Nearly all Muslims can agree on the basic beliefs of Islam: There is one God, Muhammad is God’s prophet, Muslims should fast during the holy month of Ramadan and give alms to the poor.
Yet beyond these central pillars of the faith, Muslims worldwide vastly differ as religious convictions are shaped by cultural and social contexts, according to a new report by thePew Forum on Religion & Public Life.
“The World’s Muslims: Unity and Diversity” draws on 38,000 face-to-face interviews in 39 countries, and finds that Muslims differ sharply over questions of faith like who counts as a Muslim and what spiritual practices are acceptable.
With 1.6 billion adherents, Islam is the world’s second-largest religion, behind Christianity, and accounts for one-quarter of the world’s population.
“There isn’t one single Muslim world. There are many Muslims around the world that share beliefs, but there are differences as well,” said James Bell, director of international survey research at the Pew Forum…
…The atheist strain within communism continues to reverberate through former Soviet states like Russia and Kazakhstan, where much lower percentages of people (44 percent and 18 percent, respectively) say religion is “very important.”
Generally, men and women worldwide held similar religious commitments. However, they differed greatly in mosque attendance, especially in Central Asia and South Asia, which is probably due to local or cultural norms, Bell said.
Younger Muslims worldwide were less religiously committed than older Muslims, with the biggest differences seen in the Middle East and North Africa. In Lebanon, for instance, Muslims older than 35 were 28 percentage points more likely to pray several times a day than younger Muslims. Only Russia showed younger Muslims placing significantly more importance on religion.