A Religion, Not a State

Ali 'Abd al-Raziq's Islamic justification of Political Secularism

Souad T Ali

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9780874809510 (paperback)
9781607819516 (ebook)

Utah Series in Middle East Studies

In this notable work, Souad T. Ali examines the seminal writings of Egyptian reformist scholar Ali'Abd al-Raziq, often regarded as the intellectual father of Islamic secularism, and his controversial argument that the caliphate should be considered a human innovation, rather than a religious imperative. 'Abd al Raziq contended that Islam is "a religion, not a state; a message, not a government," a major departure from the traditional view that religious and political spheres are intertwined and inseparable in Islam.

Opponents denounced 'Abd al-Raziq's ideas as a foreign corruption imported from the West.  Ali's careful, objective, and scholarly examination of 'Abd al-Raziq's work, however, reveals that his arguments are not based in Western thought.  Rather, they sit firmly within the dictates of Islam's sacred texts, particularly the Quran and Hadith, and also enjoy considerable support from the historical record.

This analysis critically challenges prevalent misinterpretations of Islam that have endured for centuries.  Ali recognizes the varied models and discourses that have arisen throughout different epochs, especially so the role that Western intervention has played in placing the question of Islam's modernity at the forefront of intellectual debate.  Throughout, the study emphasizes the atmosphere of openness and tolerance that is a requisite for free, intelligent debate.