1. Abraham (-1813 - -1638)

With an HPI of 91.45, Abraham is the most famous Iraqi Religious Figure.  His biography has been translated into 160 different languages on wikipedia.

Abraham (originally Abram) is the common Hebrew patriarch of the Abrahamic religions, including Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. In Judaism, he is the founding father of the special relationship between the Jews and God; in Christianity, he is the spiritual progenitor of all believers, whether Jewish or non-Jewish; and in Islam, he is a link in the chain of Islamic prophets that begins with Adam and culminates in Muhammad. The story of the life of Abraham as told in the narrative of the Book of Genesis in the Hebrew Bible revolves around the themes of posterity and land. He is said to have been called by God to leave the house of his father Terah and settle in the land of Canaan, which God now promises to Abraham and his progeny. This promise is subsequently inherited by Isaac, Abraham's son, by his wife Sarah, while Isaac's half-brother Ishmael is also promised that he will be the founder of a great nation. Abraham purchases a tomb (the Cave of the Patriarchs) at Hebron to be Sarah's grave, thus establishing his right to the land; and, in the second generation, his heir Isaac is married to a woman from his own kin to earn his parents' approval. Abraham later marries Keturah and has six more sons; but, on his death, when he is buried beside Sarah, it is Isaac who receives "all Abraham's goods" while the other sons receive only "gifts". Most scholars view the patriarchal age, along with the Exodus and the period of the biblical judges, as a late literary construct that does not relate to any particular historical era, and after a century of exhaustive archaeological investigation, no evidence has been found for a historical Abraham. It is largely concluded that the Torah, the series of books that includes Genesis, was composed during the early Persian period, c. 500 BC, as a result of tensions between Jewish landowners who had stayed in Judah during the Babylonian captivity and traced their right to the land through their "father Abraham", and the returning exiles who based their counterclaim on Moses and the Exodus tradition of the Israelites.

Photo of Sarah

2. Sarah (-1803 - -1676)

With an HPI of 80.67, Sarah is the 2nd most famous Iraqi Religious Figure.  Her biography has been translated into 70 different languages.

Sarah (born Sarai) is a biblical matriarch, prophet, and major figure in Abrahamic religions. While different Abrahamic faiths portray her differently, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all depict her character similarly, as that of a pious woman, renowned for her hospitality and beauty, the wife and half-sister of Abraham, and the mother of Isaac. Sarah has her feast day on 1 September in the Catholic Church, 19 August in the Coptic Orthodox Church, 20 January in the LCMS, and 12 and 20 December in the Eastern Orthodox Church.

Photo of Abu Hanifa

3. Abu Hanifa (698 - 767)

With an HPI of 80.48, Abu Hanifa is the 3rd most famous Iraqi Religious Figure.  His biography has been translated into 73 different languages.

Abu Hanifa (Arabic: أَبُو حَنِيفَة, romanized: Abū Ḥanīfa; September 699–767) was a Sunni Muslim scholar, jurist, theologian, ascetic, and eponym of the Hanafi school of Islamic jurisprudence, which remains the most widely practiced to this day. His school predominates in Central Asia, Afghanistan, Iran (until the sixteenth century), Turkey, the Balkans, Russia, Circassia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, and some parts of the Arab world. Born to a Muslim family in Kufa, Abu Hanifa traveled to the Hejaz region of Arabia in his youth, where he studied in the Islamic holy cities of Mecca and Medina. He was named by al-Dhahabi as "one of the geniuses of the sons of Adam" who "combined jurisprudence, worship, scrupulousness, and generosity". As his career as a jurist and theologian progressed, he became known for favoring the use of reason in his jurisprudential rulings, and even in his theology. His school grew after his death, and the majority of its followers would also come to follow the Maturidi school of theology. He left behind two major students, Abu Yusuf and Muhammad al-Shaybani, who would later become celebrated jurists in their own right.

Photo of Mani

4. Mani (216 - 274)

With an HPI of 75.07, Mani is the 4th most famous Iraqi Religious Figure.  His biography has been translated into 67 different languages.

Mani (; c. April AD 216 – 2 March AD 274 or 26 February AD 277) was an Iranian prophet and the founder of Manichaeism, a religion most prevalent in late antiquity. Mani was born in or near Seleucia-Ctesiphon (south of modern Baghdad) in Mesopotamia, at the time part of the Parthian Empire. Seven of his major works were written in Syriac, and the eighth, dedicated to the Sasanian emperor Shapur I, was written in Middle Persian. He died in Gundeshapur.

