Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

School of Politics and International Studies

Research Student: Dr Faiz Sheikh

Pursuing the International Relations of Islam: A Critique of International Relations Theory

Photo of Dr Faiz Sheikh

My research aims to develop an embryonic theory of ‘Islamic International Relations’. While beginning to develop an Islamic theory of International Relations (IR), the research will challenge the centrality of the state and of Liberal governance in the contemporary society of states. The state and Liberalism represent the most apparent impediments to Islamic IR specifically, and to non-orthodox IR theory in general as these are concepts predominately seen as immutable in the international community.

Given the unique relationship between religion and politics in Islam, my thesis will break down to be about 1/3 Theology and 2/3 International Relations.

Constructed as the ‘other’ to our Western values and structures, political Islam is still poorly defined in the international sphere. Islamists talk about how the Islamic state would interact with its citizens, but not about how that construct would interact with other, competing political structures (states). Indeed, the very notion of and ‘Islamic state’ reveals much about the nature of the International Relations discipline, in that Islamism must define itself in the language of states to be accepted a legitimate theory in the discipline. At the core of the research is a genealogical approach to the strands of IR I engage with (primarily Liberalism and Realism), and of political Islam (derived from Sunni orthodoxy). Genealogy helps me to break the two sides down to a level where dialogue is possible, as ostensibly the secular discipline of IR would struggle to interact with the religiously derived political Islam, and vice versa.

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