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Sufism has always been a contested space in Pakistan. Successive governments, political parties and religious organizations have attempted to co-opt it or reject it to suit their own political agendas. Since the turn of the millennium, however, the Pakistani government has made a conscious effort to recast Pakistan as a ‘Sufi country’—a whitewashing endeavor. In the past fe Sufism has always been a contested space in Pakistan. Successive governments, political parties and religious organizations have attempted to co-opt it or reject it to suit their own political agendas. Since the turn of the millennium, however, the Pakistani government has made a conscious effort to recast Pakistan as a ‘Sufi country’—a whitewashing endeavor. In the past few decades, Pakistan’s image has taken a severe beating, ravaged as the country is by the rise of religious extremism. A focus on the synthetic culture of Sufism was seen as a way to reverse this damage without the need to explore more secular narratives and alternatives as almost every attempt at genuine reform has triggered extreme reactions from the politico-religious segments of the society that were empowered through various controversial constitutional amendments and laws between 1974 and the late 1980s. Soul Rivals discusses the many strands of Sufism (State, Pop and Militant) that have emerged in the course of the country’s attempts to re-imagine Sufism. In this close look at the religion-political space in Pakistan, Nadeem Farooq Paracha is as insightful as he is entertaining.


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Sufism has always been a contested space in Pakistan. Successive governments, political parties and religious organizations have attempted to co-opt it or reject it to suit their own political agendas. Since the turn of the millennium, however, the Pakistani government has made a conscious effort to recast Pakistan as a ‘Sufi country’—a whitewashing endeavor. In the past fe Sufism has always been a contested space in Pakistan. Successive governments, political parties and religious organizations have attempted to co-opt it or reject it to suit their own political agendas. Since the turn of the millennium, however, the Pakistani government has made a conscious effort to recast Pakistan as a ‘Sufi country’—a whitewashing endeavor. In the past few decades, Pakistan’s image has taken a severe beating, ravaged as the country is by the rise of religious extremism. A focus on the synthetic culture of Sufism was seen as a way to reverse this damage without the need to explore more secular narratives and alternatives as almost every attempt at genuine reform has triggered extreme reactions from the politico-religious segments of the society that were empowered through various controversial constitutional amendments and laws between 1974 and the late 1980s. Soul Rivals discusses the many strands of Sufism (State, Pop and Militant) that have emerged in the course of the country’s attempts to re-imagine Sufism. In this close look at the religion-political space in Pakistan, Nadeem Farooq Paracha is as insightful as he is entertaining.

43 review for Soul Rivals: State, Militant and Pop Sufism in Pakistan

  1. 5 out of 5

    Zarish Fatima

    #bookreviews I picked this book because of its witty cover art, its not a witty read which I later found out, and was a little disappointed about that. This book is along essay divided into 3 chapters, Sufism, state and pop. First Chapter explores the origins of barelvism and its different forms, it’s attachment to sufism and root of its origin as the reactionary ideology of deobandism. The relationship between the two sects over the last seven decades is explained well. Second chapter revolves aroun #bookreviews I picked this book because of its witty cover art, its not a witty read which I later found out, and was a little disappointed about that. This book is along essay divided into 3 chapters, Sufism, state and pop. First Chapter explores the origins of barelvism and its different forms, it’s attachment to sufism and root of its origin as the reactionary ideology of deobandism. The relationship between the two sects over the last seven decades is explained well. Second chapter revolves around state and how different leaders, democratic or authoritarian have weaponized the religion, molded it into Sufism and other times used it as a crutch for their politics. Something as Pakistani at some level we know that when it comes to anything related with religion we digest it very easily and forgive even faster. Thirdly it explores how the music, Urdu language and cinema were deeply influenced and received state patronage to promote neo-liberal Sufism or spirituality. And how that notion has taken deep roots in the urban culture. How it has enveloped folk tales and music and rolled nationalistic sentiment into itself. It is a short and easy read, without out right critic or commentary just tries to explain how the idea of Sufism and spirituality became so popular with state, pop culture and how it has been taken up by Barelvism as their central ideology, in the context of Pakistan.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Swapna Peri ( Books Review Cafe )

