• Muhammad Bilal Fatima Jinnah Women University (Pakistan)



popular Islam, Sufism, extremism, shrine, multi-sited ethnography, Pakistan


In the post-9/11 scenario, the rise of the Taliban and their coalition with Al-Qaeda have engendered new discourses about Islam and Pakistan. In this paper, I present a multi-sited ethnography of Bari Imam, a popular Sufi shrine in Pakistan while re-evaluating certain suppositions, claims and theories about popular Islam in the country. Have militarization, Shariatisation, and resurgence movements such as the Taliban been overzealously discussed and presented as the representative imageries of Islam? I also explore the Sufi dynamics of living Islam, which I will suggest continue to shape the lives and practices of the vast majority of Pakistani Muslims. The study suggests that general unfamiliarity of people outside the subcontinent with the Sufi attributes of living Islam, together with their lack of knowledge of the varieties of identification, observance and experience of Islam among Pakistanis, limit not only their understanding of the land of Pakistan, but also their perception of its people and their faith (Islam).


Ali Muhamad, Muslim Diversity: Islam and Local Tradition in Java and Sulawesi, Indonesia, Indonesian Journal of Islam and Muslim Societies, Vol. 1, No. 1, 2011.

Abdullah Suhaila, Ibn Khaldun’s Theory of Good Governance in Achieving Civilization Excellence, International Journal of Academic Research in Business and Social Sciences, Vol. 8, No. 9, 2018.

Afzal Saima, Hamid Iqbal, and Mavara Inayat, Sectarianism and its implications for Pakistan security: Policy recommendations using exploratory study, IOSR Journal of Humanities and Social Science (JHSS), Vol. 4, No. 4, 2012.

Anjum Ovamir, Islam as a Discursive Tradition: Talal Asad and his Interlocutors, Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, Vol. 27, No. 3, 2007.

Ansari Sarah F. D, Sufi Saints and State Power: The Pirs of Sind, 1843-1947, Vanguard Books Ltd, Lahore, 1992.

Asad Talal, The Idea of an Anthropology of Islam, Georgetown University, Washington, DC, 1986.

Ayoob Mohammed, “Deciphering Islam's Multiple Voices: Intellectual luxury or Strategic Necessity”, in: Political Islam: A Critical Reader, Frederic Volpi (eds.), Routledge, London, 2011.

Bashir Shahzad, Sufi Bodies: Religion and Society in Medieval Islam, Columbia University Press, New York, 2013.

Boivin Michel, Historical Dictionary of the Sufi Culture of Sindh in Pakistan and India, Oxford University Press, Pakistan, 2015.

Bowen John Richard, Muslims through Discourse: Religion and Ritual in Gayo Society, Princeton University Press, 1993.

Bowen John Richard, A New Anthropology of Islam, Cambridge University Press, 2012.

Brummitt C. D'Souza, US Aided Pakistan Group which Supported Extremists, The Guardian, January 11, 2012.

Cochrane Laura L, Everyday faith in Sufi Senegal, Routledge, London, 2017.

Dandekar Deepra, Torsten Tschacher, Islam, Sufism and Everyday Politics of Belonging in South Asia, Routledge, London, 2016.

“Sarwar shrine attack mastermind gets death on 52 counts”, Dawn, March 7, 2013, available at: attack-mastermind-gets-death-on-52- counts/, (date accessed 13.07.2019).

Denzin Norman K, The Research Act: A Theoretical Introduction to Sociological Methods, Transaction publishers, 2009.

Doostdar Alireza, The Iranian Metaphysicals: Explorations in Science, Islam, and the Uncanny, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 2018.

Eaton Richard Maxwell, Essays on Islam and Indian History, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2000.

Eickelman Dale F., The Study of Islam in Local Contexts, Contributions to Asian Studies, Vol. 17, 1982.

Elias Jamal J, Sufism: Review Article on Coverage of Sufism in Encyclopedia Iranica, Iranian Studies, Vol. 31, No. 3/4, 1998.

El-Zein Abdul Hamid, Beyond Ideology and Theology: The Search for the Anthropology of Islam, Annual Review of Anthropology, Vol. 6, 1977

Engineer, Asghar Ali, Theory and Practise of the Islamic state, Vanguard Books,

Emon Anver M, Shari‘a and the Modern State, Islamic Law and International Law: Searching for Common Ground, 2012.

Ephrat Daphna, Spiritual Wayfarers, Leaders in Piety: Sufis and the Dissemination of Islam in Medieval Palestine, Cambridge, 2008.

Ernst Carl W., “An Indo-Persian Guide to Sufi Shrine Pilgrimage”, in: Manifestations of Sainthood in Islam, Smith Grace Martin & Carl W. Ernst (eds.), The ISIS Press, Istanbul, 1993.

Ewing Katherine Pratt, The Politics of Sufism: Redefining the Saints of Pakistan, The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 42, No, 2, 1983.

Ewing Katherine Pratt, Arguing Sainthood: Modernity, Psychoanalysis, and Islam, Duke University Press, Durham, 1997.

