Jordan Religion

By | May 22, 2021

Officially recognized religions

The annual report of the US State Department on religious freedom in Jordan provides information on the degree of religious freedom, the size of religious communities and their regional distribution in Jordan.

Around 97 percent of the total Jordanian population are Sunni Muslims. A good two percent are Christians, most of them Greek Orthodox, as well as Roman Catholic and Greek Catholic (Melkite). Since Islam regards Christianity and Judaism as predecessor religions (Arabic ‘Ahl al-Kitab), these faith groups enjoy special protection as so-called “book religions”.

Tolerated religions

According to mathgeneral, Jordan also live Druze (about 12-14,000), Baha’i (1000), Samaritans and some Yazidis. These religious communities are not hindered in the exercise of their faith, but neither are they particularly supported. The number of Shiites in Jordan is negligible. However, some of the Iraqis living in the country are likely to be Shiites.

Islam as the state religion

Islam is the state religion in Jordan. The Hashemite rulers trace their ancestry back to a relative of the Prophet Muhammad. Before rising against the Ottomans in 1916, the Hashemites on the Arabian Peninsula had been responsible for guarding the holy places of Mecca and Medina and for organizing the pilgrimage for centuries. The Hashemites thus religiously legitimize their claim to rule over Jordan, which means that Islam in Jordan not only holds a prominent position socially but also politically. Nevertheless, high offices in the state are not linked to religion: a Christian Jordanian can also become prime minister.

Religion in everyday life

Hostilities between Christians and Muslims have so far been the exception in Jordan. Since 1997, Christian religious instruction has also been given in schools in Jordan.

Multi-religious love relationships or marriages are possible, but are generally viewed rather critically. Since the Islamic belief is also inherited through the law through the father, a Muslim in Jordan can marry a Christian. The reverse is not possible: A Christian who wants to marry a Muslim woman must first convert to Islam in Jordan. The filmmaker Cherien Dabis made a feature film on the subject of Christian-Muslim connections, which was well received by both critics and audiences, and which was also dubbed in German.

Strong influence of religion

Overall, religion plays a major role in Jordan. It starts with personal identity: in a survey by the US PEW Institute, two out of three Jordanians stated that they felt first and foremost as Muslims and only then as Jordanians. In addition, a significant part of the Jordanian legal system is denominational. Although criminal and commercial law are based on Western models and are secular, in accordance with the Islamic-Ottoman tradition, in Jordan (as in all other Arab countries), denominational law, i.e. Islamic law (Sharia), applies to questions of civil status and inheritance. for Muslims and Christian law (canon law) for Christians.

Location Map of Jordan on the globe

Islam in the legal system

Muslim Jordanians settle their family and inheritance matters before the so-called “Spiritual Courts” (Sharia Courts). Traditionally, there was no central religious authority in Islam that made certain jurisprudence binding for everyone. However, the modern nation-state has made it necessary to codify the decentralized Islamic legal and fatwa system (fatwa = legal opinion) and to pour it into a uniform form that is binding for all citizens. The decisive factor here are the legal opinions of the state-appointed and supervised Islamic theologians (ulama, muftis), who in Jordan are assigned to the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Foundations or one of the state universities. Relevant laws, e.g. on family planning or abortion, are negotiated between the social interest groups, the religious dignitaries as well as the parliament and the king. For the Muslims of Jordan, Islamic law in its Hanafi form is decisive.

Christian festivals

The Christian holidays can vary, depending on the Christian denomination. Orthodox Christians celebrate Easter and Christmas a little later. Many Muslim Jordanians also find the special atmosphere of the festival of lights and families beautiful, “Santa Claus” figures can be found everywhere.