Islam in Pakistan

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Islam is the largest and the state religion of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, which has a population of about 190,291,129.[1] The majority (95–97%) of the Pakistani people are Muslim while the remaining 3–5% are Christian, Hindu, and others.[2][3] Sunnis are the majority while the Shias make up between 5-20%[2][3][4][5][6] of the total Muslim population of the country, whereas the Ahmadi Muslims make up approximately 2.2% of the total Muslim population of the country.[7] Pakistan has the second largest number of Shias after Iran, which numbers between 16.5 million to as high as 30 million according to Vali Nasr.[8]

Arrival of Islam in modern Pakistan[edit]

Faisal Mosque in Islamabad, which is the largest mosque of Pakistan and is also one of the largest in the world, was built by King Faisal of Saudi Arabia (the architecture of the mosque is criticized among traditional circles for not expressing the art and architecture of the Muslim community of South Asia).

The arrival of the Muslims to the areas of modern day Pakistan, along with subsequent Muslim dynasties, set the stage for the religious boundaries of South Asia that would lead to the development of the modern state of Pakistan as well as forming the foundation for Islamic rule which quickly spread across much of South Asia. Following the rule of various Islamic empires, including the Ghaznavid Empire, the Ghorid kingdom, and the Delhi Sultanate, the Mughals controlled the region from 1526 until 1739. Many Sufi missionaries from Middle East and Central Asia migrated and settled in South Asia. Many natives converted to Islam due to the missionary Sufi saints whose dargahs dot the landscape of South Asia. Sufism in Pakistan is plays important role in the country.

Many Sufi missionaries from Middle East and Central Asia migrated and settled in South Asia. Many natives converted to Islam due to the missionary Sufi saints whose dargahs dot the landscape of South Asia. The Delhi Sultanate and later Mughal Empire ruled the northern India region. During the Delhi Sultanate and later Mughal Empire attracted Muslim refugees, nobles, technocrats, bureaucrats, soldiers, traders, scientists, architects, artisans, teachers, poets, artists, theologians and Sufis from the rest of the Muslim world and they migrated and settled in the South Asia. During the reign of Sultan Ghyasuddin Balban (1266-1286) thousands of Central Asian Muslims sought asylum including more than of 15 sovereigns and their nobles due to the Mongol invasion of Khwarezmia and Eastern Iran.

At the court of Sultan Iltemish in Delhi the first wave of these Muslim refugees escaping from the Central Asian genocide perpetrated by the hordes of Genghis Khan, brought administrators from Iran, painters from China, theologians from Samarkand, Nishapur and Bukhara, nobles from Khwarezm, divines and saints from all Muslim lands, craftsmen and men and maidens from every region, doctors adept in Greek medicine, philosophers from everywhere.

After the Battle of Panipat (1526) Mughal Emperor Babur defeated the Lodi dynasty with a diverse array of Muslim soldiers and nobles who were awarded estates and they settled with their families in modern Pakistan.

Arrival of Islam and Umayyad invasion of Sindh[edit]

In 711 CE, when the Umayyad dynasty sent a Muslim Arab army led by Muhammad bin Qasim against the ruler of Sindh, Raja Dahir. Muhammad Bin Qasim's army was defeated in his first three attempts. The Muslim army conquered the northwestern part of Indus Valley from Kashmir to the Arabian Sea.

Arrival of Islam in Punjab[edit]

Following the birth of Islam in Arabia in the early 7th century, the Muslim Arabs rose to power and replaced the Zoroastrian Persian Empire as the major power west of India in the mid 7th century. In 711–713 AD, Arab armies from the Umayyad caliphate of Damascus conquered Sind and advanced into the present-day southern Punjab, occupying Multan, which was later to become a center of the Ismaili sect of Islam.

