This chapter discusses the origins and development of political authority in the Islamic world. From the laylat al-qadr, the “night of power” in which the Qur'an symbolically “came down” from God, to the death of the Prophet, Muslim affairs were governed by the special authority of that prophetic-revelatory event, and it remains the primary paradigm of political authority in Islam. Muhammad was a religious, political, and military leader who founded a new form of community, an umma, that was both spiritual and worldly in nature. The development of this new community, which defined itself in terms of faith rather than national or tribal boundaries, marked a transition from polytheism to monotheism, and was ultimately shaped by both Arab tribal bonds and Persian monarchic systems.
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