1 in 4 People Worldwide is Muslim

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The following article is taken from the Pew Forum on Religious & Public Life on Thursday, October 08th, 2009.  The Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life was launched in 2001.  It seeks to promote a deeper understanding of issues at the intersection of religion and public affairs.  They conduct surveys, demographic analyses and other social science research on important aspects of religion and public life in the U.S. and around the world.

The global Muslim population stands at 1.57 billion, meaning that nearly 1 in 4 people in the world practice Islam.  The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life report provides a precise number for a population whose size has long has been subject to guesswork, with estimates ranging anywhere from 1 billion to 1.8 billion.  You can click here for more information on the study: Mapping the Global Muslim Population

The project, three years in the making, also presents a portrait of the Muslim world that might surprise some.  For instance, Germany has more Muslims than Lebanon, China has more Muslims than Syria, Russia has more Muslims than Jordan and Libya combined, and Ethiopia has nearly as many Muslims as Afghanistan.  “This whole idea that Muslims are Arabs and Arabs are Muslims is really just obliterated by this report,” said Amaney Jamal, an assistant professor of politics at Princeton University who reviewed an advance copy.  Pew officials call the report the most thorough on the size and distribution of adherents of the world’s second largest religion behind Christianity, which has an estimated 2.1 billion to 2.2 billion followers.

The arduous task of determining the Muslim populations in 232 countries and territories involved analysing census reports, demographic studies and general population surveys, the report says.  In cases where the data was a few years old, researchers projected 2009 numbers.  The report also sought to pinpoint the world’s Sunni-Shi’ite breakdown, but difficulties arose because so few countries track sectarian affiliation, said Brian Grim, the project’s senior researcher.  As a result, the Shi’ite numbers are not as precise; the report estimates that Shi’ites represent between 10 % and 13 % of the Muslim population, in line with or slightly lower than other studies.  As much as 80 % of the world’s Shiite population lives in four countries: Iran, Pakistan, India and Iraq.  The report provides further evidence that while the heart of Islam might beat in the Middle East, its greatest numbers lie in Asia: More than 60 % of the world’s Muslims live in Asia.  About 20 % live in the Middle East and North Africa, 15 % live in Sub-Saharan Africa, 2.4 % are in Europe and 0.3 % are in the Americas.  While the Middle East and North Africa have fewer Muslims overall than Asia, the region easily claims the most Muslim-majority countries.

While those population trends are well established, the large numbers of Muslims who live as minorities in countries are not as scrutinised.  The report identified about 317 million Muslims - or one-fifth of the world's Muslim population - living in countries where Islam is not the majority religion.  About three-quarters of Muslims living as minorities are concentrated in five countries: India with 161 million, Ethiopia with 28 million, China with 22 million, Russia with 16 million, and Tanzania with 13 million.  In several of these countries – from India to Nigeria and China to France – divisions featuring a volatile mix of religion, class and politics have contributed to tension and bloodshed among groups.  The immense size of Hindu-majority India is underscored by the fact that it boasts the third-largest Muslim population of any nation - yet Muslims account for just 13 percent of India's population.  “Most people think of the Muslim world being Muslims living mostly in Muslim-majority countries,” Grim said.  But with India, that sort of turns that on its head a bit.

Among the report's other highlights include the fact that two-thirds of all Muslims live in 10 countries.  Six are in Asia - Indonesia, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Iran and Turkey, three are in North Africa - Egypt, Algeria and Morocco; and one is in sub-Saharan Africa, which is Nigeria.

Indonesia, which has a tradition of a more tolerant Islam, has the world’s largest Muslim population with 203 million, or 13 % of the world’s total.  Religious extremists have been involved in several high-profile bombings there in recent years.

In China, the highest concentrations of Muslims were in western provinces.  The country experienced its worst outbreak of ethnic violence in decades when rioting broke out this summer between minority Muslim Uighurs and majority Han Chinese.

Europe is home to about 38 million Muslims, or about 5 % of its population.  Germany appears to have more than 4 million Muslims - almost as many as North and South America combined.  In France, where tensions have run high over an influx of Muslim immigrant labourers, the overall numbers were lower but a larger percentage of the population is Muslim.

Of roughly 4.6 million Muslims in the Americas, more than half live in the United States although they only make up 0.8 % of the population there.  About 700,000 people in Canada are Muslim, or about 2 % of the total population.

It is important in the area of da’wah to understand the distribution of Muslims around the world.  What the report does not say is that although the population of Muslims in Europe and the Americas are small by percentage, they are amongst the fasting growing religions in that part of the world despite the challenges.  There is much we can learn from their experience.

Muslims Around the World


  1. Last 2 weeks ago, I got a sms from a friend who volunteers with Darul to attend a monthly discussion in Mandarin. This time round, i was told that Darul had employed a chinese muslim imam from Taiwan.

    Indeed, he was young and knowledgeable. All Praise and Thanks be to Allah for letting us have him here in darul and in SG.

    Too bad, the sister said that she had passed the information to almost about 50 but only about 20 odd came. Such a pity though.

    Anyway, back to the point i wanted to say. He also talked about the global statistics of Muslims. But he said; even though there were almost more than a billion Muslims, but how many actually practised the religion as their way of life? The life that we lead now is so far fetched from the lives back then, from the time of our Prophet Muhammad s.a.w and after.

    We, ummah of Prophet Muhammad s.a.w lack the lustre of the once glorified ummah 1400yrs ago.

  2. Assalamu'Alaikum,

    In the time of the Prophet (s.a.w.), when the sahaba sat down to eat in a circle, the Propher (s.a.w.) said, "There will come a time, when the nations of the world will gather and they will take from my Ummah as you take food from the tray. My Ummah will be oppressed"

    "Ya Rasulullah, is it because they are few?"

    "My Ummah will be like the grains of sand by the ocean."

    "Ya Rasululah, how can that be, if they are so many?"

    "It is because they love dunya more than they love akhirah."



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