Is Islam growing faster than Christianity?
Dec 05, 2016
As in all things, it’s complicated.
Speed of growth is measured as the annual growth rate, which is expressed as a percentage.
At a global level, Islam is growing faster than Christianity: for the past several years (Status of Global Mission, linked on my Resources page) reports Islam is growing globally at about 1.87% p.a., while Christianity’s is growing globally at a rate of 1.3% and the population’s global AGR of 1.1%.
Both Christianity and Islam are growing faster than the world population (so the world is becoming more religious); Islam is growing faster than Christianity, so the % Muslim in the world is increasing.
However, the “fastest” AGR doesn’t equate to “the biggest religion.” Total Christians are significantly larger than total Muslims - 2.4 billion vs. 1.7 billion - and even by 2050, there will still be over a billion more Christians (3.4 billion) than Muslims (2.6 billion).
Further, while Islam has a higher growth rate globally, Christianity has a higher growth rate in most individual countries.
Most of Islam’s increase comes from demographic growth (births) in high-birth-rate countries where Islam is the majority.
A religion’s growth rate tends to ‘outstrip’ the competing religion when the ‘winner’ is small.
However, in all of these ten countries (Sahara, Yemen, Morocco, Afghanistan, Mauritania, Somalia, Tunisia, Maldives, Comoros, Iran), the Christian population is a very tiny minority, and even with existing rapid growth rates it will not overtake Islam’s population any time soon.
Islam has the advantage in places where the birth rate is high, and some level of conflict or pressure leads to emigration of other religions. Examples include Niger, Djibouti, Turkey, Jordan, Turkmenistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Qatar, Azerbaijan, Mali, Egypt, Uzbekistan.
In the largest populations of the world, it’s a mixed bag:
So when someone says Islam is the fastest religion growing in the world, the answer is “Yes, but…” Don’t leap to the conclusion that Islam is the winner in terms of adherents. Christianity is larger in numbers globally, growing fastest where Islam is strongest, and certainly “in competition” in the largest populations.