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Often regarded as the first Islamic defense of political secularism, `Ali `Abd al-Raziq's Islam and the Foundations of Government provoked emotionally-charged repudiations that culminated in his dismissal from Egypt's corps of `ulama. Setting `Abd al-Raziq's work in historical context, this dissertation explains what `Abd al-Raziq intended to do when he wrote Islam and the Foundations of Government. Most immediately, `Abd al-Raziq intended to protect Egypt's fledgling constitutional monarchy from the threat of Egypt adopting the caliphate institution. `Abd al-Raziq's work aimed to undercut proponents of an Egyptian caliphate by demonstrating that the caliphate institution found no support in the sources of fiqh, and had no religious significance in early Islamic history. Many studies have attributed the failure of `Abd al-Raziq's work to the innovative nature of his argument. This dissertation argues that communities constantly invent traditions in order to legitimate their emerging forms. Indeed, Egyptian Muslims of the 1920s had already come to accept nineteenth-century Islamic innovations, like the Ottoman doctrine of the caliphate, Muhammad Abduh's concept of a liberal shari`a, or the novel belief in an Egyptian nation. In this context, `Abd al-Raziq's innovative reasoning cannot account for his failure. This dissertation attributes `Abd al-Raziq's failure to the threat it posed to the perceived rule of law. Like `Abd al-Raziq, `Abd al-Raziq's critics considered tyranny the result of unrestrained, despotic rule. For them, however, God's laws, expressed in the shari`a proved the only adequate limitation to fallible human authorities. The caliphate must be reinstituted, they believed, because of all the world's systems of government, the caliphate alone acknowledged the sovereignty of God's law. By rejecting the caliphate, they inferred, `Abd al-Raziq rejected the institution required for establishing a rule of law that protects citizens from the arbitrary whims and abuses of their rulers.
A Dissertation submitted to the Department of Religion in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Includes bibliographical references.
John Kelsay, Professor Directing Dissertation; Michael Ruse, Outside Committee Member; Sumner B. Twiss, Committee Member; Adam Gaiser, Committee Member.
Florida State University
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