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Like Hindus, Muslims Too Believe In Reincarnation and Oppose Triple Talaq: Some Important Indicators from Pew Research Survey

A Large Population of Indian Muslims Believes In Sufi Islam

Main Points:

1.       6% born Muslims say they are atheists.

2.       63% Muslim women oppose triple Talaq.

3.       Muslims are proud to be Indians.

4.       Some Muslims have left Islam.

5.       Indian Muslims are more tolerant than Muslims of Pakistan and Bangladesh.


By New Age Islam Staff Writer

27 August 2021

Pew Research Centre recently published the report of a survey on religious behaviour of Indians. The survey was based on face-to-face interviews with 30,000 Indians from all major religions speaking 17 languages.  Apart from the general opinion of Indians on religious tolerance, living together and social issues, the survey points at some unnoticed change in behaviour and thoughts of Indians on religious and social issues. Here we analyse the religious behaviour and thought of Muslims of India based on the survey.

The survey asked Muslim respondents questions on tolerance, triple talaq, inter religious marriage, angels and heaven, atheism, Sufism and importance of Islam in their life and the answers they gave an insight in their religious behaviour and thought.

Triple Talaq

Triple Talaq or Instant talaq in one sitting has been widely debated among the Muslim intelligential. A large section of Muslim religious scholars have insisted that triple Talaq is supported by the Ulema-E-Jamhoor (consensus) but there are others who say that Quran does not support triple Talaq. In 2017 the Supreme Court of India ruled that triple Talaq was unconstitutional and in 2019, it was criminalized by the government of India. There was a hue and cry by the religious leadership on the government decision. But the Pew Survey points out diverse opinion of general Muslims and women.  Only 56% Muslims oppose triple Talaq while 63% women oppose triple Talaq. It is clear from the survey that the Muslim men are divided on the validity of triple Talaq and a majority of Muslim women support the government decision to ban triple Talaq.


The survey shows that despite a rise in religious intolerance and particularly the rise of Islamophobia in India, religious tolerance is still the base of religious Indian nationalism. Both Hindus and Muslims believe that religious tolerance is needed to hold the nation together.  82% Hindus say respecting other religions is important to what it means to be a Hindu. They also view religious communalism the main concern. 65% Hindus and 65% Muslims say communalism is a big problem. Therefore, both Hindus and Muslims want to live peacefully and so the communal violence is the work of only handful religious bigots.


India is home to thousands of Muslims Sufis who came to India from all over the Muslim world and spread the message of Islam through peaceful means.  Thanks to the inclusive and pluralist approach of these Sufis, India became a big centre of Sufi Islam. Later many exegetes and Islamic scholars stressed the inclusive message of Islam. Though due to the ideological influences of some hardliner Islamic scholars of India, intolerance, sectarian differences and extremist ideas have spread among the Muslims of India, the Pew Survey shows that a big population of Muslims still believes in Sufism. 37% of Muslims of India identify themselves with Sufism.

Interreligious Marriage

Being a multi-religious society, India sees inter religious marriages across all religious communities and almost all the religious communities see it as a threat to their religious existence. They preach their followers against the dangers of inter religious marriages. Still such marriages happen as a result of interaction of men and women in various fields of life.

80% Muslims say it is important to stop Muslim women from marrying non-Muslim men. And only 76% say it is very important to stop Muslim men from doing so. Therefore, a section of Muslims think it right to marry the women of other religions.


Muslims have lived in Indian subcontinent for thousands of years and they have enriched this land with their knowledge, culture and history. They stood shoulder to shoulder with other religious communities of the country in times of calamity, invasion and other national crises. They played a very active role during the freedom struggle of India. They have always boasted of their Indian roots and are proud of being Indians.  Pew survey shows that 95% Muslims say they are very proud to be Indian. 85% Muslims say that Indian culture is superior to others.


Muslims have complained that they face discrimination in different fields. However, Muslims of different regions in India vary in their complaints. While on an average 24% Muslims say they face discrimination, 40 % Muslims in the northern India say they face discrimination.


Though Muslims adhere to their religion more keenly than the followers of other religions do but the survey shows that a small section of Muslims have become atheists or apostates. They have abandoned Islam. 0.3% Muslims have left Islam since childhood and converted to other religions. Importantly, 6 % self-described Muslims do not believe in God. They are atheists. This is a striking trend among Muslims which is ignored or unnoticed.

Believe in Reincarnation

Islam does not preach believe in reincarnation or Karma. But due to the influence of local beliefs or influence of Sufi beliefs, a section of Indian Muslims believe in Reincarnation and Karma, that is, cycle of births according to the deeds of a human beings.  27% Muslims believe in Reincarnation or Karma.


There are many theological interpretations of Islam and Quranic verses and based on these interpretations, extremism and terrorism has survived and thrived. However, Indian Muslims have happened to be more tolerant on this issue. They believe that there can be more than one true interpretation of Islam and so they demonstrate tolerance in matters of religious issues while the extremist sections insist that there can be only one true interpretation of Islam and that is theirs. While 72% Muslims in Pakistan   and 69% Muslims in Bangladesh believe that there can be only one true interpretation of religion, only 63% Muslims in India say that there can be only one true interpretation of religion. Though this per cent age also is not very encouraging, it shows that Indian Muslims are less intolerant.

Belief in Heaven and Angels

Though belief in Qeyamat (Day of Judgment), Heaven and Hell and Angels is an integral part of the faith of a Muslim, surprisingly, a tiny section of Indian Muslims are sceptical about Heaven and angels.  While all the Muslims believe in Heaven and Angels, only 58% of Indian Muslims believe in Heaven and 53% Indian Muslims believe in Angels. This is surprising and indicates that most of Indian Muslims do not have the basic knowledge of Islam because only 6% Muslims describe themselves as atheists.

Therefore, the Pew Research Centre survey gives valuable insight into the religious behavior and beliefs of Indian Muslims. It shows that Indian Muslims are more tolerant than their counterparts in other Islamic countries. Most of them do not consider triple talaq as valid and support the government’s stand on it. They are proud to be Indian and proud of the composite culture.  They have the freedom to be atheists and their belief in Reincarnation and Karma will shock and stun many Islamic scholars. Religious scholars should also ponder over the ignorance of many Muslims of heaven and angels despite these being the integral part of a Muslim’s faith. It is clear that despite all the efforts of the community, Indian Muslims do not have proper knowledge of their religion. Religious scholars engaged more on sectarian issues than on truly educating Muslims on their religion.


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