An International and Collaborative Research Programme

Seminar Session: March 11, 2021:Abdul-Hameed Al-Kayyali

The Question of Power in Classical Islam: Searching for the roots of deliberative processes

In the Islamic tradition, after the death of the prophet Muhammad in 632 C.E., a series of successors called khulafâ’ or caliphs, claimed political authority over the Muslim community. The emergence of the institution of the Caliphate during this formative period of Islam (sadr al-Islâm) saw the convergence of elements of various origins, the interaction of which had a strong influence on the redefinition of questions of power, legitimacy and deliberation. This lecture, on the basis of a reading of a series of manuscripts and treaties, by al-Tabari (839-923 C.E), al-Balathuri (d. in 892 C.E.), al-Masoudi (d. in 956 C.E.) and others, will analyse the contrast between narrations of elections and selection processes during the period described as the Rashidun and the consolidation of processes of hereditary nature under the Umayyad and then the Abbasid dynasties. In classical Islam, one of the central moments of discussion of this dimension is that of the writing of al-Ahkam al-Sultaniyyah by Al-Mawardi (972-1058 CE), a manuscript whose influence will also be examined in the lecture as for deliberation processes. In relation with reflections on the articulation of various layers of historicity, the lecture will also discuss the complex ramifications in the contemporary Arab and Muslim worlds of the question of power in Islam as seen from this perspective. It will examine how this historical analysis allows one to reflect on contemporary debates on democracy, forms of legitimation and mobilization in relation with the intellectual and political contexts of post-colonialism, Eurocentrism as well as of essentialist and contextualist views. 

Abdul-Hameed Al-Kayyali is a Researcher in the Department of Medieval and Modern Arabic Studies- DEAMM at Institut Français du Proche-Orient (Ifpo) in Amman. He also serves as Pedagogical Coordinator of Arabic Courses at Ifpo- Amman and Beirut. Al-Kayyali holds a Ph.D. degree from the Institute for Research and Studies on the Arab and Islamic Worlds (IREMAM) at the University of Aix-Marseille in France. Throughout his research career, he focused on the areas of early Islamic history, the cultural history of Islam and the contemporary history and politics of the Middle East. Among his publications: “Ben-Yehuda in his Ottoman Milieu: Jerusalem’s Public Sphere as Reflected in the Hebrew Newspaper Ha-Tsevi, 1884–1915” (with Hassan Ahmad Hassan)(in Ordinary Jerusalem 1840–1940. Opening New Archives, Revisiting a Global City, Edited by Angelos Dalachanis and Vincent Lemire)

Next session: March 25, 2021: Amr Elshobaki (Alahram Center for Political & Strategic studies, Cairo) “Contemporary Visions of Historical Deliberative processes in Egypt”.

Full 2020-2021 programme of the HISDEMAB seminar

Cite this blog post
Nora Lafi (2021, February 26). Seminar Session: March 11, 2021:Abdul-Hameed Al-Kayyali. The Historicity of Democracy. Retrieved June 19, 2024, from

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