Islam is an Abrahamic monotheistic religion teaching that there is only one God, and that Muhammad is a messenger of God. It is the world’s second-largest religion with over 1.9 billion followers or 24.5% of the world’s population, known as muslims.
Followers of Islam are referred to as Muslims. The Muslim population of the world is estimated at around 1.8 billion followers, making it the largest religion in the world after Christianity. While Muslims can be found in all corners of the world, some countries have larger Muslim populations than others. Below is the list of Muslim populations by country;
1. Indonesia – 227,226,404
Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world, with over 227 million people identifying as Muslim. Even though Indonesia is a constitutionally secular state, Islam is by far the dominant religion in the country. 99% of the Muslims in Indonesia are followers of the Shafi’i School of Sunni jurisprudence. Shia Muslims and Ahmadi Muslims occupy a small percentage of the Muslim population. The arrival of Islam to Indonesia dates back to the 13th Century, when Sufi traders from Gujarat, India, visited Indonesia, introducing their religion to the people of this country. The Muslims in Indonesia can generally be classified into two groups. The “modernists” are those who adhere to the orthodox theology but are also open-minded about accepting modern and Western learning. The “traditionalists” are those who continue to discard Western educational influences, and instead, strictly adhere to the teachings of local religious teachers and traditional Muslim schools of thinking and worship.
2. Pakistan – 204,194,370
The Islamic Republic of Pakistan designates Islam as the state religion of this country, which is also referred to as the “global center of political Islam.” 95 to 97% of Pakistan’s population is comprised of Muslims, while Christians, Hindus, and other minorities occupy only a very small percentage of the population. Most of the Muslims of Pakistan are Sunnis (80 to 85%). Shias account for only 10 to 20% of the Pakistani Muslim population. Religion dominates every aspect of life in Pakistan, with religious credentials often deciding hierarchies in leaderships in villages and towns. In Pakistan, any type of criticism of Islam is unacceptable and often dealt with very strictly.
3. India – 189,000,000
India has the third-largest Muslim population in the world. However, Hinduism is the most widely practiced religion in the country, with only 13.4% of India’s total population comprising of Muslims. Arabian traders and Persian missionaries were primarily responsible for bringing Islam to India. Even though India’s Muslims and Hindus stood side by side against the British during India’s struggle for independence, after independence, the Muslims of India demanded a separate state for themselves. The separatist movement led to the creation of Pakistan , and then in turn Bangladesh. Even though many Muslims migrated from the post-independent India to the two newly created Muslim countries, a substantial section remained behind, and today constitute the large Muslim populace of India. As India is a secular democracy, the people of the country are allowed to practice their faith, and therefore the Muslims of India, despite being a minority, enjoy practicing the rituals and customs as dictated by their religion.
4. Bangladesh – 148,607,000
Islam was introduced into the Bengal region in the 13th Century by Arab and Persian missionaries and merchants. Future conquests of the region by the Muslim sultanates of North India led to further spread of Islam in the region. Muslim missionaries, or pirs, often influenced a majority of Bengali conversions to Islam. Sunnis dominate the Muslim populace of Bangladesh , with a small segment of the population being Shias. Despite having a large Muslim population, the legal system of this country is based on the Anglo-Indian system with no official sharia (Islamic religious) courts. Personal legal matters, such as marriage, divorce, and inheritance, however, are based on Islamic law and handled by traditional Muslim judges, or
qazis. Bangladesh has a population of 148 million Muslims, the world’s fourth-largest population of any country.
5. Nigeria – 95,316,131
Nigeria has the fifth largest Muslim population in the world and the largest Muslim population in Africa. The majority of its Muslims are Sunnis in the Maliki school, along with a significant minority comprising of Shia Muslims, and an even smaller minority of Ahmadiyas . Despite being a country with a large Muslim population, Nigeria continues to be a secular democracy. Since the late 1970s, Nigeria has gone through several Islamic reform movements, with the most recent one seeing the rise of Jama‘atu Ahl as-Sunnah li-Da‘awati wal-Jihad (JASDJ; also referred to as “Boko Haram”). The reformists of this movement are demanding the replacement of Nigeria’s secular government with the establishment of the Sharia law throughout the country. In more recent years, this movement has received a lot of international attention because of its involvement with increasingly militant actions. Thousands of people have been killed in Nigeria this past decade as a result of religious violence, and many more displaced from their homes. Islam is not as dominant in southern Nigeria as it is in the north of the country.
6. Egypt – 87,336,965
Islam is the dominant religion in Egypt, with around 94.7% of the country’s population being Muslims. Sunni Muslims are the largest group among them, with only a small fraction of the Egyptian populace practicing the Shia and Ahmadi sects of Islam. The Fatimid and Ayyubid Dynasties were primarily responsible for securing a strong position for Egypt in the Islamic world. Modern Egypt has been influenced substantially by its dominant religion, and symbols of Islam are reflected in the rich art, architecture, and culture of this country. Al-Mu’izz al-Din Street, Darb al-Ahmar Street, and Salah ad-Din Square are some of the street venues and locales of Cairo where visitors to Egypt can most enjoy exploring the tremendous wealth of Islamic art and architecture there.
7. Iran – 81,529,435
Iran was declared an Islamic Republic after the Islamic Revolution of 1979. The majority of the population of Iran (around 99.4%) have adopted Islam. Interestingly, Iran is one of the very few countries that has a predominately Shia Muslim population (90 to 95%) instead of Sunni Muslims. Most Sunnis in Iran (about 5 to 10% of the Muslim population) are Kurds, Turkomen, Baluchs, or Larestani. The life of Iranians is heavily influenced by the teachings of Islam, especially the ‘Twelver’ branch of Shia Islam. The martyrdom of the grandson of Prophet Muhammad, Imam Hassain, acts as a constant source of imagery and rhetoric in the Iranian religious and social spheres.
8. Turkey – 80,683,525
Turkey has some of the most ancient sites in human civilization, with a rich cultural and political history of its own. It is also one of the very few countries with a secular constitution despite Islam being the religion of the majority of its population. In Turkey, religion is kept separate from the state, and the freedom to practice any religion is allowed. 72% of Turkey’s Muslims are Sunnis, while 25% are Alevis. Turkey is also the birthplace of many Biblical figures and possesses numerous sites that are regarded as holy by Christians and Muslims alike. Even though the teachings of Islam are mandatorily taught in every school in Turkey, the establishment of faith-based schools is restricted here.
9. Algeria – 40,559,749
Islam, the official religion of Algeria , is also the religion practiced by the majority of the population of this country. Most are Sunni Muslims belonging to the Maliki school of jurisprudence, while a few are Ibadi, Shia, or Ahmadi Muslims. Christians, Jews, and atheists form a very small minority of the populace of Morocco. In Algeria, Islam defines the ethics and behavior of its people, and heavily influences the cultural and social identity of the country as a whole. The role of Islam in the politics of Algeria is also undeniable, with the laws of Islam playing an important role in every aspect of people’s lives. Even though Islam is the dominant religion in Algeria, people of other faiths are also respected and allowed to practice their respective religions.
10. Sudan – 39,027,950
Sudan has the world’s tenth-largest Muslim population. It is the largest religion practiced in Sudan, with over 95% of the population adhering to it. The majority of believers in Sudan are Sunni Muslims. Although Sudan is considered to be a country that is relatively tolerant of other religions, tension between Muslim-majority Sudan and Christian-dominated South Sudan have contributed to many conflicts, including the First and Second Sudanese Civil Wars, the War in Darfur, and the conflict that is currently
ongoing in the country.