UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose


Islamic Public Value

An IIPP project to broaden understanding of indigenous forms of governance in the Islamic world, including theory, theology and practice, to give a non-Western perspective on public value.

About the project

The Islamic Public Value project will research indigenous forms of Islamic governance and administration, which might ultimately provide a faith-based, non-Western perspective on public value and how to address the big challenges facing humanity. 

There is a growing emphasis on the importance of governance institutions and actors in creating public value – achieving broad and widely accepted societal goals. However, current international standards in this area are largely defined by the dominant Western paradigm to the exclusion of all other religious and cultural traditions. Our initiative therefore seeks to diversify the unidirectional global-Western understanding of governance and administration standards and paradigms. We believe this will not only call into question the approach of contextless wholesale export of the global-Western model to the rest of the world, but will encourage further research on other indigenous and faith-based governance and administrative models and their contributions. 

The project will investigate sometimes centuries-old Indigenous Cooperative Governance Institutions (ICGI), a form of Islamic, and specifically Sufi, governance. Notable examples include Zawāya and Mahadhir in North and West Africa, Mahalla and Aul in Central Asia, and Khanqah and Dargah in Turkey, South and Southeast Asia. 

More specifically, we seek to uncover the perspectives of these otherwise underexplored institutions which craft, coordinate, and deliver public services for and with their constituents for a better life, based on their localised Islamic tradition. 

We will work towards answering four major questions: 

  • What is an Islamic society and what does it mean for it to flourish? 
  • Where and when does Islamic governance and administration play a role? 
  • How is public value defined and understood in a non-Western, Islamic context? 
  • How can non-Muslims benefit from Islamic governance institutions? 

We expect this work to draw the interest of the academic community (e.g. scholars of public administration and policy, governance, and also economics) and practitioners from governments, NGOs, and international organisations, as well as lead to new debates, discoveries, and considerations in the field of governance more broadly. Over the course of the grant period, our findings will take the form of academic and non-academic publications, and additionally, with the institutional support and vision of The Bartlett at University College London, we will produce visual media (e.g. podcasts, short videos), and organise workshops, conferences, and public and community events so as to promote accessibility, engagement, and impact. 

For more information, visit the project website here.


Article: In the Semi-Shadow of the Global West: Moroccan zawāyā as Good Public Administration

YouTube Widget Placeholderhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fQ9fvxjB6iU

The project is being funded by the John Templeton Foundation.



Wolfgang Drechsler

Honorary Professor
Email: w.drechsler@ucl.ac.uk

Salah Chafik

Senior Research Fellow
Email: s.chafik@ucl.ac.uk