The Mosque in America
A National Portrait

A Report from the Mosque Study Project
April 26, 2001

Ihsan Bagby, Ph.D.
Paul M. Perl, Ph.D.
Bryan T. Froehle, Ph.D.

Council on American-Islamic Relations Washington, D.C.
To obtain copies of this publication, contact: Council on American-Islamic Relations
453 New Jersey Ave. S.E. Washington, D.C. 20003
Tel: 202-488-8787 Fax: 202-488-0833 E-mail: cair1@ix.netcom.com
URL: http://www.cair-net.org
© 2001 Copyright, Council on American-Islamic Relations All rights reserved.


Table of Content

Major Findings


Geographical Location
Attendance at Jum`ah Prayer


Jum`ah Prayer and the Salah

Number of Participants

Characteristics of Regular Participants

Ethnicity of Participants

Converts to Islam



Rural-Urban Location

Erection and Ownership of the Mosque Building


Descriptions of the Mosque


Devotional Practices

Views on Muslims in American Life


Weekend School

Full-Time School



Volunteer Leadership

Formal Leadership

Characteristics of Mosque Leaders

Mosque Staff and Organization

Women on the Board

Mosque Affiliation

Financial Health of the Mosque

Mosque Income

APPENDIX: 1994 Mosque Study



This report presents findings from the Mosque Study Project 2000, the largest, most comprehensive survey of mosques ever to be conducted in the United States. The purpose of the Study is twofold: to provide a comprehensive, detailed portrait of mosques, which can be subsequently used by mosque leaders and Muslim scholars to envision ways to strengthen mosques. Secondly the Study provides a public profile of mosques that will hopefully further the understanding of the Muslim presence in America.

The Mosque Study Project 2000 is sponsored by four organizations: Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Islamic Society of North America, Ministry of Imam W. Deen Mohammed), and Islamic Circle of North America. A research committee of Ihsan Bagby (Shaw University) and Lawrence Mamiya (Vassar College) and Mohamed Nimer (Director of Research, CAIR) developed the research design and the questionnaire. Dr. Bagby oversaw the data collection. The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University did the data entry, and Paul Perl and Bryan Froehle of CARA provided the data analysis and a preliminary report of the findings. The sponsoring organizations will work together to make the study relevant to local mosques through various means including mosque workshops, publications and a national conference.

The Mosque Study Project is part of a larger study of American congregations called Faith Communities Today. It is coordinated by Carl Dudley and David Roozen of Hartford Seminary’s Hartford Institute for Religious Research. Forty different denominations and religious groups, representing 93 percent of all religious adherents in the United States, are participating in the study. The project involves surveying a congregational leader at each of more than 30,000 congregations across the country. A core questionnaire of about twenty minutes in length was developed for this purpose, with a focus on topics that are relevant to most or all of the very diverse faith traditions participating in the study. Each group then adapted the wording of the core questions to its tradition and was allowed to add some questions of its own. Over 75% of the Mosque Questionnaire is similar to the core questionnaire. Unlike most of the other surveys conducted by the respective faith groups, the Mosque Questionnaire was conducted by a telephone interview and not by mail.

The telephone interviews of a mosque representative (usually an Imam, board member or President) were conducted from March to September, 2000. The interviews consisted of over 160 questions on five basic areas of mosque life:

Identity and Worship History, Location, and Building Programs Leadership and Organizational Dynamics Participants

Before the interviews began, an attempt was made to identify all mosques in the country. Seven mosque lists were obtained, duplicates eliminated and then an attempt was made to contact by telephone every mosque to verify its existence. A total of 1,209 were identified using these lists. A mosque is defined for the purpose of this Study to be an organization that holds Jum`ah Prayers (Friday Prayers) and other Islamic activities. Jum`ah Prayers held in hospitals and businesses are not considered mosques but student associations that hold Jum`ah and other Islamic activities are considered a mosque although they might have no facility. Undoubtedly some mosques were missed in the count. The mosques most likely missed are small, newer mosques in large cities. Many of these mosques are difficult to locate.

