Institutional Roots of Authoritarian Rule in the Middle East: Civic Legacies of the Islamic Waqf

Scholarly Edition

In the pre-modern Middle East the closest thing to an autonomous private organization was the Islamic waqf. This non-state institution inhibited political participation, collective action, and rule of law, among other indicators of democratization. It did so through several mechanisms. Its activities were essentially set by its founder, which limited its capacity to meet political challenges. Being designed to provide a service on its own, it could not participate in lasting political coalitions. The waqf’s beneficiaries had no say in evaluating or selecting its officers, and they had trouble forming a political community. Thus, for all the resources it controlled, the Islamic waqf contributed minimally to building civil society. As a core element of Islam’s classical institutional complex, it perpetuated authoritarian rule by keeping the state largely unrestrained. Therein lies a key reason for the slow pace of the Middle East’s democratization process.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Kuran, T

Published Date

  • June 12, 2014