The `Ulama' and the State: Negotiating Tradition, Authority and Sovereignty in Contemporary Pakistan

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Date

2014

Authors

Saif, Mashal

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Moosa, Ebrahim

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Abstract

This dissertation is an account of how contemporary Pakistani ulama grapple with their political realities and the Islamic state of Pakistan. The central conceptual question that scaffolds my dissertation is: How do Pakistani ulama negotiate tradition, authority and sovereignty with the Islamic Republic of Pakistan? In engaging with this issue, this dissertation employs a methodology that weds ethnography with rigorous textual analysis. The ulama that feature in this study belong to a variety of sectarian persuasions. The Sunni ulama are Deobandi and Barelvi; the Shia ulama in this study are Ithna Ashari.

In assessing the relationship between Pakistani ulama and their nation-state, I assert that the ulama's dialectical engagements with the state are best understood as a dexterous navigation between affirmation, critique, contestation and cultivation. In proposing this manner of thinking about Pakistani ulama's engagements with their state, I provide a more detailed and nuanced view of the ulama-state relationship compared to earlier works. While emphasizing Pakistani ulama's vitality and their impact on their state, this dissertation also draws attention to the manners in which the state impacts the ulama. It theorizes the subject formation of the ulama and asserts the importance of understanding the ulama as formed not just by the ethico-legal tradition in which they are trained but also by the state apparatus.

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Saif, Mashal (2014). The `Ulama' and the State: Negotiating Tradition, Authority and Sovereignty in Contemporary Pakistan. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/9093.

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