Religious education in Azerbaijan: how to teach religious texts and worship?

authors: Sahavat Yusifov and Nail Mammadzada

1. Introduction

Religious education is an important issue within religious freedom in both secular and religious states.[1]In many countries, religious education still remains a problematic issue. The issues of who provides religious education, in what content and under what conditions is not only one of the basic human rights, but also one of the necessary conditions for the maintenance of peace and public order and sustainable development.

This article reflects the rules of organization and implementation of religious education in the Republic of Azerbaijan, examines the existing legislation in this field, who can engage in religious education, the rules of registration of religious educational institutions, what is related to religious education and finally the relationship between religious propaganda and religious education.


[1]Elchin Hasanli, The socio-philosophical essence of religious education and its role in the development of society, 2018,

2. Concept of religious education

In this article, we should also look at how we use the concept of religious education. For example, are 2-month Quran recitation courses considered religious education, or is religious education an education organized to train clergymen (theologians)?

In this article, we look at religious education in a broad sense; that is, we consider the teaching of religious knowledge in any form and environment. After that, how the legislation regulates them, or if it does not, we will analyze the legal consequences of this.

Prior to the amendments in 2021, Article 10 of the Law of the Republic of Azerbaijan “On Freedom of Religion” stated that only religious centers and institutions can establish a religious educational institution. The establishment of a religious educational institution is for the training of clergy and other personnel in religious specialties. As a result of the changes made in 2021, Article 10 of the law was repealed, some additions were made to the issues specified in that article and added to Article 6. According to Article 6.3 of the new wording of the law, “Religious educational institutions shall be established by a religious center (department) in coordination with a body (institution) designated by the relevant executive authority. A religious center (department) can establish only one higher religious education institution. ”

It should be noted that Article 10 of the previous version of the law, and Article 6 of the new version of the law states that a special permit (license) issued by the relevant executive authority is required for the operation of a religious educational institution. Section 5 of Article 6 in the new version of the law states that the license requirement is as follows:

"Institutions of higher religious education and religious secondary special education operate on the basis of licenses issued in accordance with the Law of the Republic of Azerbaijan "On Licenses and Permits ".

If you think there are restrictions in the law, these radical religious groups are designed to eliminate the problems that they can create for the state in the future. Because the state in the Republic of Azerbaijan is separate from religion.[1]This does not mean that the state has left religion completely out of control.      


[1]First Part of Article 18 of the Constitution of the Republic of Azerbaijan

3. Who can engage in religious education?

It is necessary to take a comprehensive approach to see the issue more clearly. Because in order to make an objective judgment it is necessary to expand our point of view. Asking a few questions and moving on through those questions will make the article more interesting and informative to read.

There are two sides to religious education; educators and learners. If so, who can provide religious education? Another question is who can get religious education in Azerbaijan? Can anyone get religious education in Azerbaijan? Are there any restrictions on religious education?

We will first study the issue at the legal level and analyze the norms of the legislation.

The answer to the question of who can provide religious education is that not everyone can provide religious education. Not everyone who knows the Qur'an and Islamic jurisprudence very well and refers to the books of the Sunnah will be able to teach religion. Legislative restrictions have been introduced in this regard, and these restrictions have been extended with the latest amendment in 2021.

Thus, before the change, the main restriction in the regulation was related to citizenship. Foreigners and stateless persons could not engage in religious education.[1]After the change, those who can provide religious education should inform the SCWRA and religious figures appointed by religious centres may provide religious education. Religious figures must have a religious higher or secondary religious education.[2]

However, as stated in section 2 of Article 6 of the law, citizens may study religion and receive religious education individually or in association with others. This means that, in fact, citizens can learn religion together by coming together; in this case, they can teach each other religion.

As for the question of who can receive religious education, before the amendments to the Law on Freedom of Religion, Article 6, paragraph 3, stated that citizens could study theology and receive religious education in any language, individually or in association with others. Apparently, the new amendments to the law do not provide for the right of citizens to receive religious education in the language of their choice.

