Pakistani Tablighis, practitioners of a transnational Islamic piety movement, the Tablighi Jamaat, insist that only their own form of face-to-face preaching (dawat) is capable of spreading Islamic virtue. Tablighis dismiss the efforts to spread Islam by a diverse array of Islamist actors, including political parties, corporations, NGOs, and popular televangelists. This highlights a central cleavage within the Islamic revival in Pakistan. While Islamists have adopted a modernist conception of religion associated with egalitarian individualism, Tablighis understand dawat to be a religious practice that entails an ethics of hierarchy in which one becomes virtuous by submitting to the authority of pious others. In dawat, Tablighis create a hierarchically structured world of pious sociality against the threat of egalitarian individualism in liberal and Islamist varieties.
Arsalan Khan is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Union College in Schenectady, New York. His research examines the intersection of ritual, gender, and ethics in the Islamic revival in Pakistan and addresses the broader relationship between Islam, secularism, and modernity.
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