Keywords: Islamic State; Moral Precedence and Excellence; Common Good; Muslim Polity.
This article compares early and later political trends and traditions within Islamic societies as can be reconstituted through a diachronic study of extant sources. It focuses on retrieving broad principles of socio-political organization from the early sources that are amenable to multiple interpretations, such as the concepts of "sabiqa" (moral precedence) and "fadila" (moral excellence), which were clearly very influential in the formative period. The article further interrogates notions such as an "Islamic State" and probes whether a highly politicized understanding of the Islamic tradition is warranted by the historical trajectory of events and variegated Muslim praxes through time. It concludes by emphasizing a highly pragmatic core within Islamic political thought that is fundamentally concerned with the public, common good ("maslaha").