         Article 6 of the law restricts the right to religious education to "citizens." This provision violates both the right to freedom of religion for all, as defined in Articles 18 (1) and 9 (1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), respectively and Article 2 of the ECHR Protocol No. 1, which explicitly states that “no person's right to education may be waived”. For this reason, the term "citizens" in this norm should be replaced by the term "everyone".[3]

Although we positively assess the state of implementation of the Law of the Republic of Azerbaijan "On Freedom of Religion" and the opportunities provided by normative legal documents in this area, it should be noted that much remains to be done. Failure to do so in a timely manner also impedes future progress.

The main responsible sides are the media structures here. Because in the current situation, if we conduct a survey among citizens, we will get the answer that free religious education is illegal. The media should highlight these opportunities provided by law to citizens and pay more attention to the issue. It should play the role of a kind of enlightenment tool.


[1]Prohibition on the persons studying abroad, News website, 04.12.2015,

[2]Law on Freedom of Religion Article  4- 1.2.

[3]Opinion of the Venice Commission on the Law of the Republic of Azerbaijan “On Freedom of Religion”, Part 61

4. Religious educational institutions and their registration rules

According to the first part of Article 12 of the Law on Freedom of Religious Belief, all Islamic religious organizations can operate after being registered with the State Committee for Work with Religious Organizations (hereinafter SCWRA) and included in the state register of religious organizations. Religious organizations are considered legal entities from the moment of their state registration, ie they acquire legal capacity, have rights and bear responsibilities. The rules for the registration of religious organizations are set out in Article 12 of the Law on Freedom of Religion. As religious educational institutions are also considered religious institutions, their registration rules shall be carried out in accordance with the procedure specified in this article. Also, according to Article 6.5 of the Law, higher and secondary religious education institutions operate on the basis of licenses issued in accordance with the Law of the Republic of Azerbaijan “On Licenses and Permits”.

Prior to the changes in 2021, Article 6.5 of the Law on FoRB states that since the educative courses (groups) of the holy books for young people and adults established by religious organizations were not considered legal entities, the procedure for their registration was not defined. These courses were established in accordance with the charters of religious organizations, with the consent of the religious centres and institutions to which they were subordinated.

According to Section 4 of Article 6 amended after the changes made in 2021 the courses (groups) for the study of holy books are established by religious organizations in accordance with the charters of these religious organizations with the consent of the religious centres (departments) to which they are subordinated, and the body (organization) designated by the relevant executive authority is informed.

It is clear from the above provision that, as before the changes, there is still no special procedure for the registration of religious courses.

The following documents are required for registration of religious educational institutions:[1]

- an application for state registration of a religious organization, signed by the founder (s) or his (their) attorney and notarized;

- charter approved by the founders of a religious organization or their authorized representative;

- a document confirming the legal address of the religious organization (information on the location of the permanent organization);

- document on payment of state duty. The amount of the state fee is 11 manat.[2]

The responsible department of the SCWRA considers the submitted documents and decides on the state registration of the religious organization within 30 days. If there is any change in the documents or information required for registration of the registered state body, it must inform the relevant executive authority through religious centres and institutions within 20 days and submit the documents confirming the relevant amendment in the same manner.[3]

Article 12 of the Law on Freedom of Religion sets out the following basics for refusal registration of a religious organization:

  1. If the activity or objects of a religious organization, or the essence and basic principles of the religious teaching it disseminates contradict the Constitution and laws of the Azerbaijan Republic;
  2. If the established body is not recognized as a religious organization;
  3. If the submitted charter and other documents contradict the requirements of the legislation of the Azerbaijan Republic or the information reflected in them is incorrect.

