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Genealogies of Sovereignty in Islamic Political Theology

Andrew F. March

Yale University

October 25, 2012

Social Research (Special Issue: Political Theology), Forthcoming
Yale Law School, Public Law Working Paper No. 268

The events that hastily came to be called “The Arab Spring” have done much to reopen the question of what it means for a Muslim society to be ruled legitimately and to force Islamist parties to account for their visions of sovereignty and authority in the public sphere. This paper provides a historical and conceptual background to certain modern attempts to harmonize ideals of divine and popular sovereignty. I pay special attention to the pre-2011 doctrines of Tunisian Islamist leader, Rashid al-Ghannushi, particularly his attempt to reconcile visions of divine and popular sovereignty through the doctrine of a universal covenant of vicegerency (istikhlaf). I contrast this doctrine of a “caliphate of man” with other modern attempts to institutionalize divine sovereignty (Saudi Arabia and Iran), while suggesting a set of ambiguities this doctrine raises both for the idea of rule by divine law (shari‘a) and for post-revolutionary expectations of democracy within a “civil state” (dawla madaniyya).

Number of Pages in PDF File: 23

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Date posted: October 26, 2012  

Suggested Citation

March, Andrew F., Genealogies of Sovereignty in Islamic Political Theology (October 25, 2012). Social Research (Special Issue: Political Theology), Forthcoming; Yale Law School, Public Law Working Paper No. 268. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2166953

Contact Information

Andrew F. March (Contact Author)
Yale University ( email )
New Haven, CT 06520
United States
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