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Mapping the Global Muslim Population

A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World's Muslim Population

Sunni and Shia Populations

More Than a Third of the World's Shia Muslims Live in Iran

An overwhelming majority of Muslims are Sunnis, while an estimated 10-13% are Shias. This report estimates that there are between 154 million and 200 million Shia Muslims in the world today.

Between 116 million and 147 million Shias live in Asia, representing about three-quarters of the world's Shia population (note that Iran is included in the Asia-Pacific region). Meanwhile, nearly a quarter of the world's Shias (36 million to 44 million) live in the Middle East-North Africa.1 Looked at in a different way, 12-15% of the Muslim population in the Asia-Pacific region is Shia, as is 11-14% of the Muslim population in the Middle East-North Africa region. The figures for Shias are generally given as a range because of the limitations in the secondary-source data (see Methodology for Sunni-Shia Estimates).

Most Shias (between 68% and 80%) live in four countries: Iran, Pakistan, India and Iraq. Iran has 66 million to 70 million Shias, or 37-40% of the world's total Shia population. Iraq, India and Pakistan each are home to at least 16 million Shias.

Sizeable numbers of Shias (1 million or more) are found in Turkey, Yemen, Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Nigeria and Tanzania. Shias constitute a relatively small percentage of the Muslim population elsewhere in the world. About 300,000 Shias are estimated to be living in North America, including both the U.S. and Canada, constituting about 10% of North America's Muslim population.

In four countries - Iran, Azerbaijan, Bahrain and Iraq - Shia Muslims make up a majority of the total population.

Countries with More Than 100,000 Shia Muslims

 

Estimated 2009
Shia Population

Approximate
Percentage of Muslim
Population that is Shia

Approximate
Percentage of World
Shia Population

Iran

66 - 70 million

90 - 95%

37 - 40%

Pakistan

17 - 26 million

10 - 15

10 - 15

India

16 - 24 million

10 - 15

9 - 14

Iraq

19 -22 million

65 - 70

11 - 12

Turkey

7 - 11 million

10 - 15

4 - 6

Yemen

8 - 10 million

35 - 40

~5

Azerbaijan

5 - 7 million

65 - 75

3 - 4

Afghanistan

3 - 4 million

10 - 15

~2

Syria

3 - 4 million

15 - 20

~2

Saudi Arabia

2 - 4 million

10 - 15

1 - 2

Nigeria

<4 million

<5

<2

Lebanon

1 - 2 million

45 - 55

<1

Tanzania

<2 million

<10

<1

Kuwait

500,000 - 700,000

20 - 25

<1

Germany

400,000 - 600,000

10 - 15

<1

Bahrain

400,000 - 500,000

65 - 75

<1

Tajikistan

~400,000

~7

<1

United Arab Emirates

300,000 - 400,000

~10

<1

United States

200,000 - 400,000

10 - 15

<1

Oman

100,000 - 300,000

5 - 10

<1

United Kingdom

100,000 - 300,000

10 - 15

<1

Bulgaria

~100,000

10 - 15

<1

Qatar

~100,000

~10

<1

World Total

154 - 200 million

10 - 13

100

Note: Countries with an estimated Shia population of less than 1% of the country's Muslim population are not listed. The figures for Shias are generally given in a range because of the limitations of the secondary-source data (see Methodology for Sunni-Shia Estimates). Figures may not sum to totals due to rounding.

Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life • Mapping the Global Muslim Population, October 2009

Download the full report PDF (62 pages, 10MB)


Footnote

1 The three-quarters figure for Asia was calculated by comparing the middle of the range of the estimates for Asia's Shia population (about 132 million) with the middle of the range of the estimates for the world's Shia population (about 177 million). The figure for the Middle East-North Africa was calculated by comparing the middle of the range of the estimates for the Middle East-North Africa's Shia population (about 40 million) with the middle of the range of the estimates for the world's Shia population (about 177 million).