Bahá'í statistics

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Statistical estimates of the worldwide Bahá'í population are difficult to arrive at. The religion is almost entirely contained in a single, organised community, but the Bahá'í population is spread out into almost every country and ethnicity in the world, being recognized as the second-most geographically widespread religion after Christianity,[1][2] and the only religion to have grown faster than the population of the world in all major areas over the last century.[3] The 5-7 million figure for Baha'is worldwide almost certainly started with the first publication of the World Christian Encyclopedia. Before that appeared, no third party figures were available.

Official estimates of the worldwide Bahá'í population come from the Bahá'í World Centre, which claimed "more than five million Bahá’ís" as early as 1991[4] "in some 100,000 localities." The official agencies of the religion have published data on numbers of local and national spiritual assemblies, Counselors and their auxiliaries, countries of representation, languages, and publishing trusts.[5] Less often, they publish membership statistics. In recent years, the United States Bahá'í community has been releasing detailed membership statistics.[6]

Definition of membership

In the 1930s the Bahá'ís of the United States and Canada began requiring new adherents to sign a declaration of faith, stating their belief in Bahá'u'lláh, the Báb, and `Abdu'l-Bahá, and an understanding that there are laws and institutions to obey. The original purpose of signing a declaration card was to allow followers to apply for lawful exemption from active military service.[7] The signature of a card later became optional in Canada, but in the US is still used for records and administrative requirements.[8] Many countries follow the pattern of the US and Canada.

Other than signing a card and being acknowledged by a Spiritual Assembly, there is no initiation or requirement of attendance to remain on the official roll sheets. Members receive regular mailings unless they request not to be contacted.

Difficulties in enumeration

The fact that the religion is diffuse rather than concentrated is the major barrier to demographic research by outsiders. Surveys and censuses (except government census, which ask individuals their religion in many countries) simply cannot yet be conducted with such a scope, especially not at the level required to accurately gauge religious minorities. In some countries the Bahá'í Faith is illegal and Bahá'ís endure some degree of persecution, making it difficult for even Bahá'ís to maintain a count. The first survey of the religion known comes from an unpublished work in 1919–1920 gathered by John Esslemont and had been intended to be part of his well known Bahá'u'lláh and the New Era.[9] In it, consulting various individuals, he summarizes the religion's presence in Egypt, Germany, India, Iran, Iraq, Turkestan, and the United States.

The World Christian Database (WCD), and its predecessor the World Christian Encyclopedia,[10] has reviewed religious populations around the world and released results of their investigations at various times. The Bahá'í Faith has consistently placed high in the statistics of growth over these various releases of data - 1970 to 1985,[4] 1990 to 2000,[11][12] 2000 to 2005,[13] and across the whole range of their data from 1970 to 2010.[14]

From the early 1960s until the late 1990s, the US Baha'i population went from around 10,000 to 140,000 on official rolls, but the members with known addresses in 1998 was about half.[15]

Most denominations make no effort at all to maintain a national membership database and must rely on local churches or surveys of the general population. Local church membership rolls are often maintained poorly because there may be no need for an official membership list (Bahá'ís at least must maintain accurate voting lists) and local congregations sometimes do not provide their denomination's membership data even when asked. Counting American Jews, half of whom are married to non-Jews and the majority of whom do not attend a synagogue, is immensely difficult. Estimates for the numbers of American Muslims and Eastern Orthodox often vary by a factor of two.[citation needed]

Worldwide figures

1928[16] 1949[16] 1968[5] ± 1986[5] 2006[17]
National Spiritual Assemblies 7 11 81 165 179
Local Spiritual Assemblies 102 595 6,840 18,232
Countries where the Bahá'í Faith is established:
independent countries
36 92 187 191
Localities where Bahá'ís reside 573 2315 31,572 >116,000 127,381(2001)[5]
Indigenous tribes, races,
and ethnic groups
1,179 >2,100 2,112
Languages into which Bahá'í literature is translated 417 800
Bahá'í Publishing Trusts 9 26 33(2001)[5]

Bahá’í sources

  • The 2013 US national website states that there are: "more than 5 million" Bahá'ís in the world.[18]
  • A 2005 review of a book for sale by the US Bahá'í Distribution Service included a review by William Collins noting "roughly six million Bahá'ís".[19]
  • The Department of Statistics, Bahá'í World Centre, does not provide an estimated total, but claims that in 2001 there were 11,740 local Spiritual Assemblies, and 127,381 localities in 236 countries and territories.[5]
  • A 1997 statement by the NSA of South Africa wrote: "…the Bahá'í Faith enjoys a world-wide following in excess of six million people."[20]
  • As early as 1991 official estimates were of "more than five million Bahá’ís … resident in some 100,000 localities in every part of the world"[4] which is still in use as of 2013.[21]
  • A 1987 report, "Achievements of the Seven Year Plan" published in Bahá'í News (July, 1987,) pages 2–7, reports 4.74 million Bahá'ís in 1986 growing at a rate of 31% over 1979, or 4.4% per year on average.[22]

