Ontological Interpretation of "Power" in the Holy Quran from an International Relations Perspective

Document Type : Original Article from Result of Thesis


1 PhD student in the Political Science Department, International Relations, Tabriz Branch, Islamic Azad University, Tabriz, Iran.

2 Assistant Prof. at International Relations Department, Bonab Branch, Islamic Azad University, Bonab, Iran.

3 Assistant Professor, Quran and Hadith Sciences Department , Tabriz Branch, Islamic Azad University, Tabriz, Iran.


The holy Quran describes God's will as the genesis and wellspring of any and all power in the universe. Therefore, it is necessary to interpret the concept of power ontologically and to analyse its essence, function, and constituent elements, as well as its substantial or abstract features. In this regard, the research addresses the following question: "What are the Quran's and international relations' viewpoints on the notion of power?" The descriptive-analytical method has been used to answer this question, and a desk research strategy to collect data from the library and the Internet. The fundamental result is that theories of international relations separate power components into substantial and abstract structures, such as militaristic, economic, and ideological, and see it negatively when it becomes operational. Unlike international relations theories of power, however, the holy Quran gives the abstract components of power priority over its substantial components and praises them. International relations theories see power as a means of achieving domination over others and self-satisfaction. Furthermore, such views promote war and see peace as a peripheral and temporary phenomenon. According to the holy Quran, people who receive power from God (whether individuals or society members) and employ this God-given power to please the almighty God will never dominate others in any period or location.



Undoubtedly, "power" is a nebulous and multidimensional knowledge or concept, and there is no consensus about its essence. It is, in fact, a factor that has played a crucial role in international and social interactions across history, giving rise to various schools of thought. Because the holy Quran is the first source and root of Islamic political ideology, and because power is a significant factor in international relations, as well as because humans are social creatures who can only understand and encounter power through socialisation, it is necessary to examine it scientifically. This is due to the fact that "power" is a byproduct of the will to knowledge and awareness. The drive to power, or authoritarianism, is ingrained in human nature, a disposition that the holy Quran does not reject but rather supports. The holy Quran realistically authorises the form of power that exists in human social relationships. Although the term "power" is not explicitly used in the holy Quran, we can infer this notion from the text, context, and its counterparts based on the principle of interpretive reasoning (Ijtihad). Islam is a social and political religion; hence it cannot discard the core concept of power without a stance. As a divine gift, power is initially seen as a positive and forward-moving drive. On the other hand, the application of power, which defines its legitimacy or illegitimacy, is of more significance. The holy Quran implies that all power in the cosmos derives from God's will to power; thus, it is essential to ontologically define the idea of power, its existential essence, function, and substantial or abstract factors of power. It is because the holy Quran, which is an inexhaustible source of knowledge, focuses on more than only the substantial aspects. In the holy Quran, the conception of power and its facets, including the instruments of power, the preservation and manifestation of power, the legitimacy of power, the source of power, and its purpose, are void and null without the abstract aspect. In this regard, the Quranic teachings favour abstract forms of power above their substantial equivalents and see them as legitimate power sources. In contrast to many theories of international relations, which see power as a byproduct of economic, military, and technological structures, power is celebrated and acknowledged in the Quran because it is viewed as having divine origins. In fact, in the Quran, the notion of power is a tool for bringing people closer to their god and for practising or implementing Quranic and divine guidance. According to this perspective, the abstract aspects of power in the holy Quran, such as the divine will to power, the creation of humankind, and external beauty, are praised. As with all human abilities, power is a divine gift, particularly when applied in a political context, since it has several facets and may be the source of good actions, blessings, and the movement of society toward justice. In light of political power, concepts such as justice, legality, freedom, involvement of citizens and respect for their rights, the realisation of the rights of the oppressed, and good behaviour may also be debated, and individuals realise their rights. On the other hand, given the centrality of this notion and its connection to the political lives of humans, understanding its nature or essence can help deal with various issues in the area of political relations theory, which underlines the significance of the topic of power. Therefore, these components indicate the importance of addressing "the ontological interpretation of power" in the holy Quran from the viewpoint of international relations. Considering this, the paper's authors used a descriptive-analytical methodology and a desk research strategy to acquire data from the library and the Internet to answer the following question: "What are the Quran's and international relations' viewpoints on the notion of power?"


Reaserch Method 

This study attempted to analyse the ontological interpretation of power in the holy Quran from an international relations perspective.



The findings indicate that the holy Quran contains descriptions of God's power and that no other being is more powerful or greater than the almighty Creator. In addition, after interpreting the concept of power from an ontological perspective and implementing theories of international relations, we can conclude that the majority of international relations ideas view the components of power as components that drive from substantial or abstract structures, such as militaristic, economic, or ideological components, and consider it negative when it becomes operational. However, unlike theories of international relations, the holy Quran prioritises the abstract components of power above its substantial components and even celebrates power. In general, international relations theories see power as a means of achieving domination over others and self-satisfaction. Furthermore, such views promote war and see peace as a peripheral and temporary phenomenon, posing a challenge to experts in this field. According to the holy Quran, people who receive power from God (whether individuals or society members) and employ this God-given power to please the almighty God will never dominate others in any period or location. Regarding its perspective on nature, the holy Quran asserts: "And inspired it to its immoralities and its righteousness" [fa-alhamaha fujuraha wataqwaha (Ash-Shams/ 8)]. It implies that God has imbued humans with the knowledge of good and evil, and it is up to the individual to choose whether to enhance his militaristic or pacifist nature; hence, international relations will be full of both war and peace. The phrase "fa-alhamaha," which translates to "inspired him/her," refers to an abstract aspect of power.



In contrast, its pronoun, which refers to a human person, refers to an actual or tangible aspect of power in which the meaning of human behaviour is God's inspiration. The holy Quran has created a pattern in which a parallel combination of substantial and abstract power is established; yet, in this combination, the abstract components (inspiration in the aforementioned Quranic verse) take priority. Through examining the substantial and abstract components of power from an ontological perspective and comparing the Quranic concept of power with international relations theories, we developed "the Quranic metatheory for international relations" to be used by international relations scholars as well as to pave the way for introducing the holy Quran into this discussion, because international relations are rooted in and originated from this sacred text.


Main Subjects

  1. Holy Quran
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