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In a Pure Muslim Land

Shi'ism between Pakistan and the Middle East

By Simon Wolfgang Fuchs

376 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 5 halftones, 2 maps, notes, bibl., index

Not for sale in South Asia, Afghanistan, or the Maldives

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-4979-5
    Published: April 2019
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-4978-8
    Published: April 2019
  • eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-4980-1
    Published: March 2019

Islamic Civilization and Muslim Networks

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Centering Pakistan in a story of transnational Islam stretching from South Asia to the Middle East, Simon Wolfgang Fuchs offers the first in-depth ethnographic history of the intellectual production of Shi'is and their religious competitors in this “Land of the Pure." The notion of Pakistan as the pinnacle of modern global Muslim aspiration forms a crucial component of this story. It has empowered Shi'is, who form about twenty percent of the country's population, to advance alternative conceptions of their religious hierarchy while claiming the support of towering grand ayatollahs in Iran and Iraq.

Fuchs shows how popular Pakistani preachers and scholars have boldly tapped into the esoteric potential of Shi'ism, occupying a creative and at times disruptive role as brokers, translators, and self-confident pioneers of contemporary Islamic thought. They have indigenized the Iranian Revolution and formulated their own ideas for fulfilling the original promise of Pakistan. Challenging typical views of Pakistan as a mere Shi'i backwater, Fuchs argues that its complex religious landscape represents how a local, South Asian Islam may open up space for new intellectual contributions to global Islam. Yet religious ideology has also turned Pakistan into a deadly battlefield: sectarian groups since the 1980s have been bent on excluding Shi'is as harmful to their own vision of an exemplary Islamic state.

About the Author

Simon Wolfgang Fuchs is a lecturer in Islamic and Middle East studies at the University of Freiburg, Germany.
For more information about Simon Wolfgang Fuchs, visit the Author Page.


"Challenges common assumptions about Shi'i Muslims, focusing less on Iran and more on Pakistan. . . . Those who wade into the depth of Fuchs's impeccable scholarship will find a nuanced picture of the debate in Pakistan about the ideal Muslim state in the modern world."--Publishers Weekly

“This stimulating and vibrant study of Shi'i Islam in Pakistan will appeal to a wide range of readers interested in Islam and its diverse and international history.” --CHOICE

“As for Simon Wolfgang Fuchs’s In a Pure Muslim Land, its lucid prose and thought-provoking analytical engagement with transnational Islam makes it highly recommendable to those interested in the journey of religious ideas between the Middle East and South Asia.”--Middle East Journal

In a Pure Muslim Land makes a major contribution to the study of Pakistani Shi'ism. . . . This book adds to a growing body of scholarship on different trajectories of Pakistani Shi'ism . . . contributing a much-needed perspective of post-Partition Shi'ism in which 'ulama are complex individuals whose stances on tradition, authority, and the Subcontinent’s relationship to Iran and Iraq are worthy of our attention and understanding.”--Bloomsbury Pakistan

“While escorting the readers through five well-researched and well-written chapters, the author examines a pertinent question — whether South Asia could be treated as a Shi’i periphery if compared to the Middle East. . . . The multi-disciplinary approach, a painstaking consultation of original and secondary sources gathered from different countries, the author’s lucid style of argumentation and the attractive cover enhance the academic value of the book across disciplines.”--The Telegraph

“Simon Fuchs’s In a Pure Muslim Land displays a wealthy and important contribution to our understanding of Shi’is in Pakistan, the indigenous ‘ulama’ and their transnational ties with other centres of Shi’ism in the Middle East.”--Journal of the Contemporary Study of Islam