Bangladesh has been a seat of major religions all through history, largely coexisting peacefully.Often, one majority religion has been replaced by another, in a succession. So that Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam, the three major religions of the Sub-continent, have had their heydays in the lives of the people and the country. From rulers to the downtrodden all have been affected by one religion or the other while religion, in turn, has left its mark on the society and culture. The history of religion in Bangladesh, therefore, is probably as fascinating as the religions themselves.
About 89.5 percent of Bangladeshis are Muslims, making Bangladesh one of the largest Muslim countries in the world. The Muslim community in Bangladesh tends to be accomodating to other faiths and beliefs and Bangladesh is known for its lack of communal strife.Hinduism is professed by about 9.6 percent of the population. There are also significant numbers of Buddhists in Bangladesh.Bangladesh also has a very small Christian community.
% 1975| Population
% 1990| Population
Muslim| 84%| 87%| 89.5%|
Hindu| 15.6%| 12.4%| 9.5%|
Christian| 0.1%| 0.1%| 0.3%|
Buddhist| 0.3%| 0.5%| 0.7%|
Muslims constitute almost 90 percent of the population. Most Muslims in Bangladesh are Sunnis, but there is a small Shia community and an even smaller Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. Most of those who are Shia reside in urban areas. Although these Shias are few in number, Shia observance commemorating the martyrdom of Ali's sons, Hasan and Husayn, is widely observed by the nation's Sunnis. The Muslim community in the Bengal region developed independent of the dominant Islamic trends in India. The preservation of pre-Islamic cultural elements from Buddhist and Hindu periods made the commitment to Islam uniquely Bangladeshi. Features of Bangladeshi Hinduism, which differed in some respects from Hinduism in other parts of South Asia, influenced both the practices and the social structure of the Bangladeshi Muslim community. In spite of the general personal commitment to Islam by the Muslims of Bangladesh, observance of Islamic rituals and tenets varies according to social position, locale, and personal considerations. In rural regions, some beliefs and practices tend to incorporate elements that differ from and often conflict with orthodox Islam
During the opening years of the 13th century, the Muslim conquest of Bengal took place, mainly as a sequel to Muhammad Ghori's expeditions late in 1192 spanning northern India. Syed Shanasiruddin was originally from Iraq but came to Bangladesh to spread Islam. Early Arab Muslims however established commercial as well as religious contacts within the region before the conquest, mainly through the coastal regions as traders and primarily via the ports of Chittagong. Arab navigation in the region was the result of the Muslim reign over the Indus delta. The activities of the Muslims were expanded along the entire coast of South Asia including the coasts of Bengal. The religion of Islam entered the region in many different ways, the Muslim traders, the Turkish conquest and, the missionary activities of the Muslim Sufis. One of the authentications of the Arab traders present in the region was the writings of Arab geographers, found on the Meghna River located near Sandwip on the Bay of Bengal. This evidence suggests that the Arab traders had arrived along the Bengal coast long before the Turkish conquest. The Arab writers also knew about the kingdoms of Samrup and Ruhmi, the latter being identified with the empire of Dharmapal of the Pala Empire. Between the 8th century and 12th century, the Buddhist dynasty known as the Pala Empire ruled Bengal. During that time, the majority of the population in Bengal were thought to be Buddhists. After the decline of the Pala dynasty, the...