Religion in the United Arab Emirates (2022 estimate)[1]

  Islam (Official) (76%)
  Hinduism (6%)
  Christianity (9%)
  Others (including Buddhism and Baha'i faith) (8%)

Islam is both the official and majority religion in the United Arab Emirates, professed by approximately 76% of the population.[1]The Al Nahyan and Al Maktoum ruling families adhere to Sunni Islam of Maliki school of jurisprudence. Many followers Hanbali school of Sunni Islam are found in Sharjah, Umm al-Quwain, Ras al-Khaimah and Ajman.[2] Their followers include the Al Qasimi ruling family. Other religions represented in the country including Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Zoroastrians, Druze, Baha'i, Judaism, and Sikhism are practiced by non-nationals.[3]


Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi. Islam is the official religion of the United Arab Emirates.

Main article: Islam in the United Arab Emirates

See also: Shia Islam in the United Arab Emirates

The constitution designates Islam as the official religion, with over 90% of the Emirati population are Sunni Islam. The vast majority of the remainder 5-10% are Shia Muslims, who are concentrated in the Emirates of Dubai and Sharjah. Although no official statistics are available for the breakdown between Sunni and Shia Muslims among noncitizen residents, media estimates suggest less than 20 percent of the noncitizen Muslim population are Shia.[3]

The federal General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments (Awqaf) oversee the administration of Sunni mosques, except in Dubai, where they are administered by the Dubai’s Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities Department (IACAD). The Awqaf distributes weekly guidance to Sunni imams regarding the themes and content of khutbah with a published script every week which are posted on its website. The Awqaf applied a three-tier system in which junior imams followed the Awqaf khutbah script closely; midlevel imams prepared sermons according to the topic or subject matter selected by Awqaf authorities; and senior imams had the flexibility to choose their own subject for their khutbah. Some Shia religious leaders in Shia majority mosques chose to follow Awqaf-approved weekly addresses, while others write their own khutbah.[3] The government funds and supports Sunni mosques, with the exception of those considered private, and all Sunni imams as considered government employees.[3]

The Jaa'fari Affairs Council manages the Shia affairs for all of the country, including overseeing mosques and endowments. The council also issues additional instructions on sermons to Shia mosques.[3] The government does not appoint religious leaders for Shia mosques. Shia adherents worship and maintain their own mosques and the government considers Shia mosques to be private. However, Shia mosques are eligible to receive funding from the government upon request. The government allows Shia mosques to broadcast the Shia adhan from their minarets. Shia Muslims have their own council, the Jaafari Affairs Council, to manage Shia affairs, including overseeing mosques and community activities, managing financial affairs, and hiring preachers. The government permits Shia Muslims to observe Ashura in private gatherings, but not in public rallies.[3]

For Muslims, the Sharia is the principal source of legislation. However, the judicial system allows for different types of law, depending on the case. Sharia forms the basis for judicial decisions in most family law matters for Muslims, such as marriage and divorce, and inheritance for Muslims. However, in the case of non-Muslims or noncitizens, the laws of their home country apply, rather than Sharia.[4]

Conversion to Islam is viewed favorably, though converting from Islam to other religions is not recognized and deeply discouraged. Muslim men may marry non-Muslim women who are People of the Book, but Muslim women are not permitted to marry non‑Muslim men unless the man converts to Islam; such marriages are not legally recognized.[3]


Main article: Christianity in the United Arab Emirates

Catholics and Protestants form a large proportion of the Christian minority. According to the 2005 census, Christians accounted for 9% of the total population; estimates in 2010 suggested a figure of 12.6%.[3] The country has over 52 churches in 2023.[5] Because Islam considers Christians to be People of the Book, the government has been more willing to consider land grants for churches, resulting in Christian religious buildings outnumbering those of other non-Muslim religions in 2008.[6] Many Christians in the United Arab Emirates are of Asian, African, and European descent, along with fellow Middle Eastern countries Lebanon, Syria, and other countries.[7] In April 2020, a Latter-day Saint temple was announced in Dubai.[8]

The schools in public ownership have no Christian religious education.[9]

Hinduism, Sikhism and Jainism

Main articles: Hinduism in the United Arab Emirates and Sikhism in the United Arab Emirates

