Bismillahi ar-Rahman ar-Rahim

The World of Islam


A very common misconception is that all Muslims are Arabs. Following on this, many people also believe that all Arabs are Muslims. In fact, neither of these is true.

The largest single Muslim country is Indonesia, which has a population of nearly 200 million.

The region with probably the largest number of Muslims is the Indian subcontinent. There are about 100 million Muslims in India itself, plus about 140 million in Pakistan and some 120 million in Bangladesh. If that were all a single country, as it was under British rule until after World War Two, the Muslim population would be 360 million, and it would dwarf even Indonesia!

Sub-Saharan Africa also has a substantial Muslim population, estimated at 168 million. 50 million Muslims are found in Nigeria alone, and 25 million in Ethiopia.

It is estimated that there are around 25 million Muslims in China. Most belong to the Uighur ethnic minority in Xinjiang province and are related to the neighboring Turkic peoples. Others are ethnic Chinese.

Note: To read about the persecution of the Muslims of Xinjiang by the Communist government of China, read A Silent Ethnic Cleansing in the Making.

Two countries that are considered part of the Middle East but are not Arab are Iran and Turkey. Persian, the language of Iran, is part of the Indo-European family and is related to the languages of India, not to Arabic. The Turks, meanwhile, are related to the Turkic peoples of Central Asia, which include Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. Both Iran and Turkey have populations of about 60 million.

If you have been adding up the population figures as you read along, you have found that I have accounted for some 843 million people. All are Muslims, and none are Arabs!

In fact, only about 200 million people are Arabs. And although most of these are Muslims, not all of them are. Egypt, Lebanon, and Syria have sizeable populations of Christians. In fact, the Christian churches in Egypt (Coptic), Syria (Jacobite), Lebanon (Maronite), and also Jerusalem (Orthodox) all predate the arrival of Islam, and are still thriving today - and they have lived under 1,400 years of Muslim rule.

Please visit my Faces of Islam photo gallery to see a visual display of the diversity of Islam.