New Facts about Muslims: Why is Islam growing so rapidly?

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series New Facts about Muslims
Pew Forum 15 04 02 Projections of Muslim Population

THIS PEW projection shows the fastest-growing countries around the world, based on total population. One reason Islam is growing is the relatively high birth rates in nations where Muslim families already make up a majority of the population. Click this map to visit the Pew site and see the entire report.

How well do you know Muslims?

Many sources of information—biased and unbiased—shape our perceptions and beliefs. A goal of is to foster civil dialogue by providing impartial facts about often-controversial topics. This week, we’re focusing on new facts about Muslims, drawing on findings from new studies.

Compare these facts with what you know and tell us what you think! Even better—share these columns with friends and see if they are surprised by these findings. (You’re always welcome to fully share OurValues columns to spark discussion; that includes printing them out to spark discussion in your small group or class.)

Here’s the first fact that’s likely to get people talking: Did you know that Muslims are the world’s fastest-growing religious group?

That’s the conclusion from the Pew Research Center’s religious projections. In fact, they predict that the number of Muslims in the world will grow by 73% by 2050. This pace of growth is much faster than the growth rate for the world’s population.

All other religious groups are growing at a slower pace (or in the case of Buddhists, actually shrinking). After Muslims, Christians and Hindus are growing the fastest—but their rates of growth (about 35%) are less than half the growth rate for Muslims.

American Christians, in particular, have been hearing reports for several decades about the rapid spread of their faith in Africa, China and in a few other regions of the world. What’s surprising in this new report is that Islam is growing at an even faster rate.

In fact, by 2050, the number of Muslims in the world will equal the number of Christians; after that, Muslims will be become the world’s most numerous religious group.

Why is Islam projected to grow so rapidly?

It all comes down to demographics. The fertility rate for Muslims is higher than the rate for other major religious groups. For example, Christian women have an average of 2.7 children, compared to Muslim women, who have an average of 3.1 children.

The Muslim population also tends to be young, compared to other religious populations. The median age of Muslims is only 23, which means that many Muslims are arriving at the time when they will start having children. A young population combines with a high fertility rate to explain the rapid growth of Muslims.

Share with friends …

Did you know that Muslims are the world’s fastest growing religious group—and in 35 years will equal the number of Christians?

What are the implications of the changing religious composition of the world?

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  1. RamblingRob says

    The growth of Islam is similar to the growth of Christianity, a western religion. The history of Islam begins a little later than Jesus Christ on the world stage. Like Constantine, Mohammed carried his religious fervor into the Desert Nations to the south. I believe we are now witnessing Islam growing to the needs of the people the same as our forefathers looked to new freedoms in a new land. The poor morality exhibited by some is a replication of similar struggles for early Christians. We may be anxious about the results. Yet we should look at the opportunity to seek knowledge of those who live and practice their form of freedom. After all we are one world with no place to go.

  2. Martin Davis says

    I concur with the basic thesis that the growth is owed principally to birth rates. The issue of influence, however, is more difficult to measure, but I argue a more important one to understand. Many conservatives point to the population growth rate and equate more people with more influence. But this isn’t necessarily true.

    It depends on factors such as, how well do Muslims assimilate to the nonreligious culture–in France, for example, that assimilation isn’t going particularly well. To the point to two different worlds are emerging. One Muslim, one Christian/Western/agnostic/atheist.

    In the US, assimilation seems to be progressing better–though how much better I can’t say. And I’m open to being proven wrong about this.

    If I’m correct, an explosion in the Muslim population in the US that adapts Muslim practices to American culture will yield very difference influence than in France where the two sides are at odds.

    I would also point out that this is not simply true of Muslims. Extreme Christian groups–though largely white, middle class, and born and raised in the US–aren’t assimilating particularly well, removing themselves from the world when they disagree with the direction of things and, often, setting up subcultures that keep people from interacting with their non-Christian or differently Christian neighbors.