Religious Adherents, 2010 (World Christian Database)1
|Saudi Arabia||Western Asia||World|
Religious Adherence, 2003 (other estimates)2
The country has an area of 1,225,000 square miles and a population of more than 28.5 million, including an estimated foreign population of more than 8 million. The foreign population reportedly includes 1.6 million Indians, 1.5 million Bangladeshis, 1.2 million Filipinos, 1 million Pakistanis, 1 million Egyptians, 600,000 Indonesians, 400,000 Sri Lankans, 350,000 Nepalese, 250,000 Palestinians, 150,000 Lebanese, 100,000 Eritreans, and 30,000 Americans.
While accurate religious demographics are difficult to obtain, approximately 90 percent of citizens are Sunni Muslims, who predominantly subscribe to the Government-sanctioned interpretation of Islam. In the western Hejaz region, there are sizeable communities following other Sunni interpretations.
Ten percent of citizens are Shi'a Muslims. The reportedly 1.5 to 2 million Shi'a are primarily located in the Eastern Province, southern Najran Province, and western Medina area. An estimated 150,000 Shi'a also reside in the Medina area of the western Hejaz region, including the Ashraf (descendants of the Prophet Muhammad) and approximately 50,000 Nakhawala. In addition, there are reportedly 250,000 – 450,000 Sulaimaniya Isma'ili Shi'a in the southern Najran Province and the Eastern Province. The majority of the country's Shi'a are "Twelvers" (i.e., they are followers of Muhammad ibn Hasan, whom they recognize as the Twelfth Imam) and are primarily located in the Eastern Province and the Medina area of the western Hejaz region. The Sulaimaniya Isma'ili, are known as "Seveners" (i.e., they are followers of Isma'il ibn Jafar, whom they recognize as the Seventh Imam).
Comprehensive statistics for the religious denominations of foreigners are not available; however, they include Muslims from the various branches and schools of Islam, Christians (including Eastern Orthodox, Protestants, and over one million Roman Catholics), Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, and others. In addition to European and North American Christians, there are Christian East Africans, Indians, Pakistanis, Lebanese, Syrians, Palestinians, and large numbers of other South Asians residing in the country. Ninety percent of the Filipino community is Christian. Private Christian religious gatherings reportedly take place throughout the country.
The Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Endowment, Call, and Guidance (MOIA) is responsible for 72,000 Sunni mosques and over 50,000 Sunni imams. The Grand Muftis of the two holiest mosques in Mecca and Medina report directly to the King.
In December 2007 the country hosted almost three million Muslim pilgrims from around the world and all branches of Islam for the annual Hajj to Mecca.
Note: The World Christian Database (WCD) estimates, used in the Religious Adherents section above, count each person as belonging to a maximum of one religious group. For more information, see the WCD methodology document. The U.S. State Department's International Religious Freedom report estimates, used in the Religious Demography section, use less restrictive criteria in which a person who identifies with more than one religion is classified as a follower of each. In certain cases (such as Japan and other nations with strong folk religion traditions), this can cause counts to vary widely between estimates. Users are advised to consult the relevant source documents before determining which counts to cite.
1. The World Christian Database (WCD) is based on the 2600-page award-winning World Christian Encyclopedia and World Christian Trends, first published in 1982 and revised in 2001. This extensive work on World religion is now completely updated and integrated into the WCD online database. Designed for both the casual user and research scholar, information is readily available on religious activities, growth rates, religious literature, worker activity, and demographic statistics. Additional secular data is incorporated on population, health, education, and communications. A dataset with these and the other international measures highlighted on the country pages can be downloaded from this website. Used with permission.
2. Estimates based on the Comparative Values Survey of Islamic Countries supplemented by the 2009 Pew report entitled "Mapping the Global Muslim Population," which was used to estimate the percentage who were Sunni or Shi'a.
Estimates represent the proportion of respondents to the Comparative Values Survey of Islamic Countries in the country under consideration who reported the specific religious tradition. The survey is a subset of the World Values Survey, which compiles nationally representative public opinion data of adults (18 or older) from a variety of countries. The general methodology is a stratified random sample with each country containing a minimum of 1000 cases. Estimates represent the proportion of respondents to the third wave of the World Values Survey (2005-2008) who reported the specific religious tradition in the country of consideration.
The Pew report bases its estimates of the proportion of the Muslim population that is Shi'a on 1) "Analyses by more than 20 demographers and social scientists at universities and
research centers around the world who are acting as consultants on this project"; 2) "Ethnographic analyses published in the World Religion Database (WRD)"; and 3) "review of other published or frequently used estimates."
3. The U.S. State Department's International Religious Freedom Report is submitted to Congress annually by the Department of State in compliance with Section 102(b) of the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) of 1998. This report supplements the most recent Human Rights Reports by providing additional detailed information with respect to matters involving international religious freedom. It includes individual country chapters on the status of religious freedom worldwide. A dataset with these and the other international measures highlighted on the country pages can be downloaded from this website. These State Department reports are open source.