SOAS Research Online

A Free Database of the Latest Research by SOAS Academics and PhD Students

[skip to content]

El-Merheb, Mohamad (2019) Islamic Political Thought: Competing Conceptions of the Rule of Law in the Middle Period. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

Text - Submitted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0).

Download (21MB) | Preview


This thesis argues that the rule of law, limited government, and the theory of delegation were the main concerns of the political thought of the late Ayyubid and early Mamluk period (c. 1230 to 1330). It interprets and reclassifies Islamic authors outside the prevalent scholarly focus on genre and caliphal authority as two perennial themes of the history of Islamic political thought. The thesis in particular examines the interrelatedness between the production of political thought and the competition among the four legal schools (madhhabs) that intensified during this period. Authors with adabised and administrative outlooks presented distinct Shāfiʿī, Ḥanafī, Sufi, Mālikī, and Ḥanbalī strains of political thought, which resembled competing proposals for an official madhhab of the state, or an official law, or a set of constitutional guidelines to be followed by the rulers. The thesis explains how these authors emphasised the exceptionality of their political ideals, to whom they elected to present their works, and what they expected in return both individually and as members of wider social groups. Examining developments in intellectual history with a context of political and social histories entails the use of literary sources to understand the authors, the intellectual discourses of the period, the competition for salaried posts and patronage, and the use and misuse of theological and legal discourses in politics. This research refutes the notion that the Ayyubid and Mamluk period was one of intellectual paucity with few exceptions and argues instead that it was an opulent period with original and varied expressions of political thought. It relies on a wide corpus of manuscript sources of which many are unknown or understudied including political treatises, statecraft manuals, and mirrors for princes. It fills a significant gap in the study of the history of political thought between the classical and modern periods of Islam.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses
Supervisors Name: Roy Fischel
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 28 Feb 2020 14:28

Altmetric Data


Download activity - last 12 monthsShow export options
Downloads since deposit
6 month trend
6 month trend
Accesses by country - last 12 monthsShow export options
Accesses by referrer - last 12 monthsShow export options

Repository staff only

Edit Item Edit Item