PhD Oral Exam - Dragos Stoica, Religion
When studying for a doctoral degree (PhD), candidates submit a thesis that provides a critical review of the current state of knowledge of the thesis subject as well as the student’s own contributions to the subject. The distinguishing criterion of doctoral graduate research is a significant and original contribution to knowledge.
Once accepted, the candidate presents the thesis orally. This oral exam is open to the public.
This thesis is a study of the Egyptian radical Islamist thinker Sayyid Qutb’s (1906-1966) concept of God’s Sovereignty in a comparative and cross-cultural perspective. Thus, this dissertation employs a methodological mix of comparative hermeneutics, discourse analysis and a diagonal, lens comparison in order to provide a more capacious understanding of Sayyid Qutb as the first political theologian of God’s Sovereignty in the Sunni Islamic space. Moreover, it argues that Sayyid Qutb’s critical discourse is not an irrational, knee-jerk repudiation of modernity, but a seminal example of an Islamist antitheses political theology that meets the major ideological driving forces of western political modernity on their own terrain. Qutb analyzes and ultimately rejects all major ideologies of modernity: Socialism, Communism, Nationalism, Capitalism and Liberal-Democracy via a set of essential dichotomies: Jahiliyah (non-Islam) versus Nizam al-Islam (the “order” or “system” of Islam) and Hakimiyah (divine sovereignty) versus Taghut (human tyranny). These crucial antitheses are central for Qutb’s political theology, serving as cornerstones of his radical political hermeneutics and as driving forces of his discursive and rhetorical strategies.
This study aims to expand the perspective on Qutb’s Islamist radical critique of modernity by placing it in a family resemblance model. Therefore, it compares Qutb’s master concept of God’s Sovereignty and the dichotomies listed above, within and across the religious divide with commensurable constructions produced by other anti-modern political theologians. At the level of endogenous comparison, this dissertation focuses on the Pakistani Islamist Abu al-Aʿla Mawdudi (1903–1979), while at the level of exogenous comparison, the counterparts are two important anti-modern, antitheses political theologians: the Catholic counter-revolutionary Juan Donoso Cortés (1809–1853) and the Protestant political theologian Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920). The study demonstrates that despite cultural, historical and religious differences, Qutb’s political theology of God’s Sovereignty shares significant conceptual affinities and a critical vision with Mawdudi, Cortés and Kuyper. This common ground proves that Qutb’s political theology is not an endemic product of the Islamist space or a narrow expression of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, but an essential dimension of a more complex configuration that uses political theology as a conceptually disciplined critique of modernity.