Islamic public administration tradition: historical, theoretical and practical dimensions

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This article addresses the question of whether a distinctive Islamic public administration exists. Three arguments are made to demonstrate that it has a long and distinct history, although sharing commonalities with some Western traditions. The first is an historical argument that Islamic states and empires, drawing in part on long-standing, and sometimes quite sophisticated, bureaucratic practices in the region, developed a complex and highly functional public administration long before it appeared in Europe. The second argument examines the underlying principles of good governance and administration from the Qur’an and Sunnah, focusing on those aspects most relevant to the senior civil service, its development over time into a sophisticated and highly successful vizierate structure while governed by conceptions of social welfare and the development of the individual. The third section examines the contemporary empirical argument of Islamic public-administration systems and practices, focusing on four aspects that have received the most attention recently: organisational culture, human-resource management, policy and decision-making, and public-sector leadership. Finally, the article concludes with a comparison of key features of an Islamic public administration with those of some Western systems, focusing on the greater similarity the Islamic has with traditional public-administration mandarin and the contrasting nature both have with the New Public Management neoliberal managerialism.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)53-71
Number of pages19
JournalAdministrative Culture
Issue number1
Early online date15 Oct 2017
Publication statusPublished - 30 Nov 2017


  • public administration
  • Islamic public administration
  • organisational culture
  • policy making
  • ancient administration

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