Excellence and Precedence

Medieval Islamic Discourse on Legitimate Leadership


This volume focuses on how legitimate leadership came to be defined in the formative period of Islam in terms of two key Qur'anic concepts: moral excellence (faḍl/faḍīla) and precedence (sābiqa). These two concepts undergirded a specific discourse on leadership which developed in the first century of Islam. This discourse is reconstructed through careful scrutiny of the manāqib literature in particular, which contains detailed accounts of the excellences attributed to the Rāshidūn caliphs. This book stresses that all early factions, including the proto-Shī‘a, subscribed to the Qur'ānically-mandated vision of a righteous polity guided by its most morally excellent members. Such a conclusion forces us to rethink the nature of leadership in the earliest period and reconsider the criteria invoked to establish its legitimacy.

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Asma Afsaruddin, Ph.D. (1993) in Near Eastern Studies, the Johns Hopkins University, is Assistant Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies at the University of Notre Dame. She recently edited Hermeneutics and Honor: Negotiating Female "Public" Space in Islamic/ate Societies (Cambridge, Mass., 1999).
'Scholars of Islamic history should breathe a communal sigh of relief with the appearance of Afsaruddin's in-depth analysis in Excellence and Precedence...Afsaruddin's study, notably its meticulous approach to surveying an impressive range of primary sources in Arabic, will be appreciated by those scholars who wish to know more about such polemics and the theoretical underpinnings that come with them.'
Colin Paul Mitchell, Journal of the American Oriental Society, 2004.
'Afsaruddin’s work…is truly seminal…the book’s epistemic value is immense…In academe, the work should be a vital part of any reading list for graduate comprehensive examinations in Islamic studies.'
Khaleel Mohammed, H-Net Reviews, 2004.
All those interested in Islamic studies, early religious and political history of Islam, ḥadīth literature, Qur'ānic studies, and Sunnī-Shī‘ī relations.
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