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Religion and Society

The Paradox of Political Islam

Islam’s founding Texts reveal the requirement to establish a divine order but no man is vested with the authority to do so: indeed, government belongs to God alone. In this sense, the very concept of an Islamic state, that would seek to eradicate idolatry and enforce the divine law, is blasphemous because it implies the existence of men who substitute themselves for God in His judgment. Theorized by Pakistani and Egyptian thinkers, this ideology has inspired numerous extremist movements.

When Arabic terms (appearing either in the Qur’an or in the writings of Muslim authors) denote the power of men, they generally have a negative meaning. This is so for the concepts of kingship and government/judgment, which are expressed by the terms mulk and hukm in Arabic. It could not be otherwise, since the Qur’an is continually recalling that power belongs to God.



The Prophet and the King



Muhammad was not a mere prophet but a rasūl, a Messenger from God with a message to pass on. To be sure, the divine discourse does not in any way confer on him a mandate comparable to that of Israel’s king-prophets but this did not prevent him from being a political leader or founding a community. This latter role is indisputably linked to his prophet function, despite the numerous verses dating to the early period that tend to present him as a simple warner who lacked any coercive power.



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