Edited by M. Kabir Hassan and Mervyn K. Lewis
Chapter 26: Political authority in Islam
The two main sources of Islam are the Quran and the Sunnah (the Prophetic precedent). Whether we look at each of them separately or together, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that Islamic values are not limited to what we delineate in the modern era as the private sphere. Islamic values extend their sway over the public sphere too. Additionally over the centuries, Muslim thinkers and scholars have developed a sophisticated discourse and culture of Islamic law, anchored around the idea of Shariah, often understood as divinely revealed legislative commands. The existence of this vast and deep corpus of legal tradition has created a strong culture of accepting Islam as a normative force in the public sphere. Whether it is the realm of spirituality, economics, culture or politics, many Muslims instinctively look to Islam for guidance. There are enough scriptural sources to defend this claim scholastically, and the history of the last ten years of the life of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and the era of the first four Caliphs also cement the idea that secularism is not an Islamic virtue. As a result of this inheritance, both political authority and political legitimacy in Muslim kingdoms, empires and countries have always come from Islamic sources. In the modern age, in the Muslim world as it emerged after decolonization from Western colonial influence, political authority splintered, especially after the demise of the Ottoman Caliphate in 1924, into three types, dictatorial, semi-democratic and monarchical.
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