Religion in Sudan


Sudan’s average population density is low (22 residents per km2). The population is concentrated to the fertile areas along the Nile and to the border areas in the eastern and western parts of the country. The country has high natural population growth, but as a result of the protracted civil war and the large refugee flows, the country’s population statistics are very uncertain. In 2019, 36 percent of the population lived in cities and towns. The largest cities are Omdurman (2.8 million residents, 2012) and Khartoum (2.7 million), both of which are part of Khartoum’s metropolitan area.

For information on life expectancy and other demographic statistics about Sudan.

People in Sudan

The country is inhabited by over 400 people groups in a variety of languages. Nearly 70 percent of the population is Arabs, which dominate the northern and central parts of the country. Most feed on agriculture, but some are livestock; these are called baqqara (500,000–700,000). Other Muslim peoples include the now Arabic-speaking Nubians in the north (200,000) and the Kushite- speaking Bajah in the east (2.1 million). Beja is traditionally livestock nomads, but most of them are now residing and farming on the side of livestock management.

Along the border with Eritrea, there are Arabic-speaking rashaida (101,000) involved in trade and livestock management. Of the Armenian and Jewish populations that have traditionally existed in Khartoum, only insignificant residual populations remain. In addition, there is an ancient Greek population, living both in Khartoum (250 people) and in the southern parts of the country; even Greeks have left the country due to the unrest of recent years.

Lack of labor caused the colonial government in the 1930s to encourage the immigration of Muslim home-speaking groups into the central parts of the country, where they feed on agriculture and wage labor; their number amounts to nearly 650,000. In the Nuba Mountains in southern Kurdufan, there are a number of non-Arab ethnic groups, distributed in a large number of languages, commonly referred to as Nuba (1.7 million).

In Darfur Mountains in the west, they live also Muslim Nilo-Saharan-speaking danger fur (985 000) whose farm is made possible by irrigation.

Persecution and massive killing in connection with internal conflicts and outright civil war have in many respects changed the demographic and ethnic structure, for example in the Darfur region in the west. There have traditionally lived around 100 different Muslim groups, including fur, zaghawa (300,000) and masalites (243,000), but a genocide whose scale is still unclear has led to about 2.5 million people displaced and many have killed.


According to thesciencetutor, in Sudan, over 30 languages ​​belong to three different language families. Among the Afro-Asiatic, the most important language is Arabic, which dominates in the north (High Arabic is the official language); on the coast, the Cushitic Beja is spoken, and in the south-east on the border with Ethiopia’s unmotivated language. In the south, the Nilo-Saharan languages ​​dominate, a large language complex to which also the Nubian north of Khartoum belongs. In the far south-east, bantu language is spoken.


Already in the 600s Islam came to the northern parts of today’s Sudan, which was then part of the Nubian Empire (see Nubia). Arab Bedouins continued Islamization in the 1300s and 1400s, leading to the demise of the present Christian states. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the funj people created a strong Muslim state in the area. In 1821, Egypt occupied northern Sudan and the Funjriket. Egyptian rule over Sudan collapsed when Britain made Egypt a sound state in 1882. The year before, the religious movement of Mahdism had begun an uprising against the unrighteous foreign power (see Mahdist uprising). The uprising was fought in 1898, after which Britain and Egypt jointly ruled the country.

In the first half of the 20th century, religiously founded nationalist movements grew in Sudan, which became independent in 1956. In the south, guerrilla activity continued with an independent South Sudan as its goal. In 1972, South Sudan gained regional autonomy. However, the uprising in the south flared up again in 1983, after Sudan’s leader, President Jafar Numayri, initiated the Islamization of the legislation, which was accentuated after the 1989 military coup (see further history). Khartoum then developed into something of a world center for radical Sunni Islamist groups. Sufi rulers have a strong position among Muslims. During the late 1900s, the Muslim Brotherhood also gained considerable influence, especially after the 1989 military coup. The Brotherhood’s foremost leader in Sudan, Hasan at-Turabi (1933–2016)), gradually emerged as one of the foremost Islamic theorists of the world.