In 1958, Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed al Makhtoum gifted land to allow a temple to built. A temple was built that was shared by Sikhs and Hindus.[10]


A temple with over 16 deities was inaugurated in the 'Worship Village' in Jebel Ali on September 1, 2022.[11] Previously, worshipers could attend the Dubai Hindu Temple in Dubai locally referred to as the Shiva and Krishna Mandir. This temple closed down in January 2024.[12] A traditional temple, BAPS Hindu Mandir, has opened on 14 February 2024.[13]


A Jain temple, with the deities of Vimalnath Bhagwan and Parshwanath Bhagwan is located in Bur Dubai.[14]


In December 2011, Guru Nanak Darbar Gurudwara was inaugurated in Jebel Ali.[15][16] On 17 January 2012 the gurudwara was open to over 50,000 devotees residing in the UAE.[17]


Main article: Buddhism in the United Arab Emirates

This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (September 2015)

Approximately 2% of the population, or nearly 500,000 people adhere to Buddhism; a temple is located in the Dubai neighbourhood of Jumeirah[18][19][20] Buddhists in UAE consist largely of expatriate workers from countries in Asia with large Buddhist populations, such as Thailand, Nepal, and Sri Lanka.[18]


Main article: History of the Jews in the United Arab Emirates

As of 2022, Judaism is experiencing a revival in the Emirates.[21]

There is a small Jewish community in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). There is only one known synagogue, in Dubai, which has been open since 2008. The synagogue also welcomes visitors.[22] As of 2019, according to Rabbi Marc Schneier of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, it is estimated that there are about 150 families to 3,000 Jews who live and worship freely in the UAE.[23]

The synagogue in Dubai is supported by the UAE, with the appointment of a Minister for Tolerance in 2016.[24] The Ministry of Tolerance led to the creation of the National Tolerance Programme and official recognition of the Jewish community in the UAE.[25]

Another synagogue is planned to be built in Abu Dhabi, alongside a Mosque and a Church, as part of the Abrahamic Family House.[26]

As of June 2020 community is headed by, the president of the Dubai Jewish Community, Solly Wolf, and Rabbi Levi Duchman. The community has Talmud Torah, Kosher Chicken Shechita and a permanent synagogue located in Dubai.[27][28][29]

IMPACT-se launched a report in January 2022 about religious tolerance in the United Arab Emirates. Though the organization denied finding any anti-Semitic or hateful content in the textbooks, which “generally met” UNESCO peace and tolerance guidelines, it did cite the missing education about the Jewish state and its history. The textbooks in question reportedly taught about the 2020 Abraham Accords leading to the normalization of relations between the UAE and Israel, but skipped Israel in maps or education on the event of Holocaust.[30]


Main article: Irreligion in the United Arab Emirates

This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (September 2015)

Up to 4% of people reported irreligious beliefs according to a Gallup poll. It is illegal for Muslims,[31] with apostates from Islam facing a maximum sentence of the death penalty under the country's anti-blasphemy law.[32] As such, there have been questions regarding freedom of religion in the United Arab Emirates.

Atheism in the region is mainly present among foreign expatriates and a very small number of local youth.[33][34] According to Sultan Sooud Al-Qassemi, due to Islam being founded in the Arabian Peninsula over 1,400 years ago, the Persian Gulf region enjoys a long Islamic history and tradition, and it is strongly associated with national identity; thus, any distancing or criticism of religion "equates to distancing oneself from national identity".[35] Al-Qassemi notes that the use of social media via the internet remains the strongest medium of expression for Gulf atheists, while providing anonymity; a pioneering Gulf blogger is the Emirati atheist Ahmed Ben Kerishan, who is known in the Arabic blogosphere for advocating atheist and secular views.[35][36]

Freedom of religion

In 2023, according to Freedom House, where 0 is the least freedom and 4 is the highest degree of freedom, the UAE was scored 2 out of 4 for religious freedom.[37][38]

