by Sümeyye Kocaman for ISLAMiCommentary on JANUARY 7, 2015:

Sümeyye Kocaman
Sümeyye Kocaman

As we hear more and more about the Caliphate, the ummah, Islamic law and the Islamic State, I am surprised by many things: the so-called experts’ lack of information; how the facts are being politically manipulated; how people of faith are letting religion be used in this minefield; and worse, how people of faith believe that religion can be used to legitimize inhumane, political arguments.

When we hear religion as a political argument — e.g. how an ‘Islamic state’ is needed to provide freedom for Muslims who have been victimized for centuries — we must see this as merely a new wave of nationalism backed up by the power of religious discourse. Religious discourse has the highest potential to mobilize crowds. If the discourse is powerful enough some local groups or even the society at large can be mobilized into an emotional mob that cares little for reason. Their voices — pure political ideology.

In the modern world religion and politics continue to be dangerously intertwined. We can regard this crisis of religion as a chance to reverse a vicious cycle. Continue reading

via SOCIOLOGY OF ISLAM LISTSERV on February 1, 2014:

Call for Papers: AAR, San Diego, November 22–25, 2014


Modern/Islamic Political Formations: Thinking Through Wael Hallaq’s Impossible State

In his groundbreaking work The Impossible State: Islam, Politics, and Modernity’s Moral Predicament (2013) Wael Hallaq writes: “The political, legal, and cultural struggles of today’s Muslims stem from a certain measure of dissonance between their moral and cultural aspirations, on the one hand, and the moral realities of a modern world, on the other – realities with which they must live but that were not their own making.” Hallaq’s signal contribution to thinking about Islamic politics in the modern world argues that modern-day attempts at thinking about Islamic politics are done through the paradigm of the modern state. Given that the modern state is an epistemologically modern, Western ideal and reality, such attempts are necessarily not “Islamic” (as this adjective is understood vis-à-vis premodern ideals and realities of Islamic governance), but are fundamentally modern and Western in their ethical and legal constituents.  Continue reading


In The Impossible State: Islam, Politics, and Modernity’s Moral Predicament, Wael B. Hallaq boldly argues that the “Islamic state,” judged by any standard definition of what the modern state represents, is both an impossible and inherently self-contradictory concept. Comparing the legal, political, moral, and constitutional histories of pre-modern Islam and Euro-America, he finds the adoption and practice of the modern state to be highly problematic for modern Muslims. He then conducts a more expansive critique of modernity’s moral predicament, which renders impossible any project resting solely on ethical foundations.


Wael Hallaq is the Avalon Foundation Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University and has previously taught at McGill University, where he was named a James McGill Professor in Islamic Studies.