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Sarah Holz (Alumna BGSMCS)


Organised Religion in Pakistan: Dynamics and Change in Religious Institutions of the State.

Organised Religion in Pakistan: Dynamics and Change in Religious Institutions of the State.

In 1947, the newly independent state of Pakistan was confronted with various challenges at the political level. It had to constitute a civil service, determine strategies to ensure political participation of all citizens, strike a power balance between ethnic and linguistic groups and to define how it relates to religion. Since then, the role and place of Islam in the formation of the state has been an issue of discussion and contestation. In a multi-ethnic and multi-linguistic society, religion seemed to be one of the few common denominators that could assist in the promotion of a distinct national identity that has officially been called Pakistan Ideology. Islamic rhetoric entered into all public forums and successive governments used Islam to legitimise their rule. To demonstrate its commitment to achieving an Islamic Way of Life, the state also needed to translate religious tenants and principles into policies and practices of the state. For this reason, bodies were created which would assist the state in realising this task. At the same time, these bodies could be used to exert influence on religious discourse and religiosity in Pakistan. The Auqaf Department, the Hajji Directorate, the Ruet-e Hilal Committee and the Ministry for Religious Affairs, Zakat and Ushr manage and oversee religious practices and property. The Federal Shariat Court advises on legal matters and serves as the alternate path of jurisdiction in Pakistan. The Federal Madrassah Board deals with the registration of religious schools and development of curricula, while the Council of Islamic Ideology advises and guides the state in the realm of legislation.

This research project seeks to explore how principles and practices of Islam are administered by the Pakistani state, and how it attempts to translate religious principles into state policies and practice via these bodies. The field of existence of these bodies, that is their internal mechanisms. as well as the bodies’ relations to government, state and society, will be explored in detail. Another point of interest is the institutional change of these bodies. Once established, did their initial tasks and self-understanding alter? Can we distinguish different phases of activism? In which ways have these bodies contributed to the creation of a national identity? The study of these bodies therefore links debates on secularism, state religion and the regulation of religion with discussions on nation and identity building.

Among others, the work of Levent Tezcan and Naveeda Khan frame this research. Tezcan examined how the Turkish state, faced with nationalist tendencies as well as the influence of secularisation and modernisation, has sought to administer religion to ‘create’ a society through the creational practice of locating religious discourse within a framework of modernity. Khan proposes an approach to the study of religion in Pakistan, which does not assess the ambiguous and often paradoxical relation of state and society to the position of Islam as a failure, but rather as a process in striving for an ideal of Pakistan that has yet to be achieved. To gain insight into this ‘becoming‘ of state and society she advocates that everyday practices and debates on religion, especially among different schools of thought (maslak) can offer valuable insights.

The Council of Islamic Ideology is a constitutional body established in 1960 and commissioned to review and determine whether laws are in accordance with “the principles and concepts of Islam as enunciated in the Holy Quran and Sunnah” and to draw up recommendations as to how to bring existing laws into conformity with these injunctions. It also provides guidance to parliament in all matters relating to Islam in accordance with the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Part IX Islamic Provisions, §228-231.
The chairman and members of the Council are appointed by the president of Pakistan and must be either Islamic scholars or federal judges; in addition, members should represent various schools of thought. The recommendations of the Council thereby provide a basic consensus of various schools of thought on issues which are widely debated in the Pakistani public sphere.

First Supervisor: PD Dr. Dietrich Reetz

Second Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Nadja-Christina Schneider

Third Supervisor: PD Dr. Jan-Peter Hartung