Islam is followed by over 98 percent of nearly 800,000 Comorians, almost all of whom belong to the Shafi'i fiqh of Sunni Muslims. Following a 1999 military coup, the May 2000 constitution did not allow for freedom of religion. The new constitution of Comoros that was ratified in December 2001 did provide for "the equality of all concerning rights and duties without distinctions based on sex, origin, race, religion or belief". The Article 41 of the new constitution also set up the Council of Ulemas (Islamic scholars) to assist the Government of Comoros in their decisions affecting the religious life in Comoros. The Comoros' constitution states that the "Islamic nature of the state" can not be changed, and makes Islamic law binding on all citizens of Comoros.
Abandoning Islam and converting to another religion is a crime, and like in Mauritania, Sudan and Iran, this can lead to capital punishment. The study of Islamic scriptures is mandatory in public schools, even for children of those who are not Muslims; however, the minorities have a right to operate their own school without the use of Islamic scriptures. The Grand Mufti, who is nominated by the president to serve in the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, serves as the government counsel on Islamic faith and law.
About 98% of the population in the Comoros are Sunni Muslim. Islam and its institutions have helped to integrate Comorian society and provide identification with a world beyond the islands' shores. Most adherents are Arab-Swahili or Persian, but there are also people of Indian descent.
Comorians follow religious observances conscientiously and strictly adhere to religious orthodoxy. During colonization, the French did not attempt to supplant Islamic practices and were careful to respect the precedents of sharia as interpreted by the Shafi'i school of thought. All Muslim holidays are observed, including Id al-Adha, Muharram, Ashura, Mawlid, Laylat al-Mi'raj and Ramadan. Mawlid is marked by celebrations culminating in a feast prepared for the ulama. Many women wear the shiromani, a printed cloth worn around the body. Comorians often consult mwalimus or fundi and marabouts for healing and protection from jinn. Mwalimus activate jinn to determine propitious days for feasts, a successful marriage, conduct healing ceremonies and prepare amulets containing Quranic ayat.
The government tends to discourage the practice of other faiths, particularly Christianity. There are two Roman Catholic churches and one Protestant church. Since before the 1999 coup, the government has restricted the use of these churches to noncitizens only. Harassment and social discrimination of Christians is common. Proselytizing of Christianity or any other non-Islamic religion is prohibited.
This article incorporates public domain material from the CIA World Factbook website https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/index.html.
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