Essay: Political Thought of Al Mawardi

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  • Subject area(s): Politics essays
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  • Published on: July 6, 2019
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The political theory of Abu al-Hasan Ali Ibn Muhammad Ibn Habib al-Mawardi (c. 972 – c. 1058) has been analysed and summarised in the form of a research essay. Al-Mawardi, is known as one of the greatest and important scholars regarding the analysis of the caliphate theory and its positions. He became the chief justice of Baghdad due his great knowledge in jurisprudence and religion. This essay tells how the political thought of Mawardi fascinated the rulers of Abbasids, and the Seljuk Empire.


Among the Muslim scholars the understanding of caliphate as a political position changed over time. The caliphs of Umayyad and Abbasside bloodlines were considered different for the first four rightly guided caliphs {Abu-Bakr, Umar, Usman, Ali}. During these years, the jurists contemplated whether the power emanating from the political and religious legitimacy can be conferred on a single person. The clearest expression in the history of Islam, about the caliphal absolutism from legal perspective was discussed by al-Mawardi in his discourse al-Ahkam al-Sultaniyya w’al-Wilayat al-Diniyya (The Ordinances of Government). This great work done by al-Mawardi laid the foundation for the Abbasids and buyids to work together.

Caliphate – Divine or Based on Reason:

In the initial chapters of his book, al-Mawardi analysed that whether the office of the highest political authority should be run according to the man-made laws or by those made by ALLAH {SWT}. The legal caliph was a supreme authority which was not dependent upon secular power of sultan but it required obedience to fulfil all the religious duties which have been embarked upon the caliph. The jurist ultimately favoured the latter opinion through extrapolating the divine ‘righteousness’ of the four initial Caliphs and stretching it on the Umayyad and Abbasids. Moreover, the opinion about Caliphate is also mentioned in the holy Quran as the Quran says, “O you who believe! Obey God, the Messenger, and those of you (who) are in authority.” By making aware of the character of Caliph, al-Mawardi attempted to regain the lost political office of Islam that lost its shine back in the 11th century.

Eligibility criteria for Caliph Candidacy:

Mawardi mentioned the seven conditions he felt were necessary for the caliph to possess in order to rule efficiently and guard the faith. He must be ‘aadil’ {just}, because he is the administration of justice and it is the most important and the for most duty according to the Quran. Secondly, he must have ‘ilm’, {knowledge} of Islamic traditions so that he is able to pass any judgements as a mujtahid. It also shows a resemblance of opinion with al-Jahiz, an early jurist, who believed in the “knowledge conducive to the exercise of independent judgement in crises or decision making.” Al-Mawardi said that the caliph should be mentally well and physically fit so that he can do his job easily and efficiently. The caliph must be a courageous and enthusiastic person so that he can do “jihad” {holy war} with the enemies of Islam. He believed that the caliph must be from the Quraysh. To empower his point he used the saying ascribed to Mohammad is quoted by al-Mawardi, “Imams (the Caliphs) comes from Quraysh.” It can also be seen as an attempt by al-Mawardi to legitimise the caliphate of the Abbasids and the Umayyad ruling era.

Mawardi can be recognised as the first Islamic scholar who orderly explained the nature of the caliphate, a tendency that was innovative to the scholars of that Islamic era.

Feature of Islamic society:

Mawardi believes that sovereignty belongs to ALLAH {SWT}, so his laws and all the good patterns made by him must prevail. Caliph has been made as a head of the state and he is ruling upon people as result of him being the successor of Prophet Mohammed {P.B.U.H}. The caliph must make it sure that Sharia is in practice in the area of his rule. It is one of the big responsibilities he has as being the caliph, the head of the state. Al mawardi was the first person who felt the need to bring in the sharia principles and historical situation. The main idea of the “Al-ahkam as-sultaniya” was to provide a hypothetical explanation for the parting of authority and control between the Caliph in the religious sphere and the Emir in public organisation on the basis of joint promises.

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