Religion in United Arab Emirates

Population and ethnography

Prior to the discovery and extensive recovery of the oil during the 1960s, the seven Sheikhs were populated by a number of small Arab tribes, which were fed by livestock, fisheries and agriculture, and to some extent by trade and the disappearance of pearl fishing. The most important tribes were grouped into two tribal federations, which were often in conflict with each other, a contradiction that had consequences far into modern times. Bani Yas ruled Abu Dhabi and Dubai, while Sharja and Ras al-Khayma were dominated by Qawasim, actually a clan that managed to occupy the Sheikh clans in the Northeast with their various tribes. The tribal affiliation meant – and still does – that the population lives, works and conducts its policies in units that are made up of a tribe and its subdivisions.

Before the days of the oil, the population was fairly homogeneous with the exception of the commercial city of Dubai, where the Arabs had long been crowded with Iranians, Indians, Somalis and black Africans (among whom there were slaves even in the mid-20th century).

According to Countryaah data, the population has increased ninefold over the past 25 years, mainly due to the large immigration. None of these shark reviews had more than 40,000 residents before the start of the oil extraction, most far less. The first census (1968) indicated the total population to 180,000 residents. Immigrants, however, already accounted for a large part of the population. In the mid-1980s, the proportion of immigrants was estimated at 80 percent of the emirate’s then 1.6 million residents. Both Indians and Pakistanis were more numerous than the indigenous population. Other large immigrant groups consisted of Iranians, Palestinians, Jordanians, Egyptians and Yemenites, while Europeans, East Asians and Americans together accounted for 5 percent of the population. Restrictions on immigration in 2009 had led to twice as many men as women in the country. About 16 percent of the country’s population is under 15. The trend is moving towards a state where the United Arab Emirates will almost exclusively consist of cities.

From one of the world’s lowest per capita incomes, the seven emirates have reached a level with few equivalents at all. This has been done for less than thirty years and is entirely based on the finite oil resources. However, social and cultural developments have been slower. The individual’s daily life is still characterized by considerations of the extended family, of the tribal section and of religious life.

For information on life expectancy and other demographic statistics, see Country facts.

People in United Arab Emirates


According to thesciencetutor, the official language of the United Arab Emirates is Arabic. The spoken language is relatively uniform and is counted among the so-called yellow dialects, which originated from the Anaza group, the dominant dialect group on the northern Arabian peninsula. The Gulf dialects are characterized by numerous loan words from Persian and Portuguese. Over the past 30 years, they have also been greatly influenced by the language of the Egyptian and Palestinian guest workers. English is widely used.


The majority of citizens belong to Sunni Islam, with some influence from the Wahhabitic form of Sunnism. A minority are Shiite Muslims. The seven emirates in the Union have different practices regarding the application of Islamic law (Sharia) in relation to legislation. Abu Dhabi is considered to practice sharia to a greater extent than the other emirates.

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Other forms of Islam, as well as to some extent other religions, mainly Hinduism, occur because guest workers make up the majority of the residents.

United Arab Emirates Religion