Islam in Oman

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Virtually all Omanis profess Islam; 70% of the population of Oman follow the Ibadi School of Abd-Allah ibn Ibadh.[1] Ibadism represents the only remaining expression[citation needed] which developed from 657 as a result of one of the first schisms within Islam.[2][failed verification]

Omanis in their traditional dress


Islam spread to Oman early. The Ibadite denomination established itself in the region after fleeing from Basra in modern-day Iraq.[3][4]

Christians and Jews have historically been able to practice their own religions openly in Oman. The society is tolerant, though social hierarchies do exist. In Ibadi communities, the traditional Arab coffee is served to Muslims first, with Christians being served after the poor Muslims; in Sunni communities, Christian guests may actually be served even before the respected Muslim leaders and clerics.[3]



Many people[who?] believe that Ibadism is an outgrowth of the Kharijites movement, a variant form of Islam practiced by descendants of a sect that seceded from the principal Muslim body after the death of Muhammad in 632. Ibadies, however, deny this notion considering themselves an outgrowth [led by?] the follower (tabe'e) Jābir ibn Zayd. Ibadies reject primogeniture succession of the Quraysh, the tribe of Muhammad, and assert that leadership of Islam should be designated by an imam elected by the community from candidates who possess the appropriate spiritual and personal qualities. Ibadhi leadership is vested in an imam, who is regarded as the sole legitimate leader and combines religious and political authority. The imam is elected by a council of prominent laymen or shaykhs. Adherence to Ibadism accounts in part for Oman's historical isolation. Ibadis were not inclined to integrate with their neighbours, as the majority of Sunni Muslims regard Ibadism as a heretical form of Islam.

The austere, puritanical nature of Ibadism has affected the practice of Islam in the country. Omani mosques are very simple, with almost no decoration except around the windows and often lack the minarets common in other Muslim countries.[3][5] Moroccan explorer Ibn Battuta described the cleanliness of Omani mosques, despite the fact that the entire community would congregate to eat inside, each person bringing their own food.[5] The denomination frowns upon singing and dancing.[3][5] Sharia law is strictly enforced in public and private, and Oman's adherence to conservative Ibadism led to its historical isolation from the rest of the Middle East.[5]

The highest religious authority in Oman is the Grand Mufti, at present Ahmed bin Hamad al-Khalili.


The Shi'a Muslims live along Al Batinah and Muscat coasts. There are at least seven Twelver Shia mosques in Muscat.[6] There is also a community of Nizari Ismaili Shi'a.[7]


In the 1800s, the Jalan Bani Bu Ali tribe converted to Saudi Wahhabism, an austere form of Sunnism. They sporadically fought Ibadi communities but otherwise did not affect the overall religious demographics of Oman.[5]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ "Oman". CIA – The World Factbook. Retrieved 29 October 2011.
  2. ^ Common, Richard K. "Barriers To Developing 'Leadership' In The Sultanate Of Oman" (PDF). International Journal of Leadership Studies.
  3. ^ a b c d Diana Darke, Oman: The Bradt Travel Guide, pg. 27. Guilford: Brandt Travel Guides, 2010.. ISBN 9781841623320
  4. ^ Donald Hawley, Oman, pg. 199. Jubilee edition. Kensington: Stacey International, 1995. ISBN 0905743636
  5. ^ a b c d e Donald Hawley, Oman, page 201.
  6. ^
  7. ^ "Aga Khan announces first Ismaili Centre in Middle East". 13 December 2003. Retrieved 12 January 2020.

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