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Can One Speak of a Qur’ānic Political Theory - A Hermeneutical Study Employing Semantic and Thematic Approaches

EL-SOUDANI, ASLAM (2014) Can One Speak of a Qur’ānic Political Theory - A Hermeneutical Study Employing Semantic and Thematic Approaches. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



In our time, it is not unusual for Islam to be portrayed as a political ideology. Constant references towards “political Islam”, “Islamism” and “Islamists” have become part of the intellectual language and are rarely challenged in terms of their foundational claims. This thesis investigates the fundamental premise that the Qur’ān may contain a political theory. In doing so, a detailed investigation has been conducted in defining concepts of the “political” from within the Muslim tradition by particularly locating these concepts within the Muslim intellectual tradition. The leading research question also seriously considers the hermeneutical issue about how scripture is read to yield a holistic understanding of the entirety of the message. The work of Toshihiko Izutsu (1914-1994) has been employed as one of the major methodological tools in analysing the Qur’ān. Alongside Izutsu’s semantic analysis, the thematic approach has also been utilised to provide a more holistic understanding of the Qur’ān. Within this framework, this research has proposed that the Qur’ān indeed contains a hierarchy of concepts that is indicative of the Qur’ān itself prioritising concepts.

With this in mind, a cluster of concepts emerges which forms the main analyses. Accordingly, the idea of a caliphate theory that is equated with an “Islamic state” has been postulated to be non-Qur’ānically based. In fact, it is found that the very proposition is contradictory in terms, as the modern state itself is a European invention, both in structure and form. This study also explored the concept of sharīʿa, arguing that there are two fundamental natures of sharīʿa, the first is that it has mainly been a force of challenge and opposition to power; the second is the emphasis upon individual free choice. One comes to the conclusion that the Qur’ān is intentionally silent towards any political structure or system, yet at another level the Qur’ān reinforces, justice, rights, accountability and apposes injustices of all kind.

In an attempt to provide a potential readings of the Qur’ān to render answers to the research questions, the inferences generated from the research are put together with other Qur’ānic concepts such as taqwā and iḥsān with the goal of understanding the role of the individual and the community in the wider Qur’ānic Weltanschauung. The nature of the individual is dynamic; his or her core nature is in constant turmoil but desires perfection. With the desire of perfection comes the drive towards bettering oneself and one’s surroundings. There is a tension or paradox between being an individual and belonging to the collective and between living in the mundane but believing in the sacred. This tension (or paradox) could be solved by means of a constant relationship between refining oneself (looking inward) and projecting outward with the taqwā that is developed.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Qur'anic political theory, Islamic political theory, Islamic Political thought, Political Islam, Qur'anic hermeneutics, Izutsu, Qur'anic semantic approach, Islamic political theology, Muslim political theology
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Government and International Affairs, School of
Thesis Date:2014
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:05 Jun 2014 08:58

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