Appendix A: U.S. Muslims: Beliefs and Practices in a Global Context
Muslims, like Muslims in other countries, overwhelmingly accept certain core
religious beliefs, such as the conviction that there is one God and that
Muhammad is His Prophet. However, U.S. Muslims tend to be less observant than
Muslims in many countries surveyed when it comes to practices such as daily
prayer and mosque attendance. Moreover, American Muslims stand out from other
Muslims surveyed on the question of orthodoxy: Muslims in the U.S. are much
more inclined to say that Islam is open to multiple understandings, rather than
a single, correct interpretation.
all American Muslims adhere to central tenets of the Islamic faith, according
to Pew Research Center surveys of U.S. Muslims in 2011 and 2007. For instance, the
percentage of U.S. Muslims who believe in one God (96%) and the Prophet Muhammad (96%) is about the same as the median percentage across the countries included in the current study who subscribe to these core tenets
(97%). More than eight-in-ten U.S. Muslims say the Quran is the word of God,
including 50% who say it should be read literally. By comparison, about
nine-in-ten or more Muslims in every country surveyed in sub-Saharan Africa –
the only region in the current survey where the question was asked – say the
Quran is the word of God, and about three-quarters or more in most sub-Saharan
countries say the Islamic holy book should be taken literally, word for word.
At the same time, the proportion of U.S. Muslims who say they believe in the
existence of angels (90%) is in line with attitudes among Muslims in other
parts of the globe (a median of 88% say angels exist).
majority of American Muslims (69%) say religion is very important in their
lives. However, U.S. Muslims place somewhat less emphasis on religion than
Muslims in most of the countries in the current survey (a median of 87% say
religion is very important to them). In addition, when it comes to practices
such as prayer and mosque attendance, American Muslims are somewhat less
observant than most Muslims surveyed elsewhere in the world. About
two-thirds (65%) of U.S. Muslims say they pray once a day or more, while
slightly less than half (47%) attend mosque at least once a week. Across the
other countries surveyed, a median of 76% report praying daily, and 61% say
they attend mosque one or more times a week.
Muslims in most countries surveyed, American Muslims are inclined to see their
faith as open to interpretation. A majority of U.S. Muslims (57%) say Islam can
be understood in more than one way, compared with 37% who believe there is only
one correct interpretation of Islam. Globally, views among Muslims trend in the
opposite direction: a median of 27% say Islam is open to more than one interpretation,
while a median of 63% disagree.
Download the topline survey results on these questions from the 2011 and 2007 Pew Research Center surveys of U.S. Muslims (PDF, 31 KB, 2 pages)
Photo Credit: © SZE FEI WONG / istockphoto