Video: Islamic Law, the Nation State, and the Case of Pakistan

In recent decades, ambivalence toward modernity, along with the promise of justice and morality, have led to efforts in some Muslim-majority countries to partially “Islamize” the state. Pakistan presents an important case study. Pakistan’s Islamization program in the 1970s and 1980s promised increased justice and other public goods by virtue of laws purportedly rooted in revelation. This program has resulted in some controversial outcomes, such as Pakistan’s blasphemy law. Some argue that laws such as Pakistan’s blasphemy statute have contributed to sectarian strife and helped undermine the rule of law.

Most Muslims today live in political systems that operate on a nation state model. By contrast, classical Islamic jurisprudence developed in the context of empire and a robust and relatively independent scholarly class. Is there something about the nation state that makes “Islamization” unworkable? In what contexts might “Islamization” be most successful? Is there a role for classical Islamic law in Pakistan, and, more generally, for Muslims living within the framework of modernity? This event, hosted by the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars and the Religious Freedom Institute, addressed these questions and more.



  • Ismail Royer

    Research and Program Associate, Religious Freedom Institute
  • Sohaib Khan

    Doctoral Candidate, Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies at Columbia University
  • Abdullah Hamid Ali

    Senior Faculty Member, Zaytuna College
  • Shaykh Mohammed Amin Kholwadia

    Theologian and Authority in Islamic Philosophy and Theosophy, Darul Qasim


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