July 9, 2013

Most Muslims say they fast during Ramadan


A survey of more than 38,000 Muslims in 39 countries and territories found that a median of 93% say they fast during Ramadan.

Today marks the beginning of Ramadan for many Muslims around the world. (The start of Ramadan varies by locality based on the sighting of the new moon by religious authorities.) The ninth and most sacred month of the Islamic calendar, Ramadan marks the first revelation of the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad and is a time of increased spiritual reflection and devotion. Adherents traditionally abstain from food and drink during daylight hours throughout the month, from the first light of dawn until sunset. Fasting during Ramadan is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, meaning it is among the core rituals of the faith.

A recent Pew Research Center survey of more than 38,000 Muslims around the world shows widespread observance of Ramadan. In the 39 countries and territories surveyed, a median of 93% say they fast during the holy month. Fasting is the second-most observed of the Five Pillars, behind only belief in God and the Prophet Muhammad (median of 97%).

By comparison, a median of 77% of Muslims in those 39 countries say they give zakat (an annual donation of a portion of one’s wealth to the needy). And a global median of 63% of Muslims surveyed say they perform five salat (prayers) a day. A median of just 9% of Muslims say they have already completed the hajj (the pilgrimage to Mecca), although this once-in-a-lifetime obligation applies only to those who are financially and physically capable.

Although fasting during Ramadan is widespread across the countries surveyed, there is some regional variation. Fasting among Muslims is nearly universal in the Southeast Asian and South Asian countries surveyed. By contrast, in several Central Asian and European countries, fewer than half of Muslims report abstaining from food and drink during Ramadan: 44% in Albania, 43% in Azerbaijan and 30% in Kazakhstan. (See a chart that shows the data for all 39 countries surveyed.)

Pew Research has not asked American Muslims whether they fast during Ramadan, but a 2007 survey found that three-quarters (77%) of Muslim Americans say fasting during Ramadan is very important to them.

Category: Daily Number

Topics: Religious Beliefs and Practices, Muslims and Islam

  1. is a Research Assistant at the Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life Project.


  1. Farouq Omaro2 years ago

    To fast or not is an individual’s choice. Personally speaking, from my experience living in a Muslim majority country where Islam is the official faith I can assume that more than 50% of male Muslims do not fast during Ramadan or do not fast in its entirety, they just abstain from eating and drinking in public. Almost all of them fast on the first day and the day preceding Eid ul Fitr.

  2. Khaled Maiwada Abdulsalam4 years ago

    Salam, I find your research worthwhile as I am planning a holy relationship with any central Asian woman I feel this will help me determine to an extent how religiously committed they might be because the more religious the more fear of ALLAH and most likely the more faithful, obedient and loyal. I think Azerbaijan to be my first port of search. Why am I going so far? despite our external show of deep sense religiosity in Nigeria, the marriage institution has been so corrupted as all other aspects of our lives that to get and married and stayed married for life under Islamic rules is nearly impossible. In a certain state with 99.99% Muslims and a population of 10 million there are over 1 million divorced women and 2 to 3 million children of broken homes over 2 million of which are street kids. SAD. This is far from my expectation of an Ideal Muslim society that observes Ramadan fasting, Sallat, go Mecca yet lacks happy stable homes with the attendant consequences of social, economic and moral decay. Please I will appreaciate if your research readers have idea of any true practising non racist Muslim societies with good Muslimah women for marriage. Thanks, wadawasco@yahoo.com

  3. Ann Paxton El-Moslimany4 years ago

    I’ve often wondered about this, having been surprised when I found among my friends several otherwise non-practicing Muslims who fast during Ramadan. Is it perhaps a social thing, or is it simply that the gates to Hell are closed, preventing the lapses that are so easy the rest of the year? Whatever the explanation it can’t be anything but good, not that they do not regularly practice the rituals of Islam, but that they at least do so for at least one blessed month. Insha’ Allah we will hear from some of them here.

