Religion in Pakistan

Religion in Pakistan

A census held by the Pakistan International Bureau indicates that over 96% of the population of Pakistan are Muslims. [] There are small non-Muslim religious groups: Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Parsis, Bahá'ís and others totaling 4%.

Islam arrived in the Sindh province of Pakistan in 711 CE, when the Umayyad dynasty sent a Muslim Arab army led by Muhammad bin Qasim against the ruler of Sindh, Raja Dahir, whose pirates attacked Arab ships. The army conquered the northwestern part of Indus Valley from Kashmir to the Arabian Sea. The arrival of the Arab Muslims to the provinces of Sindh and Punjab, along with subsequent Muslim dynasties, set the stage for the religious boundaries of South Asia that would lead to the development of the modern state of Pakistan as well as forming the foundation for Islamic rule which quickly spread across much of South Asia. Following the rule of various Islamic empires, including the Ghaznavid Empire, the Ghorid kingdom, and the Delhi Sultanate, the Mughals controlled the region from 1526 until 1739. The Muslim technocrats, bureaucrats, soldiers, traders, scientists, architects, teachers, theologians and Sufis flocked from the rest of the Muslim world to Islamic Sultanate and Mughal Empire in South Asia and in the land that became Pakistan. The Muslim Sufi missionaries played a pivotal role in converting the millions of native people to Islam. As in other areas where Sufis introduced it, Islam to some extent syncretized with pre-Islamic influences, resulting in a religion with some traditions distinct from those of the Arab world. Two Sufis whose shrines receive much national attention are Data Ganj Baksh (Ali Hajweri) in Lahore (ca. eleventh century) and Shahbaz Qalander in Sehwan, Sindh (ca. twelfth century). Census data indicates that over 96% of the population are Muslims; therefore it is considered by many general Pakistanis as the national religion. The Muslims are divided into different sects which are called Madhab (Mazhab) i.e., schools of jurisprudence (also 'Maktab-e-Fikr' (School of Thought) in Urdu). Nearly 75% of Pakistani Muslims are Sunnis and 20% are Shi'as. Nearly all Pakistani Sunni Muslims belong to Hanafi school with a small group of Ahle Hadith. The Hanafi school is divided into Barelvis and Deobandis schools. While the majority of Pakistani Shia Muslims belong to Ithna Asharia branch with significant minority of Ismaili, both Nizari (Agakhanis) and Mustaali. By one estimate, in Pakistan, Muslims are divided into following schools: the Barelvi 50%, Deobandi 32%, Shia Ithna Asharia 18%, Ahle Hadith 1%, Ismaili 2%, Bohra 0.25%, and other smaller sects. The Ahle Hadith are part of Hanbali school. Nearly 65% of the total seminaries (Madrassah) are run by Barelvis, 25 per cent by the Deobandis, six percent by the various Shi'a organizations and three percent by Ahle Hadith. Zikris are considered to be a heretical sect by Muslims.

Religious minorities may only form four percent of Pakistan's population, but in business, education, medicine, and the arts their contribution is significant. All religions enjoy equal status under the Pakistani constitution. The largest minority are the Pakistani Hindus at 1.85%. Over 90% of Hindus reside in Sindh province. Christians are the second biggest minority group in Pakistan; they are distributed throughout the country and represent a wide cross-section of ethnic and linguistic stocks. Churches of virtually every denomination embellish the architectural horizon of most Pakistani cities. Although Pakistani Christians have not restricted themselves to any one area of activity, they have traditionally made an outstanding contribution in health, education, railways and the police force. They are also playing a growing role in the civil service and defense services. The Parsis (Zoroastrians) are a very small minority concentrated in the larger cities and are almost exclusively engaged in business. Some of Pakistan's foremost hotel and shipping magnates are Parsis and the richer members of this community are well known for their philanthropic activities. The Buddhists are numerically very few but the cultural impact of their ancestors has enriched and marked their presence to the heritage of Pakistan. Ancient Buddhist temples, schools and cities dot the archaeological map of Pakistan. There are many important Sikh temples and shrines in Pakistan, most notable is Nankana Sahib. Every year Sikhs celebrate the festival of Vaisakhi from India's Punjab state to make pilgrimages to these historic places, which are looked after by the Pakistani Sikhs themselves.

