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Humanist's Guide to Religion: Islam

Updated on October 12, 2014
Entrance of the Imam Mosque at Isfahan
Entrance of the Imam Mosque at Isfahan
Medieval Islamic study of digestive system
Medieval Islamic study of digestive system

Humanism and Islam

The purpose of this series is to develop a reference guide for how the various religions of the world rank against humanist values. Humanism for this purpose is a secular worldview that values human happiness, knowledge and physical wellbeing, exclusively in this life and this world. We will analyze religions according to their effect on three areas: the body (safety), the mind (knowledge, rationality), and the world (material goods).

The analysis uses as much quantification as possible. Each of the religions, cults and faith communities will be considered on the following criteria:

  1. Safety: deaths and violence caused for religious reasons; weighted as 50% of the total score
  2. Rigidity: openness to and support for rational inquiry, skepticism and doubt, including natural science and its findings; weighted as 30%
  3. Material wealth: income and GDP per capita; weighted as 20%

In this hub, we look at the sects and communities of Islam, the second-largest religion on earth. For further details on the methodology, please see the first entry in the series, Humanist's Guide to Christianity.

The Kaaba in Mecca, the holiest site in Islam, during the annual Hajj
The Kaaba in Mecca, the holiest site in Islam, during the annual Hajj

SUNNI: Total Score=30%

Safety:

  • About 3,000 people were killed on September 11th, 2001 by Sunni terrorists (Al Qaeda), resulting in an automatic weight of 0%. This does not include the hundreds more that have been killed by Sunnis from 1990 to 2010, including dozens of Christians killed by Sunni Muslims in Nigeria.
  • The average Pew Social Hostility Index (SHI) [higher score means more hostility] for countries where Sunni Islam is more than half the population: 28%
  • Score: 29%

Rigidity:

Among American Muslims (Sunni, Shi'a and others):

  • 47% of US Muslims have at least some college education
  • Absolutely certain God exists: 82%
  • Seldom or never pray: 16%
  • Quran was written by men, not God: 8%
  • Homosexuality should be accepted by society: 27%
  • There are four dominant legal schools in Sunni Islam (Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi'i and Hanbali), but the differences among them are minor, and often turn on subtle theological abstractions or prayer customs. The openness to debate and new ideas is theoretical and superficial. Obedience to the Quran and tradition plays a vital role in doctrinal and day-to-day matters. There is generally little intellectual wiggle room for the Sunnis. Extra factor: 20%
  • Score: 35%

Wealth:

  • 41% of American Muslims (Sunni, Shia and others) earn $50,000 or more.
  • For countries where the majority of people are Sunni, the average GDP per capita is $10,953, which is 11% of $100,000.
  • Score: 23%

Iranian Ayatollahs
Iranian Ayatollahs

SHI'A: Total Score=28%

Safety:

  • 1992: 29 people were killed by a Hezbollah attack on the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires
  • 1993: 7 Israeli soldiers were killed by Hezbollah in South Lebanon
  • 1994: 95 people killed in a Hezbollah bombing of a Jewish center in Argentina
  • 2006: 158 Israelis were killed by Hezbollah in its war with Israel
  • About 668 people were killed by the Mahdi Army, led by Muqtada Al-Sadr, in Iraq from 2004 to 2007. Otherwise, it is difficult to get precise numbers of deaths during the Iraq conflict, caused for Shia religious reasons.
  • The total of these deaths is 957. It is safe to assume at least an additional 43 people have been killed for Shia religious reasons, including the Iraq conflict. Therefore at least 1000 people have been killed by Shias since 1990, resulting in an automatic weight of 0%.
  • The average SHI for countries where the majority of the population is Shia: 36%
  • Score: 26%

Rigidity:

Among American Muslims (Sunni, Shi'a and others):

  • 47% of US Muslims have at least some college education
  • Absolutely certain God exists: 82%
  • Seldom or never pray: 16%
  • Quran was written by men, not God: 8%
  • Homosexuality should be accepted by society: 27%
  • Unlike in Sunni Islam, the religious officials of Shia Islam enjoy a high degree of authority and are believed to have special insight into divine law. This is especially true of Twelvers, who comprise about 85% of all Shias. This contributes to rigidity. Extra factor: 5%
  • Score: 34%

Wealth:

  • 41% of American Muslims (Sunni, Shia and others) earn $50,000 or more.
  • For countries where the majority of people are Shia, the average GDP per capita is $15,975, which is 16% of $100,000.
  • Score: 26%

Fatima Mosque, Iran
Fatima Mosque, Iran

ISLAM: Total Score=29%

Sunnis account for about 90% of all Muslims, and Shias about 10%. Other sects of Islam include the Sufis and the Ahmadiyya, but these constitute only a tiny and insignificant segment of all Muslims.

The primary factor reducing Islam's humanist score is the thousands of people that have been killed in its name over the last 20 years. In terms of doctrinal rigidity, Shia Islam is more rigid because of the power of its authorities and officials, in addition to tradition. In terms of material wealth, neither sect scores highly, although Shia Islam does have a slight advantage.

Across all three measures, both sects score poorly on the humanist scale, the highest score being only Sunni Islam's 35% on openness to reason and skepticism, which is nevertheless quite low.

Islam's total scores:

Safety: 28%

Rigidity: 35%

Wealth: 23%

Next in the series will be the Humanist's Guide to Hinduism.

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    • secularist10 profile imageAUTHOR

      secularist10 

      7 years ago from New York City

      All_is_well, hello. As I said at the top (see the link to the article on Christianity), I used the Pew Forum's social hostility index, the Pew Forum's statistics on religion in the US, and CIA World Factbook information on GDP and GDP per capita, as well as Wikipedia to determine which countries have a majority of each religion.

      Any additional sources I used were linked directly in all of the articles.

    • All_is_well profile image

      All_is_well 

      7 years ago from London, England

      You know, I'm not an Islam follower though i have researched on it a lot however, I am just wondering where you got your statistics from?

    • secularist10 profile imageAUTHOR

      secularist10 

      7 years ago from New York City

      Thanks, Austinstar! The work is its own reward, of course. Actually the toughest part was deciding what metrics to use to measure humanism.

    • Austinstar profile image

      Lela 

      7 years ago from Somewhere near the center of Texas

      Whoa! You are putting in a lot of work here. I hope everyone appreciates it. I do.

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