Muslims are followers of the religion Islam, who believe in and live by the teachings of the prophet Muhammad. There are more than two billion Muslims worldwide, making Islam the second-largest religion in the world, exceeded only by Christianity. In fact, many researchers project that Muslims will outnumber Christians by the year 2050.
Although Muslims can be found all over the world, the majority live in northern and central Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia. Many countries in these regions are more than 90% Muslim, including Egypt, Afghanistan, Syria, Pakistan, Turkey, and Iran. Any country in which Muslims make up 50% or more of the population is considered a Muslim majority country.
The country with the largest number of Muslims overall is Indonesia, which is home to an estimated 231 million Muslims. This is 86.7% of the Indonesian population and nearly 13% of the world’s total population of Muslims. In Indonesia, Islam can be broadly categorized into “modernism,” which follows orthodox theology while embracing modern learning, or “traditionalism,” which follows the interpretations of local religious leaders.
Top 10 Countries with the Largest Number of Muslims (2021):
- Indonesia (231,000,000)
- Pakistan (212,300,000)
- India (200,000,000)
- Bangladesh (153,700,000)
- Nigeria (95,000,000–103,000,000)
- Egypt (85,000,000–90,000,000)
- Iran (82,500,000)
- Turkey (74,432,725)
- Algeria (41,240,913)
- Sudan (39,585,777)
Interestingly, while the countries listed above have the most Muslims overall, many smaller countries have a higher concentration of Muslim citizens.
Top 10 Countries with the Highest Percentage of Muslims (2021):
- Maldives (100%)
- Mauritania (99.9%)
- Somalia (99.8% - tie)
- Tunisia (99.8% - tie)
- Afghanistan (99.7% - tie)
- Algeria (99.7% - tie)
- Iran (99.4%)
- Yemen (99.2%)
- Morocco (99%)
- Niger (98.3%)
*Note: At 99.4% Muslim, the disputed territory Western Sahara would rank at #8–but as it has not yet been recognized as a country by the United Nations, it was disqualified.
Many Westerners might be surprised to learn that Islam is an Abrahamic religion, meaning Muslims worship the same God as Christians, Jews, and the Bahá'í Faith—though obviously with significant differences in scripture, theology, doctrine, and application.
Just as Christianity encompasses multiple denominations (Catholic, Lutheran, Mormon, Baptist, etc.), Islam includes two major denominations: Sunni (75-90%) and Shi'a (10-13%), as well as a number of smaller branches. For example, Muslims in Indonesia are approximately 99% Sunni, 0.5% Shia, and 0.3% Ahmadi.
The division between Sunni and Shi'a is nearly as old as Islam itself, having stemmed from a disagreement in AD 632 about who should succeed Muhammad as the leader of the faith. In the centuries since that time, additional theological differences have arisen.
The tension between various Muslim groups, particularly Shi'a vs Sunni, has occasionally led to armed conflict and terrorist activity. Muslim extremists are responsible for insurgencies in several African nations, and violence between Muslim sects has escalated into full-blown civil war in countries including Iraq, Yemen, and Syria.
For a detailed breakdown of how many Muslims live in each of the world's countries and what percentage of that country's population that equals, check out the table below.