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Muslim diversity of belief, practice evident in Pew study
WORLDVIEW: A Muslim counts the cost for following Christ
EDITOR'S NOTE: Jim Haney, director of global research for the International Mission Board, penned the following observations regarding the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life survey on "The World's Muslims -- Their Unity and Diversity."
RICHMOND, Va. (BP) -- Of the 11,352 people groups in the world today, 2,344 are primarily Muslim. The combined population of people groups that are primarily Muslim is 1.61 billion people. Evangelicals, including Southern Baptists, are sharing the Gospel and planting churches among 985 of the people groups that are primarily Muslim. These 985 people groups have a combined population of 1.51 billion.
IMB missionaries are sharing the Gospel and planting churches among 285 people groups that are primarily Muslim, and these people groups, many of them large, have a combined population of 1.04 billion. Since IMB missionaries are engaging 787 total people groups, this means that about one in every three people groups engaged by IMB is a Muslim people group.
In addition to IMB missionaries, Southern Baptist churches are increasingly involved in engaging Muslim people groups around the world and in our cities.
In light of our identity in Christ and His call and commission, we find ourselves among Muslims around the world. Some are conservative Muslims looking to follow the tenets of their faith by practicing the pillars of Islam and bracing themselves against a world that is becoming increasingly secular and unbelieving. Some seek to practice their faith by contextualizing the expressions of faith as needed. Some believe that governments are evil and choose to follow the laws of Allah first and foremost. Some are on a jihad; some are on a massira (journey); some are rebellious and have fallen out with religion and see it as no longer necessary in today's world.
The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life has provided a number of publications and tools for understanding faith and practice in the world today, and their recent expansive survey on "The World's Muslims -- Their Unity and Diversity" is another opportunity for us to learn about a quarter of the world's population.
Reflections about the survey:
1. The survey includes every nation with a Muslim population of more than 10 million except Algeria, China, India, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen where the face-to-face interviews would cause attention and possible harm to respondents. It is regrettable that these countries could not be surveyed because many are coming to Christ, while facing great persecution. Of the 39 countries and territories that were sampled, sufficient samples (and over-samples where necessary) provide a high confidence that the observations made are reliable.
2. The survey reveals a world that is not as monolithic as Americans might think. Although there are unifying fundamentals in Islam -- the shahada (the confession that there is one God and Muhammad is his prophet) and the pillars (oneness of God, with the prophesy of Muhammad as final; daily prayers; providing for the needy; fasting; and a pilgrimage to Mecca for the able-bodied) -- there is a wide variety in expression and different levels of commitment. IMB missionaries have witnessed this firsthand. Continued...