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Abstract Antony Black


Political terminology in Europe and Islam

Antony Black, Politics, Dundee

Political terms referring to the whole community of believers: (a) in Islam, 'umma, meaning the whole community of believers. Except under early Caliphate, this referred to a religious aspiration rather than a political entity. However, it did have territorial meaning as all lands under Muslim rule. The contrast `house of peace/ house of strife' was made to distinguish between the lands of believers and of unbelievers.

khilafa (caliphate), theoretically universal religious polity under Muhammad's deputy (caliph).

(b) in Europe, ecclesia (sometimes qualified as Romana, meaning universal).

imperium Romanum

Equivalents of our `state':

(a) daula (dynastic state), referring to dynasty rather than territory, eg the Ottoman government described itself as `the destined rule of the house of Osman'.

(b) respublica/ commonwealth, universitas, societas: not, or not solely or primarily, referring to space.

Civitas, principatus, regnum referred to territory, the latter two also to dynasty.

Nation (natio, gens, populus) had little or no political meaning in pre-modern Islam.

Ibn Khaldun () rested his historical sociology on a distinction between badawa (wilderness life) and hadara (citied life).



Bernard Lewis, The political language of Islam (Chicago University Press 1988)

The Encyclopaedia of Islam, 2nd edn, s.v. dawla, umma, khilafa

Antony Black, The History of Islamic political thought from the Prophet to the present (Edinburgh 20

––, Political Thought in Europe 1250-1450 (Cambridge 1992)

Patricia Crone, Medieval Islamic political thought (Edinburgh 2004).

Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe, s.v. civitas, ecclesia, imperium, regnum, respublica, universitas.