Other sources

From 2005 and newer

"The Baha'i Faith is the only religion to have grown faster in every United Nations region over the past 100 years than the general population; Baha’i was thus the fastest-growing religion between 1910 and 2010, growing at least twice as fast as the population of almost every UN region."[23]

"In the early twenty-first century the Bahá’ís number close to six million in more than two hundred countries. The number of adherents rose significantly in the late twentieth century from a little more than one million at the end of the 1960s."[32]

from 2000 to 2004

  • Encyclopædia Britannica in mid-2004 estimated a total of 7.5 million Bahá’ís residing in 218 countries.Worldwide Adherents of All Religions, Mid-2004 Its statistics are derived from the World Christian Encyclopedia.
  • In 2004, the Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East and North Africa vol 1, reports that "By 1900, the community… had reached 50,000-100,000… Bahá’ís worldwide [are] estimated in 2001 at 5 million."
  • In 2003, The World Book Encyclopedia reports that "there are about 5,500,000 Bahá’ís worldwide."[33](registration required)
  • The World Christian Encyclopedia, 2001,p 4 estimated 7.1 million Bahá'ís in the world in 2000, representing 218 countries. The same source estimated 5.7 million in 1990.[34] Its definition of membership is broader than the official Bahá'í definition and would include people who attend Bahá'í gatherings regularly even if they have not declared their faith or persons who state they are Bahá'ís in government censuses as a result of reading about the religion or hearing about it on the radio.
  • In 2000, Denis MacEoin wrote in the Handbook of Living Religions that:
"the movement has had remarkable success in establishing itself as a vigorous contender in the mission fields of Africa, India, parts of South America, and the Pacific, thus outstripping other new religions in a world-wide membership of perhaps 4 million and an international spread recently described as second only to that of Christianity. The place of Baha'ism among world religions now seems assured."
  • estimates 7 million Bahá’ís in 2000 based on research from David Barrett, World Christian Encyclopedia, 2000, and the Population Reference Bureau


  • In 1998, the Academic American Encyclopedia said that the Bahá’ís "are estimated to number about 2 million."
  • In 1997, Dictionary of World Religions estimated "five million Bahá’ís" in the world.
  • In 1997, Religions of the World published: "today there are about 5 million" Bahá’ís.
  • In 1993, the Columbia Encyclopedia published: "There are about 5 million Bahá’ís in the world."
  • In 1995 the HarperCollins Dictionary of Religion states: "In 1985, it was estimated that there were between 1.5 to 2 million Baha'is, with the greatest areas of recent growth in Africa, India, and Vietnam."
  • In 2001, Paul Oliver wrote in World Faiths that there were "approximately five million Bahá’ís" in 1963.

