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Jamʿīyatul ʿUlamāʿ-i Pākistān

Rizwan Hussain
The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World What is This? Provides comprehensive scholarly coverage of the full geographical and historical extent of Islam

Jamʿīyatul ʿUlamāʿ-i Pākistān

The party of Pakistan 's Barelwī ʿulamāʿ, the Jamʿīyatul ʿUlamāʿ-i Pākistān (JUP), was formed in Karachi in 1948 at the behest of Mawlānā Abdul Hamīd Badāʿunī, Sayyid Muḥammad Aḥmad Qādirī, and ʿAllāmah Aḥmad Saʿīd Kāẓimī. After the Jamʿīyatul ʿUlamāʿ-i Islām, it has been the largest ʿulamāʿ party of Pakistan. The Jamʿīyat follows the Barelwī school of Islamic thought, also known as the ahl-i sunnat wal jamāat (people of the tradition and community), a term that reflects their claim to represent the true faith. The Barelwīs trace their origin to the teachings of Aḥmad Rizā Khān Barelwī (1856–1921), a scion of a notable ʿulamāʿ family of Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh, India who had strong ties to the Qādirīyah Ṣūfī order. The Barelwīs, unlike other ʿulamāʿ groups of the period or the Islamic movements that surfaced later, were not interested in promoting a puritanical interpretation of orthodoxy. Instead, they emerged to counter the impact of the Deobandī and Ahl-i Ḥadīth traditions, both of which had sought to cleanse Islamic practices of cultural accretions and Sufism. The Barelwīs adhered to the Ḥanafī school of law but aimed to preserve the place of Sufism and the popular customs associated with it in the life and thought of Indian Muslims. The Barelwīs also accord the ʿulamāʿ and Ṣūfī pirs a central role as community leaders, vested with authority to intercede with God on behalf of the faithful.


Throughout the struggle for the partition of India in the early twentieth century, the Barelwīs supported the Muslim League and were especially effective in bolstering the League 's position in Punjab. In 1946 this support was formalized when Barelwī ʿulamāʿ from across India congregated in Benares to endorse Pakistan openly and to provide it with religious legitimacy.

Given this background, many Barelwīs migrated to Pakistan in 1947, establishing a base in Sind among the refugee (muhājir) community. With a following in rural Punjab and urban Sind, Barelwīs emerged as an important national force on the religious scene, second only to the Deobandīs. The rivalry between the two for power and prominence, and the Barelwīs ’ desire to defend their flock from challenges by the Deobandīs, soon led to the creation of a Barelwī ʿulamāʿ party.

The Pakistani Deobandīs had broken away from the pro-Congress Deobandī Party, Jamʿīyatul ʿUlamāʿ-i Hind, to support the Muslim League and the demand for partition. In 1945 they had formed the Jamʿīyatul ʿUlamāʿ-i Islām, whose contribution to the creation of the country was quickly rewarded with government patronage. The Barelwīs viewed the privileged status of Jamʿīyatul ʿUlamāʿ-i Islām with envy and concern, especially as Islam came to dominate national political discourse. Against this background, the Barelwī ʿulamāʿ formed the Jamʿīyatul ʿUlamāʿ-i Pākistān in 1948. The Jamʿīyat was initially an ʿulamāʿ forum designed to voice the interests of Barelwīs; it had no plans for direct political activity. Between 1947 and 1958, the Jamʿīyat actively participated in the debates among various Islamic parties and the government over the nature of the state of Pakistan and the necessity of an Islamic constitution for the country. Beyond this, it did not envisage a role for itself in national politics.

Entrance into Politics.

By the late 1960s, however, the Jamʿīyat had become embroiled in politics under the force of three factors. The first was the increasing prominence of the Jamʿīyatul ʿUlamāʿ-i Islām and other Islamic parties such as the Jamāʿat-i Islāmī in the religious and political arenas from 1958 onward. Since the Barelwīs had emerged in the first place to check the growth of puritanical interpretations of orthodoxy, it was not unexpected that the Jamʿīyat would mobilize its resources to offset the influence of Jamʿīyatul ʿUlamāʿ-i Islām and the Jamāʿat-i Islāmī. The Jamʿīyat challenged the Jamāʿat-i Islāmī in the national elections of 1970, defeating their opponents in several contests and dividing the religious vote in others to the advantage of secular parties. The rivalry between the two also stemmed from the fact that both had courted the muhājir community of Sind since 1947.

