Islamic Law and Constitution-Making: The Authoritarian Temptation and the Arab Spring
In the wake of the Egyptian military coup of 3 July 2013, much commentary has focused on the religious-secular divide in Egypt as the principal division that laid the groundwork for the subsequent coup. Less attention has been paid to the profound divisions within religiously-minded Egyptian political actors regarding whether democratic or authoritarian government is more desirable from a religious perspective. This article explores the division between Islamist supporters of a “republican” conception of a modern Muslim constitutional and religious order, and Islamist supporters of an “authoritarian” conception of constitutional government in alliance with a state-supported religious establishment. The article discusses the intellectual resources Sunnī Islam provides for each trend, and uses this division to explain the otherwise inexplicable divisions between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Egyptian Sunnī religious establishment, particularly as manifested in the contrary positions taken by Yusuf al-Qaradawi and ʿAli Jumu’a, former Mufti of Egypt, regarding the coup’s legitimacy.