Research Project: SCRIPT // Source Companion for Research on Islamic Political Thought

As a tool for understanding how the heritage of political thought in the Middle East developed during its intellectually most productive periods, SCRIPT will offer access to a vast and varied literature, in Arabic and Persian, which flourished in the Islamic world from Andalusia to India from the 12th to the 16th centuries. Addressing local sovereign rulers or referring to local sovereign rule, this literature conceptualises legitimate rule and discusses the structure and ideal organisation of the polity. The online publication platform SCRIPT collects entries in English and Arabic (English translations are provided), exploring the historical context and conceptual significance of 65 source texts on political philosophy, political advice and administration.

The assumption that political thought was especially productive in the framework of local sovereign, or Sultanic, rule informs this endeavour. Due to the prevalence of modern Islamic and Orientalists’ debates referring to the caliphate and the early Islamic model, still present in Muslim images of history today, the significance of the period and of the structure of local sovereign rule for the history of political thought has largely been undervalued. Political issues such as the entanglement of political and religious authority, the division of labour between the jurisdiction of the state and sharia institutions, the interrelation of public order, justice and social welfare, and the principles of preservation and delegation of power appear in this literature, in an axiomatic manner that links it to ongoing discussions.

SCRIPT is the continuation, and result, of Conceptualisation of Ruling and Governing – The Sultanate as a Paradigm, an OIB research project funded by the Fritz Thyssen Stiftung. The guiding perspectives of the research achieved in this framework, through the study of discourses on the foundations of rule, forms of its representation, its legal frameworks and purposes, as well as on governance, the competences delegated to it, its organisation and administrative tasks, all serve to organise the theoretical framework of SCRIPT, as these perspectives inform the entries surveyed.

Furthermore, our endeavour intends to contribute to the retrieval of political thought in Islamic tradition generally. We therefore plan to connect the political literature examined at this stage with its further development in Ottoman political literature, and to include at a later date the subsequent encounter with Western constitutional thought that gave rise to attempts to harmonise this constitutional impulse with an Islamic ideal.

The Source Companion for the Research on Islamic Political Thought addresses students of political thought as well as experts on Middle Eastern history. Entries on source texts therefore attempt to connect the material presented with generally valid categories of political thought and modern theory. All entries provide bibliographies and illustrative translations. Systematic links connect the entries and offer access to source texts and research literature.

To download further readings from the project, click here.

This research project is led by Stefan Leder, OIB director from 2007 until 2017.


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