Nassef Manabilang Aibong


Muslim views on the polity represent the paradigmatic understandings of how Muslims relate citizenry, authority, territoriality, and sovereignty to the overarching influence of the Western nation-state system. For instance, the meaning of citizenry in the modern state system was adopted by several Muslim societies during the decolonisation period. Faith or submission to the will of Allah was the main criterion to become part of the group (usually referred to as the ummah). However, orientalists regarded ummah as a synonym for tribe, while Arab linguists insisted on a religious connotation. Authority, on the other hand, is ultimately enshrined in the personhood of the Prophetﷺ who is the spiritual leader, executor, legislator, and judicial interpreter of Allah’s message. Since in reality the Prophetﷺ is no longer existing, leadership is bestowed on the subsequent followers, and sometimes the ummah may possess leadership status through a social contract between the ruler and the ruled. The manifestation of operationalised authority needs a political space, domain, or place, which is attainable via the notion of territoriality. This is loosely conceptualised as an ummah that has geographical aspects, cultural traits, and a lingua franca. In the 8th century, jurists divided Muslim territoriality into two analytical terms, the abode of Islam (dār al-Islam) and the abode of war/the enemy (dār al-Harb), while the Shia version of abodes rests in the Qur’ānic dichotomy of “oppressed–oppressor.” The last concept pertains to sovereignty (hakimiyyah), commonly understood as “the will of God” and advanced by Islamists in the 20th century. In medieval times, it was understood as the promotion of public welfare envisaged in Sharī’ah, while in modern times, Islamic modernists argued that Islamists wrongfully understood sovereignty and that the root word used in the Qur’ān meant “to govern.” Nowadays, the assertion that symbolises Allah’s sovereignty can be found in some modern Muslim states.

Keywords: Islamic international relations, ummah, nation-state, dār al-Islam, Muslims, dār al-Harb, citizenry, territoriality, authority, sovereignty