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Shabakism is the name given to the beliefs and practices of the Shabak people in the disputed territories of northern Iraq. A majority of Shabaks regard themselves as Shia, and a minority identify as Sunnis.[1][2][3][4] Despite this, their actual faith and rituals differ from Islam, and have characteristics that make them distinct from neighboring Muslim populations. These include features from Christianity including confession, the consumption of alcohol, and the tradition of many Shabak pilgrims going to Yazidi shrines.[5] Nevertheless, the Shabak people also go on pilgrimages to Shia holy cities such as Najaf and Karbala, and follow many Shiite teachings.[6]

The organization of Shabakism appears to be much like that of a Sufi order: adult laymen (Murids) are bound to spiritual guides (pîrs or Murshids) who are knowledgeable in matters of religious doctrine and ritual. There are several ranks of such pîrs; at the top stands the Baba, or supreme head of the order. Theoretically individuals can choose their own pîr, but in practice the pir families often become associated with lay families over several generations.[7]

Shabakism combines elements of Sufism with the uniquely Shabak interpretation of "divine reality." According to Shabaks, this divine reality supersedes the literal, or Shar'ia, interpretation of the Quran. Shabaks comprehend divine reality through the mediation of the "Pir" or spiritual guide, who also performs Shabak rituals.[8] The structure of these mediatory relationships closely resembles that of the Yarsan.[9]

The primary Shabak religious text is the Buyruk or Kitab al-Managib (Book of Exemplary Acts) and is written in Turkoman.[9][10] Shabaks also consider the poetry of Ismail I to be revealed by God, and they recite Ismail's poetry during religious meetings.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mina al-Lami (21 August 2014). "Iraq: The Minorities of the Nineveh Plain". Retrieved 9 October 2014.
  2. ^ Kamal, Adel. "The Shabak Search for Identity".
  3. ^ al-Lami, Mina (21 July 2014). "Iraq: The minorities of Nineveh" – via
  4. ^ "Iraq's Religious, Ethnic Minorities Disappearing Due to ISIS Violence and Global Inaction - Non Profit News - Nonprofit Quarterly".
  5. ^ Kjeilen, Tore. "Shabak / Religion - LookLex Encyclopaedia".
  6. ^ Imranali Panjwani. Shi'a of Samarra: The Heritage and Politics of a Community in Iraq. p. 172. |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  7. ^ "The Shabak and the Kakais - Kurdish Academy of Language".
  8. ^ a b A. Vinogradov, Ethnicity, Cultural Discontinuity and Power Brokers in Northern Iraq: The Case of the Shabak, American Ethnologist, pp. 214-215, American Anthropological Association, 1974
  9. ^ a b Dr. Michiel Leezenberg. "The Shabak and the Kakais". Archived from the original on 12 April 2016. Retrieved 2 November 2014.
  10. ^ Assyrian News Agency (16 August 2005). "Kurdish Gunmen Open Fire on Demonstrators in North Iraq". Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 7 October 2014.