In this chapter of our Cities of Islam series, we will get to know Islamabad, the modern city and capital of ancient lands. Why was there a need to establish Islamabad as a new capital when Pakistan already had one? What is the symbol of Islamabad? Answers to questions like these will be explored in this article. Enjoy the read! 🙂
The Modern City of Ancient Lands
Let’s start by understanding the location of Islamabad. However, before delving into Islamabad, let’s take a look at Pakistan’s geographical context. Pakistan is bordered by China to the northeast, Afghanistan to the west, Iran to the southwest, and India to the east. Additionally, the country has a coastline along the Arabian Sea. The capital, Islamabad, is situated to the north of the country, near the historical city of Rawalpindi.
A City Established to Become the Capital
The former capital, Karachi, was vulnerable to naval attacks, which led to the establishment of Islamabad in the 1960s. Due to its recent establishment as the capital, many of the country’s most significant structures are located here. Being a city built from scratch, Islamabad boasts wide boulevards, green spaces, and is renowned as the most organized city in the country. It also serves as an educational hub, hosting numerous universities.
Meaning Behind Islamabad’s Name
The city’s name is derived from two words: Islam and abad. The meaning is “City of Islam.” The word Islam refers to the religion of Islam and is of Arabic origin. The word abad means settlement or city and comes from the Persian language. While the word Islam is often associated with negative events in recent times, I’d like to clarify its meaning here. The term signifies:
The religion revealed to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and conveyed by him to humanity. Its literal meaning is peace, well-being, security, and submission.
From the Umayyad Era to Present-day Islamic Rule
Pakistan was established in 1947, and Islamabad was founded in the 1960s. However, these lands were introduced to Islam long before these dates. Their interaction with Islam dates back to the Umayyad era when the Arab forces led by commander Muhammad ibn Qasim al-Thaqafi facilitated the introduction of Islam to the region. Islam found a permanent place in these lands due to the tolerance shown by al-Thaqafi.
Symbol of Islamabad: Pakistan’s Largest Mosque
The Shah Faisal Mosque, with a capacity of 100,000 people, is the largest mosque in Pakistan and South Asia. Let’s delve into the story of its construction and the origin of its name.
During his visit to Pakistan in 1966, King Faisal of Saudi Arabia wished to gift a modern mosque to the country. Design proposals were submitted from 17 countries, totaling 43 projects for the King Faisal Mosque and Complex. Among these, the work by Turkish architect Vedat Dalokay was selected. The mosque was completed and inaugurated in 1988, and as a tribute to its founder, it was named after King Faisal.
Margalla Hills National Park
With its rivers, greenery, and wildlife, the park is one of the country’s leading national parks. Serving as a haven for migratory birds, the park also offers opportunities for hiking, climbing, and camping.
Shakarparian Hill: Referred to as the Hill of Museums
Shakarparian Hill is located to the east of Islamabad. It houses not only museums but also cultural centers and educational institutions. Many of the city’s cultural and artistic activities take place here. The hill features Pakistan Monument, an iconic structure visible from all around the city. Around this monument are 5 museums and a fairground. The museums include:
-Pakistan Museum of History
-Museum of Natural History
-Folk Heritage Museum
-Museum of Democracy
-Pakistan-China Friendship Center and Museum
Furthermore, the hill is home to centers for golf, polo, soccer, and extreme sports.
Ankara Park on Shakarparian Hill
It’s known that there are a total of 180 parks, big and small, in Islamabad. One of these parks is Ankara Park. Located on Shakarparian Hill, it’s situated on the shores of Rawal Lake. The park was established in 2005 due to the sister city relationship between Ankara and Islamabad.
Population and Religious Composition
As of 2012 data, Pakistan’s population stands at 179 million, making it the sixth most populous country in the world. It is home to 96% of the Muslim population. With this percentage, Pakistan comes second only to Indonesia in terms of the number of Muslims. Among the Muslims, 80% are Sunni, and the rest belong to the Shia denomination. The minority non-Muslim population includes Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, and Buddhists. The population of Islamabad, the capital, is approximately one million.