Home » Uncategorized » Panel 1/9: Frameworks/Paradigms between IR & Islam: Theoretical Notions and Approaches

Panel 1/9: Frameworks/Paradigms between IR & Islam: Theoretical Notions and Approaches

Theme: One International Relations or Many? Multiple Worlds, Multiple Crises
Wednesday 18 – Saturday 21 September 2013
Warsaw, Poland
Organised by the ECPR Standing Group on International Relations and EISA in cooperation with the Institute of International Relations, University of Warsaw and the Polish Association for International Studies.


This panel indicates and explains frameworks and/or paradigms between International Relations and Islam.

Chair:Prof. Dr. Maurits S. Berger, LLM is the Professor of Islam in the contemporary West and the Sultan of Oman Chair for Oriental Studies of the Institute for Religious Studies, Faculty of Humanities, Leiden University. He is also a Senior Research Associate at the Netherlands Institute of International Relations ‘Clingendael’.
Discussant: Prof. Dr. Mohammed Ayoob is the University Distinguished Professor of International Relations at Michigan State University.

Paper Presenters:

International Relations Theory in Islam: The Need for a more Cohesive Approach
Dr. Mohammad Abu Ghazleh (Arab Academy, UAE)
Recent events have demonstrated that one of the most important fields of study today is the Islamic perspective of international politics and Muslim/Non Muslim relations. Over the span of time, various schools of jurisprudence have emerged, each with its own interpretation and application of Sharia regarding this issue. Consequently, Muslim scholars have developed different and sometimes contradictory opinions about the organizing principle of foreign relations in Islam. Traditionalists believe that foreign relations in Islam originally depend on the attitude of non-Muslim groups/societies or states toward Islam and Muslims. Therefore, the foundation of foreign relations in Islam is fight. In contrast, other jurists whom referred to as non-traditionalists, argue that the origin of foreign relations in Islam is peace, simply because the Qurān explicitly states that “there is no compulsion in religion,” (2: 256). This contradiction creates a dilemma in Islamic jurisprudence: If Islam is a religion of peace as majority of Muslim scholars and jurists argue, then how one can understand the Qurānic invitation to spread Islam by wisdom and beautiful preaching, as clearly stated in chapter 16, verse 125, and by force (means Jihad) if absolutely necessary as stated in chapter 9, verse 5. The purpose of this paper is to rethink international relations theory in Islam through examining traditional theory which has been most influential in explaining foreign relations in Islam and incorporating the various opinions developed by opponents of traditionalism into a more cohesive approach as an alternative. Taking into account critics directed to traditionalism and based on the various explanations of the related Quranic verses, the study incorporated non-traditional opinions into a more cohesive approach called “pacifism”. This approach regards peace as the organizing principle of foreign relations in Islam, limits the use of force into self-defense and views the world as one integrated part within which peoples from different religious and cultural backgrounds should coexist and cooperate.
Constructing an Islamic Theory of IR: the Case of Yusuf al-Qaradawi
Prof. Dr. Rodolfo Ragionieri (University of Sassari, Italy)
In the last twenty-five years the issue of Islam, international relations and IR theory has arisen in more than one context: the Gulf crisis (1990-91) and its management in the following decade, the attitude of Muslim countries with respect to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and diplomatic process, the Twin towers attack and the rise of jihadist movements, the “Arab spring” and the electoral success of Islamic movements in Tunisia and Egypt. However, and notwithstanding many and different stances with respect to international politics, it is not at all clear whether an “Islamic” theoretical – descriptive and prescriptive – approach to IR has been developed. Attempts in this direction were for example outlined by Sayyid Qutb in “World peace and Islam” (1968) and “Signposts” and proposed by Boutaleb (1995). This paper wants to focus mainly on Yusuf al-Qaradawi’s contribution, drawing on some writings from his tremendous amount of books. I shall not only deal with his recent doctrine of jihad (Fiqh al-Jihad, 2009), but also with issues such as the relation of Islamic movements to nationalism, the place of umma in international politics and the reasons of the incapability of Muslims to unite. The objective is to evaluate whether from Qaradawi’s thought we can draw a consistent descriptive and prescriptive theory of international politics, and its relations to other similar endeavors in 20th century Islamic thought.