See also


  1. ^ a b "United Arab Emirates". Retrieved 19 February 2023.
  2. ^ Barry Rubin (2009), Guide to Islamist Movements, Volume 2, ME Sharpe, ISBN 978-0765617477, p. 310
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h US State Dept 2022 report
  4. ^ "UAE sets out legal overhaul of personal and family law". The National. 7 November 2020.
  5. ^ website, retrieved 2023-08-28
  6. ^ "International Religious Freedom Report 2008". US Department of State Archive. 2008.
  7. ^ "Groeiende en vitale kerk in Arabische Golf - Nieuws - Reformatorisch Dagblad". Retrieved 2010-11-24.
  8. ^ "Dubai to welcome Middle East's first Mormon temple".
  9. ^ John Pike (2006-04-17). "United Arab Emirates-Religion". Retrieved 2010-11-24.
  10. ^ Croucher, Martin (2011-03-13). "Hindus, Sikhs crowd UAE's lone temple". The National. Retrieved 2024-02-06.
  11. ^ "Dubai Hindu temple inaugurated, open for people of all faiths from October 5". The Indian Express.
  12. ^ "Iconic Bur Dubai temple complex to close doors in January 2024". 2023-12-08. Retrieved 2024-02-06.
  13. ^ "PM Modi accepts invitation to inaugurate Abu Dhabi's Hindu temple". India Today. Retrieved 2024-02-06.
  14. ^ "Jain Temple Details". Retrieved 2024-02-06.
  15. ^ "Interfaith iftar returns to Dubai gurudwara after two years". Gulf News.
  16. ^ "GuruNanak Darbar, Dubai". Retrieved 2024-02-06.
  17. ^ "About Us – GuruNanak Darbar, Dubai". Retrieved 2024-02-06.
  18. ^ a b "The UAE's Only Buddhist Temple Serves a Growing Population of Buddhists". Buddhistdoor Global. Retrieved 2022-07-13.
  19. ^ Dennehy, John (2019-01-03). "Exclusive: Inside the tiny Buddhist temple that serves half a million Dubai worshippers". The National. Retrieved 2022-07-13.
  20. ^ Tesorero, Angel. "Buddhists find calm in Dubai villa". Khaleej Times. Retrieved 2022-07-13.
  21. ^ "The Arab world is re-embracing its Jews". The Economist. 18 January 2022. Retrieved 18 January 2022.
  22. ^ Herschlag, Miriam. "For the first time, Dubai's Jewish community steps hesitantly out of the shadows". Retrieved 2018-12-06.
  23. ^ "The Jews of Dubai are on the map". 5 February 2019.
  24. ^ "Tolerance - The Official Portal of the UAE Government". Retrieved 2018-12-06.
  25. ^ "News". Retrieved 2018-12-06.
  26. ^ "Abu Dhabi: A synagogue,mosque and church, will be in one location".
  27. ^ "A Rose in the Desert: A conversation with Mr. Solly Wolf, president of the Dubai JCC". Retrieved 2020-06-18.
  28. ^ "Kiddush, Torah learning, and gefilte fish in Dubai - Jewish World". Israel National News. Retrieved 2020-06-18.
  29. ^ "A robust Jewish life exists in the U.A.E." ynetnews. 2020-06-11. Retrieved 2020-06-18.
  30. ^ "IMPACT-se: When Peace Goes to School The Emirati Curriculum 2016–21" (PDF). IMPACT-se. Retrieved 20 January 2022.
  31. ^ AbOhlheiser. "There Are 13 Countries Where Atheism Is Punishable by Death". The Wire. Archived from the original on 2016-07-18. Retrieved 2018-06-20.
  32. ^ "Freedom of Thought Report - Map".
  33. ^ "Is Gulf youth increasingly drawn to atheism?". The National. 19 August 2012. Retrieved 11 July 2015.
  34. ^ "Email from an Arab atheist". Al-Bab. 11 August 2013. Archived from the original on 21 September 2015. Retrieved 11 July 2015.
  35. ^ a b Al-Qassemi, Sultan Sooud. "Gulf atheism in the age of social media". Al-Monitor. Archived from the original on 10 July 2015. Retrieved 11 July 2015.
  36. ^ Al-Qassemi, Sultan Sooud (20 December 2011). "Pioneer Bloggers in the Gulf Arab States". Jadaliyya. Retrieved 11 July 2015.
  37. ^ Freedom House website, retrieved 2023-08-28
  38. ^ "Freedom in the World Research Methodology". Freedom House. Retrieved 2024-01-24.