Today more than seven billion people live on our planet — and the vast majority have a belief system. The World Factbook says that approximately nine out of ten of Earth’s seven billion people identify themselves as believers in one of the major world Faiths – Christians (32%); Muslims (23%); Hindus (15%); Buddhists (7%); and other (which includes Jews, Baha’is and Zoroastrians, and some indigenous beliefs — 11%). Another eleven percent of the world’s population describe themselves as non-religious.

So curious seekers who discover the Baha’i Faith often ask: How many people are Baha’is?

Of all the world religions, the Baha’i Faith is the newest and the fastest-growing. According to The World’s Religions in Figures: An Introduction to International Religious Demography:

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. – p. 59.

So since the Baha’i Faith began in 1844, how many people have become Baha’is? And how many Baha’is are alive today?

The short answer? No one really knows. The exact number of Baha’is remains unknown, since most countries do not keep statistics on religion or require any religious designation in their records; since many people in different parts of the world and from different cultures follow the Baha’i teachings without a formal declaration of belief; and since births, deaths and new believers all mean the actual number of Baha’is worldwide constantly fluctuates. Many estimates exist — the official Baha’i World News Service at the Baha’i World Centre in Haifa, Israel now estimates “there are more than 5 million Baha’is in the world.”

Other sources vary, some by large margins. No accurate global count has ever been possible, so every estimate involves some guesswork. Some observers say there are fewer than five million Baha’is, but many authoritative fact books and encyclopedias estimate that Baha’is number somewhere between six and eight million people worldwide:

  • The World Religion Database says there were 7.3 million Baha’ís in the world in 2010.
  • The World Factbook states that Baha’is make up 0.12% of the world’s population based on a 2007 estimate, corresponding to 7.9 million people.
  • The 2005 Association of Religion Data Archives estimates 7.6 million Baha’is (based partly on World Christian Encyclopedia.)Group of people standing on a globe and holding hands
  • The CIA World Factbook reports 0.11% of the world are Baha’is, which in its 2010 estimate equals 7.8 million Baha’is.
  • In 2005, the Encyclopedia of Religion, second edition, volume 2, pg. 739, says: “In the early twenty-first century the Baha’is 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.”

Most analysts recognize that the geographical spread and diversity of the worldwide Baha’i community across so many of the Earth’s nations makes an accurate numerical count hard to come by. Wikipedia says:

Statistical estimates of the worldwide Baha’i population are difficult to arrive at. The religion is almost entirely contained in a single, organized community, but the Baha’i population is spread out into almost every country and ethnicity in the world, being recognized as the second-most geographically widespread religion after Christianity… (Source: Encyclopedia Brittanica).

These divergent estimates prove that the very concept of Faith – which essentially means a conviction of the heart, mind and soul – resists quantification. In the end, do numbers count? The Baha’i writings say other, more mystical considerations really matter most:

Look ye not upon the fewness of thy numbers, rather, seek ye out hearts that are pure. One consecrated soul is preferable to a thousand other souls. If a small number of people gather lovingly together, with absolute purity and sanctity, with their hearts free of the world, experiencing the emotions of the Kingdom and the powerful magnetic forces of the Divine, and being at one in their happy fellowship, that gathering will exert its influence over all the earth. Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, pp. 80-81.

The opinions and views expressed in this article are those of the author only and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of BahaiTeachings.org or any institution of the Baha’i Faith.

9 Comments

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  • Hossein Taherzadeh
    Sep 17, 2017
    You can not divide people in their believe in Active and Non Active. This not make sense. First you are not able to judge people in this matter. Second, faith and believe is something totally personal.
  • Hasan Elías
    Aug 22, 2017
    perhaps there are 2 million of active and semi-active Baha'is in the world
  • Lauren Norris-Rodgers
    Mar 08, 2016
    I agree with Justice and Willian. Another voice heard from...
  • Jan 13, 2016
    Excellent article dear David. It's curious to me where these various organizations get their data regarding the Baha'i numbers? I like what they say, but I think that Justice St Rain brings up a good point, especially about the declining numbers here in USA. My personal opinion is, we've had the Institute Process for the past 20 years, and it's a wonderful tool for advancing the "entry by troops", but it seems that it's doing the exact opposite at the moment. I've found that many of the friends seem to think that the Institute Process ...has replaced direct teaching and conversion. Very few organized firesides/deepenings happening anymore. Without direct teaching, the most meritorious of all deeds, the Holy Spirit is withdrawn. Maybe it's time to have a national dialogue about this...hugs
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  • Dec 14, 2015
    Hi David, I know that numbers don't really matter in the long run, but it is also not really fair to cherry-pick the ones you use. Of course the Baha'i Faith grew faster than other religions during the 20th Century, since in 1900 virtually no one outside of Iran had heard of us. The question is, what has our growth been in the last few generations? The Baha'i World Center, which can tell you how many Ruhi classes have been held every month for the last 10 years, was saying about 5 Million Baha'is back in 1985. If they are ...STILL saying that, then we need to be honest about that. In the US, the numbers are actually declining. We need to address that as well.
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    • Norbert DuBois
      Jun 26, 2016
      I like very much the comments of William and Justice. The basic DEFICIENCY of not being of Service to the general populace is at the root of the decline in numbers. If we are not 100% in our mind & heart willing to Sacrificially serve any and all, we are not following 'Abdu'l-Bahá's Example. Further, Firesiding IS a Service that is becoming a lost art, as too many incorrectly assume that Ruhi lessons and Devotionals supercede Firesides. In 2012, then 92 year-old 'Ali Nakhjavani said in a bellowing voice, "That is wrong!" Yet, NSAs, ...Regionals, ABMs, LSAs seem to be oblivious, and I say this after having written to several of them, more than once, with the following link as a bona-fide Reference: bahai-education.org/news/ali-nakhjavanis-talk-institute-process-core-activities
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  • Rowshan Mustapha
    Oct 12, 2013
    Thank you Mr. Langness. My acquaintance with you article could not have happened at a btter time for me. I am in need for such information for a young friend who is preparing a doc torate thesis and asked me exactly that question. Thank you again. God bless