In addition to these cases, legitimate reasons for restricting religious beliefs set out in Article 1 (3) of the Law on Freedom of Religion may also be considered grounds for refusal of registration. In case of refusal of state registration, the applicant religious organization must be informed of the reasons for refusal in accordance with the law.[4]This refusal can be appealed in administrative or judicial proceedings.[5]


[1]Unified information portal on public services/

[2]Article 20.3 of the Law of the Republic of Azerbaijan on State Duty

[3]Article 12 of the Law of the Republic of Azerbaijan on Freedom of Religion

[4]Article 12 of the Law of the Republic of Azerbaijan on Freedom of Religion

[5]Article 11.5 of the Law of the Republic of Azerbaijan on Legal Entities

5. Religious propaganda and religious education

Religious education is mainly divided into religious-religious and non-confessional.[1]

Non-confessional religious education is intended to provide objective, systematic information about world religions. In this form of religious education, it is not intended that a particular religion be true and accepted by the people. The literature indicates the various purposes of this form of religious education.[2]These goals mainly include inculcating humanistic values in people, creating religious tolerance and inculcating cultural knowledge in them.[3]

In confessional education, information about a single religion is taught and it is taught that that religion is the true religion. This form of religious education is usually taught by people who believe in that religion.[4]We can witness this form of religious education in Azerbaijan in religious courses, ie Quran courses. The main purpose of confessional religious education is to propagate the religion which is taught. As can be seen, religious education has a propaganda function as well. When religious education is approached from the point of view of religious propaganda, it is possible that in some cases it may be prohibited or restricted. Although the law permits religious propaganda, its limits are set and the circumstances in which it is prohibited are set out. Let's look at the legislation to determine the scope of these cases.

The first part of Article 18 of the Constitution of the Republic of Azerbaijan, entitled "Religion and the State", states that religion is separate from the state. Part II of the same article states that the spread and propagation of religions (religious movements) that degrade human dignity or contradict the principles of humanity are prohibited. The Law on Freedom of Religion further clarifies the scope of prohibitions on religious propaganda, as well as determines in which cases religious beliefs could be restricted. The third part of Article 1 of the above-mentioned law states that freedom of religion may be restricted only in the interests of public safety, public order, health or morals, or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others if provided by law and necessary in a democratic society. The fourth part of the article addresses the issue of who is prohibited from conducting religious propaganda. According to the relevant article, religious propaganda by foreigners and stateless persons is prohibited, except for religious figures invited by the religious centre. Carrying out religious propaganda by these persons creates criminal liability under Article 168-1.2 of the Criminal Code.[5]

Also, according to Article 1, Part 7 of the Law on Freedom of Religion, activities aimed at promoting religious extremism, as well as the use of interfaith and inter-religious differences for political purposes are prohibited. Therefore, it is possible to carry out religious propaganda by complying with the above-mentioned prohibitions in religious education.


[1]Asaf Ganbarov, Secularism is not an obstacle to religious education,

[2]Simran Hasanov, "Religious education and religious educational institutions (legal aspects)" Baku: Science and education, 13-15, 2016

[3]Sukru Keyifli, (2013). “Education and Religious Education”, Cukurova University Faculty of Theology journal 13 (2)

[4]Article 12 of the Law of the Republic of Azerbaijan on Freedom of Religion

[5]Criminal Code, Article 168-1.2. Carrying out religious propaganda by a foreigner or a stateless person, except for religious figures invited by a religious center, shall be punished by imprisonment for a term of one to two years.

6. What is related to religious education?

 Currently, the non-confessional form of religious education is found in the subject of "Knowledge of Life" taught in general secondary schools[1], and in the subject of "Multiculturalism" in higher education.[2]In both subjects, general information about different religions is given, and this information is only informative.

Confessional religious education in Azerbaijan can include courses on studying holy books. However, courses on studying holy books are neither higher nor secondary religious education, and those who complete these courses will not be considered "clergyman." According to Article 7.13 of the Regulations on the SCWRA, one of the tasks of the Committee is to monitor the activities of such courses. The activities of these courses are regulated by the rules adopted by the Committee.