Of the 1209 mosques counted, 631 were randomly sampled for the survey. Interviews were successfully conducted with representatives from 416 of the 631 mosques. This constitutes a completion rate of 66 percent. The only bias in the responses is that most of the interviewing took place during the summer months and as a result some Muslim Student Associations could not be contacted. Because most of these associations are small, and because there are relatively few of them among all mosques, the results of the survey are not likely to be highly skewed by these omissions. Following usual assumptions of statistical inference, a sample of 416 cases has a margin of error of about +5 percent. In other words, characteristics of responding mosques can be assumed to be within five percentage points of those of all 1,209 mosques.

The results of certain questions are compared with a similar study of mosques completed in 1994 by the Islamic Resource Institute under the direction of Ihsan Bagby. In the 1994 study 344 mosque leaders were interviewed by telephone, using many of the same questions that were used in the 2000 study. The full results of the 1994 study are for the first time provided as an appendix. NOTE: For purposes of clarity, the term “mosque” has been substituted for the equivalent word “masjid” that was used in the survey questions. Muslims know that a masjid is a mosque, but people of other faiths may not.


Demographic Characteristics

  • The number of mosques and mosque participants are experiencing tremendous growth. On average, there are over 1,625 Muslims associated in some way with the religious life of each mosque. Half of mosques have 500 or more Muslims associated with them. The average attendance at Friday prayer is 292 persons. Median attendance is 135. The following table compares these figures with the 1994 Study.
  • 2000 Study 1994 Study Increase Number of Mosques 1209 962 25% Average Jum`ah Attendance 292 150 94% Total Associated per Mosque 1625 485 235% Total Associated with all Mosques 2 million 500,000 300%
  • Estimates of a total Muslim population of 6-7 million in America seem reasonable in light of the figure of 2 million Muslims who associate with a mosque.
  • The number of participants has increased at more than 75% of mosques during the past five years. Growth is across the board but suburban mosques have experienced the greatest increases.
  • Conversion rates are steady (the 1994 conversion rate is exactly the same). Over 90 percent of mosques have had at least one convert to Islam during the past 12 months, and on average nearly 30 percent of mosque participants are converts. On average every mosque has 16 conversions per year.
  • Mosques are relatively young: 30% of all mosques were established in the 1990s and 32% were started in the 1980s.
  • Four-fifths of mosques are located in a metropolitan (urban or suburban) area, most often a city neighborhood. There are fewer mosques in the West than in other regions of the country.
  • At the average mosque, one-third (33%) of members are South Asian, three-tenths (30%) are African American, and a quarter (25%) are Arab.
  • Mosques are very ethnically diverse. Only 7% of mosques are attended by only one ethnic group. Almost 90% of all mosques have some South Asians, African Americans and Arabs.

Mosques are Healthy and Active

  • Most mosque representatives report that their mosque is spiritually alive and vital (79%); their members are excited about the future (80%); and they have a clear mission (88%).
  • Only 15 percent of mosques currently face financial difficulty.
  • Most mosques are involved in some outreach activities. During the past 12 months, a majority of mosques have done each of the following activities: visited a school or church to present Islam, contacted the media, contacted a political leader, and participated in an interfaith dialogue.
  • Almost 70% of mosques provide some type of assistance for the needy.
  • More than 20% of mosques have a full-time schools.

Mosque Leadership Tends to be Flexible and Open

  • Over 70 percent of informants “strongly agree” that Muslims should be involved in American institutions and should participate in the political process.
  • Over 90% of mosques feel that they strictly follow the foundational sources of Qur’an and Sunnah (practice) of the Prophet Muhammad (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him). However, over two-thirds (71%) feel that the Qur’an and Sunnah should be interpreted with consideration of its purposes and modern circumstances.
  • Mosques are not staffed well. The majority (55%) of mosques have no paid full-time staff. Only 10% have more than two paid staff.
  • In general, mosque leadership does not appear to be highly formalized or bureaucratic. At the majority of mosques, the leader is a volunteer, works part-time, and is employed outside the mosque.
  • In a majority of mosques, final decision-making authority rests not with the leader but with a Majlis ash-Shura (executive committee or board of directors).
  • In most mosques with a board, women are allowed to serve as members.


Geographical Location

Geographical Region Only about 15 percent of mosques are located in states of the Mountain or West regions. The remaining mosques are spread relatively evenly among the East, the South, and the Midwest.

