• Iran!

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    Iran
    Iran is home to a unique language, culture, foods, and history. Even within the Middle East Iran is unlike any other country. Explore Iran!

  • Bangladesh!

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    Bangladesh
    This low-lying country has historic ties to India and Pakistan, but today maintains a wholly unique culture. Explore Bangladesh!

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    This archipelago nation is culturally diverse from big cities to isolated islands. Begin Your Journey!

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    This vast country has a culture that spans past and present... a nomadic life shifting to a modern & sedentary society. Begin Your Journey!

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    The mountains, including the Tian Shan Mountains (pictured), give Kyrgyzstan a unique culture, partially formed from this isolation from the mountains. Go Now!

Ethnicity, Language, & Religion of Pakistan

WARNING: Terrorist threats continue in Pakistan, please read this travel warning before going!

Ethnicity

Pakistan is a diverse country ethnically. Their largest ethnic group is the Punjabis (or Punjabs), who make up almost half their population; the Punjabis are a part of the larger Indo-Aryan group, which includes nearly everyone from India to Europe. Their closest relatives are numerous small ethnic groups in modern day Pakistan and India. The next largest group in the country is the Pashtuns, who are an eastern Iranian ethnic group, closely related to the Balochis and more distantly related to the Persians. The Sindhi are the next largest ethnic group; they are related to the Balochis and the Kashmiri people. In addition, there are dozens of other ethnicities represented in Pakistan, including the Sariaki, Muhajirs, Balochis, and more.

Language

Urdu and English are the only official languages of Pakistan, but neither is spoken by the majority. Only 8% of the people are native Urdu speakers and no ethnic group natively speaks English, although it is the language of choice for the government and some business sectors. Punjab is the largest native language in the country as nearly half the country natively speaks this language. However, nearly everyone is taught Urdu and/or English in school and these are the primary languages of communication between ethnic groups. Urdu is closely related to Hindi and other languages of India as is Punjab.

Religion

Muslim is the official religion of Pakistan and about 95% of the population adheres to this faith. Of the Muslims, over three quarters are Sunni Muslim. The last 5% of the population is made up of various religions, mostly Christians and Hindis.

Islam (the name of the religion, whose followers are called Muslims) is a monotheistic religion, whose holy book is called the Qur'an. The Qur'an is believed to be the word of God spoken through the prophet Muhammad from 609-632 CE (Common Era is preferred over AD (Anno Domini or "year of the Lord") since the Islamic world doesn't believe Jesus was the messiah). Islam believes Muhammad was the last prophet sent to earth by God, the last in a long line of prophets, which includes Moses, Abraham, and Jesus among others.

Muslims follow five pillars of their faith: testimony, prayer, alms-giving, fasting, and pilgrimage. These pillars, and other tenants of their faith, can give great structure to their lives as some foods, like pork, are forbidden and every Muslim is expected to pray five times a day. However, the level of participation in each of these pillars and to what degree Islam influences an individual's life varies from person to person and community to community. Generally speaking, Pakistan is somewhat conservative in how they practice Islam, but there is a wide range of both conservative and liberal Muslims.

Most Muslims are Sunni, which is the branch of Islam that closely follows the teachings of Muhammad and accepts Abu Bakr as the first Caliph (a ruler of an Islamic community); the Sunni Muslims are sometimes referred to Orthodox. Shia Muslims believe only God can chose who heads the Islamic community and believed it was Ali, Muhammad's son-in-law who was first chosen; Ali became the first Imam (according to Shia Muslims, this term only refers to the leaders of the faith, to Sunni Muslims Imam is often times used in reference to the prayer leader in mosques).

This page was last updated: May, 2014