Political Theology and Sovereignty: Sayyid Qutb in Our Times

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This article explores the political-theological nature of Sayyid Qutb’s theoretical design, specifically its relation to non-Western understandings of sovereignty, and its principal anomalies arising from the struggle of reconciling the notions of the modern state with undefined territorial imaginings of a religious community. Repudiating reformist variants of modernist Islam, Qutb’s writings afford an alternate reading of modern sovereignty as it is reconfigured in the language of hakimiyyah (God’s sovereignty). A political reading of sovereignty in Qutb complicates the assumed separation between political and non-political spheres. The argument recognizes a basic distinction between the idea of sovereignty in a theological sense and its political counterpart. In Qutb’s design, however, the absence of determinate lines between the theological and the political leaves few autonomous social spheres outside God’s law. While Qutb’s vision does not exhaust political Islam—a fairly heterodox field of diverse perspectives and commitments—the appeal of his writings remains forceful, especially under conditions of Islam’s perceived defensiveness in the face of secularist global modernity and its institutionalized forms. The article situates Qutb within the expanding repertoire of non-Western understandings of the political logic of International Relations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)346–363
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of International Relations and Development
Issue number2
Early online date24 Aug 2018
Publication statusPublished - 01 Jun 2019


  • Political Theology
  • Sovereignty
  • modernity
  • Islam
  • Qutb
  • Fundamentalism
  • International Relations
  • Political theology
  • International relations
  • Non-Western


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