Exclusive Sneak Peek at the Princeton Encyclopedia of Islamic Political Thought — Revolutions

The Princeton Encyclopedia of Islamic Political Thought is the first reference to Islamic political thought from the birth of Islam to today. Comprehensive, authoritative, and accessible, the Encyclopedia provides much-needed context for understanding contemporary politics in the Islamic world and beyond. In this exclusive excerpt, Melissa Finn, lecturer at Wilfrid Laurier University and expert on political science/international studies, explores revolutions and revolutionary thinking in Islamic history:


Revolution is a transformation of the social, political, economic, or religious structures in a society, carried out, most frequently, by re-volts of the less powerful or disenfranchised against ruling authorities. This transformation can occur in a single locale over a period of days or extend across a wide geographical region over a period of de-cades. Revolutions signal or embody a crisis of the status quo. Revolutions may involve a political crisis for existing regimes of power and authority that cannot respond effectively to challenges from ex-ternal or internal actors or coalitions of actors. Sometimes revolutions are led by intellectuals, elites, military cadres, or members of the middle class, but quite often, revolutions begin at the grassroots level through the discontent of the masses or dispossessed. Revolutions and revolutionary thinking have had a place within Islamic thought since the Prophet Muhammad first overturned the prevailing cultural, political, and religious status quo of the Arabian Peninsula by establishing new institutions of governance, law, and society in Medina in 622. The boundaries of revolution in Islam are defined, first and foremost, by Qur’anic injunctions, regardless of the ideological commitments of the various Muslim revolutionary thinkers. There is a revolutionary quality to the Qur÷an itself: beyond being the direct word of God, the Qur’an offers itself as a witness to itself, as revelation and instruction unlike any other, and as reliable guidance for the purpose of establishing a righteous social and political order under the specific theological, ethical, and human framework of belief in the one God. Muslim revolutionaries throughout history have cited various verses of Islam’s sacred text in order to justify and validate revolution as authentically Islamic and have rejected the admonitions attributed to the Prophet Muhammad regarding the fitna (trial) of rebellion against unjust rulers. According to many of these thinkers, the mission of Qur’anic revelation is to provide a revolutionary ideology, sufficient unto itself, that can transform people and free them from the shackles of unjust cultural and social practices.

View the rest of the Princeton Encyclopedia of Islamic Political Thought excerpt here: Revolutions