Skip to main content

Black History Month: Select Books 30% Off

Harvard University Press - home
The Caliphate of Man

The Caliphate of Man

Popular Sovereignty in Modern Islamic Thought

Andrew F. March

ISBN 9780674987838

Publication date: 09/17/2019

Request exam copy

A political theorist teases out the century-old ideological transformation at the heart of contemporary discourse in Muslim nations undergoing political change.

The Arab Spring precipitated a crisis in political Islam. In Egypt Islamists have been crushed. In Turkey they have descended into authoritarianism. In Tunisia they govern but without the label of “political Islam.” Andrew March explores how, before this crisis, Islamists developed a unique theory of popular sovereignty, one that promised to determine the future of democracy in the Middle East.

This began with the claim of divine sovereignty, the demand to restore the sharīʿa in modern societies. But prominent theorists of political Islam also advanced another principle, the Quranic notion that God’s authority on earth rests not with sultans or with scholars’ interpretation of written law but with the entirety of the Muslim people, the umma. Drawing on this argument, utopian theorists such as Abū’l-Aʿlā Mawdūdī and Sayyid Quṭb released into the intellectual bloodstream the doctrine of the caliphate of man: while God is sovereign, He has appointed the multitude of believers as His vicegerent. The Caliphate of Man argues that the doctrine of the universal human caliphate underpins a specific democratic theory, a kind of Islamic republic of virtue in which the people have authority over the government and religious leaders. But is this an ideal regime destined to survive only as theory?


  • In exploring the relationship between divine and popular sovereignty in the writings of some major Muslim intellectuals, this highly original book sheds new light on the fraught and much talked about question of democracy in Muslim societies. Andrew March has produced the most comprehensive, historically informed, and sophisticated study yet of the idea of sovereignty in modern Islamic thought.

    —Muhammad Qasim Zaman, author of Islam in Pakistan: A History


  • Andrew F. March is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. March’s first book, Islam and Liberal Citizenship, won the Award for Excellence in the Study of Religion from the American Academy of Religion.

Book Details

  • 328 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Belknap Press