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5 - Minority Aspirations and the State

Shi‘a Political Theology1

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 October 2020

Mashal Saif
Affiliation:
Clemson University, South Carolina
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Summary

Pakistani Shi‘as have often been painted as blind followers of the Iranian state’s political project. This fifth and final chapter challenges this dominant narrative. The author draws on her fieldwork among Shi‘a ‘ulama, showcasing the diversity and vibrancy of Shi‘a theo-political thought. Her ethnography highlights that three distinct theo-political projects characterize her interlocutors’ discourses. These are: (1) a secular state, (2) a sectarianly unaligned Islamic state, and (3) a state in which the governance of the jurist (wilayat-i faqih) – the political model of the current Iranian state – is implemented. Despite their differences, I contend that all these theo-political projects are propelled by the same force – the specter of violence. I assert that while the threat of violence drives these distinct political theologies, narrative historiography serves as an indispensable legitimizer. The ‘ulama articulate Pakistani history in a manner that justifies their specific theo-political projects. Significantly, Shi‘a ‘ulama’s political projects are often formulated and articulated in private realms for fear of state reprisal. Consequently, the ethnographic focus of this chapter is vital in highlighting the range of Shi‘a thought.

Type
Chapter
Information
The 'Ulama in Contemporary Pakistan
Contesting and Cultivating an Islamic Republic
, pp. 236 - 278
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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