Spotlight on India
Expected Growth of India’s Muslim Population
India is projected to have the third-largest Muslim population (in absolute numbers) in the world by 2030, following Pakistan and Indonesia. The Muslim population in India is projected to increase from 177.3 million in 2010 to 236.2 million in 2030. The Muslim share of India’s population is expected to increase from 14.6% in 2010 to 15.9% in 2030. More than one-in-ten of the world’s Muslims (10.8%) will live in India in 2030, about the same as in 2010.
India’s Muslim population is expected to grow at a slower rate in the next 20 years than it did in the previous two decades. The Muslim population in India increased by 76.4 million from 1990 to 2010; it is expected to grow by 58.9 million between 2010 and 2030.1
Fertility rates for all populations in India have been declining in recent years, in part because of increasing use of birth control. However, Muslims in India continue to have more children on average than non-Muslims, mainly because Muslims’ use of birth control still falls below the national average. In 2005-2006, for example, 45.7% of Muslim couples used some form of birth control, compared with 56.3% of couples in the general population, according to an analysis of the National Family Health Survey.
Muslims in India are poorer and less educated than other religious groups. These characteristics are often associated with higher fertility rates. For instance, according to the 2001 census, only 3.6% of Muslims in India age 20 and older are college or university graduates, compared with 6.7% of all Indians in this age group. The literacy rate among Muslim women (50.1%) is lower than the rate among other women in India, including Hindus (53.2%) and Christians (76.2%).
Muslim women also are less likely to work outside the home than non-Muslim women, and employment is associated with lower fertility.
Muslims have lived in India since the advent of Islam. The country’s first mosque is said to have been established around 630 A.D., even before the death of the Prophet Muhammad. 2 The number of Muslims in India declined in 1947 when India gained its independence and an estimated 7 million people migrated from India to Pakistan, but India’s Muslim population has been rising steadily since.
Muslims live throughout India. According to the 2001 census, a large concentration of Muslims lives in two of the largest and poorest states, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar; 35.6% of all the Muslims in India live in these two states. An additional 14.6% of the country’s Muslims live in West Bengal, which adjoins Bihar and borders Bangladesh. The remainder of the country’s Muslim population is scattered in more than 20 other states.
Although Muslims constitute a small minority in most Indian states, they make up roughly a third of the population in Assam (30.9%) and about a quarter of the population in both West Bengal and Kerala. Muslims constitute a majority of the population in the northernmost state of Jammu and Kashmir, where they make up 67.0% of the population.
1 In the Pew Forum’s 2009 report Mapping the Global Muslim Population, India’s population figures were calculated assuming the percentage of Muslims was the same in 2009 as it was in 2001, when the national census was taken. However, the new estimate for 2010 takes into account differential fertility rates between Muslims and non-Muslims in India and arrives at a higher estimate than in the previous report. (return to text)
2 See Aziz Ahmad, An Intellectual History of Islam in India, Edinburgh University Press, 1969. (return to text)