ʿAbd Al-Rāzīq,

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ʿABD AL-RĀZĪQ, ʿALĪ (18881966), Muslim jurist and author. Born in a village of Middle Egypt, ʿAbd al-Rāzīq studied Islamic law at al-Azhar in Cairo, from which he was graduated in 1911. In 1912, he went to Oxford to study politics and economics, remaining there until the outbreak of World War I. In 1915, he was appointed a judge in the sharīʿah courts in Alexandria and other provincial towns. The publication of his book Al-Islām wa-uūl al-ukm (Islam and the fundamentals of authority) in 1925 aroused violent uproar. ʿAbd al-Rāzīq was formally condemned by a council of twenty-four leading ʿulamāʾ (Muslim scholars) of al-Azhar, with the rector at their head. Dismissed from his appointment and declared unfit to hold public office, he lived the rest of his life privately.

Al-Islām wa-uūl al-ukm, published only one year after Atatürk's abolition of the caliphate, is a treatise on the theory of government and the source of authority in Islam. ʿAbd al-Rāzīq's main argument is that there is no such thing as an Islamic system of government. Neither the Qurʾān nor adīth (tradition) stipulates the existence of the caliphate or the combination of temporal and religious powers. Ijmāʿ (Islamic consensus) also provides no basis for the caliphate's legitimacy. In fact, historically the caliphate was based on power and coercion and is not, therefore, a necessary part of the religion of Islam.

ʿAbd al-Rāzīq's most radical theory had to do with the prophecy of Muammad. His view was that, like other prophets, Muammad had a spiritual mission: he was sent to reveal a truth about God and to guide men to a virtuous life; he was not sent to exercise political authority. Thus, ʿAbd al-Rāzīq denied any constitutional implications in sharīʿah (Islamic law). Herein lies his revolutionary departure from the orthodox position on Muammad's prophecy and the sharīʿah, and hence the violent opposition of the ʿulamāʾ.

Muslim theologians had always taught that Islam was unique because it was at once a religious and political community. ʿAbd al-Rāzīq disclaimed any political foundation in the sharīʿah. Condemned by the ʿulamāʾ, his ideas were nevertheless accepted by the ruling elites in Egypt and later in most Arab countries. Western-modeled constitutions were inaugurated, and the secular nation-state finally emerged in the world of Islam.


ʿAbd al-Rāzīq, ʿAlī. Al-Islām wa-uūl al-ukm. Cairo, 1925. A French translation by Léon Bercher, "L'Islam et les bases du pouvoir," appeared in the Revue des études islamiques 7 (1933): 353390 and 8 (1934): 163222.

Adams, Charles C. Islam and Modernism in Egypt (1933). Reprint, New York, 1968. This book remains a valuable study of the Islamic reform movement in Egypt's history. Chapter 10 is particularly important for the emergence of nonorthodox ideas.

Hourani, Albert. Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age, 17981939. 2d ed. Cambridge U.K., 1983. The best single work on Arabic thought in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Chapter 7, "Abduh's Egyptian Disciples: Islam and Modern Civilization," is an excellent study of ʿAbd al-Rāzīq's work in particular and other Muslim reformers in general.

Rosenthal, E. I. J. Islam in the Modern National State. Cambridge U.K., 1965. A general work on the crisis of Islam and the emergence of the secular nation-state in the Islamic world. Chapter 4, "For and against the Caliphate," is a comprehensive review of the debate that took place in the 1920s.

Ibrahim I. Ibrahim (1987)