Arrival of Islam in Khyber Pukhtunkhwa[edit]

Hinduism, Buddhism, and Shamanism were the prominent religions in the region until Muslim Arabs and Turks conquered the area during 7th century AD. Over the centuries migration took place by the population consisting majorly of Hindus and Buddhists.[9] While local Pashtuns brought in Islam, introducing some of the local traditions (albeit altered by Islam) such as Pashtunwali or the Pashtun code of honor.

Islam and the Pakistan Movement[edit]

The Muslim poet-philosopher Sir Allama Muhammad Iqbal first proposed the idea of a Muslim state in northwestern South Asia in his address to the Muslim League at Allahabad in 1930. His proposal referred to the four provinces of Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan, and the NorthWest Frontier—essentially what would became Pakistan. Iqbal's idea gave concrete form to two distinct nations in the South Asia based on religion (Islam and Hinduism) and with different historical backgrounds, social customs, cultures, and social mores.

Islam was thus the basis for the creation and the unification of a separate state. Allama Muhammad Iqbal in 1937, in a letter to Jinnah wrote, "After a long and careful study of Islamic Law I have come to the conclusion that if this system of Law is properly understood and applied, at last the right to subsistence is secured to every body. But the enforcement and development of the Shariat of Islam is impossible in this country without a free Muslim state or states. This has been my honest conviction for many years and I still believe this to be the only way to solve the problem of bread for Muslims as well as to secure a peaceful India."[10] But just three days before the creation of Pakistan, Mohammad Ali Jinnah made a different commitment, a commitment to secularism in Pakistan. In his inaugural address he said, "You will find that in the course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State." This statement of Jinnah is an object of great controversy since then and this vision of a Pakistan in which Islamic law would not be applied, contrary to Iqbal's perception, was questioned shortly after independence.

Islam: Influence in politics[edit]

Politicization and Constitutionalism[edit]

Main article: Political Islam
The conservative convention in Lahore, Pakistan, 2009.

Since the 1930s, the Muslim League had been lobbying and pushing its politics for a separate homeland for the Muslims of India, known as Pakistan. After Jinnah passed away in 1948, Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan's constitutional policies were directed to work on constitution.[11] On 12 March 1949, Prime Minister Ali Khan had the State parliament passing and promulgating the Objectives Resolution, which ultimately declared Islam as state religion of the country.[11] The main objective of Resolution was the "declaration of State's submitting to the democratic faith of Islam and to the sovereignty of God".[11] Such resolution was met with great resistance in the state parliament when Law minister J.N. Mandal resigned from his ministry and gave great criticism to Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan. Politicization of Islam in the country further tighten its support when ultra-conservative Clerics passed a "demand draft", called 'Twenty Two Points' which called for the preparation of constitution according to Objectives Resolution, in 1950.

In 1977, the government of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto outlawed alcohol and drugs and changed the weekend from Sunday to Friday, but no substantive Islamic reform program was implemented prior to General Zia-ul-Haq's Islamization program. Starting in February 1979, new penal measures based on Islamic principles of justice went into effect. These carried considerably greater implications for women than for men. A welfare and taxation system based on Zakat and a profit-and-loss banking system were also established in accordance with Islamic prohibitions against usury but were inadequate.

Conservatism and right-wing politics[edit]

1947–50s: Power struggle[edit]

Conservatism in Pakistan (or the Right in Pakistan), generally relates to the traditional, social, and religious identities. After the death of Jinnah, Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan successfully authored and passed the Objectives Resolution from the state parliament, roughly declaring Islam as state religion. The idea of Conservatism in Pakistan identifies several constants including the "respect for tradition, the rule of law and the Islamic religion." Proponents of right-wing conservatism and nationalist agenda was supported by Prime Minister Ali Khan as part of his internal policies. His conservative policies were met with resistance from the left-wing which was accused of hatching the conspiracy against Ali Khan. In 1979, the religious conservatism and the state-sponsored Islamization became a primary policy of military government of President General Zia-ul-Haq.

