Legal Instrumentalisation, Social Engineering and Islamic Law in Turkey and Pakistan

12 Pages Posted: 11 Nov 2018

Date Written: November 5, 2018


Nation-building projects in Sunni Hanafi Muslim majority countries of Pakistan and Turkey have resorted to state law as an ideological apparatus and instrument of top-down social engineering to create modern Muslim citizens. These two Muslim nations had completely different trajectories in their approach to Islamic law. The staunchly secularist Kemalist Turkish state tried to ‘cleanse’ the public sphere of Muslim laws by transplanting the Swiss Civil Code and completely disregarding Muslim laws. On the other hand, Pakistan’s similarly secular civilizing elite could not jettison Islamic laws because creating a pure state for Muslims (Pak-istan) was the justification of their partition from India. For this and possibly for some other reasons, they decided to continue the centuries old personal law system. In this official legal pluralist arrangement (the Ottomans also had this system that was called the millet system), the state allows different religious personal and family laws to officially co-exist. Nevertheless, being modernizing and civilizing, the Pakistani power elite also embarked on reforming the majority’s personal laws. Their reform attempts, similar to Turkey, have faced resistance from people in rural areas, patriarchal culture, local and tribal traditions, conservatives, some ulama, Islamists and Salafists.

Keywords: Legal Instrumentalisation, Social Engineering and Islamic Law, Nation Building, Social Engineering, Turkey, Pakistan

JEL Classification: Z10, Z12

Suggested Citation

Yilmaz, Ihsan, Legal Instrumentalisation, Social Engineering and Islamic Law in Turkey and Pakistan (November 5, 2018). Available at SSRN: or

Ihsan Yilmaz (Contact Author)

Deakin University ( email )

75 Pigdons Road
Victoria, Victoria 3216


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