Theorizing popular sovereignty in the colony: Abul a'la maududi's “Theodemocracy”

Humeira Iqtidar*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Abul A'la Maududi (1903-1979), the influential Indo-Pakistani Islamist thinker, proposed a detailed vision of what he called “theodemocracy.” This has been seen widely as a theocracy despite Maududi's explicit rejection of the term and its philosophical underpinnings. I suggest here that Maududi's vision of theodemocracy opens up a productive space for reflection on the relationship between popular and state sovereignty. Maududi saw popular sovereignty as an ethical problem; it corrupted the potential for individual moral development that the institutional mechanism of the state could otherwise allow for. Highlighting the complicated relationship of his ideas with colonial rule, and showing that he used the colonial liberal state as both a foil and model for his analysis, I argue here that “theodemocracy” was his attempt at divorcing sovereignty from the state. This endeavor generated creative tensions, and forms an important contribution to the global discussion about sovereignty and the state.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)595-617
Number of pages23
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2020


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