The Committee shall be informed of the curriculum of the courses. Only holy books (Holy Quran, Bible, Torah, etc.) are studied in the courses. The total duration of the course should not exceed one year, and daily training should not exceed two hours. The lessons taught in the courses should be conducted in such a way that they do not interfere with the secular education of the learners. Education in courses organized by Islamic religious communities is conducted by a citizen of the Republic of Azerbaijan with higher or secondary religious education studying in the Republic of Azerbaijan, and courses organized by non-Islamic religious communities are taught in by a citizen of the Republic of Azerbaijan with higher or secondary religious education in the Republic of Azerbaijan or abroad. Foreigners and stateless persons are not allowed to teach in the Courses. Quran courses should be conducted only in the Azerbaijani language. Relevant documents (certificates, licenses, etc.) on completion of the course are issued to those who complete the courses.[3]

In 2019, Simran Hasanov, Chief of Staff of the Caucasus Muslims Office, said in an interview that in 2018, 100 Quran courses have started and are already operating in 28 regions of the country, including the capital Baku.[4]

Other educational institutions providing religious education in Azerbaijan are Islamic colleges operating under the CMO. Sheki Islamic College under the CMO was established in 1997. Religious education is carried out at Sheki Islamic College to train Hafizes of the Holy Quran. In 2002, Aliabad Islamic College was established as a religious educational institution under the CMO in Zagatala region. The term of study at Aliabad Islamic College is three years. The college includes students who have completed 9th grade and are continuing secondary school. The main purpose of education at Aliabad Islamic College is to train personnel for clergy. The curriculum of the college is determined by the CMO. The curriculum consists of teaching the Holy Quran, the basics of Islam, Arabic language and other subjects.[5]

Another religious educational institution operating under the CMO is the Shabnam Girls' Islamic College in Baku. Any graduate who graduates from the 9th grade with a certificate and students who graduate from the 11th and get a certificate can come and study at the college. Admission is carried out through an exam organized at the college. Here, young girls are taught "Holy Quran", Arabic language, Azerbaijani language, history and geography. Classes on the basics of Islam, belief, hadith, tafsir are held. Students are not only provided with secular and religious education but they are also taught housework and various handicraft skills. The school even has certified computer courses, and girls who complete the course and receive a certificate have the opportunity to find work in this field. The duration of the college education is two years. However, girls who have studied to be hafiz can stay here for three years. The study period is two years. Education in college is free. It operates with the financial support of the Caucasus Muslim Office and some philanthropists. One of the features of the college is the education of visually impaired girls. Quran books in Braille for such students are sent from Turkey and specially prepared.[6]

According to the official statistics of the SCWRA, the number of registered colleges is 11.[7]College education can last from two to four years.

In addition to educational institutions, religious education is also provided in mosques. Quran lessons are mainly taught in mosques.

In order to provide more accurate and complete information in our article, we interviewed the rabbi of the Mountain Jews Synagogue in Baku. He said that the main religious educational institution of Judaism in Azerbaijan is located in the Gyrmyzy Gasaba (Red Town) settlement of the Guba region. The Torah, religious norms, Jewish traditions, etc. are taught at this educational institution. Classes are taught by both Azerbaijani and Israeli teachers. In the past, classes were traditionally held, but now, due to the pandemic, classes are held online. They do not face any restrictions on the implementation of education. The school operates on a voluntary and community basis.

In response to the question of how long the school lasts, he said: “As far as I know, there is no special period for this. Jews get education until the end of their lives."

At the same time, he said that in addition to this school, there is a Jewish school in Baku, but this school is not engaged in religious education.

