New survey explores religious beliefs and practices of world's 1.6bn Muslims

Monday, August 20, 2012
Washington: The world’s 1.6 billion Muslims are united in their belief in God and the Prophet Muhammad and are bound together by such religious practices as fasting during the holy month of Ramadan and almsgiving to assist people in need.

But they have widely differing views about many other aspects of their faith, including how important religion is to their lives, who counts as a Muslim and what practices are acceptable in Islam, according to a worldwide survey by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life.

In addition to the widespread conviction that there is only one God and that Muhammad is His Prophet, the survey finds that large percentages of Muslims around the world share other articles of faith, including belief in angels, Judgment Day and fate (or predestination).

While there is broad agreement on some core tenets of Islam, Muslims around the world differ significantly in their levels of religious commitment, openness to multiple interpretations of their faith and acceptance of various sects and movements.

These are among the key findings of “The World’s Muslims: Unity and Diversity.”

It is based on more than 38,000 face-to-face interviews conducted in over 80 languages with Muslims in 39 countries and territories that collectively are home to roughly two-thirds (67%) of all Muslims in the world. The survey was conducted in two waves. Fifteen sub-Saharan African countries with substantial Muslim populations were surveyed in 2008-2009, and some of those findings previously were analyzed in the Pew Forum report “Tolerance and Tension: Islam and Christianity in Sub-Saharan Africa.” 

An additional 24 countries in Africa, Asia and Europe were surveyed in 2011-2012; those results are published here for the first time. This report on religious beliefs and practices is the first of two planned analyses of the survey data. The Pew Forum plans to issue a second report, focusing on Muslims’ social and political attitudes, in late 2012 or early 2013.
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