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.