Where Islam Stands in Civil Government

  • Farah W. Kawtharani
Part of the Middle East Today book series (MIET)


This chapter addresses the intersections and compatibility of civil government (al-dawla al-madaniyya) and Islam in modern times within the context of nation-states in the thought of Shams al-Din. It examines his discussion of the role of Islam and the jurist in the ahlī (communitarian) civil society and the role of the ahlī civil society vis a vis civil government. In his later elaborations on the place of religion within ahlī civil society, and the importance of nourishing its religious institutions, he was contributing to the formulation of what can be seen as a civil form of Islam, an Islam that accommodates public diversity and political assertion of non-Muslim groups, namely the Christians and other religious minorities. It is this form of civil Islam that Shams al-Din contributed to in the debate on Islam’s compatibility with democracy and civil forms of governance. The chapter shows how Muhammad Mahdi Shams al-Din was able to challenge the fusion of state and religion, which is a theoretical configuration that is central to the thought of modern political Islamists, both Sunnis and Shi‘a. He was able to achieve this by arguing that Islam in modern times could thrive by combining the historical quietist Shi‘i tradition that shuns active opposition to temporal authorities together with a modern juristic Shi‘i approach that stresses an assertive but civil role for religion in the public sphere.

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© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Farah W. Kawtharani
    • 1
  1. 1.McGill UniversityMontrealCanada

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