Islam and Democracy in the Thought of Fazlur Rahman and Sayyid Abu’l-A‘la Mawdudi

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



Arts and Humanities | Asian History | History | Islamic Studies | Islamic World and Near East History | Political History | Political Science | Religion | Social and Behavioral Sciences


Liberal Muslim Fazlur Rahman (1919-1988), who was professor of Islamic Thought at the University of Chicago, and Islamist Sayyid Abu’l-A‘la Mawdudi (1903-1979), who was the founder and leader of Jamaat-e-Islami, one of Pakistan’s largest and most powerful Islamist groups, were among the most prolific and influential Pakistani Muslim intellectuals of the twentieth century. During much of their lives, they debated each other about Islam and democracy with respect to Pakistan’s future, in particular, and the role of Islam, more broadly. While both used the Qur’an, hadith, and sunna as sources, they came to widely contrasting conclusions about the role that democracy should play in Pakistan and other Muslim-majority countries. This chapter will first provide some biographical background on the lives and works of these intellectuals, emphasizing their significance. Then, it will examine Rahman’s vision for a democratic Islamic state and the ways in which he utilized Islamic and certain non-Islamic ideas in constructing that vision. After that, it will examine Mawdudi’s vision for an ideal Islamic state and the reasons that he rejects commonly held notions related to democracy as legitimate foundations for such a state. Finally, the chapter will critique the positions of these intellectuals.