The Muslim Population Number is a Mystery

Tariq Nelson has an interesting discussion going on at his blog about Muslim population figures. A study has come out saying that about 400,000 African-Americans are Muslims or about 1% of the black population of America. This contrasts with the 5% figure some Muslims have put forward and on this issue I tend to side with the low number, but I still feel it is a little low ( off the top of my head I think there may be 700,000 given the large numbers in some East Coast cities).

If Muslims are 5% of the black population they have accomplished astoundingly little. However, at 1% the state of the community becomes a little more realistic if not desirable.

There are some cities where there are more black Muslims than others. The East Coast cities have the most; Philly, NYC, New Jersey, DC, and Baltimore. Then you have those places where EC Muslims migrated such as Atlanta and the Carolinas. Next you have the old Midwestern cities that were strong in the NOI back in the day such as Chicago, Detroit and Cleveland.

But, outside of those areas, you will find the black Muslim populations pretty small. It is true that in Philly, Brooklyn or Newark you will run into black American Muslims sporting beards and hijabs/niqaabs all day long. But you may walk the streets of dozens of other cities for weeks without seeing a Muslim.

In prior conversations Tariq has told me there are probably 20 active black Muslims in Memphis and Memphis is a city with a huge black population. In a city like Wichita, where I have spent time, there are maybe 50 black Muslims in a city with 60,000 African-Americans.

Let’s look at St. Louis. At all of the masjids in the area there may be 200 African-American Muslims at jumma at all the masjids combined every week in a metro area with almost 500,000 African-Americans. I will grant you there are a few thousand lax Muslims out there; but are there tens of thousands? Even if so their children will not be Muslims more than likely.

The Muslim population in general is a mystery. Some Jewish organizations have said there are only about 1 million Muslims in America (and I once heard someone say 500,000) which both are absurdly low given the fact that a city with a dead Muslim population like St. Louis has between 70,000 and 100,000 Muslims. Some Muslims have said the Muslim population here is as high as 17 million which is absurdly high. Muslim organizations have touted the 6 million figure and that number keeps growing; but this in my mind was always a number put forth for political reasons to say that there as many, if not more, Muslims than Jews in America.

One thing that we do know if we compare the Muslim-Jewish populations is that our numbers are growing and theirs are declining. No one would dispute this. All of the major Northern industrial American cities that had historically large Jewish populations now have large Muslim immigrant and second-generation communities. This is not to mention there are growing and vibrant Muslim populations in cities with virtually no Jewish presence. So, if the number for Muslims is not 6 million, I think it may be close. But, at the end of the day, our population remains a mystery.


12 thoughts on “The Muslim Population Number is a Mystery

  1. People think that because the population of black Muslims is high in a place like Philly that it is high in other black cities like Memphis, St Louis, Birmingham or New Orleans where there are few black Muslims in spite of large black populations. People often forget (or just don’t know) that Mississippi is the state with the largest percentage of blacks. I would be surprised is there were 200 black Muslims statewide.

    There are so few black Muslims in Memphis that people hardly know there are Muslims that are black American. Not to speak of political and cultural influence.

    As for the 6 million figure, I have been hearing that number for 15 years. It seems to be arbitrary

    I agree that 700,000 seems to be a pretty good number

  2. Isn’t there a government departing keep rack op population? Like Office for National Statistics in UK?

    Times article didn’t go down well with right wing press. The number of Muslims in Britain has grown by more than 500,000 in four years to 2.4million.

    What concerned critics most is revelation that “the biggest Christian population is in the over-70s age group, while for Muslims it is among under-4s, who numbered 301,000 as of September last year”.

    Higher Birth-rate= this is down to those descendents of immigrants from villages Pakistan controlled Kashmir, who still on average have 5 children. (

    Do we celebrate quantity or morn lack or quality?

  3. I was speaking with a member of a Jewish organization here in Chicago and the total population of Muslims in their opinion eclipses the Jews 2-1. According to them Chicago Muslims equal 400,000 while Jews are 100-200,000 range.

