Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Josef Korbel School of International Studies

First Advisor

Alan Gilbert, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Carl Pletsch

Third Advisor

Haider Khan

Fourth Advisor

Randall Kuhn


Islamic political thought


This work develops the foundations of an Islamic argument for secular, liberal democracy from within the Islamic discursive tradition. First, it challenges the presentation of contemporary Islamic political thought as a unified, continuous development of the classical canon by showing the influence of the now marginalized medieval rationalists in the development of Islamic political thought. The classical rationalist concern with divine justice forced the founders of Sunni orthodoxy to state their epistemologies and their positions on ethical ontology. The orthodox positions, and their related methods of legal-juristic reasoning, are shown to be incapable of accommodating the modern Islamic positions on political representation, slavery, and just war. This leads to the second argument of the work, that the modern Islamic discourse is better understood as a reflection of the central concern with justice and its rationalist epistemology and ethical ontology we find in the writings of classical rationalists. This argument is made by examining the works of three classical rationalists, a theologian, a philosopher, and a historian. Their political positions, shaped by their rationalism and concern with justice, challenged their orthodox contemporaries, and provide substantive critiques of the classical political accommodations, methods of politico-legal reasoning, and hence, of modern Islamist political projects. The final chapter reveals how far the mainstream of Islamic political thought has deviated from the classical discourses, since the 19th century, by adopting the language and ideals of the European Enlightenment. This shift is presented as a triumph of classical rationalism over literalism, whose epistemological foundations and ontological implications have yet to be acknowledged and appreciated.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Hazem Y. Salem


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

302 p.


Middle Eastern Studies, International Relations, Islamic Culture