As an aftermath of 1954 general elections, the conservatism lost its edge in East-Pakistan when communism deeply asserted itself following the victory of Communist Party. The military dictatorships of Ayub Khan and Yahya Khan further limited the conservative platform. During the 1970 general elections, the religious conservative and right-wing conservative parties participated in the election with a direct competition with left-oriented PPP. The right-wing mass made its notable comeback in a response to nationalization program of Bhutto, and called for right-wing alliance, PNA, against PPP.

1960s–70s: Religious Right[edit]

During the presidential election held in 1965, President Ayub Khan used the hard-line Islamic conservative groups to get Fatima Jinnah disqualified from the elections; nonetheless, this scheme failed when the huge public voted for Fatima Jinnah's bid for presidency. It is noted by historians that without the usage of state machinery, President Ayub Khan had almost lost the elections.

Despite religious populism and strong emphasizes on Islamic traditional values, the religious groups, however, performed poorly during the elections of 1970 and 1977.

1980s–1990s: Conservative ascent[edit]

With the successful coup d'état against the left wing government of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), the modern conservatism movement took over the control of state's affairs under President Zia-ul-Haq. The conservative principles dominated Zia's economic and foreign policies, including the interest-free system and strict opposition to Soviet Communism defining the military administration's philosophy.

Conservative and right-wing sphere[edit]

Muslim fiqhs in Pakistan[edit]

Growth in the number of religious madrassahs in Pakistan from 1988 to 2002.[12]
The famed Data Durbar shrine of Sufi saint Hazrat Ali Hujweiri in Lahore, is a famous for devotees from over the world.

Global Security estimates that 50% of Pakistani Muslims are Barelvi, 20% Deobandi, 18% Shi'a, 4% Ahl al-Hadith, 2% Ismaili, and other 2%.[13] The International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore estimates that 60% of Pakistani Muslims are Barelvi Sufi, 15% Deobandi; 20% Shi'a, 4% Ahl al-Hadith; and 1% other.[14]


According to the CIA World Factbook and Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, 95-97% of the total population of Pakistan is Muslim.[3] The majority of the Pakistani Muslims belong to the Sunni Hanafi Madhhab (school of jurisprudence[15]).

The two subsects of Sunnis in Pakistan, the Barelvis and Deobandis, have their own Masjids. According to the conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation the majority of Sunni in Pakistan follows Barelvi traditions.[16] The Salafi school is represented by the Ahle Hadith movement in Pakistan.


Shia Ithna 'ashariyah are estimated 10-20%.[2][3][5][6][17]

The Shi'a Ithna 'ashariyah school has its own Masjids and Hussainias (Imambargahs). Mustaali Dawoodi Bohra and Sulaimani Bohra also have their own Masjids, while the Nizari Ismailis have Jama'at Khanas. Although the vast majority of Pakistani Shi'a Muslims belong to Ithna 'ashariyah school, there are significant minorities: Nizari Ismailis (Agha Khanis) and the smaller Mustaali Dawoodi Bohra and Sulaimani Bohra branches.


Many people on the Makran coast of Balochistan follow the heterodox Zikri sect of Islam. Zikri sect developed within Sunni Hanafis during the 18th century Mahdi movement as a reaction to decline of the Muslim rule and encroaching British colonialism in South Asia. Zikris are now gravitating back towards orthodox Sunni Hanafi beliefs.


Main article: Sufism in Pakistan
Tomb of Syed Abdul Rahim Shah Bukhari constructed by the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb.

