"The Caliphate of Man" - Guest Lecture by Dr. Andrew March

Dr. Andrew March: "The Caliphate of Man: The Invention of Popular Sovereignty in Modern Islamic Thought"
Wednesday, May 28th, 2018 at 2:00pm
Room 2.14

The International Relations Department invites students, staff and faculty to the Guest Lecture by Dr. Andrew March, titled "The Caliphate of Man: The Invention of Popular Sovereignty in Modern Islamic Thought" on Wednesday, May 23rd 2018 at 2:00pm in room 2.14.

As a Berggruen Fellow at the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University, Dr. Andrew March’s research and teachings focus on political philosophy, Islamic law and political thought, religion and political theory. Before Harvard, Dr. March taught for ten years in Yale University’s Political Science Department, and has taught Islamic Law at Yale and NYU law schools. 

As a Marshall Scholar and graduate of Oxford University, Dr. March published his book, Islam and Liberal Citizenship (Oxford University Press, 2009). Winner of the 2009 Award for Excellence in the Study of Religion from the American Academy of Religion, his book explores Islamic juridical discourse on the rights and obligations of Muslim minorities in liberal polities. He is currently working on his next publication which discusses the problem of divine sovereignty in Islamic thought.


"This is a study of modern Islamic political and legal thought through the lens of the concept of sovereignty. The hallmark of 20th century radical Islamist revolutionary thought was that “sovereignty [hakimiyya] belongs to God alone.” In the thought of the main architects of this school (Mawdudi, Qutb), the locus of actual political sovereignty was left vague and under-determined. It was simply assumed that God is sovereign when man applies His law, the assumption being that God’s law is perspicuous and self-sufficient. This basic idea has migrated in various directions: into Khomeini’s Shi‘ite doctrine of a single sovereign jurist authorized to decide on all ultimate questions of the application of God’s law, include when it is to suspended or altered; to the neo-classical model of Saudi Arabia where the king and the scholars occupy two distinct and non-overlapping realms of authority and where the scholars refuse to endorse, interpret or apply the king’s law; and to the doctrinal reforms of the Muslim Brotherhood since the 1970s whereby the utopian vision of “divine sovereignty” has been softened and moderated, allowing in no small measure for the Brotherhood’s assumption of power in Egypt since 2011.
At the same time, a parallel tradition of thinking on sovereignty has developed since the late 19th and early 20th century, associated originally with Islamic Modernism and more recently with the thinking of Tunisian Islamist Rashid al-Ghannushi, and many moderate strands of the Muslim Brotherhood. Here, the idea is advanced that all mankind (following certain verses of the Qur’an on Adam and David) have inherited the vicegerency (caliphate) of God. This doctrine, along with very popular views on the meaning of God’s law which stress the centrality of public welfare (salus populi) and God’s purposes (maqasid) in creating the Law, pave the way for a more democratic, but still constrained, conception of sovereignty. God remains the ultimate legislator, and the author of man’s ordained (not quite natural) rights, but mankind at large (primarily, although not always exclusively, Muslims) is authorized collectively to establish government, constitute itself as a political entity and define in its broad and narrow particulars what it means to apply God’s law."

If you're interested in attending RSVP to irdepartment@webster.ac.at