Fair C. Christine, Clay Ramsay, Steve Kull, “Pakistani Public Opinion on Democracy, Islamist Militancy and Relations with the US”, Washington DC,USIP/PIPA Report, 2008.

Fair C. Christine, “Lashkar-e-Taiba Beyond Bin Laden: Enduring Challenges for Region and the International Community”, Testimony Prepared for the U.S. Senate, Foreign Relations Committee, May 24, 2011.

Feldman, Noah. The Fall and Rise of the Islamic State, Princeton University Press, 2012.

Fischer Michael, Mehdi Abedi, Debating Muslims: Cultural Dialogues in Postmodernity and Tradition, The University of Wisconsin Press, Wisconsin, 1990.

Frembgen Jürgen Wasim, “The Majzub Mama Ji Sarkar”, in: Embodying Charisma: Modernity, Locality and the Performance of Emotion in Sufi cults, Pnina Werbner & Helene Basu (eds.), Routledge, London, 1998.

Frembgen Jürgen Wasim, Journey to God: Sufis and Dervishes in Islam. Oxford University Press, Karachi, 2009.

Gaborieau Marc, “A Nineteenth Century Indian Wahhabi Tract Against the Cult of Muslim Saints: Al Balagh al Mubin”, in: Muslim Shrines in India: Their Character, History and Significance, Asani, Ali S. & Christian Troll (eds.), Oxford University Press, Delhi, 1989.

Gellner Ernest, Muslim Society, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1981.

Gaffney Patrick D, Popular Islam, Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences, Vol. 524, No. 1, 1992.

Geertz Clifford, Islam Observed: Religious Development in Morocco and Indonesia, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1968.

Gilsenan Michael, Recognizing Islam: An Anthropologist’s Introduction, Croom Helm, London, 1982.

Gilmartin David, Empire and Islam: Punjab and the Making of Pakistan, I.B. Tauris & Co. Ltd, London, 1988.

Green Nile, Making Space: Sufis and Settlers in Early Modern India, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2012.

Gugler Thomas K, “Pakistan’s Barelwiyat Between Sufism and Love for the Prophet”, available at:

Hassanali Muhammed, Sufi Influence on Pakistani Politics and Culture, Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies, Vol. 2, No. 1, 2010.

Heneghan Tom, “Sufi Card Very Hard to Play Against Pakistani Taliban”, Reuters, June 26, 2009,, (date accessed 12.08.2012).

Hurd Elizabeth S, Beyond Religious Freedom: The New Global Politics of Religion, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 2015.

Ibrahim Nur Amali, Improvisational Islam: Indonesian Youth in a Time of Possibility. Cornell University Press, 2018.

“The state of sectarianism in Pakistan”, ICG Asia Report No. 95, 2005, available at: publication-type/media-releases/2005/asia/the-state-of-sectarianism-in-pakistan.aspx# , (date accessed 25.08.2012).

“Jan Thiele al-Juwaynī”, in: Encyclopedia of Medieval Philosophy, Henrik Lagerlund (eds.). Springer, Dordrecht, 2018.

Johns Anthony H, Sufism in Southeast Asia: Reflections and Reconsiderations, Journal of South Asian Studies, Vol. 26, No. 1, 1995.

Karmani Hazrat Pir Syed Irtaza, Hazrat Imam Bari Sarkar [Saint Imam Bari], Azeem & Sons Publishers, Lahore, 2001.

Khallaf Abd al-Wahhab, Al-Siyāsah al-Shar'iyyah fi al-Syuūn al-Dustūriyyah wa al- Kharijiyyah wa al-Māliyyah [Islamic Politics in the Constitutional, Foreign, and Treasury Affairs], Dar al Qalam, Kuwait, 1998.

Khan Amjad Mahmood, Persecution of the Ahmadiyya Community in Pakistan: An Analysis under International Law and International Relations, Harvard Human Rights Journal, Vol. 16, 2003.

Khan Dominique-Sila, Conversions and Shifting Identities: Ramdev Pir and the Ismailis in Rajasthan, Manohar Publishers, New Delhi, 1997.

Khan Naveeda Ahmed, Muslim Becoming: Aspiration and Skepticism in Pakistan, Duke University Press, Durham, N.C, 2012.

Khan Tariq Amin, Issues of Power and Modernity in Understanding Political and Militant Islam, Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East,Vol. 29, No. 3, 2009.

Kuru Zeynep Akbulut, Ahmet T. Kuru, Apolitical Interpretation of Islam: Said Nursi's Faith-based Activism in Comparison with Political Islamism and Sufism, Islam and Christian–Muslim Relations, Vol. 19, No. 1, 2008.

Leach Hugh, Observing Islam from Within and Without, Asian Affairs, Vol. 21, No. 1, 1990.

Lukens-Bull Ronald, Between Text and Practice: Considerations in the Anthropological Study of Islam, Marburg Journal of Religion, Vol. 4, No. 2, 1999.

Malik Jamal, Colonization of Islam: Dissolution of Traditional Institutions in Pakistan, Vanguard Books, Lahore, 1996.

Mansor Wan Naim Wan, Abu Hasan al-Mawardi: The First Islamic Political Scientist, Unpublished Paper, 2015.