Attendance at Jum`ah Prayer (Friday Congregational Prayer) The “typical” Friday attendance at Jum`ah Prayer ranges from 4 to 5,000, with an average of 292 for all responding mosques. In 1994 the average attendance was 150. The 2000 study represents a 94% increase. Extrapolating to all mosques in the country, it can be estimated that 349,525 people attend Jum`ah Prayer each week. Note, however, that with the survey sampling error of plus or minus five percent, the actual figure may range anywhere from about 332,000 to 367,000. The median (midpoint) Jum`ah attendance is 135. In other words, half of mosques report 135 or fewer attenders, and half report more than that. The table below shows the frequency of five categories of worship attendance.
At slightly more than a quarter of mosques (26 percent), typical attendance at Friday prayer is 50 persons or fewer. At twelve percent of the mosques, attendance is typically over 500 persons. The following chart compares Jum`ah attendance figures with the 1994 Study.


Jum`ah Prayer Characteristics of Jum`ah Prayer Participants On average, 78 percent of participants on a typical Friday are men, 15 percent are women, and seven percent are children. Men make up a majority of participants at Friday prayer in 91 percent of the mosques. Mosque attenders are dominated by men.

Language for the Jum`ah Khutbah (Friday Sermon) Ninety-seven percent of mosques use English as the main language, or one of the main languages, for the message of the Jum`ah Khutbah. The few mosques that do not use English most frequently use Arabic or Urdu. Of the mosques that do use English, 47 percent use one or more additional languages for the message of the Jum`ah Khutbah. In the great majority of cases, the other language is Arabic. Albanian, Bengali, Bosnian, Turkish, Urdu, and Yourba are also used in a few mosques. The Salah (Daily Prayer) Holding the Salah All five salah are held daily at 69 percent of mosques. Maghrib (sunset prayer) is held daily at 82 percent of mosques while `Asr (mid-afternoon prayer) is held daily at 76 percent of mosques. On weekdays, which of the five salah are held daily in your mosque or Islamic Center? Percentage that holds each salah daily
Maghrib (Sunset) 82%
`Isha’ (Evening) 80
Zuhr (Noon) 78
Fajr (Dawn) 77
`Asr (Mid-Afternoon) 76
All Five Salah 69
None of the Five Salah 10
Attendance at the Salah Mosques holding any of the salah daily were asked about attendance at salah. Typical weekday attendance at all five salah ranges from one person to 1,120 people. Average attendance at daily salah is 93 people, and the median (midpoint) is 46.
How Women Make Salah In nearly two-thirds of mosques (66 percent), women make salah behind a curtain or partition or in another room. In 1994, 52% of the mosques said that women prayed behind a curtain. The practice of having women pray behind a curtain or in another room is becoming more wide spread.

Number of Participants Current Number

The number of mosque participants was measured in two ways: the number of people associated in any way with the religious life of the mosque and the number who regularly participate. The table below shows the range in the number of participants (that is, the lowest and highest number from among all reporting mosques) as well as the average and median number of participants.


The average number of Muslims associated with a mosque (in other words, comes at least to the Eid Prayers) is 1629. Multiplying this figure by 1209 mosques yields an estimated total of 2 million Muslims who associate themselves with a mosque. In 1994 that total was 500,000 Muslims. The range in the number of Muslims associated in any way with each mosque is quite broad. Two mosques have just 10 Muslims associated with them, and at the other end of the spectrum, two mosques report 50,000 Muslims associated with them. However, the range in number of Muslims who regularly participate in the mosque is narrower, from three to 5,300.

Median participation is much smaller than the figures at the high-end of the range. The median number of Muslims associated with each mosque is 500, and the median number of regular participants is 125.

The average number of regular mosque participants is 340. Multiplying by 1,209 yields an estimated total of 411,060 Muslims regularly participating in mosques in the United States.

Growth or Decline in Participants

In the past five years, regular participants have increased at more than three-quarters (77 percent) of mosques. Regular participants have decreased at only 5 percent of mosques.


The majority (61%) of mosques have experienced during the past years an increase of regular participants of 10 percent or more.

Percentage Increase or Decrease Increase
10% or more 61%
5-9% 12%
Less than 5% 4%
10% or more 4%
5-9% 1%
Less than 5% 0%
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