ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Muslim Aspirations in Pakistan

Muslim Becoming: Aspiration and Skepticism in Pakistan by Naveeda Khan (Durham, NC: Duke University Press), 2012; pp 280, $23.95.

Muslim Becoming is an original and important book that argues that the state and citizens in Pakistan have inherited an aspirational understanding of Islam that tends towards experimentation and striving. It challenges the notion that Pakistan ought to effect “a unitary relation to Islam” and holds that there is “a fairly consistent picture of Islam with an open future” in Pakistan (p 7). The key sites of individual and state striving that are explored include competition over mosques in Lahore, writings of Muhammad Iqbal and other prominent figures, the Pakistani state’s legal treatment of the Ahmadiyya community, Muslim relationships with jinns (spiritual being whose presence is authorised by the Quran), and the shifting discursive constructions of the mulla (the term for a religious scholar but often used derogatorily), among others.

The book further argues that these sites of striving towards moral perfectibility have been marked by “disputations” that have in turn entailed risks of “alienation from one’s world” and “the estrangement of others within it” (p 7). More generally, Khan maintains that “in Pakistan disputation as striving perpetually runs the risk of destabilising everyday life through its vulnerability to skepticism” (p 13). Muslim Becoming demonstrates the interplay between these entangled conditions of striving and scepticism. It is admirable in its bold confrontation of the relationship between the self’s striving and the other’s differentiation and exclusion that has characterised much public Islam in Pakistan.

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