    1. Mustapha4 years ago

      The conditions set for accepting/rewarding the one fasting certainly nullifies 99.999% of Muslim fasting. You see, the lessons in the Torah/Talmud are forgotten by most of the Muslim as if Muhammad did away with the 245 commands and 365 prohibitions. They forgot that Allah counted the number of times the Pharaoh disobeyed Musa.

  4. AarisMohammed4 years ago

    I am sure that Indian Muslims are not counted in this survey. The results might have been different if it is so. Every 6th Muslim being an Indian, how could any survey can claim authenticity without counting Indian Muslims is left to the researchers.

    More than 50% of Indian Muslim won’t practice fasting during Ramadan, not because they don’t know the tenant, but because they are moving away from some of the ‘Islamic Practices’. The reasons are many one important reasons is ‘Cultural invasion’ of native culture clubbed with losing commitment towards ‘Islam’ as being ‘Muslim’ resulting in serious discrimination on various front of day to day life.

    Practicing ‘Dowry’, not give property share to Women are few un-islamic practices of Indian Muslims.

    The ‘Pew forum’ should count Indian Muslims also to claim any survey on Muslims.


  5. Azeem4 years ago

    Being a Muslim is easy. It doesn’t require a lot of things.
    1. Believe in God and the last day.
    2. Do your prayers
    3. Give charity/zakat
    4. Fast during ramadan
    5. Pilgrimage to Mecca if possible.

    That’s it. If you can’t fast due to illness or some other valid reason, you are excused of that too as long as you help others to make up for you not fasting.

    Live a good life, don’t cheat others, and I believe you are set. If you want to do more, that is great for you, but there is no valid reason to judge anyone but yourself.

    1. Mustapha4 years ago

      If there is no valid reason for one to judge someone then there is no need for the Shari’a and to admonish. If you are trying to quote Umar ibn Khattab, he certainly meant one to strictly follow the sunna/actions of Muhammad and discard whatever one says or does. Yes, Indeed Allah says to Muhammad: Your duty is to deliver the Message and judgment is on Us (Me).

  6. Mustapha4 years ago

    If Muslims have understood the real meaning of a Muslim they certainly would have been performing their duties in the manner performed by Muhammad. The duties are:
    1. Iman with its component in establishing the caliphate. It is absent in all Muslim nations. It is not possible to establish it outside predominantly Muslim nations. Calling for it is therefore an indicator of ignorance and lack of direction since it is not available in any MUSLIM NATION.
    2. The five daily obligatory the Friday and the Id festival prayers. There is no congregation observing this ritual according to the Sunna. The evidence is in ISBN 1468070444. Is it the USA, Israel and Europe preventing the Muslims from observing this ritual according to the Sunna?
    3. Zakat. Zakat does not take precedence over charity.
    4. Fasting. This is also not observed according to the Sunna. The Muslims are just suffering themselves with hunger and thirst. Is Taraaweeh prayer not for those without home and are unable to recite the Qur’an?
    5. Pilgrimage. The Arafat is not observed according to the Sunna.

    It is important for PEW Research to investigate my claim.

  7. Rafiq A. Tschannen4 years ago

    I am sad to read that only 63% of Muslims surveyed are saying their five daily prayers. Fasting without praying is more like starving. May Allah guide his Ummah (community) to the right path. I am glad an the other hand to note that 93% fast and that 97% are believing in Islam in the correct way. These figures are much better than a similar survey would show for instance among those calling themselves Christians.

    1. Mark Pursley4 years ago

      Many of us who call ourselves Christians do not believe we can dictate “the right way to believe” to our fellow believers. Jesus said his followers are known by their “fruit,” not by the content of their religious beliefs.
      Pew should measure moral fruit in the various religious traditions to determine which, if any, religious tradition or traditions produce more moral fruit.

  8. salma4 years ago

    Id ul Fitr is a holy month dedicated for prayers, sharing love and respect to eachother and to live peacefully by going in the way of Allah and Prophet mohammad.