Negotiations with the guerrillas in southern Sudan resulted in a peace treaty in 2005. According to this, after six years of self-government, a referendum was held on whether this part of Sudan would become an independent state or not. The referendum took place in January 2011; About 99% of those voting voted for an independent South Sudan.

These political changes and the 22-year-long civil war have led to great suffering and large migrations in the country. According to statistical data from before the division of the country (1994), it is stated that the Muslims constituted about three quarters of the country’s population and that they were mainly in the northern parts of the country. Today (2013), almost all residents of Sudan are Muslims. Of these, almost all are Sunnis, of which there are several variants. The two most popular are ansar, which has close ties to the Umma opposition and the other is khatmia/khatmiyya with close ties to the Democratic Unionist Party.

In the mid-1990s, ie. before the division of the country, the proportion of Christians was estimated to be only 15%. Christianity, however, has very old roots in Sudan. In 350 the Coptic Church was established in the country. In 1000, the Greek Orthodox Church began operations in the country and the Catholic Church was established in 1842. In 1899 it was time for the first evangelical church. Today, Christians are few in Sudan, only about 3% (2013). It is estimated that about 100,000 are members of various Protestant communities. The Catholics, which are mainly north of the capital Khartoum, are estimated at some thousands. In the country there are also small groups belonging to Ethiopian and Eritrean Orthodox churches, whose members are mainly refugees and immigrants. Other small Christian groups are the African Inland Church, the Armenian (Apostolic) Church, the Church of Christ in Sudan, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Sudan’s Seventh-day Adventist Church. Before dividing the country, the proportion of traditional African religion was estimated to be about a quarter of the population. Today, the Sudanese Ministry of Information states that about 0.3% of the population practices this type of religion. However, it is not uncommon for both Christians and Muslims to incorporate traditional African religion into their religious practice.

Sudan’s current constitution is from 1998 and it is valid until a new one has been established. In this interim constitution, God is the authority of the state. Islam is stated as state religion and the president, ministers and members of the National Assembly must swear before Allah an oath to respect the constitution, among other things. The legislation is based on a combination of Sharia, the Constitution and custom. However, according to President Omar al-Bashir, the new constitution will be “100% Islamic, without communism or secularism or Western influence” and will be based on “Sharia of Islam because it is fair”. But even in the current constitution and other laws, Sharia forms the basis of the state, which means that conversion from Islam to another religion can lead to imprisonment or the death penalty. The blasphemy of Islam can lead to six months in prison, whipping and/or fines. Marriage across religious borders is forbidden, but Muslim men can marry Jewish and Christian women. However, a non-Muslim man must convert to Islam in order to marry a Muslim woman. Religious organizations, including non-Islamic ones, are respected by the government. However, the government rarely intervenes actively in support of these religious institutions if they are subjected to various forms of discrimination. The government supports Islam by funding the construction and maintenance of mosques. It is the government that appoints and dismisses imams. respected by the government. However, the government rarely intervenes actively in support of these religious institutions if they are subjected to various forms of discrimination. The government supports Islam by funding the construction and maintenance of mosques. It is the government that appoints and dismisses imams.

Religious organizations must be registered as non-profit organizations in order to claim tax exemption. Furthermore, they must have permission from several public bodies to be able to build worship services.

All schools, including private, must teach Islam from pre-school through the second year of university. Generally, Friday is prayer day. Employers are required by law to give Christian employees two hours off on Sunday mornings so that they can participate in church services. Furthermore, Christians do not need to work on Christian holidays.

The following days are national holidays: Prophet Muhammad’s birth, Coptic Passover, mirage (Prophet Muhammad’s ascension), Id al-fitr, Id al-adha, Islamic New Year and Christmas Day (but only for Christians).

Sudan Religion