Have you heard that Islam will overwhelm Christianity unless Christians begin reproducing and converting like they did in the “days of old?” Unfortunately there are a lot of made-up facts when it comes to Muslims and the Islamic faith. Here are some facts to help set the record straight.
About 1.6 billion people consider themselves to be followers of the Islamic faith.
Islam dominates the lands that are traditionally considered to be religious in the Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. This includes North Africa, the Middle East, and large sections of Asia. Although Islam is often considered to be an Arabic religion, only 1 in 5 Muslims are actually Arabic.
Where Can You Find Islam?
- 49 countries have Muslims make up a majority of their population base. Indonesia has the greatest concentration of Muslims, with 87% of the population identifying with the religion.
- India is home to the second largest raw number of Muslims in the world with 144 million followers, but this makes up just 14% of the actual population.
- 3.48 million Muslims live in Canada, Mexico, and the United States.
- More than 43 million Muslims call Europe their home.
- The Muslim population of the APAC region outnumbers the Muslim population of the Middle East and North Africa 3 to 1.
Is Islam the fastest growing religion in the world? There may be some truth to this statement, but that depends on how growth is actually defined. The regions of the world where Islam has the greatest concentrations have seen a decrease in mortality rates while reproduction rates have stayed relatively consistent. This means there are more people still alive who follow Islam than in the past, so there is a larger overall population. From a growth percentage from conversions, however, Islam is on pace with the other major religions of the world.
What Life Is Like Following Islam
- Men are more likely than women to attend mosque. In Central and Southern Asia, a majority of women who follow Islam say they never attend mosque.
- Men and women are equally likely to read or listen to the Qur’an on a daily basis.
- Gender also plays no role in the frequency of prayer, the participation in annual rites, or fasting during Ramadan.
- In most countries, a minimum of 40% of Sunnis do not accept Shias as followers of Islam.
- When asked what type of Islam they follow, 56% of followers will state that they are “just a Muslim” without a Sunni or Shia definition. Another 13% will not even answer the question.
- Worldwide more than half of all Muslims say that there is only one correct way to interpret the teachings of Islam. In the US, however, 57% of Muslims say that Islam is open to multiple interpretations.
- In only two countries [Guinea Bissau and DRC] where Islam is a majority religion do Muslims believe in majority that the Qur’an does not need to be read literally.
- In a 2007 survey of US Muslims, 87% said that the Qur’an is the Word of God, but only half said it should be read literally.
Although there is a consensus belief in Islam that there is only one God, Allah, and his prophet is Muhammad [peace be upon him], there is not a consensus in the generalized Muslim population about what that actually means. For example: 98% of Muslims in Southeast Asia believe in the presence of angels. In Southern and Eastern Europe, that percentage is just 55%. 1 out of 3 Muslims doesn’t believe in hell. 3 out of 10 Muslims don’t believe that paradise awaits those who are righteous. As with any faith, there tends to be more questions than answers when it comes to practical application.
The Importance of Rituals
- 99% of Muslims in Southeast Asia state that they fast during Ramadan. In Central Asia, that percentage falls to just 52%.
- 93% of Muslims in Southeast Asia also state that they perform zakat annually. In Southeastern Europe, that percentage falls to just 56%.
- Fewer than half of the population in these lower percentage regions for ritual compliance state that religion is important in their lives. In Albania, for example, just 15% of the population says that religion plays an important role.
- Only about 30% of Muslims say that they take the time to pray several times per day. In Kazakhstan, just 4% of Muslims say they do this.
- Older Muslims have higher response rates to all forms of Islamic practice in their lives when compared to their younger counterparts.
- Only in Russia do Muslims ages 18-34 place significantly more importance on religion than Muslims 35 and older.
Many people see Islam as a safety threat today thanks to the actions of a small minority. It is important to see that the average person who follows Islam is the same as the average person just about anywhere else. With only a few exceptions, Muslims don’t place an importance on sectarian differences or faith interpretations. It is about an individual pursuit of faith in a way that best suits that person.