    Book Title: Soul Rivals Author: Nadeem Farooq Paracha Format: Kindle Book Title: The title of the book ' Soul Rivals' is extremely intriguing and tricky Book Cover: The cover image of the book is an artistic representation of an elderly Muslim man in traditional attire that usually is worn by many men who follow Islam. My Thoughts 'Soul Rivals' by Nadem Farooq Paracha is a very new book to me because of many reasons. Though familiar with some information about Muslims, this book has surprised me with so Book Title: Soul Rivals Author: Nadeem Farooq Paracha Format: Kindle Book Title: The title of the book ' Soul Rivals' is extremely intriguing and tricky Book Cover: The cover image of the book is an artistic representation of an elderly Muslim man in traditional attire that usually is worn by many men who follow Islam. My Thoughts 'Soul Rivals' by Nadem Farooq Paracha is a very new book to me because of many reasons. Though familiar with some information about Muslims, this book has surprised me with so much new information. This book has given a new perception to see many things. Being a fan of Sufi music that I have been hearing from Indian musicians and singers from many other nations especially our neighboring nation Pakistan, the birth and metamorphosis of Sufism in various directions is described well in this book. There are literally many things that looked so unfamiliar and after reading this book I could sense a feeling of achievement that I have learned something very unique. This is my first book that happens to be written by a Pakistani Writer. It has always been a pending interest to read books from all countries. Due to various reasons, I skipped the idea. But this book embarked on me with a new beginning of my reading journey. Inside the book 'Soul Rivals, this book is all about how Sufism has evolved in history. Being a naive person about the history of Sufism and politics related to it, this book is a perfect guide. Also, there are many other terms that I have heard for the first time other than Sunni and Shia Muslims. The book talks about Barelvi and Deobandi's ways of life that changed the history of people's life in Pakistan. The book then narrates how the relationship between the country, people, state, and sub-sects has been modified as time goes on and how did it affect the belief system. Subsequently, the author tries to encapsulate the political angle around these cultural changes that also have marked many incidents. The unknown facts about groups like ST, MQM are explained in detail. The formation of Bangladesh, which led to it and how did it change the political scenario is very coherently described. In the book, the first chapter explores and explains the birth and growth of the origins of Barelvism and its many forms along with its relationship with Sufism. The chapter then focuses on how Sufism attached Barevlism gave birth to Deobandism. The whole scenario right from the formation of the country of Pakistan post Independence era and its relationship back with India and Indian Muslims is explained vigorously. The second chapter revolves around different leaders, democratic or dictator have used the concept of religion, added Sufism to it, and used for their own advantages. The third chapter solely talks about the extent and impact of Sufism in music and movies. It also talks about how Sufism is mistaken and what particular image has it obtained in the urban scenarios. How is the Author's writing style As this is my first book from the Author, I am pretty much impressed with the author's writing style. His way of explaining so many things in a book that has fewer pages is really worth appreciating. The author in Soul Rivals discusses many strands of Sufism (State, Pop, and Militant) that have emerged in the course of the country's attempts to reimaging Sufism which has been taken granted for certain scenarios. How entertaining is the book This book is definitely a good reference t understand many things as mentioned in the title. But again, yes it is subjected to the reader's discretion. If anyone wants to know and understand the said topics, this book is a good start. Who can read the book Very strongly I recommend this book to the readers of certain age groups who are interested in international political scenarios and geographical challenges with cultural changes. Rating: 3/5

