10. Morocco (31.9 Million)
More than 99% of the population of Morocco practices Islam, with the majority of Moroccan Muslims being Sunnis of the Maliki school of teaching. Islam was introduced in Morocco in 680 by Uqbaibn Nafi, a leader of an Arab invasion to Morocco. In the succeeding centuries, the region of Morocco was ruled by numerous powerful Muslim dynasties who established Islam as the dominant religion here. It was during the Almoravid rule (1040 to 1147) that the Maliki school of Islam flourished in Morocco. Currently, Islam practiced in this country is believed to be considerably more lenient than that practiced in many other regions of the Muslim world, in terms of accepting non-Muslim ideas and practicing religious tolerance.
9. Algeria (34.7 million)
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 the country 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 differing faiths are also respected and allowed to practice their own religion.
8. Turkey (71.3 million)
Turkey has some of the most ancient sites in human civilization, with a rich cultural and political history of its own. This is also one of the very few countries with a secular constitution despite Islam being the religion of a majority of its population. In Turkey, religion is kept separate from the state, and the freedom to practice any religion is allowed here. 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.
7. Iran (73.6 million)
Iran was declared an Islamic Republic after the Islamic Revolution of 1979. The majority of the population of Iran (around 99.4%) have adopted the religion of Islam. Interestingly, Iran is one of the very few countries that has a predominately Shia Muslim population (90-95%) instead of Sunni Muslims. Most Sunnis in Iran (about 5-10% of the Muslim population) are Kurds, Turkomen, Baluchs, or Larestani. The daily life of Iranians is filled with symbolisms derived mostly from Islam, especially from 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.
6. Egypt (77.0 million)
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.
5. Nigeria (77.3 million)
Nigeria is one of the largest Muslim populated countries in West Africa, with the majority of its Muslims being 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 1970’s, 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 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.
4. Bangladesh (134.4 million)
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.
3. India (167.4 million)
Even though India has the second largest population of Muslims in the world, a recent study claims that, by 2050, India will overtake Indonesia as the country with the largest population of Muslims in the world. Even though India has such a large number of Muslims, 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, which led to the creation of Pakistan, and then Bangladesh from part of Pakistan. 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. Since India is a secular democracy, the people of the country are allowed to practice their own faith, and thus the Muslims of India, despite being a minority, enjoy practicing their own faith and customs as dictated by their religion.
2. Pakistan (176.2 million)
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’. 95-97% of Pakistan’s population is comprised by Muslims, while Christians, Hindus, and other minorities occupy only a very small percentage of the population. Most of the Muslims of Pakistan are Sunnis (80-85%) and Shias occupy only 10-20% of the Pakistani Muslim population. Religion dominates every aspect of people’s lives in this country, with religious credentials often deciding hierarchies in leaderships in villages and towns. Islam influences and guides the daily activities of Pakistanis, with Sharia law applicable in the courts of the country. In Pakistan, any type of criticism of Islam is unacceptable, and often dealt with very strictly.
1. Indonesia (209.1 million)
Even though Indonesia is a constitutionally secular state, it has the largest Muslim population in the world, and Islam is the by far the dominant religion in the country. 99% of the Muslims of 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 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.