Photo of Rabia of Basra

5. Rabia of Basra (710 - 801)

With an HPI of 74.72, Rabia of Basra is the 5th most famous Iraqi Religious Figure.  Her biography has been translated into 50 different languages.

Rābiʼa al-ʼAdawiyya al-Qaysiyya (Arabic: رابعة العدوية القيسية; c. 716 – 801 CE) was an Arab Muslim saint, one of the earliest Sufi mystics and an influential religious figure. She is known in some parts of the world as Hazrat Rabia Basri, Rabia Al Basri or simply Rabia Basri. She is considered by many Muslims to be an example of piety and is a part of the complicated early history of Islam.

Photo of Ezra

6. Ezra (-500 - -401)

With an HPI of 72.27, Ezra is the 6th most famous Iraqi Religious Figure.  His biography has been translated into 52 different languages.

Ezra or Esdras (; Hebrew: עֶזְרָא, ʿEzrāʾ; fl. 480–440 BCE), also called Ezra the Scribe (עֶזְרָא הַסּוֹפֵר‎ ʿEzrāʾ hasSōfēr) in Chazalic literature and Ezra the Priest, was an important Jewish scribe (sofer) and priest (kohen) in the early Second Temple period. In Greco-Latin Ezra is called Esdras (Greek: Ἔσδρας). His name is probably a shortened Aramaic translation of the Hebrew name עזריהו‎ Azaryahu, "Yah helps". In the Greek Septuagint the name is rendered Ésdrās (Ἔσδρας), from which the Latin name Esdras comes. In the Hebrew Bible, or the Christian Old Testament, Ezra is an important figure in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, which he is said to have written and edited, respectively. According to tradition, Ezra was also the author of the Books of Chronicles and the Book of Malachi. Ezra was instrumental in restoring the Jewish scriptures and religion to the people after the return from the Babylonian Captivity, and is a highly respected figure in Judaism. He is regarded as a saint in the Roman Catholic Church, which sets his feast day as July 13, the same as that of his contemporary, Nehemiah. He is also venerated as a saint in the Eastern Orthodox Church, which sets his feast day as December 11.

Photo of Muhammad al-Mahdi

7. Muhammad al-Mahdi (869 - 941)

With an HPI of 70.80, Muhammad al-Mahdi is the 7th most famous Iraqi Religious Figure.  His biography has been translated into 38 different languages.

Muhammad ibn Hasan al-Mahdi (Arabic: محمد بن الحسن المهدي, romanized: Muḥammad ibn al-Ḥasan al-Mahdī) is believed by the Twelver Shia to be the last of the Twelve Imams and the eschatological Mahdi, who will emerge in the end of time to establish peace and justice and redeem Islam. Hasan al-Askari, the eleventh Imam, died in 260 AH (873–874 CE), possibly poisoned by the Abbasids. Immediately after his death, his main representative, Uthman ibn Sa'id, claimed that the eleventh Imam had an infant son named Muhammad, who was kept hidden from the public out of fear of Abbasid persecution. Uthman also claimed to represent Muhammad, who had entered a state of occultation. Other local representatives of al-Askari largely supported these assertions, while the Shia community fragmented into several sects over al-Askari's succession. All these sects, however, are said to have disappeared after a few decades except the Twelvers, who accept the son of al-Askari as the twelfth and final Imam in occultation. Uthman was followed by three more agents, collectively known as the Four Deputies, who were regarded by the Twelver community as representatives of Muhammad al-Mahdi. This period, later termed the Minor Occultation, ended after about seventy years with the death of the fourth agent, Abu al-Hasan Ali ibn Muhammad al-Samarri (d. 940–941). He is said to have received the final letter of Muhammad al-Mahdi shortly before his death. The letter predicted the death of Abu al-Hasan in six days and announced the beginning of the complete occultation, later called the Major Occultation, which continues to this day. The letter, ascribed to Muhammad al-Mahdi, added that the complete occultation would continue until God granted him permission to manifest himself again in a time when the earth would be filled with tyranny. The Twelver theory of occultation crystallized in the first half of the fourth century AH (tenth century CE) based on rational and textual arguments. This theory, for instance, sets forth that the life of Muhammad al-Mahdi has been miraculously prolonged, arguing that the earth cannot be void of the Imam as the highest proof of God. In the absence of the Hidden Imam, the leadership vacuum in the Twelver community was gradually filled by faqīh "jurists". It is popularly held that the Hidden Imam occasionally appears to the pious. The accounts of these encounters are numerous and widespread among the Twelvers.

