Paul L. Heck’s Political Theology and Islam offers a sophisticated and comprehensive analysis of sovereignty in Islamic society, beginning with the origins of Islam and extending to the present.
This wide-ranging study sets out to answer an unassumingly tricky question: What is politics in Islam? Paul L. Heck’s answer takes the form of a close analysis of sovereignty across Islamic history, approaching this concept from the perspective of political theology. As he illustrates, the history of politics in Islam is best understood as an ongoing struggle for a moral order between those who occupy positions of rulership and religious voices that communicate the ethics of Islam and educate the public in their religious and moral devotions. In this sense, sovereignty in Islam is split between ruling powers and pious communities, whose interactions range from close cooperation to outright competition. Heck shows that it is precisely through these interactions that Islamic conceptions of sovereignty are constructed and negotiated.
Political Theology and Islam’s first section spells out the concepts and methods for the study of politics in Islam as a struggle for a moral order, one not only involving varied claims to sovereignty but also a general determination to realize the righteousness of Islam that stands at the heart of the message that the Prophet Muhammad conveyed to his society in seventh-century Arabia. The following sections demonstrate, through examples from both the past and today’s worldwide Muslim community, the diverse ways in which the umma, the community of Muslims, has struggled for a moral order that recalls its prophetic message. Deftly moving in various political theaters and through a wide range of intellectual traditions, Heck’s book will emerge as a touchstone of scholarship in the field of Muslim politics and intellectual thought.
Part 1. Introduction—The Study of Politics in Islam
1. A Moral History
2. Political Theology Revisited
Part 2. Introduction—The Age of the Umayyads
3. Righteous Dominion
4. Imperial Blessing and Prophetic Righteousness
Part 3. Introduction—The Age of the Abbasids
5. Leading by Certainty
6. The Politics of Certainty
Part 4. Introduction—The Age of the Seljuqs
7. The Sovereign Bodies of Kings and Scholars
8. The Sovereign Bodies of Saints
Part 5. Introduction—The Age of Post-Colonial Rule
9. Liberty as the Order of Islam
10. The Struggle for Democratic Culture
Conclusion: Politics in Islam Revisited
Paul L. Heck is professor of Islamic studies at Georgetown University and founding director of the Study of Religions Across Civilizations (SORAC) project. He is author of Skepticism in Classical Islam: Moments of Confusion (2013) and Common Ground: Islam, Christianity, and Religious Pluralism (2009).
“Paul Heck has written an important, rich, and magisterial book that explains tension between rulers and religion-based activism in defense of popular rights throughout the history of Islam.” —Abdulkader H. Sinno, author of Organizations at War in Afghanistan and Beyond
“This excellent and deeply erudite study offers a sweeping yet layered intellectual history of the conceptual continuities and transformations as well as the political operations of sovereignty in Muslim thought and practice, in both premodern and modern periods.” —SherAli Tareen, author of Defending Muḥammad in Modernity
"Ranging widely and deeply across Islamic traditions, Paul Heck demonstrates the plurality and flexibility of political authority in Muslim contexts. From this fascinating book, the reader learns much not only about Islam but about the way power is divinized in supposedly secular societies as well." —William T. Cavanaugh, author of The Myth of Religious Violence
"Here is the book that will define Islamic political theology for a generation. Expansive and synthetic but also carefully detailed, Political Theology and Islam is sure to open essential conversations not only within Islamic studies but also across traditions and among theorists. Negotiating entanglements of the religious and the secular, the sovereign and the divine, Paul Heck ultimately makes a compelling case for understanding the relationship between ethics and politics in a new way." —Vincent W. Lloyd, author of Black Dignity