Muslim Countries of the World: Pakistan

Wazir Khan Mosque
ID 103029744 © Shahid Khan | Dreamstime.com

Pakistan (Islamic Republic of Pakistan) is a country with deep Islamic traditions. The entire life of a Pakistani is connected with the mosque. All the most important events of his life, his public social life, take place here, all kinds of interest clubs, discussion societies operate at the mosques, joint events, psychological assistance groups are organized (the Muslim version of the Twelve Steps program called Millati Islami). This is largely facilitated by the fact that Pakistani Muslims adhere to the Hanafi madhhab, i.e. the school of fiqh (Muslim law), which allows broad interpretations on various issues, figurative judgements and judgements by analogy (qiyas). As a rule, in countries with the Hanafi madhhab the secular and spiritual life of Muslims are inseparable elements of each other, while not infringing upon each other.

Geographically, Pakistan can be defined as a buffer between Khorasan (Afghanistan and Eastern Iran) and India. It is not surprising that since ancient times it received substantial influence from the Islamic states of Central Asia. In 711, the Umayyad commander Imaduddin al-Qasim subdued the Sindh and Punjab regions (the largest constituent parts of the territory of modern Pakistan on the border with India) to the Caliphate. Two centuries later, the territory of Pakistan comes out of the rule of the Caliphs and is conquered by the rulers of Central Asia. In the 15th century, Babur, a descendant of Timur Tamerlane, came here and founded the Mughal Empire on the lands of Pakistan and India. After its collapse and before the English conquest in the 19th century, the Sikh religion spread in the country.

During the period of British rule, Islam was an important ideology for the national self-identification of Indian Muslims, a unifying, supranational principle. The leader of the movement for the creation of a Muslim state was the poet Muhammad Iqbal, head of the Muslim League, a party that had set itself the task of protecting and promoting the Muslim identity of the inhabitants of Hindustan. It was the Muslim League that achieved the separation of Pakistan into a separate state on a religious basis. The name of the state was proposed by the Muslim student Chaudhiri Rahmat Ali, meaning ‘land of the pure’ in Urdu.

Islam is the state religion of Pakistan. The founder of the state, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, saw the special role of the Ulema Councils in state life. Under him, many Islamic principles of state structure were laid. A further policy of Islamization was undertaken under President Zia ul-Haq, who deeply Islamized society and introduced Sharia norms in the country.

Pakistani Muslims mainly belong to one of the country’s two socio-religious movements, Deobandi or Barelvi. These groups have their own doctrines for organizing public life according to Sharia law: more liberal Barelvis and more strict Deobandis. Starting with President Zia ul-Haq, the government has favoured the Deobandi movement.

The head of the Muslims of Pakistan is the Grand Mufti. This post is currently held by Muhammad Rafi Usmani, President of the Spiritual Center for Pakistani Muslims at Darul Uloom Seminary in Karachi, the country’s capital.

Sufi traditions are strong among Pakistani Muslims. In particular, the Mausoleum of Bahauddin Zakariya, a Muslim righteous man and a Sufi dervish of the 13th century, enjoys great reverence.