The Myth of a Universal Islamic State

Jonathan Brown

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The concept of an ideal, universal “Islamic State” has been in existence for a long time. Religious reformers in countries as diverse as Egypt, India and Indonesia have advocated for the establishment of Islamic states during the twentieth century. The acquisition of territory in Iraq and Syria by ISIL, (also known as ISIS or Daesh), in 2015 has brought the issue increasingly to our collective thoughts and to media headlines. This group’s claims are often presented by diverse media outlets and others, including academics, as an established fact in Islam. Such presentations give a monopolistic legitimacy to groups such as ISIL (or ISIS) and lock out traditional religious views and historical realities from the public square.

Dr. Jonathan Brown and Dr. Mohammad Shafi will present their clear analysis of why there is no claim for a universal Islamic State in the Qur’an or the normative practice and tradition of the Prophet. Historically, the Caliphate after the Prophet fell apart soon after Umar, claims of legitimacy by the Umayyads were constantly challenged and the presumed unity was shattered very early. The lived history of the Muslim peoples over the centuries shows that the idea is not practical or feasible.


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