U.S. Muslims are religiously observant, but open to multiple interpretations of Islam

Turkish mosque in Washington

Turkish mosque in Washington DC

Source: Pew Research Center

For American Muslims, being highly religious does not necessarily translate into acceptance of traditional notions of Islam. While many U.S. Muslims say they attend mosque and pray regularly, sizable shares also say that there is more than one way to interpret their religion and that traditional understandings of Islam need to be reinterpreted to address the issues of today, according to a 2017 Pew Research Center survey.

While Americans overall have become somewhat less religious in recent years, measures of various beliefs and practices have been relatively stable among those who identify with a religion (e.g., Protestants, Catholics). The current survey shows a similar pattern among U.S. Muslims. About four-in-ten Muslims say they attend religious services at least weekly, and a similar share say they perform five daily prayers (salah). These numbers have changed little since 2007. In addition, about four-in-ten Muslim women say they always wear hijab in public, almost identical to the share who said this in previous surveys.

If there is one measure that shows a modest decline in religious observance among U.S. Muslims over the past decade, it is in the share who say religion is very important in their lives: 65% now say this, compared with 69% in 2011 and 72% in 2007.

Eight-in-ten U.S. Muslims say they fast during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, and most are satisfied with the quality of mosques available to them – though few see the mosque as central to their spiritual life.

Beyond these measures of religious practice, many Muslim Americans see room for multiple and more contemporary interpretations of their faith. A majority of U.S. Muslims say there is more than one true way to interpret Islam, and about half say traditional understandings of the faith need to be reinterpreted to address current issues.

This chapter discusses those topics and more on the way Muslim Americans view themselves, through both a religious and a spiritual lens, as well as the ways in which they practice and observe their faith.

Two-thirds of Muslims say religion very important to them, six-in-ten pray daily

A majority of U.S. Muslims (65%) say religion is “very important” to them. About one-in-five (22%) say religion is “somewhat important” in their lives, while fewer say religion is “not too” (8%) or “not at all” (5%) important. These figures are similar to the level of importance U.S. Christians place on religion (in 2014, 68% said religion is very important).

Sunni Muslims place more importance on religion (70% very important) than do Shiites (52%). And U.S. Muslims whose friends are all or mostly Muslim place more importance on religion than do those with fewer Muslim friends.

Younger and older Muslims attach similar levels of importance to religion, and there are no differences between immigrant Muslims and U.S.-born Muslims on the importance of religion.

Six-in-ten Muslim Americans report praying at least some of the five salah every day, with 42% saying they pray all five daily, and 17% praying some salah each day. A quarter (25%) say they pray less often, and 15% say they never pray. These findings are broadly in line with those from 2011 and 2007.

College graduates are somewhat less likely than those with lower levels of education to say they pray all five salah daily: 36% say they do this, compared with 44% of those without college degrees. The survey also finds that older Muslims are more likely to pray all five salah every day than are younger Muslims: Just a third of U.S. Muslims ages 18 to 29 (33%) say they complete this practice daily, compared with 53% of Muslims ages 55 and older.

Many Muslims attend mosque weekly, but most say they pursue spiritual life mainly outside the mosque

Four-in-ten American Muslims attend a mosque or Islamic center at least weekly, including 18% who say they attend more than once a week and 25% who say they attend once a week for Jumah prayer (Friday congregational prayer). About a third (32%) say they attend once or twice a month or a few times a year, and a quarter (26%) say they seldom or never attend.

Levels of attendance at religious services among U.S. Muslims are comparable to those of Christians. According to the 2014 Religious Landscape Study, nearly half of U.S. Christians say they attend worship services weekly or more (47%), another 36% attend monthly or yearly, and 17% seldom or never attend.

Read further: 2017 Pew Research Center survey.

2 replies

  1. Most Mudlims from various sectes of Islam still follow the ancient Islamic law. Such as:
    nowadays, women also still are forbidden to sing a song on TV or at public place—-forbidden to get good education as well male does—-forbidden shake hand with a man—forbidden to sit side by side with man—forbidden to walk with a man—–forbidden to be a leader or imam in mosque in society—-forbidden to work in office with men—-in other word woman have to cover her whole body or wear burqa, veil or hijab. Woman have to stay home daylong to raise her kids. Woman does not have the same freedom as male does.
    From my spiritual understanding of the ancient interpretation of Al Quran and the Sunnah is according to the context of times,( the stone ages, primitive era ) and Arab tradition who live in desert.
    So laws that related to worldly matter can be reformed, and the laws that related to Allah such as Prayer (shalat), fasting, and Hajji can not be reformed and will be applied forever.
    So since male and female has the same education, and the the same duty, female and male will receive the same inheritance from their parent.
    So the ancient laws has changed naturally.
    So based on that all ancient Islamic laws that related to the worldly affair can be reformed.

    1. Women do not need to wear Hijab, except if she live in desert area like saudi Arabia.
    2. Women can reject her husband for intimate if you do not feel not to do so.
    3. Women should receive the same amount of inheritance with male.
    4. Women do not need to be accompanied by a male when she go out side of her house. Except in conflict or war time.
    5. Women has the right to become a leader if she has knowledge as a male.
    6. Women has the right earn the same salary with a man. if the same position.
    7. Women has the right to drive a car as man, if there is no conflict.
    8. Women has the right to sing a song in TV or public place as man.
    9. Women do not feel guilty to shake hand with a good man.
    10. Women and men do not need to seat separated.

    Allah has explained equality between male and female clearly in Al Quran as following;

    Whoever, male or female, does good deeds and is a believer, then such people shall enter Paradise, and they shall not be wronged in the least. QS 4: (124)

    Surely, Muslim men and Muslim women, believing men and believing women, devout men and devout women, truthful men and truthful women, patient men and patient women, humble men and humble women, and the men who give sadaqah (charity) and the women who give sadaqah, and the men who fast and the women who fast, and the men who guard their private parts (against evil acts) and the women who guard (theirs), and the men who remember Allah much and the women who remember (Him) – for them, Allah has prepared forgiveness and a great reward. QS. 33:35.

    But man bore it. Verily, he was unjust (to himself) and ignorant (of its results). So that Allâh will punish the hypocrites, men and women, and the men and women who are Al¬Mushrikûn (polytheists, idolaters, pagans, disbelievers in the Oneness of Allâh, and His Messenger Muhammad SAW . And Allâh will pardon (accept the repentance of) the true believers of the Islâmic Monotheism, men and women. And Allâh is Ever Oft¬Forgiving, Most Merciful. (73). QS 33; 73.

    As to the thief, male or female, cut off his or her hands: a retribution for their deed and exemplary punishment from Allah and Allah is Exalted in Power, full of Wisdom. QS 5;38.

    According to Allah’s rules above, man and woman are equal before law. There is no discrimination of Islamic teaching. Discrimination of act is unlawful.

    Islam gives equal rights to women. Good deeds by either women or men will be rewarded equally depending on the deeds. It’s not that men will get more rewards than women unlike in the world, where women are still struggling to get equal wages.

    Muslims really need a new interpretation of Islamic teaching in order Muslims can be a role of model on earth.
    Otherwise, Muslims still live in the dark aged. Very sad.
    Was Salam

    It is sad that most Islamic governments are not following these golden rules of equality. They don’t let women drive or acquire education or work outside of the house. In some countries a woman cannot even go out alone.

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