Morsi’s Dilemma: The Shifting Sands Between Shar’iyyah and Shari’a
This chapter examines President Muhammad Morsi’s tenure in Egypt. It argues that his problem was in his failure to reconcile two conceptions of legitimacy. One conception of legitimacy was championed by liberal-democracy-seeking Egyptians, who associated his legitimacy with the allowance of substantive political freedom, and yearned for individual liberties, political pluralism, and the right to recall the government’s political mandate, as allowed in liberal democracies. The other conception of legitimacy lay in Morsi’s literal justice politics, in which his legitimacy was the result of a formal procedure of elections that could only be (legitimately) undone if he broke the religious contract that mandates obedience to his just authority. As such, Morsi publicly garnered the image of a just leader, portraying himself in public as a righteous Muslim, who enforced public morality, and therefore deserved to be judged on those moral grounds. Although not stated, this conception of righteous leadership as the basis for his legitimacy was principally rooted in Islamist political imagination, rather than in the concrete reality of post-revolutionary Egypt.