Sufism has a strong tradition in Pakistan, and is heavily represented among Barelvis. The Muslim Sufi missionaries played a pivotal role in converting the millions of native people to Islam. As in other areas where Sufis introduced it, Islam to some extent syncretized with pre-Islamic influences, resulting in a religion with some traditions distinct from other parts of the Muslim world. The Naqshbandiya, Qadiriya, Chishtiya and Suhrawardiyya silsas (Muslim Orders) have a large following in Pakistan. Sufis whose shrines receive much national attention are Data Ganj Baksh (Ali Hajweri) in Lahore (ca. 11th century), Baha-ud-din Zakariya in Multan and Shahbaz Qalander in Sehwan (ca. 12th century) and Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai in Bhit, Sindh and Rehman Baba in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province. Popular Sufi culture is centered on Thursday night gatherings at shrines and annual festivals which feature Sufi music and dance. Contemporary Islamic fundamentalists criticize its popular character, which in their view, does not accurately reflect the teachings and practice of the Prophet and his companions. There have been terrorist attacks directed at Sufi shrines and festivals, 5 in 2010 that killed 64 people.[18][19]


Main article: Ahmadiyya in Pakistan

The Ahmadiyya Muslim community, a minority Muslim group is also present. In 1974, the government of Pakistan amended the Constitution of Pakistan to define a Muslim "as a person who believes in finality of Prophet Muhammad".[20] Ahmadis believe in Muhammad as the best and the last law bearing prophet and Mirza Ghulam Ahmad as the Christ of Muslims. Consequently they were declared non-Muslims by a parliamentary tribunal. There are approximately 4 million Ahmadi Muslims in the country. This equates to 2.2% of the population.[7]


Muslims who reject the authority of hadith, known as Quranist, Quraniyoon, or Ahle Quran, are also present in Pakistan.[21] In South Asia during the 19th century, the Ahle Quran movement formed partially in reaction to the Ahle Hadith movement whom they considered to be placing too much emphasis on hadith. Many Ahle Quran adherents were formerly adherents of Ahle Hadith but found themselves incapable of accepting certain hadiths.[22] Notable Quranists of Pakistani descent include Ghulam Ahmed Pervez (founder of Tolu-e-Islam), Asarulislam Syed (founder of the Jannat Pakistan Party), and Shabbir Ahmed.

Conversions to Islam[edit]

There has been conversion to Islam from the religious minorities of Pakistan. Many Hindus, Ahmadis and Christians have converted to Islam. Deen Mohammad Shaikh is a Muslim missionary from Matli in Badin District in Sindh province and has converted over 110,000 Hindus to Islam.[23]

Laws and customs[edit]

There is no law in Pakistan enforcing hijab and wearing of Hijab by Pakistani women is fairly uncommon. However, the practice of wearing Hijab among younger women in urban centers is slowly growing due to media influence from the Middle East and Persian Gulf countries.

Media and pilgrimages[edit]

Media and pilgrimages has influenced Pakistani Muslims to learn more about Islam as a result the local folk beliefs and practices are progressively being replaced with orthodox beliefs from Quran and Sunnah. The inexpensive travel, simpler visa rules and direct air travel to Saudi Arabia has resulted in large number Pakistani Muslims going to Medina and Mecca for Haj and Umrah. This has helped to increase Pan-Islamic identity of Pakistani Muslims. The Muslim print media has always existed in Pakistan which included newspapers, books and magazines. The Muslim satellite channels are widely available and are watched by Pakistani population.

Islamic education[edit]

The Islamiat, study of Islam, as a subject is compulsory for all Muslim students up to Graduation in Pakistan. Islamic education to the masses is also propagated mainly by Islamic schools and literature. Islamic schools (or Madrassas) mostly cater to the youth from impoverished social backgrounds and those learning to be Islamic clerics. More casual and even research oriented material is available in the form of books. While the most prominent of these schools are supervised, the latter are being 'moderated' by both the government and some of the scholars, thereby also removing in the process the various material present in it that is used by anti-Muslim writers. Oldest and universally accepted titles such as the Sahih Bukhari have been revised into 'summarised' editions and some of the old, complete titles, translated to Urdu, the national language, are not available for purchase now. These changes are also a herald to new outbreaks of religious controversy in the region.