Religious population in Pakistan

* Muslims: 173,000,000
* Hindus: 3,200,000
* Christians: 2,800,000
* Ahmadis: 1,000,000
* Bahá'ís: 30,000
* Sikhs: 20,000
* Buddhists: 20,000
* Zoroastrian/Parsis: 20,000
* Other (included Animists, Atheists, Jews, etc): unknown

"Sources:" [ [ CIA Factbook - Pakistan] ] [ [ International Religious Freedom Report 2007 - Pakistan] ] [ [ International Religious Freedom Report 2006 - Pakistan] ]


Islam is the national religion of Pakistan and over 96% of Pakistanis are Muslims.


Over 96% of Pakistan's population is Muslim; the rest is made up of 1.6% Christians about 2.8 million people out of a total population of 173 Million (Est. U.N. census 2008), 1.85% Hindu, with much smaller minorities of Buddhists, Sikhs, Baha'is, as well as others.

Although under the Pakistani constitution all religious minorities are equal, Social prejudice is practiced with Christians. According to constitution, non-Muslims cannot become President, Prime Minister or the chief of army staff.

The adherents of Christianity are the second largest religious minority community in Pakistan. Christianity came to the areas now forming Pakistan most probably through the trade routes from Central Asia; in addition to influence from Syrian Christians in South India

A majority of the Pakistani Christian community belongs to converts from the low caste Hindus from Punjab region during the British colonial era while others are converts from Islam during the same period. The community is geographically spread throughout the Punjab province, whilst its presence in the rest of the provinces is mostly confined to the urban centers. There is a Roman Catholic community in Karachi which was established by Goan migrants when Karachi's infrastructure was being developed by the British during colonial administration between World War I and World War II.


Jews (Urdu: یہودی pronounced "Yehudi") are a very small religious group in Pakistan. Various estimates suggest that there were about 2,500 Jews living in Karachi at the beginning of the twentieth century, and a smaller community of a few hundred lived in Peshawar. There were synagogues in both cities and reportedly the one in Peshawar still exists, but is closed. Nearly all Jews have migrated from Pakistan.


Hinduism has an ancient history in Pakistan, the Rig Veda was believed to have been composed in the Panjab region. Hindus today are a much reduced community numbering over 3 million. According to the last census 93% of Hindus live in Sindh, 5% in Panjab and nearly 2% in Balochistan.


There are many important Sikh religious sites in Pakistan where, prior to the partition of India in 1947, some 40-50% of the world's Sikh population resided. Today, the number of Sikhs remaining in Pakistan is very small; estimates vary, but the number is thought to be on the order of 20,000.Fact|date=October 2008 Over the years more and more Sikhs from abroad have been permitted to make pilgrimages to their shrines.


Like Hinduism, Buddhism has an ancient history in Pakistan. In fact at the time of the arrival of Islam much of the population was Buddhist. Today there are no established Buddhist communities and numbers are very few.


This group considers themselves Muslim even though the government of Pakistan does not consider them followers of Islam. The Pakistani parliament has declared Ahmadis to be non-Muslims. In 1974, the government of Pakistan amended its constitution to define a Muslim "as a person who believes in finality of Prophet Muhammad". Ahmadis believe in latter-day prophet and consequently were declared non-Muslims. According to the last Pakistan census, Ahmadiyyas made up 0.25% of the population. The Ahmadiyyas claim thier community is much larger.


Before independence of Pakistan in 1947, major urban centres in what is now Pakistan were home to a thriving Parsi business community. Karachi had the most prominent population of Parsis in Pakistan and were mostly Gujarati-speaking. After independence, majority of Pakistan's Parsi populace migrated to India, notably Bombay; however a number of Parsis still remain in Pakistan and have entered Pakistani public life as social workers, business folk, and diplomats. The most prominent Parsis of Pakistan today include Ardeshir Cowasjee, Byram Dinshawji Avari, Jamsheed Marker, as well as the late Minocher Bhandara.



There are also unknown numbers of Atheists and Agnostics in Pakistan, particularly in the elite circles of large urban areas. Some were born in communist families while others are apostates from Islam. According to the last Pakistan census (1998) people who did not state their religion accounted for 0.5% of the population, although this cannot be taken to imply all these were Atheists.

See also

* Demographics of Pakistan
* Mosques of Lahore
* Churches of Lahore
* Islam in Pakistan


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