Political Theory

This stream aims at deliberation and analysis through a critical ummatic lens of topics coming under political theory, broadly construed. This includes both descriptive/empirical questions of political science as well as prescriptive/normative concerns of political philosophy.  The normative aspect comprises both constructing Islamic political theory as well as critiquing secular political theory, with liberal theory at its fore. ‘Critique’ here entails articulating deeper and sufficiently nuanced descriptions that facilitate accurate understanding as well as (immanent and transcendent) criticism. The descriptive aspect comprises both qualitative and interpretive analysis of prevailing political institutions, systems and practices.

All of this is to be undertaken with and through an engagement of relevant western and Muslim scholarship. The particular questions or problem-spaces this stream tackles will be determined dialectically by consideration of the areas of specialisation of its members as well as the need indicated by the ummatic thought perspective, beginning, practically, with an emphasis on the former and moving in time towards the latter. 

Concretely, the sort of questions and topic-areas it hopes to address include: 


  • Political theory of the caliphate and its institutions
  • Classical Islamic political theory (major thinkers, models, development, genealogy, critiques), with particular focus on the theoretical aspects of the ‘siyasa shar’iyya’ and ‘ahkam sultaniyya’ literature
  • Analysis and critical evaluation of governance practices in historical caliphates
  • Modern Islamic political theory (major thinkers, movements, models, development, genealogy, critiques), with particular emphasis on their engagements with modern problems
  • Analysis and critique of political authoritarianism, dysfunction and disunity in the post-colonial and contemporary Islamicate
  • Critique of liberal political theory and its foundational concepts (freedom, democracy, secularism)
  • Consideration and critique of non-liberal theories (communitarian, agonistic, Christian, Marxist, feminist, decolonial)

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