Shi’ism in Turkey

Shi’ism in Turkey is represented by the large Alevi minority and the smaller Ja’afari community. Outside of Turkey, Ja’afaris (a reference to the role of Jafar al-Sadiq in developing Shi’a jurisprudence) are called Ithna’asharis or “Twelvers” for their belief that twelve imams succeeded the Prophet Muhammad. Twelver Shi’a Muslims make up the largest group within global Shi’ism. The Turkish Ja’afari community is concentrated in Eastern Turkey and in Istanbul, and originates from Azerbaijan, having fled from the 1878 Ottoman-Russian war as well as the Bolshevik Revolution in the 1920s. The Ja’afari population is estimated to be somewhere between one and three million, and adheres to many of the same practices as Sunni Muslims, whereas the Alevis diverge considerably.


Abdulkader Yeler, “Shi’ism in Turkey: A Comparison of the Alevis and the Ja’faris,” Journal of Shi’a Islamic Studies, Vol. 3, No. 3 (2010), pp. 331-340.

See also: Turkey, Islam