Caliphate of Man: Popular Sovereignty in Modern Islamic Thought
Book talk for Caliphate of Man by Andrew March (University of Massachusetts Amherst). Comments by Mohammad Fadel (University of Toronto Faculty of Law).
Modern Islamic political thought is quintessentially characterized by the commitment to divine sovereignty in politics and legislation. But, even in the most theocratic of Islamist thinkers there are explicit commitments to a kind of popular political agency and responsibility. What are the origins in modern Islamist thought of the commitment to popular sovereignty? What does it mean to hold that both God and the people can be said to be “sovereign” and what unresolved paradoxes remain at the level of theory (with all due respect for the way in which such tensions are negotiated in the legislative and judicial spheres)? Which specific aspects or powers of sovereignty are the “people” said to enjoy? Are they fully sovereign powers or are they said to be constrained? What are the implications for traditional conceptions of the divine law and those agents who claimed to speak for it? What kind of “people” is imagined to be sovereign, what are the conditions for it to claim this authority, and how is this sovereignty represented and enacted? This talk, based on a forthcoming book manuscript, explores the meaning of popular sovereignty in modern Islamic thought through the ubiquitous political theological claim that the political representation of God has devolved universally onto “the people” – a doctrine that I refer to as “the caliphate of man.”
Andrew F. March is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. His research and teaching interests are in the areas of political philosophy, Islamic law and political thought, religion, and political theory. He is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Oxford, where he studied as a Marshall Scholar. His book, Islam and Liberal Citizenship (Oxford University Press, 2009), is an exploration of the Islamic juridical discourse on the rights, loyalties, and obligations of Muslim minorities in liberal politics, and won the 2009 Award for Excellence in the Study of Religion from the American Academy of Religion. He has published articles on religion, liberalism, and Islamic law in, amongst other publications, the American Political Science Review, Philosophy & Public Affairs, Journal of Political Philosophy, European Journal of International Law, and Islamic Law and Society. His new book, The Caliphate of Man (Harvard University Press, 2019), explores the problem of divine and popular sovereignty in modern Islamic thought.
Mohammad H. Fadel is Professor at the Faculty of Law, which he joined in January 2006. Professor Fadel wrote his Ph.D. dissertation on legal process in medieval Islamic law while at the University of Chicago and received his JD from the University of Virginia School of Law. Professor Fadel was admitted to the Bar of New York in 2000 and practiced law with the firm of Sullivan & Cromwell LLP in New York, New York, where he worked on a wide variety of corporate finance transactions and securities-related regulatory investigations. Professor Fadel also served as a law clerk to the Honorable Paul V. Niemeyer of the United States Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit and the Honorable Anthony A. Alaimo of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Georgia. Professor Fadel has published numerous articles in Islamic legal history and Islam and liberalism.