Will Islam soon be the largest religion in the world?
A Pew Research poll predicts that, based on current trends, the number of Muslims in the world will almost equal the number of Christians by 2050. In conversations, you might hear this statement as proof that Islam is in. growth and that other religions (such as Christianity) are declining rapidly. But such a conclusion is misleading and fails to take into consideration a number of realities occurring in the Muslim world.
Research reveals the cultural trends of Muslim families, not the appeal of Islam itself, explains the population surge. The growing number of Muslims is not primarily caused by conversion, but rather is due to the fact that Muslim families are producing more children. The higher relative birth rate is due to various social and religious reasons, including the fact that, in most Muslim-dominated societies, women have few opportunities outside the home.
Of course, some converts choose Islam, but we must recognize recent research showing that conversion works in two directions.
Consider the Muslim population in the United States. In January 2018, a Pew Research study said that the number of converts to Islam was almost equal to the number of those who abandoned the faith. So there was hardly any net growth at all. This study also found that about 25 percent of adult Muslims raised in the United States no longer identified as Muslims.
What about the Arab world, especially the core of Islam? What are the models there?
On June 24, 2019, The Guardian reported on a study – conducted by a Princeton University-based research group – that suggested Arab Muslims are abandoning Islam in unprecedented numbers. The study compares the number of “non-religious” people between 2014 and 2019. The figures have risen from 11% to 18%.
Such a statistic is astounding because the Arab world is the stronghold of Islam. This study took place during the rise of ISIS when militant Islamist groups were committing atrocities. Many Muslims, it seems, have questioned their old beliefs. If more Muslims felt comfortable answering the study’s questions openly, the numbers could be even higher.
But some Muslims are open about their abandonment of Islam. Another secular study found that hundreds and thousands, depending on the country, of Muslims now identify as atheists and are ready to report their decisions online.
This claim of Islam as the “fastest growing” religion in the world needs more nuance than it usually receives.
Consider the number of Muslims in the world. In September 2019, The Telegraph [London] published an article titled “Why Are Young Muslims Leaving Islam?” The article provides several answers to the question. In many parts of the world, we are told, new generations of “educated” Muslims are asking difficult questions about the origins, teachings and foundations of Islam. The article reports waves of young Muslims abandoning Islam due to “crises of disbelief.” He points out that this is a phenomenon not only in Western liberal societies, but also in conservative Islamic countries, including Sudan, Iran and Pakistan.
Speaking of Iran, although it is the largest and most influential Shia Muslim country, it finds itself in an even more difficult position.
In September 2020, a university study highlighted Iran’s secular turn. He said that masses of Iranians are abandoning Islam for various reasons. We are told that currently only 40% of Iranians identify as Muslims. It’s shocking because Iran claims to be 99.5% Muslim. If this study reflects the reality on the ground, it is plausible to deduce that Iran is no longer a predominantly Muslim country.
Unlike previous generations, many of today’s former Muslims are bold about leaving Islam, although they know that leaving the religion is punishable by death in some countries.
Online platforms have now developed bold hashtags, such as #AwesomeWithoutAllah, #ExMuslim, #FreeFromHijab, #Apostate and others. There is even an organization called Ex-Muslims of North America (EXMNA) which campaigns for the freedom of former Muslims.
So, is Islam the fastest growing religion in the world? This answer depends on more nuanced responses than what current media talking points would imply.