Photo of Belshazzar

8. Belshazzar (-600 - -600)

With an HPI of 70.10, Belshazzar is the 8th most famous Iraqi Religious Figure.  His biography has been translated into 41 different languages.

Belshazzar (Babylonian cuneiform: Bēl-šar-uṣur, meaning "Bel, protect the king"; Hebrew: בֵּלְשַׁאצַּר‎ Bēlšaʾṣṣar) was the son and crown prince of Nabonidus (r. 556–539 BC), the last king of the Neo-Babylonian Empire. Through his mother, he might have been a grandson of Nebuchadnezzar II (r. 605–562 BC), though this is not certain and the claims to kinship with Nebuchadnezzar may have originated from royal propaganda. Belshazzar played a pivotal role in the coup d'état that overthrew the king Labashi-Marduk (r. 556 BC) and brought Nabonidus to power in 556 BC. Since Belshazzar was the main beneficiary of the coup, through confiscating and inheriting Labashi-Marduk's estates and wealth, it is likely that he was the chief orchestrator. Through proclaiming his father as the new king, Belshazzar also made himself the first-in-line to the throne. As Nabonidus was relatively old at the time, Belshazzar could expect to become king within a few years. Nabonidus was absent from Babylon from 553 BC to 543 or 542 BC, in self-imposed "exile" at Tayma in Arabia, for unknown reasons. For the duration of the decade-long absence of his father, Belshazzar served as regent in Babylon. Belshazzar was entrusted with many typically royal prerogatives, such as granting privileges, commanding portions of the army, and receiving offerings and oaths, though he continued to be styled as the crown prince (mār šarri, literally meaning "son of the king"), never assuming the title of king (šarru). Belshazzar also lacked many of the prerogatives of kingship, most importantly he was not allowed to preside over and officiate the Babylonian New Year's festival, which was the exclusive right of the king himself. Belshazzar's fate is not known, but is often assumed that he was killed during Cyrus the Great's Persian invasion of Babylonia in 539 BC, presumably at the fall of the capital Babylon on 12 October 539 BC. Belshazzar appears as a central character in the story of Belshazzar's feast in the Biblical Book of Daniel, recognized by scholars as a work of historical fiction. Daniel's Belshazzar is not malevolent (he, for instance, rewards Daniel for his interpretation of "the writing on the wall"), but in later Jewish tradition Belshazzar was presented as a tyrant who oppresses the Jewish people.

Photo of Eber

9. Eber (-2038 - -1574)

With an HPI of 68.72, Eber is the 9th most famous Iraqi Religious Figure.  His biography has been translated into 42 different languages.

Eber (Hebrew: עֵבֶר, romanized: ʿĒḇer; Biblical Greek: Ἔβερ, romanized: Éber; Arabic: عٰابِر, romanized: ʿĀbir) is an ancestor of the Ishmaelites and the Israelites according to the Generations of Noah in the Book of Genesis (Genesis 10–11) and the Books of Chronicles (1 Chronicles 1).

Photo of Junayd of Baghdad

10. Junayd of Baghdad (830 - 910)

With an HPI of 66.33, Junayd of Baghdad is the 10th most famous Iraqi Religious Figure.  His biography has been translated into 25 different languages.

Junayd of Baghdad (Persian: جُنیدِ بَغدادی; Arabic: الجنيد البغدادي) was a Persian mystic and one of the most famous of the early Islamic saints. He is a central figure in the spiritual lineage of many Sufi orders. Junayd taught in Baghdad throughout his lifetime and was an important figure in the development of Sufi doctrine. Like Hasan of Basra before him, was widely revered by his students and disciples as well as quoted by other mystics. Because of his importance in Sufi theology, Junayd was often referred to as the "Sultan".

People

Pantheon has 40 people classified as Iraqi religious figures born between 2038 BC and 1980. Of these 40, 4 (10.00%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living Iraqi religious figures include Nahor, son of Terah, Louis Raphaël I Sako, and Mullah Krekar. The most famous deceased Iraqi religious figures include Abraham, Sarah, and Abu Hanifa. As of April 2024, 7 new Iraqi religious figures have been added to Pantheon including Ahmad al-Rifaʽi, Yahya ibn Ma'in, and Ma'mar ibn al-Muthanna.

Living Iraqi Religious Figures

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Deceased Iraqi Religious Figures

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Newly Added Iraqi Religious Figures (2024)

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Overlapping Lives

Which Religious Figures were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 10 most globally memorable Religious Figures since 1700.