Faith, Fertility, and the Remaking of Islam

Anxious Bench | 1/21/2019 | Staff (Posted by) Level 3
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I am using a map to illustrate some long term megatrends in the history of religion. Although the map specifically concerns Islam, many of the same lessons apply to Christianity.

The map appeared in Samuel M. Zwemer, The Moslem World (New York: Young People’s Missionary Movement of the United States and Canada, 1907-1908). Samuel Marinus Zwemer (1867-1952) was an exceptionally important figure in the US missionary world at that time. “Sixteen years a missionary in Arabia,” he earned the title of “Apostle to Islam.” He founded and edited a journal, The Moslem World: A quarterly review of current events, literature, and thought among Mohammedans and the progress of Christian Missions in Moslem lands. I stress that his map is no fresh discovery of mine, as it has been around the Internet for a while.

Map - Estimates - Muslim - Numbers - Couple

As you see, the map gives estimates for Muslim numbers around 1908, and a couple of salient points emerge. The first is that not all the figures are too reliable, and the Chinese one in particular is way off anything plausible. That thirty million is perhaps double the scale of other guesstimates, and I am going to adjust the overall statistics accordingly. But the other figures are all highly plausible, and for the sake of argument, let is assume that they are more or less correct. What can we learn from that?

One critical point concerns political sovereignty, at a point not that far back in history when the vast majority of Muslims were still subject of the European empires. In that sense, the world’s largest Muslim powers were the empires of Britain, the Netherlands, France, Russia … Look how far down the list you have to go before you find an independent Muslim power, with the Ottoman Empire and Persia. That vast majority of Muslims served European empires,...
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