The article below is a guest post by Tim Blight, an Australia and Pakistan-based writer and amateur photographer, who has been kind enough to share his experience of the Muslim culture in his adoptive country: Pakistan. Without further ado…
Pakistan is a largely Muslim country, but despite being known as the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, it is not officially under Islamic law. Pakistan was designed to provide a homeland to Muslims in the Indian subcontinent. Before independence in 1947, campaigners in British India argued that being Indian and Muslim was a nationality quite apart from being an Indian Hindu, and at worst, could put Muslims at risk of discrimination post-independence. This premise has shaped much of Pakistan’s modern history and outlook as a Muslim society.
Islam in Pakistan
Islam forms the bedrock of Pakistani identity, and all major questions of nationality seem to come back to Islam for the answers. 97% of Pakistanis identify as Muslim of one denomination or another. Islam in Pakistan is a fairly conservative affair; orthodox understandings of the religion dominate, although these interpretations often differ from orthodoxy in the Arab world.
In Pakistan, the lines between native culture and Islam are blurred, and often non-existent. Many Pakistanis practice a distinctly South Asian form of Islam, where saints and holy men are revered (although importantly, they are not worshipped). Many Pakistanis visit the tombs and shrines of these saints, paying their respects. Unsurprisingly, Sufi thought is widely respected by many Pakistanis (even if they won’t admit it). See my post on shrines in Kasur, a satellite city of Lahore. Tension between sects of Muslims exists, and has cast a long, dark shadow over Pakistani society in recent decades.
Expat and Muslim in Pakistan
Because Islam is so closely linked to Pakistani national identity, many people are surprised to discover that a non-Pakistani is Muslim (particularly if you are not ‘recognisably’ Muslim, i.e. – without a beard or religious attire). Many people seem to assume that being a foreigner (regardless of your faith) means that you don’t know much about Islam, so sometimes it’s a challenge to ‘prove your credentials’ to avoid a well-intentioned but redundant lecture on the basics of Islam.
Life as a Muslim in Pakistan is easy, because so much of the day-to-day stuff is taken care of; all food is halal, it’s easy to stay aware of prayer times. Sometimes confusion exists where Islam ends and local culture begins, resulting in questions about whether certain practices are Islamic at all. These moments can be confusing for the uninitiated, or aggravating for those who understand it. Everyone has their own take on what it means to be Muslim, and in Pakistan it can sometimes be tricky to cut through the “white noise” and get to the facts.
[bctt tweet=”Life as an #expat & #muslim in #Pakistan is both inspiring and very rewarding with @urbanduniya”]
Another source of frustration can be the security arrangements around expats in Pakistan, designed to protect you, but which sometimes prevent you from attending certain events or visiting certain places “just in case”.
Being a Muslim in Pakistan is…
A wonderful experience provided one is in the right frame of mind. Keep an open mind, understand that not everyone understands Islam in the same way (regardless of whether they should or not), and being a Muslim in Pakistan can be a beautiful path to understanding the humanity of our faith. The spectrum of practices in Pakistan, and the fact that cultural practices are so closely interwoven with faith, can make Pakistan a very confusing and confronting place. It’s really up to each individual as to how they experience life as a Muslim in Pakistan – but it can be very inspiring, very enlightening, and very, very rewarding.
I wrote a personal reflective piece about my life in Pakistan, in which I touch on the role that Islam plays in my love affair with this country. It is my humble wish that it accurately conveys the beauty that I see in the society in which I have chosen to settle.
Tim Blight is a blogger, writer and photographer based in Australia and Pakistan. He splits his time between the two countries, and also makes regular trips to India for his site UrbanDuniya; a world of travel, photography, food, coffee and other musings.
You may also be interested in Tim’s previous guest post: Expat and Muslim in Australia.
Are you an expat and Muslim somewhere in the world? How about sharing your story on Diary of a Serial Expat. Leave a comment or get in touch anytime.