Current Institutional Affiliation
Assistant Professor, Sociology, Institute of Business Administration Karachi

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2004
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Sociology, Northwestern University
Teachers, Preachers and Legal Interpreters: Creating Islamic Communities in Modern Pakistan

My dissertation examines the creation and dissemination of religious discourses in contemporary Pakistan. Islamic revivalism in this part of the world, as in many others, takes a wide variety of forms and to understand the emergence of militantly Islamist political activity we must also understand the broader spectrum of action, meaning, and belief with which it is related and yet set apart. Groups that emphasize education in religious doctrine and law for the guidance of personal conduct, as a strategy towards reform and renewal of an authentic Islamic community, have been quietly and increasingly making a substantial impact on the lives of many Pakistanis. I am conducting a comparative study of two such groups: the Jamia Binoria which is a traditional madrasa (religious school) and the Al-Huda Institute which is a more recent, innovative school for women. The ideas and activities of the key leaders associated with each institution are central to my enquiry. It is not only through formally structured courses of religious education but also through lectures and debates, publications, charitable services, and advisory opinions that their teachings on Islam are spread further and enter the domain of public discourse. By using a combination of fieldwork, interviews, and documentary analysis I will explore two main questions. First, what are the means through which these organizations and individuals are so successful in acquiring influence amongst a wide network of supporters? The symbolic content of their doctrine, the multi-faceted nature of their social interactions, and the social careers of their followers are all key aspects. Second, what is the relationship between the private moral obligations of 'true' believers and their public, political interactions with the state and other institutions, according to these Islamists?