The concept of sovereignty has posed important challenges in the ongoing debates and discourses on Islam and international law. This essay illustrates how sovereignty reflects competing ideas about legitimate authority by examining and exploring distinct debates in Islamic thought, all of which share a concern about the nature, scope, and contours of legitimacy and authority. This article does not offer a prescriptive argument for a robust notion of sovereignty in Islam, nor does it attempt to judge the Islamic past pursuant to contemporary strands of political theory. Rather, it explores various strands of historical Islamic intellectual debate that traverse the realms of theology, law and politics in order to reflect on the conditions of different sovereignties and their relationship to one another.
Antony AnghieImperialism Sovereignty and the Making of International Law (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press2007); Mark Mazower No Enchanted Palace: The End of Empire and the Ideological Origins of the United Nations (Princeton: Princeton University Press 2009).
See for instance Olivier RoyThe Failure of Political Islam (Cambridge: Harvard University Press1992) 13-21; Fazlur Rahman Islam & Modernity: Transformation of an Intellectual Tradition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press 1982) 84-91; L. Carl Brown Religion and the State: The Muslim Approach to Politics (New York: Columbia University Press 2000); Hamid Enayat Modern Islamic Political Thought (Austin: University of Texas Press 1982) 69-110.
See for instance Anver M. Emon“Islamic Law and the Canadian Mosaic: Politics, Jurisprudence, and Multicultural Accommodation,”Canadian Bar Review87 no. 2 (February 2009): 391-425. For a discussion of the gradual demise of Sharīʿa courts in Egypt see Nathan Brown The Rule of Law in the Arab World: Courts in Egypt and the Gulf (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1997). For different strategies used by the French and British governments concerning Islamic law in their colonial possessions see David S. Powers “Orientalism Colonialism and Legal History: The Attack on Muslim Family Endowments in Algeria and India” Comparative Studies in Society and History 31 no. 3 (1989): 535-71. For a discussion of the impact that the reified and static version of Islamic law had on Muslims under colonial occupation see the excellent study by Scott Alan Kugle “Framed Blamed and Renamed: The Recasting of Islamic Jurisprudence in Colonial South Asia” Modern Asian Studies 35 no. 2 (2001): 257-313.
CoopersonAl Ma’mun115; John A. Nawas “A Reexamination of Three Current Explanations for al-Maʾmun’s Introduction of the Miḥna” International Journal of Middle East Studies 26 (1994): 615-29; John A. Nawas “The Miḥna of 218 AH/833 AD Revisited: An Empirical Study” Journal of the American Oriental Society 116 no. 4 (1996): 698-708.
W. Montgomery Watt“al-Ḥudaybiya or al-Ḥudaybiyya,”Encyclopaedia of Islam Second Editioneds P. Bearman et al. (Leiden: Brill 2011 Brill Online) (accessed 8 June 2011). In his article on this treaty Hawting is less interested in the salience of the treaty to resolving subsequent disputes but rather in whether the treaty and its breach by Quraysh are precursors to gaining access to the Kaʿba or the ultimate conquest of Mecca. G.R. Hawting “Al-Ḥudaybiyya and the Conquest of Mecca: A reconsideration of the tradition about the Muslim takeover of the sanctuary” Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam 8 (1986): 1-23. In a different frame of analysis Smith considers the normative significance of the treaty for contemporary models of Islamic public international law. Though his frame of analysis is not relevant here it showcases the relevance of pre-modern precedents for contemporary discourses about Islamic law sovereignty and the interaction of sovereign states in the international sphere. Perry S. Smith “Of War and Peace: The Hudaibiya Model of Islamic Diplomacy” Florida Journal of International Law 18 (2006): 135-68.
Ibn Hishāmal-Sīra al-Nabawiyya2:326. Notably Hamidullah suggests that the women sought refuge with the Prophet while he was still at Hudaybiyya prior to his return to Medina and that the Quraysh relented thus avoiding any suggestion that the Prophet may have breached the treaty unilaterally. Hamidullah Muslim Conduct of State 276.
Al-ṬabarīTaʾrīkh al-Ṭabarī2:153. Likewise the Ḥanbalī jurist Ibn Qudāma suggests that Quraysh repudiated the Treaty not the Prophet. Ibn Qudāma al-Mughnī (Beirut: Dār Iḥyāʾ al-Turāth al-ʿArabī n.d.) 8:459.