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The Fall and Rise of the Islamic State

The Fall and Rise of the Islamic State

Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 200
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  • Book Info
    The Fall and Rise of the Islamic State
    Book Description:

    Perhaps no other Western writer has more deeply probed the bitter struggle in the Muslim world between the forces of religion and law and those of violence and lawlessness as Noah Feldman. His scholarship has defined the stakes in the Middle East today. Now, in this incisive book, Feldman tells the story behind the increasingly popular call for the establishment of the shari'a--the law of the traditional Islamic state--in the modern Muslim world.

    Western powers call it a threat to democracy. Islamist movements are winning elections on it. Terrorists use it to justify their crimes. What, then, is the shari'a? Given the severity of some of its provisions, why is it popular among Muslims? Can the Islamic state succeed--should it? Feldman reveals how the classical Islamic constitution governed through and was legitimated by law. He shows how executive power was balanced by the scholars who interpreted and administered the shari'a, and how this balance of power was finally destroyed by the tragically incomplete reforms of the modern era. The result has been the unchecked executive dominance that now distorts politics in so many Muslim states. Feldman argues that a modern Islamic state could provide political and legal justice to today's Muslims, but only if new institutions emerge that restore this constitutional balance of power.

    The Fall and Rise of the Islamic Stategives us the sweeping history of the traditional Islamic constitution--its noble beginnings, its downfall, and the renewed promise it could hold for Muslims and Westerners alike.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2407-6
    Subjects: History, Philosophy, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[viii])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [ix]-[x])
    (pp. 1-16)

    When empires fall, they tend to stay dead. The same is true of government systems. Monarchy has been in steady decline since the American Revolution, and today it is hard to imagine a resurgence of royalty anywhere in the world. The fall of the Soviet bloc dealt a deathblow to communism; now no one expects Marx to make a comeback. Even China’s ruling party is communist only in name.

    There are, however, two prominent examples of governing systems reemerging after they had apparently ceased to exist. One is democracy, a form of government that had some limited success in a...

    (pp. 17-56)

    Not only Western experts but the educated classes of the Muslim world have been astonished over the last quarter century at the rise of a political movement calling for the creation of Islamic states in majority-Muslim countries. That many governments in Muslim countries are badly in need of reform is not in doubt. Especially in the Middle East, dictatorships and monarchies have failed to bring economic prosperity, military dominance, or even basically legitimate government. But why has this sorry state of affairs not led to the emergence of domestic political movements seeking the creation of liberal democracy as we saw,...

    (pp. 57-102)

    The death of the classical Islamic constitution is intimately intertwined with the decline of the Ottoman Empire—and the efforts to reverse that decline through reform and modernization. Despite military reforms undertaken in the 1820s, the empire in the last years of Sultan Mahmud II saw the most serious military setbacks that the empire had suffered in generations—the loss of Greece, cemented by the defeat of the Ottoman navy by British, French, and Russian ships at the Battle of Navarino in 1827, and the loss of Algeria to French invasion in 1830. By the time Mahmud’s son, Abdulmecid I,...

    (pp. 103-146)

    It is an extraordinary fact about the fall of the classical Islamic state that the scholars, its greatest advocates and the interest group with the most to lose by its destruction, did not put up the kind of fight that might have drawn notice to the constitutional disaster that was to follow. Equally remarkable is the fact that the call for the return to an Islamic state has not, with the important and telling exception of the Shi‘i world, been led by scholars calling for the restoration of the old order and their place in it. Instead, in the Sunni...

  7. CONCLUSION Islamism, Institutions, and the Rule of Law
    (pp. 147-152)

    All this brings us to the question of whether, in power, Islamists could in fact bring about the rule of law. As the case of Iran shows, a government organized in the name of Islam can be as constitutionally corrupt as a secular autocracy and so may find itself equally unpopular with its citizens. If the Islamists cannot deliver political justice, they will find themselves discredited like their predecessors. Yet if the Islamists can deliver on their promise of justice, it seems more than possible that a return to some form of shari‘a governance could spread throughout the Arab and...

    (pp. 153-154)
  9. NOTES
    (pp. 155-176)
  10. INDEX
    (pp. 177-189)