Project presentation

After a research programme on religious, Islamic and Biblical fundamentalism, and a deconstructivist approach to fundamentalism, we thought it was important to approach the notion of authority in link with religion, especially in Islamic context. Persons with authority or identified places of authority are not a simple process. This is all the more true in the Sunni Muslim tradition, the absence of a designation by the Prophet of an institution willing to regulate the religious questions will open the way to a plurality of modalities that may be of theological or theological-political nature.

In a globalized context where the impact of religious discourse takes various forms, the establishment of a religious authority can be confused with the number of followers or subscribers to a Youtube-like channel.

This research programme aims to examine the process of authority in Islam, the ways it is expressed and  its modes of legitimization. Three building blocks will be examined:

The first one is both notional and historical. This block will be dedicated to the understanding of authority in its historical formation. How was the authority between the pre-Islamic period and the beginning of the Muslim era conceived? In what way do the Qur’an and the Hadiths convey it? What do terms like: “sulta”, “ri’âsa”, “Hakimiyya” …  mean and how did they evolve over the years? How philosophers such as al-Farabi or al-Ghazali, as well as mystical figures approached the concept of authority? ·         The second block will address the specificities of the notion of authority in Sunni and Shiite contexts. How is the perception of authority is constructed in an environment where there is no hierarchy clearly assumed at the level of representativeness? What are the main characteristics and specificities Shiites in relation to Sunni considerations? ·         The third block will address the figure of authority, its constitution and its modes of legitimization in the contemporary context. Who is the figure of authority in France, in Switzerland, in the Maghreb, in Indonesia …  and  why? Following what process? What legitimacy do Muslim institutions have? Who can be said to have a legitimate theological authority? What is the place of female figures? How is the authority of the Salafist movements constructed?


Affiliated university of the research group - Country
Lyon Catholic University / France
Research group leader

MOSTFA Mohamed-Ali

Maître de conférences sur le monde arabo-musulman et les représentations interculturelles - Université Catholique de Lyon.
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Professeur de Théologie, directeur délégué de l'UR "CONFLUENCE Sciences & Humanités", Directeur du Centre d’Études des Cultures et des Religions (CECR) - UCLy
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