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ "Population: 190,291,129 (July 2012 est.)". The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency. 2012. Retrieved 2012-05-26. 
  2. ^ a b c "Religions: Islam 95%, other (includes Christian and Hindu, 2% Ahmadiyyah ) 5%". The World Factbook. CIA. 2010. Retrieved 2010-08-28. 
  3. ^ a b c d "Muslim Population—Statistics About the Muslim Population of the World". Retrieved 27 July 2009. 
  4. ^ "Country Profile: Pakistan". Library of Congress Country Studies on Pakistan. Library of Congress. February 2005. Retrieved 2010-09-01. Religion: The overwhelming majority of the population (96.3 percent) is Muslim, of whom approximately 95 percent are Sunni and 5 percent Shia. 
  5. ^ a b "Mapping the Global Muslim Population: A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World's Muslim Population". Pew Research Center. October 7, 2009. Retrieved 2010-08-28. 
  6. ^ a b "Pakistan - International Religious Freedom Report 2008". United States Department of State. Retrieved 2010-08-28. 
  7. ^ a b The 1998 Pakistani census states that there are 291,000 (0.22%) Ahmadis in Pakistan. However, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has boycotted the census since 1974 which renders official Pakistani figures to be inaccurate. Independent groups have estimated the Pakistani Ahmadiyya population to be somewhere between 2 million and 5 million Ahmadis. However, the 4 million figure is the most quoted figure and is approximately 2.2% of the country. See:
  8. ^ Vali Nasr, Joanne J. Myers (October 18, 2006). "The Shi'a Revival: How Conflicts within Islam Will Shape the Future". Retrieved 2010-08-28. Iran always had been a Shia country, the largest one, with about 60 million population. Pakistan is the second-largest Shi'a country in the world, with about 30 million population. 
  9. ^ Ousel, M. (1997). Ancient India and Indian Civilization. Routledge.
  10. ^ Iqbal's letter to Jinnah
  11. ^ a b c "Objectives Resolution is passed". Story of Pakistan (1949). Retrieved 12 May 2013. 
  12. ^ Rahman, T. Madrasas: Potential for Violence in Pakistan in Madrasas in South Asia: Teaching Terror? Edited by Jamal Malik. Routledge 2008. pp. 64.
  13. ^ Global Security: "Barelvi Islam" retrieved June 15, 2013. "By one estimate, in Pakistan, the Shias are 18%, ismailis 2%, Ahmediyas 2%, Barelvis 50%, Deobandis 20%, Ahle Hadith 4%, and other minorities 4%."
  14. ^ International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore: "Have Pakistanis Forgotten Their Sufi Traditions?" by Rohan Bedi April 2006
  15. ^ The Muslims belong to different schools which are called Madhahib (singular: Madhhab) i.e., schools of jurisprudence (also 'Maktab-e-Fikr' (School of Thought) in Urdu).
  16. ^ Curtis, Lisa; Mullick, Haider (4 May 2009). "Reviving Pakistan's Pluralist Traditions to Fight Extremism". The Heritage Foundation. Retrieved 31 July 2011. 
  17. ^ Miller, Tracy, ed. (October 2009). Mapping the Global Muslim Population: A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World's Muslim Population (PDF). Pew Research Center. Retrieved 2010-08-28. 
  18. ^ Produced by Charlotte Buchen. "Sufism Under attack in Pakistan" (video). The New York Times. Retrieved May 21, 2012. 
  19. ^ Huma Imtiaz; Charlotte Buchen (January 6, 2011). "The Islam That Hard-Liners Hate" (blog). The New York Times. Retrieved May 21, 2012. 
  20. ^ "The Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw)". Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. Retrieved 2009-07-29. 
  21. ^ Ali Usman Qasmi, A mosque for Qurani Namaz, The Friday Times, Retrieved February 16, 2013
  22. ^ Daniel W. Brown, Rethinking Tradition in Modern Islamic Thought, Cambridge University Press, 1996, pp. 38, 40.
  23. ^ 100,000 conversions and counting, meet the ex-Hindu who herds souls to the Hereafter

External links[edit]