S.C.R.I.P.T. - Source Companion for the Research on Islamic Political Thought (Stefan Leder)

As a tool for understanding political thought in the Middle East in its intellectually most productive  periods, SCRIPT will offer access to a vast and varied literature, in Arabic and Persian, which flourished from the 12th to the 16th centuries in the Islamic world from Andalusia to India. Addressing local sovereign rulers or referring to local sovereign rule, this literature conceptualizes legitimate rule and discusses the structure and ideal organization of the polity. The online publication platform SCRIPT collects entries in English and Arabic (English translations provided), exploring the historical context and conceptual significance of sixty-five 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 endeavor. 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 structure of local sovereign rule for the history of political thought has largely been undervalued. Yet political issues such as the entanglement of political and religious authority, the jurisdiction of the state and the role of sharia, the interrelation of public order, justice and social welfare, and the principles of preservation and delegation of power appear in this literature, despite the specificity of each case, in an axiomatic manner that links it to ongoing discussions.

SCRIPT is the continuation, and result, of “Conceptualization of Ruling and Governing - The Sultanate as a Paradigm”, a research project of the OIB funded by 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 organization and administrative tasks, all serve to organize the theoretical framework of SCRIPT, as these perspectives inform the entries surveyed. Furthermore, our endeavor 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 at harmonizing 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 in 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.

Further readings                                                                    

S. Leder, Sultanic rule in the mirror of medieval political literature. In: Neguin Yavari, Regula Forster (eds.): Global Medieval: Mirrorsfor princes revisited. Harvard: Harvard University Press  (Ilex Foundation) 2015, 94-111. PDF Download

Author: Former director of the Orient Institut Bierut