  3. 4 out of 5

    Rana Ali

    Soul Rivals, in simple terms, is all about how Sufism has evolved in the history. If you dont know anything about Sufism and politics related to it, you must read this book. Furthermore, it also shed light on the relationship between modernist, Barelvi and Deo-Bandi approaches through out history of Pak. It also narrates how relationship between state and different sub sects changes from time to time in the history. In short, by reading this book you would be able to understand politics related Soul Rivals, in simple terms, is all about how Sufism has evolved in the history. If you dont know anything about Sufism and politics related to it, you must read this book. Furthermore, it also shed light on the relationship between modernist, Barelvi and Deo-Bandi approaches through out history of Pak. It also narrates how relationship between state and different sub sects changes from time to time in the history. In short, by reading this book you would be able to understand politics related to religion while considering history of Pak.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Noor ul Ain

    Paracha's books are informative and interesting. This one however was too dense in places. I think it would have been much better if it was broken into smaller chunks rather than three big ones. At times, I was lost between the timelines. A good effort though! Paracha's books are informative and interesting. This one however was too dense in places. I think it would have been much better if it was broken into smaller chunks rather than three big ones. At times, I was lost between the timelines. A good effort though!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Rohit

    Excellent. Crisp. NFP at his best.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Altaf Hussain

    3.5 would be much better. I would have given it a 4.5, if I hadn't read previous books of Paracha. Because, many passages in this book were from previous books of Paracha, specially from Muslim Modernism. I have read his all books and Points of Entry by him still remains my favourite one. This book narrates the history of Pakistan with the prism of Sufism, State-Sects relationship and how the recent events popped up. The comparative writing on Barelvis and Deobandis was informative to read. The 3.5 would be much better. I would have given it a 4.5, if I hadn't read previous books of Paracha. Because, many passages in this book were from previous books of Paracha, specially from Muslim Modernism. I have read his all books and Points of Entry by him still remains my favourite one. This book narrates the history of Pakistan with the prism of Sufism, State-Sects relationship and how the recent events popped up. The comparative writing on Barelvis and Deobandis was informative to read. The Pop section in the book was already read by me in one of his books. How Sufism changed from a soft preaching sect of Islam to extreme faction of TLP was interesting to read. It is always fun to read Paracha. His style is easy and his ideas are easy to grasp and understand. So, I liked it. I will recommend it to you too. Happy Reading.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Munir Hyder

  8. 5 out of 5

    Shoaib

  9. 5 out of 5

    Sayandev Mukherjee

  10. 4 out of 5

    Salman Rauf

  11. 4 out of 5

    mayank mittal

  12. 4 out of 5

    Shanze Asim

  13. 4 out of 5

    Mamoon Ali

  14. 4 out of 5

    Asad Zaidi

  15. 5 out of 5

    Karthik Kailash

  16. 5 out of 5

    Abeer Hamid

  17. 4 out of 5

    Amber

  18. 5 out of 5

    Saadia

  19. 5 out of 5

    Waqas Khan

  20. 4 out of 5

    Hammad Ansari

  21. 5 out of 5

    Meaningless

  22. 4 out of 5

    Imran Khan

  23. 5 out of 5

    Asad Saleem

  24. 5 out of 5

    Muhammad Raza

  25. 4 out of 5

    Bajwa M

  26. 5 out of 5

    Sidra

  27. 4 out of 5

    Rafsun Ahmed

  28. 5 out of 5

    Mansoor

  29. 5 out of 5

    Uzair Khan

  30. 5 out of 5

    Asad

  31. 5 out of 5

    映 月

  32. 5 out of 5

    Sultan Malik

  33. 4 out of 5

    Dr. Yassir Muhammad

  34. 5 out of 5

    Mahnoor

  35. 4 out of 5

    Kainat Panhwar

  36. 4 out of 5

    Hasham Akram

  37. 4 out of 5

    Mubasher

  38. 4 out of 5

    Ali Fehmi

  39. 4 out of 5

    Sudais Asif

  40. 5 out of 5

    Amir Jamil

  41. 5 out of 5

    Omer Haqqani

  42. 5 out of 5

    Ghulam Mustafa

  43. 4 out of 5

    Aimal Afridi

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