Islam is the dominant religion of the United Arab Emirates, declared by the constitution as the state religion for all emirates, although this also secures freedom of other religions as long as these act in accordance with established customs.
There are major statistical insecurities in relation to religious adherence. The estimates given here are based upon the most common sources, but as these vary, figures have been heavily adjusted. One confusion comes with many sources counting religious adherence only for citizens.
The area of the Emirates was quick into embracing Islam, but the people here soon left the Caliphate, returning very much to their old beliefs. But the Caliphate forced them back, and the region has stayed Muslim ever since the 7th century. Still, UAE is one of few countries in this part of the world, where there is a religiously mixed population without an ongoing conflict and suppression from the largest Muslim group upon the minorities.
The foreign population includes both Sunni and Shi'i Muslims, as well as Hindus and Christians, Buddhists, Baha'i and Sikhs. Reports indirectly also record thje presence of a Druze community.
Non-Muslims are permitted to worship. Missionary activities are technically not illegal, but such practice is hindered only by informal regulations; residence permits may be revoked. Muslims may not convert to another religion, while conversion to Islam is highly encouraged.
Permission to build houses of worship depends on the good will of the individual emirate, and many such permissions have been granted. However, the government does not permit churches to display crosses on the exterior or to build bell towers. Groups without dedicated buildings of worship may use the facilities of other religious groups or worship in private homes. Freedom to worship is generally very good in the United Arab Emirates.
During fasting in Ramadan, restrictions are enforced for all in the public.
The court system divided between Sharia courts for criminal and family matters, and secular courts for civil matters. Shi'is may use their own Sharia courts. This applies to all, including non-Muslims, but the Emirates have a confusing system in which a person may end up being convicted both in a Sharia court and a civil court for the same offence.
All citizens of the Emirates belong to Islam, but they are divided between three branches: Sunni, Shi'i and Ibadi. The distribution between Sunni and Shi'i is rather average for this part of the Muslim world, with slightly less than half being Muslims; the distribution between Sunnis and Shi'is is average for this part of the world, but includes the third branch of Islam, the Ibadi.
The Emirates is distinguished for being one of the countries on the Persian Gulf that sees least tension between its Muslim branches.
The native population of the emirates are mainly Sunnis of the Maliki school (madhhab) of law and theology (Sharia), while there are small communities following another tradition: Hanbali is found in Al-Ain and Shafi'i on the eastern coast (to Gulf of Oman).
About 95% of all Sunni mosques receive state funds for their management and are under government supervision.
Most of the Shi'is live in the emirate of Dubai and the northern emirates. There is much uncertainty to the real numbers of Shi'is, figures range between 10 and 15%. But the true figures given above are not all too certain; if the numbers of Shi'is are off the official numbers, the real numbers are clearly higher.
The Shi'is are free to worship and maintain their own mosques, which are considered private and may receive funds from the Government upon request. Imams are appointed by the individual mosques, except in Dubai, where they are appointed by the government.
While the Ibadis of the Emirates are ethnically Omanis, they do not live along the border to Oman, rather in the urban zones of Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
There is little information available on them, in general they blend in among other Muslims.
The estimate given here is calculated from linguistic statistics stating that there are 190,000 Omani Arabic speakers in the Emirates.
Immigrant workers have made Christianity a major religion in the Emirates. There are many large churches and Christian schools across the federation, most are, however in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Official recognition is necessary to obtain permits to build churches, and in most cases this is no problem.
The Roman Catholics are mainly Filipinos, Indians, Americans, Lebanese and Europeans.
There are two Hindu temples operating in rented commercial buildings in Dubai, one of which is used by Sikhs as well.
The Hindus also have two cremation facilities and associated cemeteries.
There are no Buddhist temples in the Emirates, but ceremonies are performed in private homes.
The Emirates have a considerable community of the Baha'i, formed by immigrants from Iran since the 1950's. The situation of theirs has been largely good, well-protected by the governments, but local forces have objected, considering Baha'i to be infidels.
There is a Baha'i cemetary in Abu Dhabi.
Baha'i are registered as Muslims by Emirati authorities.
Reports indirectly account that there is a Druze community in the United Arab Emirates, but these are identified upon immigration as Muslims, and no figures are available.