Marcus George E., Ethnography Through Thick and Thin, Princeton University Press, 1998.

Marsden Magnus, Mullahs, Migrants and Murid: New Developments in the Study of Pakistan. A Review Article, Modern Asian Studies, Vol. 39, No. 4, 2005.

Marsden Magnus, Islam and Society in Pakistan: Anthropological Perspectives, Oxford, Pakistan, 2012.

Metcalf Barbara D., Islamic Contestations: Essays on Muslims in India and Pakistan, Oxford University Press, 2004.

Metcalf Barbara D., “Introduction: a Historical Overview of Islam in South Asia”, in: Islam in South Asia in Practice, Barbara D. Metcalf (eds.), Princeton University Press, New Jersey, 2009.

Milam William B, Bangladesh and Pakistan: Flirting with Failure in South Asia, Hurst & Company, London, 2009.

Ministry of Religious Affairs, Government of Pakistan, Notification, Reconstitution of the Sufi Advisory Council, 2010.

Mittermaier Amira, Dreams That Matter: Egyptian Landscapes of the Imagination, University of California Press, 2010.

Munck Victor, Islamic Orthodoxy and Sufism in Sri Lanka, Anthropos, Vol. 100, No. 2, 2005.

Nagata Judith, Beyond Theology: Toward an Anthropology of “Fundamentalism, American Anthropologist, Vol. 103, No. 2, 2001.

Nur Iffatin, Susanto Susanto, Social Conflict in Indonesia: Safeguarding a Nation as a New Approach for Resolving National Disintegration, Journal of Social Studies Education Research, Vol. 11, No. 2, 2020.

Orsi Robert, Between Heaven and Earth: The Religious Worlds People Make and the Scholars Who Study Them, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 2005.

Patton Michael Quinn, Qualitative Research and Evaluation Methods, Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks, California, 2002.

Prange Sebastian R., Monsoon Islam: Trade and Faith on the Medieval Malabar Coast, Cambridge University Press, 2018.

Qadri Muhammad, Seerat Hazrat Bari Imam Sarkar, [Life of Sain Bari Imam], Akbar Book Seller, Lahore, n.d.

Qureshi Samina, Sacred Spaces: A Journey with the Sufis of the Indus, Peabody Museum Press, Ahmedabad, 2010.

Rehman Hafeez, Saints and Shrines in Potohar Area, PhD dissertation, Quaid-i-Azam University Islamabad, 1996.

Rizvi Saiyid Athar Abbas, History of Sufism in India: Early Sufism and its History in India to 1600 A.D, Munshiram Manoharlal, India, 1978.

Robson Colin, Real World Research: A Resource for Social Scientists and Practitioner-Researchers, Vol. 2, Blackwell, Oxford, 2002.

Rozehnal Robert, Islamic Sufism Unbound: Politics and Piety in twenty-first Century Pakistan, Palgrave Macmillan, New York, NY, 2007.

Saktanber Ayşe, Living Islam: Women, Religion and the Politicization of Culture in Turkey, I. B. Tauris, New York, 2012.

Schimmel Annemarie, Mystical Dimensions of Islam, University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, NC, 1975.

Shaikh Farzana, From Islamisation to Shariatisation: Cultural Transnationalism in Pakistan, Third World Quarterly, Vol. 29, No. 3, 2008.

Siddiqa Ayesha, Pakistan's Counterterrorism Strategy: Separating Friends from Enemies, The Washington Quarterly, Vol. 34, No. 1, 2011.

Suvorova Anna, Muslim Saints of South Asia: The Eleventh to Fifteenth Centuries, Routledge Curzon, London, 2004.

Taneja Anand, Jinnealogy: Time, Islam, and Ecological Thought in the Medieval Ruins of Delhi, Standford University Press, Delhi, 2017.

Tapper Richard, Islamic Anthropology and the Anthropology of Islam, Anthropological Quarterly, Vol. 68 , No. 3, 1995.

Taylor Christopher S., In the Vicinity of the Righteous: Ziyara and the Veneration of Muslim Saints in Late Medieval Egypt, Brill, New York, 1999.

Tobin Sara, In Everyday Piety: Islam and Economy in Jordan, Cornell University Press, London, 2016.

Troll Christian W, Muslim Shrines in India: their Character, History and Significance, Oxford University Press, Delhi, 1989.

Turner Phil, Susan Turner, Triangulation in Practice, Virtual Reality, Vol. 13, No. 3, 2009.

Werbner Pnina, Helene Basu, Embodying Charisma: Modernity, Locality, and Performance of Emotion in Sufi Cults, Psychology Press, 1998.

Werbner Pnina, Pilgrims of Love: The Anthropology of a Global Sufi Cult, Oxford University Press, Karachi, 2003.

Yusuf Huma, “The Truthers of Pakistan”, International Hearald Tribune, February 28, 2013.

Zaman Muhammad Qasim, Sectarianism in Pakistan: The radicalization of Shi'i and Sunni identities, Modern Asian Studies, Vol. 32, No. 3, 1998.

Zaman Muhammad Qasim, Islam in Pakistan: A History, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 2018.




How to Cite