chapter  15
Islam/Muslims and Political Leadership
ByMojtaba Mahdavi
Pages 20

The demand for a democratic political leadership and the resurgence of Islamism are two salient features of contemporary Muslim politics. Islamists are ironically at the forefront of pro-democracy movements in many Muslim-majority states. Whether Islamists’ demand for a democratic leadership is real or rhetoric remains a different important question. The fact, however, remains that Islamists constitute the major part of the popular opposition movements and would win the popular vote in free and fair elections. Islamists’ demand for the creation of an ‘Islamic’ state/political

leadership is driven by the crisis of post-colonial autocratic secular politics in the Muslim countries. This chapter is an attempt to historicize/problematize the concept of ‘Islamic’ political leadership/state. It suggests that there is no universal abstract concept of an ‘Islamic’ political leadership; what exists in reality is a number of Muslim political leaders/leaderships in different Muslim societies. Like the general concept of political leadership, Muslim’s concept must be examined in the particular context of each Muslim society. The concept should be contextualized by examining both the personality and character of political leaders as well as the societal, cultural and organizational context in which the agency of political leaders operates. Political leadership in the Muslim world can be understood through the study of the power relations, not merely in terms of an eternal theological Islamic dogma. The ‘Islamic’ state/political leadership, put simply, is a post-colonial concept, not an historical entity; it is a by-product of the political leaders’ agency as well as the socio-political and cultural structure of a particular Muslim society in the modern world.