Politics and Pirs: The nature of Sufi Political Engagement in 20th and 21st Century Pakistan

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Ethan Epping


Although Sufism has exerted a powerful influence upon Islam in Pakistan, and with a majority of Pakistani Muslims identified as Barelvi, this Sufi-influenced religious identity has not served as a strong foundation for overt political action. However, somewhat dichotomously, Pakistani Sufism is deeply connected to the local and regional political hierarchies. This paper investigates the complex relationship between Sufi influences and political engagement within 20th and 21st century Pakistan. While local religious authorities have found themselves greatly enriched, politically and materially, by such traditions, Sufism has lent itself to a quietist political approach, manifested in a variety of locations, from the Tablighi Jama’at to Barelvi shrines. However, Barelvi Muslims have shown increasing civic organization and activism within the past two decades, in response to intensifying extremist pressure.

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Refereed Articles (Social Sciences)