The school is the Khabad-Or-Avner educational centre for Jewish children, built in 2010 by the Heydar Aliyev Foundation and the Or-Avner Foundation in the Abilov residential area in the Khatai district of Baku.[8]Children of Jewish origin are admitted to the school and the language of instruction is Russian.[9]

Until 2018, higher religious education in the Republic of Azerbaijan was conducted at Baku Islamic University and the Faculty of Theology of Baku State University.[10]

Starting from 2018, the main religious educational institution is the Azerbaijan Theological Institute. At the same time, religious education is currently being conducted at Nakhchivan University.

Baku Islamic University under the Caucasian Muslims Spiritual Administrationwas established in 1991on the basis of the Baku Islamic Madrasa. Education at the university was carried out at the faculties of "Islamic Studies" and "Sharia".

The Faculty of Theology of BSU (Baku Stated University) was established in 1992/93 academic year on the basis of an agreement between the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Baku State University and the Turkish Religious Foundation.[11]

According to the Order of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan No. 3654 dated February 9, 2018 "On the establishment of the Azerbaijan Theological Institute", the Azerbaijan Theological Institute was established under the State Committee for Work with Religious Organizations of the Republic of Azerbaijan. In the 2018/2019 academic year, the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Azerbaijan implemented the issues of abolishing the Faculty of Theology of Baku State University and including it in the structure of the Azerbaijan Theological Institute by the relevant Order.

Admission of students to the Azerbaijan Theological Institute is carried out through the State Examination Center in two directions on the III speciality group - Islamic studies and theology.[12]

Nakhchivan University also has a bachelor's degree in "Religious Studies" and a master's degree in "Islamic Studies".[13]

Although the relevant decree of the President on the establishment of the Azerbaijan Theological Institute provided only for the abolition of the faculty of theology of BSU, after the decree, the Baku Islamic University was also abolished. Chairman of the State Committee for Work with Religious Organizations Mubariz Gurbanli said in an interview about the closure of Baku Islamic University that Along with Islam, staff training related to the other religions will be carried out at the Institute of Theology. For this reason, as a founder, the Caucasian Muslims Office has decided to suspend admission to Baku Islamic University starting from next year. However, Baku Islamic University will continue its activities until the 2nd, 3rd and 4th-year students complete their education. The State Examination Center has taken measures to distribute the students admitted to Baku Islamic University this year, and some of these students will come to the Institute of Theology.[14]


[1]Mubariz Gurbanli, religious education in Azerbaijan must be free and the state must protect this area, Trend İnformasiya Agentliyi, 13.06.2015,

[2]S.Garayeva, "Introduction to Multiculturalism will be taught as a main subject in universities", 525th newspaper.- 03.05.2019, Pg.10.

[3]Rules for monitoring the activities of "Holy Books study" courses, Part II


[5]Asaf Ganbarov, “Religion and state in Azerbaijan” BAKU - 2018, pages 109-110

[6]Excerpt from the report of Gulnara Hashimova, the director of "Shabnam" Girls' Islamic College /



[9]Information by the Personnel Department of the school /

[10]DTh. Jeyhun Mammadov "Religious education in Azerbaijan", "Journal of religious studies" № 1. December 2018


[12]Charter of the Azerbaijan Theological Institute



7. Conclusion

We have looked through the existence of both forms of religious education in the Republic of Azerbaijan and in which educational institutions and in what order they are implemented. As can be seen, religious education is directly related to and acts as an integral part of freedom of conscience and freedom of religion, which are fundamental human and civil rights and freedoms. We have perceived that the Law on Freedom of Religion, which regulates key relations in this area, is dominated by imperative norms, both in religious education and in other forms of religious belief, and there are a number of restrictions. While some of these restrictions have legitimate reasons, some have been reflected in the law without any legitimate reason. Such restrictions contradict the international legal instruments to which the Republic of Azerbaijan is a party and holds several obligations. The main part of these contradictions is the restriction of the right of foreigners to religious education. One of the unfortunate points is that such restrictions remain after the last amendments made in 2021 in order to further improve the law.