    The Chicago metropolitan area probably has over 500,000 Muslims at this point.

    Personally I think we’re at the point where there is more than 6 million Muslims in America.

    African American Muslims I definitely feel number in the millions because of the high numbers in the East Coast. I’ve met more than 20 Muslim brothers from Tennessee and I know a brother who is down there spreading da’wah so hopefully it grows.

  4. Sounds like an opportunity for da’wah. Call them to true Islam; not sufism, nationalism and all the other deviate beliefs.

  5. I agree that 700,000 seems to be a pretty good number

    I just can’t buy that number. If the CAIR number that I cited on your blog is correct (black Muslims make up 30% of regular mosque attendants – and this doesn’t include the slackers), then that implies that the total Muslim population in the US is about 2.3 million. And regardless of the politicization of the numbers issue, 2.3 million is just way too low IMO.

  6. JD,

    I just don’t buy that 30% number. It certainly has not been the case of any city that I have lived in and I think I have lived in more than 10 cities since accepting Islam.


    Yes is is an opportunity for dawah.

    MT Akbar,

    If AA Muslims are in the Millions then there should be a great shame because there is not one clinic, hospital, and only a handful of functional schools ran by AA Muslims. How many mosques have been built from the ground up compared to the thousands of AA churches having been built? Media wise I can only think of two short radio programs and some public-access cable shows and maybe one national publication. I would have to think if their were millions of AA Muslims this situation would be better.

  7. Is y’all’s forgettin’ to count all the jailhouse AA Muslims? That will prolly boost the percentage five or ten percent…

    I’m kiddin’… kind of. Seriously, when i went on what they call Black Planet (back in the late 90’s) and it seemed that about 10-20% of the people there were calling themselves Muslims (and quite a few with strange sexual orientations). I’m not trying to draw conclusions from that–just sayin’ there are (or were) a lot of people calling themselves Muslims. But that was the 90’s and Islam was more “trendy” in the black community back then.

    It is true that there are VAST expanses of black America that one can pass thru and not see a Muslim–or at least not many. Things have changed. For one, many saw Islam and black nationalism as something connected if not almost synonymous. A lot of the black nationalist have died off (or went nuts–like Steve Cokely):

    Also, the black nationalist thing is going to further fade away now that there is a black President. Furthermore with the mass influx of immigrant Muslims, and people (even AA) becoming more familiar with the “outside world,” Islam ceases to be seen as a “black thing”–but more like “the other thing.” Furthermore, the immigrant Muslims–AS A WHOLE–HAVE NOT HELPED in the propagation of the da`wah. Afterall, for many of the negroes down here in the South, 40 ozs. and “Ay-rabs” at the corner store virtually go hand in hand. (Also the Darfur situation doesn’t help).

    Got some more thoughts on this, but i gotta go.

  8. I just don’t buy that 30% number.

    OK, give me a number. As a percentage of all people praying in a mosque (say, for jumu’ah), how many would you say are AAs?

  9. @ Imran:

    Isn’t there a government departing keep rack op population? Like Office for National Statistics in UK?

    Not in the US; the Census Bureau doesn’t ask what the religious beliefs are of American citizens, unlike other countries. Here in S’pore the gov’t knows the exact number of Muslims as we all register our conversions to MUIS, the gov’t’s liason office with the Muslim community. I am a card-carrying Muslim! :)

  10. salaamaat,

    @Umar, Those are good points. Why are those things not there in the numbers they should be. I don’t know the exact answer to that but I dont think it is solely attributable to the numbers. By the way what I meant by numbers in the millions I should be more clear, in the 1-2 million range.

    WD Muhammad’s community has built a lot of Masajid from the ground up.

    MT Akbar Al-Chicagowee

  11. I am an african american muslim brother that lives in houston TX the black muslim population down hear seems low. Most of the muslims down here are from other foreign countries. I can not even find an african american muslim women to tie the knots with down here. Should i go to another city to find one.

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