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Nation-state and Sovereignty in Contemporary Political Discourse: Syed Abul Ala Mawdudi’s Concept of God’s Sovereignty


Sovereignty has had a fundamental importance in modern political discourse. Politically, the term ‘sovereignty’ is used as ‘absolute overlordship or complete suzerainty’. Sovereignty is associated with the rise of the modern system of sovereign states, usually dated to the Westphalia treaty (1648). “The fundamental norm of Westphalian sovereignty is that states exist in specific territories, within which domestic political authorities are the sole arbiters of legitimate behaviour”. Hence, Modern nation-states embrace sovereignty limited outside a specific territory but absolute inside the territory itself. In the Muslim world, after experiencing modern nation-states, the question arises whether sovereignty belongs to a single authority, a political body—the state’s ‘artificial person’ or sovereignty entirely belongs to God alone. This question has been discussed in the Muslim world since the twentieth century. Syed Mawdudi is branded by his intense efforts to discuss the concept of political legitimacy, authority and ‘divine sovereignty’ in the nation-state context. Mawdudi’s innovative interpretation of God’s sovereignty (Hakimiyat-ilahiya) contextualised it in modern political discourse, which implies that sovereignty belongs to God alone, the Law-giver. The idea of God’s sovereignty has been a fundamental debate in the political dialogue of the Muslim world. Therefore, focusing on God’s sovereignty, this paper sheds new light on the attribution of this idea and how it has been developed as a political concept in modern nation-states.


Mawdudi, Sovereignty, Popular sovereignty, God’s sovereignty , Theocracy, Theo-democracy



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