Who or What Is the Wali al-Amr: The Unposed Question

15 Pages Posted: 5 Mar 2019 Last revised: 7 Oct 2019

See all articles by Nathan J. Brown

Nathan J. Brown

George Washington University - Department of Political Science

Date Written: March 4, 2019


English abstract: Modern Islamic political thought has grappled with the nature of state authority by using and reshaping the tools of classical legal and political thought. That is a tradition that gives rich guidance on what a ruler should and should not do, but it gives much less certain guidance (and all but renders invisible) the questions of administration and policy. The wali al-amr – the head of the community (a term identical to the one used for legal guardian over a minor) – has been transformed from an individual ruling to a modern bureaucratic and policy state in Islamic political writings without that transformation drawing notice. This paper explores the resulting ways in which Islamic practices and concepts, developed for a rudimentary state apparatus focused on public order, care for the poor, and some urban public services, operates in a world in which states administer and develop policy over a wide array of public affairs.

Spanish abstract: El pensamiento político islámico moderno ha lidiado con la naturaleza de la autoridad estatal mediante el uso y la remodelación de las herramientas del pensamiento político y jurídico clásico. Esa es una tradición que brinda una guía útil sobre lo que un gobernante debe y no debe hacer. Pero, si es útil para la ética del gobierno, brinda una orientación mucho menos segura (y se vuelve casi invisible) en lo tocante a las cuestiones de administración y política. El wali al-amr – el líder de la comunidad (un término idéntico al utilizado para el tutor legal de un menor de edad) –, ha pasado de significar un fallo individual, a un Estado burocrático y político moderno, sin que la transformación haya sido advertida. Este artículo explora las formas resultantes en las que las prácticas y los conceptos islámicos, desarrollados para un aparato estatal rudimentario, operan en un mundo en el cual los Estados administran y desarrollan políticas en una gran variedad de asuntos públicos.

Keywords: Islam, policy state, Islamic governance, estado político, gobernanza islámica

Suggested Citation

Brown, Nathan J., Who or What Is the Wali al-Amr: The Unposed Question (March 4, 2019). Forthcoming, Oñati Socio-Legal Series. Link: https://doi.org/10.35295/osls.iisl/0000-0000-0000-1028, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3346372

Nathan J. Brown (Contact Author)

George Washington University - Department of Political Science ( email )

Washington, DC 20052
United States

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