In the Provincial Assembly Library
I arrived at the historic city of Lahore in Punjab to research neighborhood
mosques built after the formation of Pakistan in 1947, intending to provide
an empirical account of the integration of Islam into the state administra-
tion and the national imagination. Mosques became central to my study be-
cause, in earlier trips, I found people describing Pakistan, literally the Land
of the Pure, as a mosque. Two days after my arrival in Lahore, General Pervez
Musharraf declared martial law in the country. I expected at least a few
dissenting voices and public protests. Instead, Musharraf ’s action was met
by a calm that seemed to amount to acceptance or at least resignation toward
the turn of events. This reaction was not entirely surprising, as Pakistan had
already experienced three periods of military rule since its rocky formation.
But it was not as if all conversations, debates, argumentation, or even dis-
sent of the contemporary moment had ceased. For instance, while working
in the library of the Provincial Assembly of Punjab studying records relating
to the history of mosques in Pakistan, I came across four librarians, all
Muslims, engaged in pious pursuits delineated by their individual pathways
through Islam. It was in their reflections on what nature of Muslim they
were and in what kind of world they were living that I first found evaluations,
even critiques, of this moment. Here is an account of an argument among
the librarians in which I learned how everyday expressions of religiosity
simultaneously impinge upon the local, the political, and the spiritual, in the
temporal registers of possible pasts and futures. (In the interest of protect-
ing my informants I have used pseudonyms for them and their neighbor-
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