See also


  1. Encyclopædia Britannica (2002). "Worldwide Adherents of All Religions by Six Continental Areas, Mid-2002". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. MacEoin, Denis (2000). "Baha'i Faith". In Hinnells, John R. (ed.). The New Penguin Handbook of Living Religions: Second Edition. Penguin. ISBN 0-14-051480-5.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Johnson, Todd M.; Brian J. Grim (26 March 2013). "Global Religious Populations, 1910–2010". The World's Religions in Figures: An Introduction to International Religious Demography. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 59–62. doi:10.1002/9781118555767.ch1. ISBN 9781118555767.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 International Community, Bahá'í (1992). "How many Bahá'ís are there?". The Bahá'ís. p. 14.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 Department of Statistics, Bahá'í World Centre; compiled by Arjen Bolhuis (August 2001). "Bahá'í World Statistics August 2001 CE". Baha'i Library Online. Retrieved April 14, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. See, for example, county-by-county information on numbers of Bahá'ís in Dale E. Jones et al., Religious Congregations and Membership in the United States, 2000 (Nashville, Tenn.: Glenmary Research Center, 2002) or Edwin Scott Gaustadd and Philip L. Barlow, New Historical Atlas of Religion in America (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2001, 279-81.)
  7. Effendi, Shoghi (1971). Letters from the Guardian to Australia and New Zealand (reprint ed.). Australia: Bahá'í Publishing Trust. p. 140. ISBN.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Compilations (1983). Hornby, Helen (Ed.) (ed.). Lights of Guidance: A Bahá'í Reference File. Bahá'í Publishing Trust, New Delhi, India. p. 76. ISBN 81-85091-46-3.CS1 maint: extra text: editors list (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Moomen, Moojan (2004). Smith, Peter (ed.). Bahá'ís in the West. Kalimat Press. pp. 63–106, Esslemont's Survey of the Baha'i World 1919–1920. ISBN 1-890688-11-8.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. A review examining the reliability and bias of the World Christian Database found it "highly correlated with other sources of data" but "consistently gave a higher estimate for percent Christian." In conclusion they found that, "Religious composition estimates in the World Christian Database are generally plausible and consistent with other data sets." Hsu, Becky; Reynolds, Amy; Hackett, Conrad; Gibbon, James (2008-07-09). "Estimating the Religious Composition of All Nations" (PDF). Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. doi:10.1111/j.1468-5906.2008.00435.x.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Barrett, David A. (2001). World Christian Encyclopedia. p. 4.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. Barrett, David; Johnson, Todd (2001). "Global adherents of the World's 19 distinct major religions" (PDF). William Carey Library. Retrieved 2006-10-12.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. Staff (May 2007). "The List: The World's Fastest-Growing Religions". Foreign Policy. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. Grim, Brian J (2012). "Rising restrictions on religion" (PDF). International Journal of Religious Freedom. 5 (1): 17–33. ISSN 2070-5484. Retrieved April 25, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. Robert Stockman (November 1998). "Bahá'í membership statistics". Retrieved Feb 12, 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. 16.0 16.1 Smith, Peter (September 2015). Carole M. Cusack; Christopher Hartney (eds.). "The Baha'i Faith: Distribution Statistics, 1925–1949". Journal of Religious History. 39 (3): 352–369. doi:10.1111/1467-9809.12207. ISSN 1467-9809. Retrieved Dec 3, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. Moojan Momen (October 1, 2011). "Baha'i". In Mark Juergensmeyer; Wade Clark Roof (eds.). Encyclopedia of Global Religion. SAGE Publications. doi:10.4135/9781412997898.n61. ISBN 978-0-7619-2729-7. |access-date= requires |url= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. "Quick Facts and Stats". National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States. April 2013. Retrieved April 14, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. Collins, William (April 2013). "Review of "Story of Baha'u'llah, The: Promised One of All Religions"". US Bahá'í Distribution Service. Retrieved April 14, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of South Africa (November 19, 1997). "Statement to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission". Bahá'í International Community. Retrieved April 14, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. "Media Information". Bahá’í International Community. April 2013. Retrieved April 14, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  22. "Achievements of the Seven Year Plan". Bahá'í News. National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States (676): 2–7. July 1987. ISSN 0195-9212. Retrieved April 14, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  23. Johnson, Todd M.; Brian J. Grim (26 March 2013). "Global Religious Populations, 1910–2010". The World's Religions in Figures: An Introduction to International Religious Demography. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 59–62. doi:10.1002/9781118555767.ch1. ISBN 9781118555767.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  24. "Most Baha'i Nations (2010)". QuickLists > Compare Nations > Religions >. The Association of Religion Data Archives. 2010. Retrieved Feb 12, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  25. Creativity a theme of summer schools, Bahá'í International News Service, 20 August 2004, from Tohanu Nou, Romania
  26. Tirana Youth Conference, Albania, Bahá'í International News Service, 10–12 August 2013
  27. Religions & Population, People and Society, CIA World Factbook, 2013
  28. Grim, Brian J (2012). "Rising restrictions on religion" (PDF). International Journal of Religious Freedom. 5 (1): 17–33. ISSN 2070-5484. Retrieved April 23, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  29. "World: People: Religions". CIA World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency. 2007. ISSN 1553-8133. Archived from the original on 13 February 2008. Retrieved 2009-09-06. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  30. "World Religions (2005)". QuickLists > The World > Religions. The Association of Religion Data Archives. 2005. Retrieved 2009-07-04.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  31. Warf, Barney; Peter Vincent (August 2007). "Religious diversity across the globe: a geographic exploration". Social & Cultural Geography. 8 (4). doi:10.1080/14649360701529857. ISSN 1470-1197. |access-date= requires |url= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  32. Jones 2005, p. 739

Further reading


  • Jones, Lindsay, ed. (2005). Encyclopedia of Religion (second ed.). MacMillan Reference Books. ISBN 0-02-865733-0.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Hinnells, John R. (2000). The New Penguin Handbook of Living Religions (second ed.). Penguin. ISBN 0-14-051480-5.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Roof, Wade C. (1993). A Generation of Seekers: Spiritual Journeys of the Baby Boom Generation. HarperCollins. ISBN 0-06-066964-0.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • World Book editors, ed. (2002). The World Book Encyclopedia. World Book Inc. ISBN 0-7166-0103-6.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Oliver, Paul (2002). Teach Yourself World Faiths. McGraw-Hill. ISBN 0-07-138448-0.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Mattar, Philip, ed. (2004). Encyclopedia of Modern Middle East & North Africa. Thomson/Gale. ISBN 0-02-865769-1.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Bowker, John W., ed. (1997). The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-213965-7.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • O'Brien, Joanne; Palmer, Martin (2005). Religions Of The World. Facts on File. ISBN 0-8160-6258-7.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Chernow, Barbara A.; Vallasi, George A. (1993). The Columbia Encyclopedia. Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0-395-62438-X.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Academic American Encyclopedia. Grolier Academic Reference. 1998. ISBN 0-7172-2068-0.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Smith, Jonathan Z.; American Academy of Religion (1995). The Harpercollins Dictionary of Religion. HarperCollins. ISBN 0-06-067515-2.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • The Encyclopedia of Islam, New Edition. Brill. 1960. Ref DS37.E523.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Sanasarian, Eliz (2000). Religious Minorities in Iran. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-77073-4.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links