The Muslim World and Its Military Strength

Author : Odisha Today Bureau | Posted on: 2019-01-17

Adherents of Islam constitute the world's second largest religious group. According to a study in 2015, Islam has 1.9 billion adherents, making up about 25% of the world population Sunni (80-90%, roughly 1.6 billion people) and Shia (10–20%, roughly 170-340 million people).


Islam is the dominant religion in the Central Asia, Indonesia, Middle East, North Africa, and some other parts of Asia. The diverse Asia-Pacific region contains the highest number of Muslims in the world, easily surpassing the Middle East and North Africa.


About 31% of all Muslims are of South Asian origin, therefore South Asia contains the largest population of Muslims in the world. The country with the single largest population of Muslims is Indonesia in Southeast Asia, which on its own hosts 13% of the world's Muslims. About 15% of Muslims reside in Sub-Saharan Africa, and sizeable Muslim communities are also found in the Americas, the Caucasus, China, Europe, the Philippines and Russia. Western Europe hosts many Muslim immigrant communities where Islam is the second largest religion after Christianity, where it represents 6% of the total population or 24 million people.


Amidst growing global turmoil and the increasing terrorist incidents which most often are linked to militant Islam ideology of Jihad, it is definitely interesting to know how Muslim countries have positioned themselves in the new world order. The 'Muslim World' though not homogenous, but have brought together in some extra-regional groupings, including the Organization of Islamic Cooperation with its 57 member countries. 

With very complex and lengthy civil wars in Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen, Afghanistan, and violence in Palestinian Territories, internal disturbances in Pakistan and its schizophrenic enmity with India etc., their militaries have had to adapt to conventional and asymmetric warfare quickly, and in some cases relearn the art of conventional war after decades of inactivity. 

The Global Firepower (GFP) index, which is used for rankings of the military strength of the countries looks at a number of factors, including quality of weaponry, missile range, training, alliances, manpower, and the strength of local defence industries and on the basis of this analysis the followings are the 7 strongest militaries in the 'Muslim World'.



Active personnel: 9,75,750

2017 budget $6.9 billion

With Indonesia all set to become the world’s fourth-largest economy by 2050, its military is in the path of growing leaps and bounds. Apart from its active duty personnel, it is has an additional 281,000 paramilitary personnel. It’s manpower, economy and political clout are enough to ensure internal stability and growth, while it does pursue an aggressive military diversification strategy. Very recently, it applied an Anti-Access/Area-Denial (A2/AD) strategy, giving it even stronger military leverage over its neighbours, while it is looking forward to and in the strong path of achieving the strength of a 274-ship navy, 10 fighter squadrons, and 12 submarines. Indonesia’s modernised capabilities may be the precursor to a larger regional ambitions in its future national power projections.



Active personnel: 6,53,000

2017 budget $7 billion.

The Pakistani military is robust, with a long-standing proven military capacity. In recent years, it has leveraged stronger engagement with China particularly to modernise its forces, with heavy military technology exchange and weapons development. 

Operationally, Pakistan boasts one of the largest armies in the South Asian region only next to India, supported by a powerful intelligence service and with a consistent drive to develop defence industry capacities and manufacture modern military hardware. It is also the second country in the region with nuclear capability apart from India. The Arms Control Association puts Pakistan’s nuclear stockpile at around 140 warheads and ranked as the world’s sixth largest nuclear arsenal; even according some estimates it does have more nuclear warheads than India.



Active personnel: 5,34,000

2017 budget: $14 billion

Apart form the above it has an additional 1,25,000 Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). Under the pressure of various sanctions over years, Iran has been able to use it as an opportunity and has been very successful in developing a significant national defence industry, while its covert effort  is still on towards becoming a nuclear state.

Its armed forces are also viewed as particularly strong in asymmetric warfare. In recent times Iran has provided extensive technical and military support to the Assad regime in Syria.



Active personnel: 5,20,000

2017 budget: $10.6 billion

Being the largest Arab country by size in Africa it has invested steadily in its military since independence. The Algerian People's National Army has been on active footing since it’s founding, first fighting a bloody war of independence, a gruesome civil war dubbed 'The Black Decade', followed by more than two decades of combatting terrorism, and protecting its significant borders. It is also the only country apart from China that has procured the Russian S400 missile defence system. 


Active personnel: 4,54,000

2017 budget: $2.7 billion 

While still struggling to deal with insurgents in the Sinai Peninsula for several years, the Egyptian military has made major progress in modernising its military since Abdel Fatah el Sisi took power. With gradual procurements of new state-of-the-art weaponry, revamped supply chains and more attention given to enhance its naval capacity Egypt is consistently making visible progress in becoming a military leader in the region to reckon with. 


Active personnel: 355,800

2017 budget: $10.2 billion

Reserve personnel:3,60,000

Turkey's military has been on an active footing for a number of years. Apart form its active indulgence in Syria, Turkey has developed a strong defence industry, manufacturing state-of-the-art cruise missiles, a cutting-edge indigenous battle tanks, and battle-tested attack helicopters. 

It is ranked 9th worldwide by the Global Firepower Index, above Germany.

Turkey has also established large forward operating bases in Qatar and Somalia, that has further expanded its geopolitical reach and force projection capacity as a major regional military power.


Saudi Arabia 

Budget: 6,940 crores USD

Active personnel: 478,000

Reserve personnel: 325,000
The Saudi Arabian military is the best-armed military in its region. In past years, it has fought war in Yemen as the head of an allied coalition. Saudi Arabia also has more than 200,000 men in its national guard and 25,000 tribal levies, which is used primarily to secure internal threats but has been used as an expeditionary force too.

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