Since the 1990s ‘rights‐based approaches’ (RBA) has become a well‐established concept, informing the work of diverse actors in development and humanitarian aid. Faith‐based organizations have increasingly embraced the concept, though not without contestation. Drawing on new qualitative data from Pakistan, this paper examines how ‘global’ RBA norms are operationalized in ‘local’ contexts characterized by great normative diversity and identifies three dominant normative frameworks used by the NGOs in the translation of RBAs: humanitarian standards, citizen rights, and Islamic principles. This paper draws from a case study of RBAs in Pakistan and reveals the significance of religion and religious actors in the translation of rights. From this example, the article offers a conceptual distinction between instrumental and substantial modes of engagement, a framing that allows for a more detailed analysis of how humanitarian actors deal with religion and rights than what is often found in studies of humanitarian action.