Second, the Jamʿīyat was made aware of the power and potential of Islam in the political arena by revivalist groups in general, and the Jamāʿat-i Islāmī in particular. The Jamʿīyat was not immune to the attraction of political power; moreover, it did not wish to leave the growing religious vote to be dominated by revivalist parties or the Jamʿīyatul ʿUlamāʿ-i Islām. The decision to participate in the national elections of 1970, the first for the Jamʿīyat, was taken after the Jamāʿat-i Islāmī flaunted the electoral potential of Islamic symbolism by introducing its campaign with the Yaum-i Shaukat-i Islām (Day of Islam 's Glory), which was held throughout Pakistan in May 1970.

Third, the Jamʿīyat became interested in politics in response to the challenge of the secularist regime (1958–1969) of Field Marshal Muhammad Ayub Khan to the place of Islam in Pakistani society. The Ayub regime sought to roll back the gains made by religious parties during the preceding decade, proposed a modernist view of Islam with the aim of depoliticizing the Islamic parties, and finally sought to extend the power of the state into the domain of the ʿulamāʿ. The Jamʿīyat was opposed to Ayub 's modernist agenda but was especially perturbed by the government 's appropriation of religious endowments and takeover of the management of religious shrines; both actions directly affected Barelwīs and their allies in the Ṣūfī establishment. The Jamʿīyat was also opposed to the government 's attempts to seize control of its mosques. By the mid-1960s, under the leadership of Mawlānā Shāh Aḥmad Nūrānī, the Jamʿīyat became a vociferous actor in the political arena; it now included lay members and leaders and addressed issues of national concern.

Relations with Other Political Parties.

Following the secession of Bangladesh in 1971—which it opposed—and the rise of the populist Zulfiqar ʿAli Bhutto to power, the Jamʿīyat became even more actively involved in politics. It coordinated its activities closely with those of other Islamic parties in the antigovernment Niẓām-i Muṣtafā (Order of the Prophet) movement, which undermined the secularist and left-of-center Bhutto regime. In fact, Nūrānī was chosen by the movement to succeed Bhutto as prime minister. Later the Jamʿīyat also lent support to the military regime of General Muhammad Zia ul-Haq, who took power in 1977.

True to its founding ideals, the Jamʿīyat was also the first Islamic party to distance itself from the Zia regime and its puritanical view of Islam. The party was not, however, able to escape the impact of the increasingly strict adherence to orthodoxy that swept across Pakistan in the 1980s. By the end of that decade, elements within the Jamʿīyat had moved close to the doctrinal positions of Jamʿīyatul ʿUlamāʿ-i Islām and the Jamāʿat-i Islāmī. More significantly, the party suffered as a consequence of its direct involvement in politics. Clashes over policy decisions divided the Jamʿīyat into factions. One faction, led by Nūrānī, decided to stay away from the Islāmī Jumhūrī Ittihād (IJI, Islamic Democratic Alliance), which was formed in 1989 by the pro-Zia parties with the backing of the Pakistani military to challenge Benazir Bhutto 's Pakistan Peoples ’ Party (PPP), and instead allied itself with an offshoot of Jamʿīyatul ʿUlamāʿ-i Islām to form the Islamic Democratic Front. The other faction, under the leadership of the late Mawlānā ʿAbdussattār Niyāzī, decided to remain with IJI.

Since the early 1990s, the Jamʿīyat has lost much of its support because of the proliferation of self-styled Sunnī parties throughout Pakistan, and because of the meteoric rise of the ethnic party Muttahida Qaumi Mahaz (MQM) in the urban centers of Sind. The MQM is dominated by Urdu-speaking muhājirs who migrated to Pakistan in 1947. In the 1970 elections the JUP received 8.2 percent of the popular vote and won seven seats in the National Assembly, but in the 1990 elections, its share of the vote had fallen to 1.47 percent, winning only four seats. Despite this setback, the party continues to operate as an important force on the religious scene and wields significant influence in the political arena from its stronghold in rural Punjab. Nevertheless, the JUP Nūrānī faction fell from the favor of the Pakistani establishment by the early 1990s because of its poor political judgment during the first Gulf War when it backed the late Iraqi President Saddam Hussein 's invasion of Kuwait.

