Religious profile of today’s Pakistani Sindh Province

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by Rajkumar Singh 11 November 2019

Sindh is one of the four main provinces of modern Pakistan having an area of 140,914 km and 47,886,051 population according to the census held in 2017. Others alike, it is a state of the federal parliamentary republic, more or less at a similar system of government with a directly elected Provincial Assembly in which the leader of the largest party or coalition is elected Chief Minister. In the country, provincial governors are appointed by the Federal Government of Pakistan whose tenure lasts for five years. It is comprised of a former Sindh Province, State of Khairpur and former Federal Capital Territory. After conquest by the British in 1843 Sindh had been part of the Bombay Presidency but on 1 April 1936 Sindh Division was separated from the Bombay Presidency and made into a province of British India. On the eve of independence and partition of the subcontinent, Sindh Assembly passed the resolution of joining the newly State Pakistan and became a province on 14 August 1947. Again the province was merged into the province of West Pakistan in October 1955 under the One Unit Policy but regained its status of province after dissolution of the policy on 1 July 1970. Its status as province is continuing as provided in Pakistan’s constitution of 1973.

Dominance of Islam

Sindhis are a Sindhi speaking socio-ethnic group of people originating from Sindh now a province of Pakistan. Today Sindhis that live in Pakistan are predominantly Muslim but there are also smaller minorities of Hindus and Christians. After the partition of India in 1947, a large number of Indian Muslims (Muhajirs) flocked into Pakistan and settled in the prosperous Sindh region. At the same time, Sindhi Hindus migrated to India in large numbers, while many of those who remained converted to Islam. Sindh’s population is mainly Muslim (91.32%), and Sindh is also home to nearly all (93%) of Pakistan’s Hindus, who form 8.5% of the province’s population. The majority of Muslims are Sunni Hanafi followed by Shia Ithna ashariyyah. The non-Muslim communities include Hindus, Christians, and Zorastrians. Sindhis as a whole are composed of original descendants of an ancient population known as Sammaat, sub-group related to the Baloch origin are found in interior Sindh and to a lesser extent Sindhis of Pashtuns origin. Sindhis of Balochi origins make up about 30% of the total Sindhi population, while Urdu -speaking Muhajirs make up over 19% of the total population of the province while Punjabi are 10% and Pasthuns represent 7%.

Islam in Sindh has a strong Sufi ethos with numerous Muslim saints and mystics, such as the Sufi poet Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai, having lived in Sindh historically. One popular legend which highlights the strong Sufi presence in Sindh is that 125, 000 Sufi saints and mystics are buried on Makli Hill near Thatta. The development of Sufism in Sindh was similar to the development of Sufism in other parts of the Muslim world. In the 16th century, two Sufi tareeqat ( orders)-Qadria and Naqshbandia were introduced in Sindh. Sufism continues to play an important role in the daily lives of Sindhis. It is also Pakistan’s highest percentage of Hindu residents, with 8% of Sindh’s population overall and 11.6% of Sindh’s rural population, classifying itself as Hindu and over 40% of regiments in Tharparkar District identifying themselves as Hindu communal harmony between Sindhi Muslims and Hindus is an example of Sindhi’s pluralistic and tolerant Sufi culture.

The Shaikh Bhirkio Shrine complex – Lower Sindh was home to eminent Suhrawardi, Qadiri and other Sufi saints in the 16th century.

Hinduism

Hinduism, as in other areas of the Indian Subcontinent, was the earliest religion predominantly practised in the Sindh region in modern-day Pakistan. The region of Sindh has historically been and still is, home to the largest community of Hindus in Pakistan. Following the Arab Muslim conquest in the 8th century, Islam spread throughout the region and over the period of time, Islam became the faith practised by the majority of Sindhi people. The Islamic religion, coupled with traditional influences and exposure to and interaction with Hinduism, has shaped the diverse Sindhi culture.. Starting with Muhammad bin Qasim and Habbari dynasty, the Delhi Sultanate and later the Mughal Empire ruled the region.

Sikhism

In comparison to Islam and Hinduism, Sikhism is a religion that originated in the Punjab region of the Indian subcontinent about the end of 15th century. It is one of the youngest of the major world religions. The fundamental beliefs of Sikhism, articulated in the sacred scripture Guru Granth Sahib, include constant spiritual meditation of God’s name, being guided by the Guru instead of yielding to capriciousness of mind or psyche, living a householder’s life instead of monasticism, throughout action to dharma, being of selfless service to others , equality of all human beings, and believing in God’s grace in the early 21st century there were nearly 25 million Sikhs worldwide, the great majority of them living in the Indian State of Punjab.

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