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
Sufi Shrines, electoral politics and sectarian violence in Punjab: a case study of the dargah of Sial Sharif
Sectarianism has pervaded deep in the south-eastern Punjab, which was proverbially known for its Sufi ethos steeped in cultural pluralism. Jhang and Sargodha, which set the context for this paper, historically exemplify such a trend. However, in the last quarter of a century this region has witnessed profound change in its socio-cultural configuration. Sectarian identity has become the principal determinant of political loyalties, as seen by the emergence of parties such as the Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan. This paper explores Sial Sharif, a dargah which, despite its history of doctrinal heterogeneity, has espoused these trends, coming to uphold anti-Shi‘a elements. Situated at the cross-section of Jhang, Sargodha and Khushab and surrounded by powerful Shi‘a sayyid clans like Shah Jiwana, Jahania Shah and Rajoa Sada‘at, Sial Sharif came to symbolise a puritanical streak that brought it closer to Maulana Zakir, the Deobandi scholar of Muhammadi Sharif, against the clan of Rajoa Sada‘at in the 1951 elections. Thus, among several other factors, Sial Sharif played a pivotal role in fomenting sectarian differentiation, with its causes, dynamics and repercussions being the central theme of this paper.