Developments Since the 1990s.

The rise of militant Deobandī parties in Pakistan and the Pakistani military 's involvement in the emergence of the Taliban movement in Afghanistan in the mid-1990s has resulted in marginalizing the Jamʿīyat in Pakistani politics. Consequently, the Barelwīs, while avoiding taking part in the phenomenon of rising Islamic militancy, formed their own political groups such as the Sunnī Tehreek (Sunnī Movement) of Mawlānā Saleem Qadrī, the Dawat-i-Islami (Invitation of Islam) of Mawlānā Ilyās Qadrī, and the Tehrik-i-Tahafus-i-Namus-i-Risalat (The Movement for Safeguarding the Sanctity of the Prophet Muḥammad) of Mawlānā Tahirul Qadrī. The Sunnī Tehreek is based in Karachi and has often been involved in violent clashes with the Deobandīs and the Ahl-i Ḥadīth factions. In addition, the Barelwīs also formed the Tanzīm al Madāris al-Arabīya (The Organization of Madrasahs of Arabia) to counter the growth of Deobandī madrasahs in Pakistan. These developments undermined the influence of Jamʿīyatul ʿUlamāʿ-i Pākistān on the Barelwī school. However, the Nūrānī faction continued to play a mediating role in Pakistani Islamic politics by emphasizing the commonalities among Pakistan 's diverse Muslim sects. It was a key player in the Mutahidah Majlis-e-Amal (MMA, United Action Forum), a coalition of mainly Sunnī and Shīʿī Islamist parties that banded together to contest the military-run “elections” held in Pakistan in October 2002. The MMA backed the Taliban 's rule in Afghanistan.

With the death of Mawlānā Nūrānī in 2003, the Jamʿīyat fragmented further, with one faction being led by Mawlānā Shāh Faridul Haq and another by K. M. Azhar. Nūrānī 's son Anas initially inherited the leadership of the Nūrānī faction.

Despite continuing differences with Deobandī parties over the practice of Sunnī Islam in Pakistan, the Jamʿīyatul ʿUlamāʿ-i Pākistān has developed a more common platform with the Deobandīs and other orthodox Sunnī groups in response to post-9/11 developments in the Muslim world. The Jamʿīyat opposed the U.S.-led intervention in Afghanistan to topple the Taliban in October 2001 and condemned the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq in March 2003. Within Pakistan the Jamʿīyat factions remain opposed to the pro-U.S. policies of the military-dominated regime of General Pervez Musharraf.



  • Abbott, Freeland. Islam and Pakistan. Ithaca, N.Y., 1968. Useful summary of interactions between various Islamic groups in Pakistan.
  • Ahmad, Mumtaz. “Islam and the State: The Case of Pakistan.” In The Religious Challenge to the State, edited by Matthew Moen and Lowell Gustafson, pp. 239–267. Philadelphia, 1992. Good account of the issues facing Islamic parties during the Ayub, Bhutto, and Zia regimes.
  • Binder, Leonard. Religion and Politics in Pakistan. Berkeley, Calif., 1961. The standard work on religion and politics in Pakistan in the 1947–1956 period.
  • Ewing, Katherine. “The Politics of Sufism: Redefining the Saints of Pakistan.”Journal of Asian Studies42.2 (1983): 251–268. Authoritative outline of the changing political issues surrounding Sufism in Pakistan.
  • Gilmartin, David. Empire and Islam: Punjab and the Making of Pakistan. London, 1988. Contains a good account of the activities of the Barelwīs in the Punjab between the two world wars.
  • Metcalf, Barbara D.Islamic Revival in British India: Deoband, 1860–1900. Princeton, N.J., 1982. Contains an excellent sketch of the Barelwī tradition.
  • Nasr, S. V. R.“Islam, the State, and the Rise of Sectarian Militancy in Pakistan.” In Pakistan: Nationalism without a Nation?, edited by Christophe Jaffrelot. London, 2002. A succinct summary of the developments in Pakistan 's Islamic politics.
  • Shafqat, Saeed. “From Official Islam to Islamism: The Rise of Dawat-ul-Irshad and Lashkar-e-Taiba.” In Pakistan: Nationalism without a Nation?, edited by Christophe Jaffrelot. London, 2002. A balanced account of the growth of religious militancy in Pakistan during the 1990s.
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