Event Date: 9-10 September 2011
Royal Holloway, University of London
Contesting Shi‘ism: Isna ‘Ashari and Isma‘ili Shi‘ism in modern South Asia
Simon Wolfgang Fuchs
Third Wave Shi‘ism: Sayyid ‘Arif Husayn al-Husayni and the Islamic Revolution in Pakistan
Struggles over orthodoxy and religious authority have plagued Pakistan’s Shi‘a minority since the inception of the state. Early clashes about proper religious taxation (khums) coincided with an expansion of institutions of religious learning in the late 1950s. From the 1960s onwards, scholars who had studied in the shrine cities of Iraq tried to inject a reformist agenda into Pakistani Shi‘ism which they deemed to be in current form irrational, dominated by meaningless rituals and, worst of all, caught up in the heretical and esoteric ideas of Shaykhism. Yet, the reformists faced substantial opposition from infuential, mostly Lucknow-educated Pakistani ‘ulama who went as far as labelling them ‘Shi‘a Wahhabis’. Additionally, the reformists came under attack from a new generation of students who had graduated in the 1970s from madrasas in Qom, a phenomenon that increased tremendously after the Iranian revolution in 1979.
Even though many scholars have referred to a clear-cut ‘Qomization’ of Shi‘ism in Pakistan since then, the complexity of this process has often been left unexplored, with Iranian infuence in the sphere of theology being more often assumed than actually demonstrated. My paper aims to fill this gap through a close reading of speeches, interviews, and declarations by Sayyid ‘Arif Husayn al-Husayni, who served from 1984 until his assassination in 1988 as the leader of Pakistan’s most infuential Shi‘a organization, the Tehrik-i-Nifaz-i-Fiqh-i-Ja‘fariya-i-Pakistan. After providing a short outline of the major conflicts between the diferent camps of Pakistani Shi‘a scholars in the twentieth century, the paper will discuss al-Husayni’s formation as a scholar (and activist) in Najaf and Qom. Finally, I shall identify how the hallmark themes of the Iranian revolution (taqrib, anti-imperialism etc.) shaped al-Husayni’s worldview, and how he adapted them to his Pakistani context, thus establishing the ‘orthodoxy’ of his views against opponents within his own mazhab.