Saudi Arabia
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  Preferred Religion (2015)1: Sunni

  Majority Religion (2015)2: Sunni Muslim (24.4%)

Religious Adherents, (2015)2

Saudi Arabia Western Asia World
Muslim (all denominations combined) 91.7% 83.4% 22.8%
 
  • Sunni Muslim
  • 81.9% 57% 19%
     
  • Shia Muslim
  • 9.3% 24.6% 3.4%
     
  • Other and Unknown Muslim
  • 0.5% 0.8% 0.3%
    Christian (all denominations combined) 4.4% 5.6% 29.9%
     
  • Catholic
  • 3.9% 2.1% 15%
     
  • Orthodox
  • 0.2% 3.2% 3%
     
  • Other and Unknown Christian
  • 0.3% 0.3% 2.3%
    Hindu 2.3% 0.8% 14.5%
    Buddhist (all denominations combined) 0.4% 0.2% 6.6%
     
  • Other and Unknown Buddhist
  • 0.4% 0.1% 0.5%
    Sikh 0.2% --- 0.4%
    Ethnoreligionist (incl. Animist, Shamanist) 0.2% --- 2.5%
    Other Religionist 0.2% 0.3% 0.2%
    Not Religious (incl. Atheist) 0.7% 1.2% 12%

    Religious Demography3

    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.


    Sources

    1.  The Religious Characteristics of States Dataset Project: Government Religious Preference (GRP) measures government-level favoritism toward, and disfavor against, 30 religious denominations. A series of ordered categorical variables index the state's institutional favoritism in 28 different ways. The variables are combined to form five composite indices for five broad components of state-religion: official status, religious education, financial support, regulatory burdens, and freedom of practice. The five components' composites in turn are further combined into a single composite score, the GRP score. The RCS Data Project would like to acknowledge, recognize, and express our deepest gratitude for the significant contributions of Todd M. Johnson, the principal investigator of the World Christian Database, the co-principal investigator of the World Religion Database, and co-author of the World Christian Encyclopedia series.

    2.  The Religious Characteristics of States Dataset Project: Demographics reports annual estimates of religious demographics, both country by country and region by region. It estimates populations and percentages of adherents of 100 religious denominations including second level subdivisions within Christianity and Islam. The RCS Data Project would like to acknowledge, recognize, and express our deepest gratitude for the significant contributions of Todd M. Johnson, the principal investigator of the World Christian Database, the co-principal investigator of the World Religion Database, and co-author of the World Christian Encyclopedia series.

    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.

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