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On Sovereignties in Islamic Legal History

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image of Middle East Law and Governance

The concept of sovereignty has posed important challenges in the ongoing debates and discourses on Islam and international law. This essay illustrates how sovereignty reflects competing ideas about legitimate authority by examining and exploring distinct debates in Islamic thought, all of which share a concern about the nature, scope, and contours of legitimacy and authority. This article does not offer a prescriptive argument for a robust notion of sovereignty in Islam, nor does it attempt to judge the Islamic past pursuant to contemporary strands of political theory. Rather, it explores various strands of historical Islamic intellectual debate that traverse the realms of theology, law and politics in order to reflect on the conditions of different sovereignties and their relationship to one another.

Affiliations: 1: Faculty of Law, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada


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