In the majority of Muslim countries, Islam is not only the state religion but the principal or exclusive source of all legislation. Since the 1970s, the deadlock of authoritarian modernization and the resulting politics of development have paved the way for movements asserting a “return to Islam” and rejecting Western models. Any approach to understanding Islamic realities found itself trapped in a Manichean opposition, between an eternal Islam that in essence resists democracy, human rights, and separation of religion and state, and an equally eternal West whose essence is at the origin of modernity. Establishing itself against the essentialist vision common among partisans of political Islam as well as a certain “learned” Islamophobia, this book examines the genesis and evolution of fundamentalist doctrines and political concepts, restoring the categories they invoke (Caliphate, shari'a, umma, etc.) to the proper cultural and historic contexts. The historic and comparative approach Ferjani adopts leads the reader to a better understanding of the belief systems routinely used to put Islam and “occidental modernity” on opposite side of an ideological chasm. His work clearly lays out the social and political stakes of current debates concerning questions of secularism, the status of women, freedom of conscience, and the evolution of the law and of its institutions, among others.