This dissertation challenges a dominant trait in contemporary western thought that understands Islamist politics as holistic and antithetical to modernity and democracy; that presents Islamism as an expression of traditionalism in the modern world. I challenge this dominant western perception by asking the question: how have the ideologues and the founders of the most well known Islamic movements of the Muslim world approached democracy, a modern political system, and related it to an Islamic state?Addressing the dynamic relationship between Islamic political thought and socio-political context, with this dissertation, I offer a critique of this literature, which positions the Islamic world as an archaic civilization in an inevitable clash with the West, the representative of modernity. By analyzing the original works of two well-known ideologues of Islamic movements from Indo-Pakistan and Egypt, I depict the ways in which Islamic political thought intervenes in cardinal conversations about democracy.
There are four main goals of this dissertation. First, I recover the story of modernity in political thought from the two different parts of the Muslim world. Second, I reveal the voices of Muslim intellectuals in the meaning making and indigenization of a western-originated idea, democracy, into Islam. Third, I challenge a dominant discourse that puts Islam and the West as civilizations in a clash. Fourth, I point out the necessity to engage non-western political theory to enhance our intellectual endeavors and rid the literature of its Eurocentric biases.
To achieve these goals, a comparative historical analysis method was utilized based on two cases: Sayyid Qutb and Mawdudi's conceptualization of democracy. In analyzing the data, I employed analytical narrative method in tracing patterns of causal factors as well as in making causal inferences through the comparison between and within these cases. Throughout the study, I pursued a dual analytical agenda, which included examining how each ideologue defined democracy, how these ideologues related democracy and Islam to each other, and how the local and international events and institutions uniquely shaped their ideas regarding democracy.
Findings indicate that, both Mawdudi and Qutb opened up the idea of democracy to a new set of critiques and methods of adaptation. For Qutb and Mawdudi, being an imported product of colonial and capitalist world, democracy was not to be implemented to the Muslim world directly. It had to be supplemented with indigenous forms of explanation and interpretation to make sense within existing political realities. Criticizing the slavish imitation of western democracies, they recommended a political system based on local representation. They believed that governments would achieve greater legitimacy if the political structure and language of politics were in line with the culture and beliefs of the people. They emphasized the match between the cultural meanings, values, and beliefs of Islam and democracy. They raised questions regarding certain dogmatic assumptions implicit in the concept, which they identified as part of the secularist/capitalist/colonialist project. Mawdudi and Qutb's works reveals that the western democratic model cannot and should not be replicated in the Muslim world because, at the economic level, it presumes capitalism, and at the social level, it presumes individualism and secularism. Their solution was to create their vernacular political language and terminology to work with the idea of democracy which they named as theodemocracy by Mawdudi and Islamic state by Qutb and strictly refrained from using western terminologies like republican, democratic, or socialist to define their systems.