Conceptualisation of Power in the Thought of Muhammad Husayn Fadlallah
Speidl, Bianka Ágnes
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
The topic of my research is the Shi'i jurist Muhammad Husayn Fadlallah’s (1935-2010) conception of power, its uses and its functions. Fadlallah was a prominent figure of the Lebanese Shi'i movement and of the Islamic revival as a whole. Specifically, I examine his book al-Islam wa-mantiq al-quwwa (Islam and the Logic of Power, 1976), in which he presents power as a coherent and sophisticated system, and definies the principles that legitimise the aspirations to power and the use of force. Fadlallah defined power as essential in constituting and maintaining the social and political structure through which the message of Islam can be put into practice and the continuity of the call to it guaranteed. The various elements and dimensions of power – spiritual, social, political – are interrelated as they secure the reproduction of quwwa, which in turn sustains the social-political order and the spiritual strength of the community. My contention is that, through his concept of power, Fadlallah reconsidered the political role of modern Shi'ism. The dissertation is divided into nine chapters. In the first chapter, I describe the historical and intellectual context in which Fadlallah expounded his theory of power. The second chapter provides an intellectual biography of the author. The third chapter presents quwwa as a system and its different components. The fourth chapter describes his reinterpretation of the Shi'i creed as a creed of force. The fifth chapter analyses his reinterpretation of the spiritual components of power. In the sixth chapter, I examine the social aspects of empowerment, followed by the seventh chapter dedicated to his conception of political power. The eighth chapter studies Fadlallah’s ethics of power. The final chapter analyses his rhetorical tools and strategies. I have paid special attention to the ways and means by which Fadlallah re-interprets the Shi'i tradition and through them the Islamic principles regarding force and power. For a better understanding of Shi'i revivalist thought, I suggest to read it through a transformative paradigm which allows us to perceive the radical change in Shi'ism from quietism to activism as a multi-faceted and complex process.
British Council of Research
PhD in Arab and Islamic Studies