Religion in Mali (2022 estimate)[1]

  Sunni Islam (95%)
  Other (5%)

Religion in Mali is predominantly Islam with an estimated 95 percent of the population being Muslim,[2] with the remaining 5 percent of Malians adhering to traditional African religions such as the Dogon religion, or Christianity.[3] Atheism and agnosticism are believed to be rare among Malians, most of whom practice their religion daily, although some are Deist.[4]

Muslims are mostly Sunni belonging to Maliki school of jurisprudence influenced with Sufism. Ahmadiyya and Shia minorities are also present.[5]


Main article: Islam in Mali

According to the 2005 U.S. Department of State’s annual report on religious freedom, Islam was traditionally practiced in Mali and was characterized as moderate, tolerant, and adapted to local conditions.[4] Women were allowed to participate in social, economic and political activities and generally do not wear veils, except for some Tuareg women.[4] According to the 2012 Pew Forum study The World’s Muslims: Unity and Diversity, 94% of Muslims in Mali believed that religion is very important in their lives and 71% believed there is "only one true way to understand Islam’s teachings" (24% believing that multiple interpretations of Islam are possible).[5]


Main article: Roman Catholicism in Mali

Christianity was introduced to Mali in the late 19th century by the French. In 2014, there were 275,000 Catholics in Mali, around 1.86% of the total population.[6]

In 2020, Christians made up 2.35% of the country's population;[7] over half of these were Catholic.


The constitution establishes a secular state and provides for freedom of religion, and the government largely respects this right.[4] Relations between Muslims and practitioners of minority religious faiths are generally friendly, and foreign missionary groups (both Muslim and non-Muslim) are tolerated.[4] Parties based on ethnic or religious lines are banned and public schools do not offer religious instruction.[8]

Dogon religion

Main articles: Dogon religion and Traditional African religion

The Dogon religion is the traditional African religious or spiritual beliefs of the Dogon people of Mali. Dogons who practice the traditional religion of their ancestors believe in one Supreme Creator called Amma (or Ama[9]).[10] Amma is the omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent Creator in Dogon religion.[11] They also believe in ancestral spirits known as the Nommo also referred to as "Water Spirits".[12] Veneration of the ancestors forms an important aspect of their spiritual belief. Mask dances are held immediately after the death of a person and sometimes long after they have passed on to the next life.[13]

Freedom of religion

Prior to the Northern Mali conflict, human rights groups recorded "no recent reports of persecution, discrimination, or imprisonment on the basis of religious convictions or affiliation."[8] However, terrorist groups attempted to institute strict Islamic law in the northern parts of the country in 2012 and Mali was listed high (#7) in the Christian persecution index published by Open Doors, which described the persecution in the north as severe.[14][15] In spite of this, a 2015 study estimated some 8,000 believers in Christ from a Muslim background in the country.[16] Several Islamic sites in Mali were destroyed or damaged by vigilante activists linked to Al Qaeda, claiming that "idol worship" characterized the sites.[17] Given the cultural and religious importance of the sites in the city of Timbuctu (Tomboctou), eight of the shrines on the UNESCO heritage list had been fully reconstructed, and another six were in the process of reconstruction, by July 2015.[18] However, the occupation and Sharia law were both short-lived, cut short by a French and Chadian military intervention that began in January 2013.

In 2023, Mali was scored 2 out of 4 for religious freedom;[19] this was mainly due to armed groups active in the north of the country. In the same year, the country was ranked as the 17th worst place in the world to be a Christian.[20]

See also


  1. ^ "2022 Report on International Religious Freedom: Mali". United States Department of State. Retrieved 2024-03-19.
  2. ^ Stephen W. Day (2012). Regionalism and Rebellion in Yemen: A Troubled National Union. Cambridge University Press. p. 31. ISBN 9781107022157.
  3. ^ "Mali". Bureau of Public Affairs. The Office of Electronic Information. September 19, 2008.
  4. ^ a b c d e Mali country profile. Library of Congress Federal Research Division (January 2005). This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  5. ^ a b "The World's Muslims: Unity and Diversity" (PDF). Pew Forum on Religious & Public life. August 9, 2012. Retrieved June 2, 2014.
  6. ^ Annuarium Statisticum Ecclesiae 2014, Libreria Editrice Vaticana 2016, S. 34, S. 66
  7. ^ The ARDA website, retrieved 2023-08-28
  8. ^ a b Norris, Pippa (3 May 2011). "Muslim support for secular democracy" (PDF). The University of Sydney. p. 5.
  9. ^ Insoll, Timothy, ' Ritual, Religion, Routledge (2004), p. 123–125, ISBN 9781134526444 (retrieved March 3, 2020) [1]
  10. ^ Masolo, D. A., African Philosophy in Search of Identity : African systems of thought, (ed. International African Institute), Indiana University Press (1994), pp. 70—71, ISBN 9780253207753 (retrieved March 3, 2020) [2]
  11. ^ Hackett, Rosalind, Art and Religion in Africa, A&C Black 1(998), pp. 35-36, ISBN 9780826436559 (retrieved March 3, 2020) [3]
  12. ^ *Griaule, Marcel (1970, (original 1965)), Conversations With Ogotemmêli: an Introduction To Dogon Religious Ideas , p. 97, ISBN 978-0-19-519821-8
  13. ^ Davis, Shawn R., Dogon Funerals [in] African Art, vol. 35, Issue 2, JSTOR (Organization), University of California, Los Angeles. African Studies Center, African Studies Center, University of California, Los Angeles (2002), p. 68
  14. ^ Report points to 100 million persecuted Christians. Retrieved on 10 January 2013.
  15. ^ OPEN DOORS World Watch list 2012. Retrieved on 2013-01-18.
  16. ^ Johnstone, Patrick; Miller, Duane Alexander (2015). "Believers in Christ from a Muslim Background: A Global Census". IJRR. 11: 14. Retrieved 20 November 2015.
  17. ^ Hughes, Dana (2012-07-03). "Al Qaeda destroys Timbuktu shrines, ancient city's spirit". ABC News. Retrieved 2012-07-06.
  18. ^ "Tomboctou: Mme IRENA BOKOVA INAUGURE LES MAUSOLEES REHABILITES". Essor. Retrieved 23 July 2015.
  19. ^ Freedom House website, retrieved 2023-08-08
  20. ^ Open Doors website, retrieved 2023-08-08