Over the past millennium, pilgrimages to the shrines of Sufi saints have played an important part in religious and cultural life for most regions of the Muslim world. But in modern times, these shrines have become the focus of intense criticism by Muslim reformists, who see them as sites of superstitious deviation from true religion. In this podcast, we’ll follow these developments in South Asia, home to the largest Muslim population of any world region. After explaining the general characteristics of shrine-based Islam, we’ll look at how the Pakistani state joined the larger program of Muslim reform by seizing control of most of the country’s major pilgrimage centers. By seeing how this happened, we’ll learn how religious reform plays out ‘on the ground’ through the contest to control specific sacred spaces. Nile Green talks to Umber Bin Ibad, the author of Sufi Shrines and the Pakistani State: The End of Religious Pluralism (IB Tauris, 2019).

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