Religion in Azerbaijan comprises different religious trends spread among the people and ethnic groups residing in the country. There are several confessions in Azerbaijan.
Approximately 93.4% of the population of Azerbaijan identifies as Muslim of whom most are Shia, although religious affiliation is still nominal in Azerbaijan and percentages for actual practicing adherents are much lower. Nevertheless, according to a 2009 Pew Research Center report, 99.2% of the population is Muslim. The rest of the population adheres to other faiths or are non-religious, although they are not officially represented. Among the Muslim majority, religious observance varies and Muslim identity tends to be based more on culture and ethnicity rather than religion; however, many imams reported increased attendance at mosques during 2003. The Muslim population is approximately 85% Shi’a and 15% Sunni; differences traditionally have not been defined sharply. Most Shias are adherents of orthodox Ithna Ashari school of Shi’a Islam. Other traditional religions or beliefs that are followed by many in the country are the orthodox Sunni Islam, the Armenian Apostolic Church (in Nagorno-Karabakh), the Russian Orthodox Church, and various other Christian denominations. Traditionally villages around Baku and Lenkoran region are considered stronghold of Shi’ism. In some northern regions, populated by Sunni Dagestani (Lezghian) people, the Salafi movement gained great following. Folk Islam is widely practiced but there is little evidence of an organized Sufi movement.
Azerbaijan is a secular state, in article 48 of its Constitution ensures the liberty of worship to everyone. Everyone has a right to choose any faith, to adopt any religion or to not practice any religion, to express one’s view on the religion and to spread it. According to paragraphs 1-3 of Article 18 of the Constitution the religion acts separately from the government, each religion is equal before the law and the propaganda of religions, abating human personality and contradicting to the principles of humanism is prohibited. At the same time the state system of education is also secular.
According to a recent Gallup Poll Azerbaijan is one of the most irreligious countries in the Muslim world, with about 53% of respondents indicating the importance of religion in their life as little or none. The same poll indicates that only 20% of the respondents has attended on religious services.
As Azerbaijan is a secular country the 1996 law stated that foreigners have freedom of conscience, but denied the right to “carry out religious propaganda”, i.e., to preach, under the threat of fines or deportation.
The law of the Republic of Azerbaijan (1992) “On freedom of faith” ensures the right of any human being to determine and express his view on religion and to execute this right.