The Minaret vs. the Ivory Tower: Re-Reading Western IR Theory through an Islamic Episteme
Dr. Naveed Sheikh (Keele University, UK)
While much scholarly attention has in recent decades been placed on situating religion in general, and Islam in particular, into Western-dominated IR theory–invariably as an attempt to tame the analytically unspeakable and transform Geisteswissenschaft to Socialwissenschaft–little has sofar been said in terms of Islam’s own normativity in relation to established IR paradigms. The present paper seeks to answer the question of how Islam, qua ethico-nomocentric ideational form, would read the state of art in contemporary IR theory. Drawing on Islam’s own intellectual history pertaining to the questions of power, rights and statecraft–from the Constitution of the Medinan Prophetocracy to the meditations of Abbasid jurists on the nature of politics—but tempered also by that Islamic orthopraxy of which Islamic politics is an extension, the paper provides a critical inquiry into both the ontology and epistemology of Realism and other schools of contemporary IR theory from an Islamicate position. What is at stake in this examination is whether Islam, as a theologically anchored Weltanschauung, provides a fundamentally dissident discourse about the nature of international relations relative to the assumptions implicit in leading IR theories, or whether Islamic normativity, just like Islamist politics, is co-optable in relation to post-Westphalian paradigms of world politics. The answer to this question has implications not only for the intellectual debates surrounding late-modernity’s hybrid social forms but also for the broader question of regional and indeed world order in an age characterized by the political ascendancy of Islam.
“Islam” and the Problem of Meta-Narratives in IR – A Critical Perspective on Research beyond the West
Jan Wilkens is a PhD candidate and researcher in the Project “Constitutionalism Unbound – Developing triangulation for International Relations” at the University of Hamburg, Germany.
“Islam” in particular as well as “the MENA region” more generally continue to be research objects that are often reflected upon in the light of specific grand narratives. “Orientalism”, “Clash of Civilisations”, and the “Arab Spring” are not only indicative of the ambiguous position of “Islam” in varying discourses but also shows its particular relevance within IR due to its meaning in the global realm. Does the requirement to develop an Islamic or Middle Eastern IR theory logically follow? This paper argues that such an endeavour would rather reinforce meta-theoretical narratives and eventually perpetuate Middle Eastern exceptionalism. Instead, this paper seeks to contribute to critical IR theory which accounts for the ‘situatedness’ of meaning that shapes social practices in a particular context. Further, in an increasingly globalised world that harbours more and more constitutionalised structures on a global scale, the question of legitimacy has to be substantially addressed. Thus, the paper proceeds in three steps: First, it critically assesses predominant IR theories (tacitly) working with normative assumptions, e.g the Westphalian system, and thus producing positivistic scholarship based upon “Western principles”. Second, it will be shown that a turn to reflexive scholarship and interpretive methods in IR not only allow to better assess the diverse practices that are related to “Islam” in different contexts but also constitute the basis to critically approach the question of legitimacy. Third, the discourses during the Syrian uprising will empirically highlight the theoretical claim.
“The Parting of the Ways”: A Qutbian Approach to International Relations
Dr. Carimo Mohomed (Officer Research Committee 43 (Religion and Politics) – International Political Science Association
In the last chapter of his book Social Justice in Islam, Sayyid Qutb asked about the direction the world was going, and wished to go, after two world wars. He also considered that the real struggle was between Islam on the one hand and the combined camps of Communist Russia (Soviet Union) and the West (Europe and America) on the other. From Qutb’s point of view, Islam was the true power that opposed the strength of the materialistic philosophy and possessed a universal theory of life which could be offered to mankind, a theory whose aims were a complete mutual help among all men and a true mutual responsibility in society. Sixty years after the first edition of his seminal work, the world is a different place with the Soviet Union no longer in place, the Arab world going through profound changes, the West becoming parochial, and the Rest asserting itself. Using Sayyid Qutb’s political theory, this paper will try to assess how a new, and different, International Relations practice could become viable and surpass an anachronistic world order established after the end of the 1939-1945 war.

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