The Problem of the Islamic State

In: Sociology of Islam
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This article proposes a theoretical model that contextualizes areas of contention and may even offer a resolution to a major debate in the Muslim world and the Western academy on the relation between Islam, secularism and the nation-state. Drawing on the works of scholars such as Ibn Khaldun, Kropotkin, Weber, Clastres, Barclay, Deleuze and Guattari, Crone and Foucault, this article theorizes an alternative organizational system to that of State-form. This organization, called Tribe-form, is politically comprehensive in its own accord and contains political rule, conceptions of power and social orders. Tribe-form and State-form are, therefore, names ascribed to two different modes of political governance. This article then explores the striking resonances between the Islamic political canon and Tribe-form and consequently problematizes the existence of something called “state” in the early Muslim political experience. This assertion rejects the secularist position on that Islam is silent on the on the question of politics, yet it radically questions superimposing a medieval political organization based on the model of Tribe onto the modern nation-state. In short, this article affirms the political qualities of sharia, yet it challenges the suitability of sharia to operate effectively as a basis for modern state governance.

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