Kurds vs Shiites: Difference and Comparison

If you are interested in the various religions and the sects under them, you probably must have wondered what the difference is between Kurds and Shiites.

While both have members belonging to the same religious background, Islam, they are very different from one another. They have some very significant points of difference between them.

It is important to know these differences to not confuse them with each other.

Key Takeaways

  1. Kurds are an ethnic group primarily residing in the Kurdistan region, spanning Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria.
  2. Shiites are a religious group representing the second-largest branch of Islam, with most residing in Iran, Iraq, and Lebanon.
  3. The primary distinction between the two groups lies in their ethnic versus religious identity, with Kurds being an ethnic group and Shiites being a religious group within Islam.

Kurds vs Shiites

The Kurds are a Middle Eastern ethnic group who live in several countries, including Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria. Shiites are Muslims who believe Ali, the Prophet Muhammad’s son-in-law, was the Prophet’s rightful successor and first Imam of the Muslim community.

Kurds vs Shiites
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A famous ethnic group living in the Middle East, Kurds are well-known all over the world. They belong to different places. Turkey and Iran are among them.

It may also include Syria and Iraq. This place is collectively known as Kurdistan. The members of this group may belong to either sect of Islam. They may be either Shiite or a Sunni. 

There are various sects found under the same religion. They share different ideas. Islam has two such sects. One such sect includes the Shiites.

They comprise a large part of Islam, the second-largest dominion. It exclusively includes members of the same sect.

They are the group of people who accepted Prophet Mohammad’s son-in-law as their fourth caliph. They also accepted him as the first Imam.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonKurdsShiites
Belong fromThey belong to the Middle East. They are scattered in various places ranging from Iran to Iraq, from Syria to Turkey. The place is collectively known as Kurdistan.They consist of the majority of the population in several places ranging from Azerbaijan to Iran, from Iraq to Bahrain.
MeaningThey include an ethnic group.They are a sect of the religion Islam.
Revolted forThey revolted for uniting all the nations of Kurdistan as one.They revolted against the other sect of Islam that is, the Sunnis.
MembersTheir members may be Sunni or Shiite.It exclusively includes members of the same sect, that is, Shiite.
General PointMembers of this group may or may not be a supporter of the selection of Hazrat Ali as their fourth caliph.Members of this sect support the selection of Hazrat Ali as their fourth caliph.

What is Kurds?

It does not refer to people of any specific religion as such. It is a group that many people believe in. They are from the Middle East. This place mostly includes Iraq and Syria.

They have lived in the area for years, encompassing areas of Syria, Iran, Iraq, and Turkey, collectively known as Kurdistan.

They are largely made up of Iranians who communicate Kurdish as their primary language. Advancement and expansion to European countries have been spotted lately. Also, expansion to West Asian countries has been noticed.

They can be Shiites or Sunnis, with Sunnis constituting the majority. Additionally, Kurds defined here are Muslims. A Kurd can be a non-Muslim as well.

They have rebelled to unite the Kurdish states into a unified Kurdistan.

The majority of members include the Sunnis. They follow the Shafii schools. There is a small minority that follows otherwise. Usually, they follow the Hanafi school. Furthermore, many Shafi’i Kurds follow one of two Sufi orders.

Kurdish women’s rights and equality have progressed significantly in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries as a result of progressive movements within Kurdish society.

Despite significant advancements, Kurdish and global women’s rights organizations continue to report issues such as gender equality, forced marriages, honor killings, and female genital mutilation in Iraqi Kurdistan.

kurds

What is Shiites?

There are various sects found under the same religion. They share different principles. Accordingly, there are two such sects in Islam too.

One such sect includes the Shiites. A large part of the religion they constitute Islam. They are the second-largest dominion. It exclusively includes members of the same sect.

The members of this sect are the ones who supported the selection of Hazrat Ali. They also accepted him as the first Imam. His descendants also came to be known as Imams.

They may belong to several places. Bahrain and Azerbaijan are two of them. The others include Iraq and Iran.

In recent times, a lot of them have been seen as revolting. They fought against the oppressive forces. This fight was against the other sect of the religion.

When Prophet Mohammad died, there was a massive uprising. His son-in-law was selected as the fourth caliph. Some people supported this, while others opposed this.

The ones who supported this came under one sect of the religion. The other sect, however, thought that Mohammad’s son should have been the next prophet.

These people united under another sect. The former sect came to be known as Shiites. The latter sect came to be known as Sunnis. There have been constant conflicts between these two sects in the past few years.

shiite islam

Main Differences Between Kurds and Shiites

  1. Kurds and Shiites belong to different places. The former belongs to the Middle East. They are scattered in various places, from Iran to Iraq, Syria to Turkey. There is a collective term for all these places. It is Kurdistan. On the other hand, the latter may belong to several places.  Bahrain and Azerbaijan are two of them. The others include Iraq and Iran. 
  2. Kurds include an ethnic group, while Shiites are a sect of the religion Islam.
  3. Kurds revolted about uniting all the nations of Kurdistan as one, whereas Shiites revolted against the other sect of Islam, the Sunnis.
  4. As Kurds are an ethnic group, their members may be Sunni or Shiite. However, the term Shiites are exclusive. It includes only members of the same sect. 
  5. Members of Kurds may or may not be a supporter of the selection of Hazrat Ali as their fourth caliph. However, members of the Shiite sect support the selection of Hazrat Ali as their fourth caliph.
Difference Between Kurds and Shiites
References
  1. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Liam-Anderson-10/publication/249391957_Kurds_in_Iraq_The_Struggle_Between_Baghdad_and_Erbil/links/57daa46008aeea19593290d6/Kurds-in-Iraq-The-Struggle-Between-Baghdad-and-Erbil
  2. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/nana.12424

Last Updated : 13 July, 2023

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