Islam is commonly viewed in the West as being incompatible with democracy. It is also viewed as an "Oriental" religion that has spawned violence and encouraged human rights violations. Because of the historical interaction between the West and Islam, the United States has recently been supporting efforts to export its democratic principles and human rights values to Muslim countries. In this context, the question of constitutional borrowing gains special significance. To assess the possibilities of constitutional borrowing between Islamic countries and the United States, it is important to first discuss the historical relation between the two, as well as between Islamic concepts and early American thought on democracy. For this reason, some basic features of Islamic constitutionalism will be introduced and analyzed. Islamic concepts are rooted in the Qur'an, the most fundamental source of guidance for all Muslims, and related secondary sources. Examination of these sources reveals that most Orientalist writing on the nature of Islam during the eighteenth century was either distorted or false. Most importantly, for our purposes in this article, this examination will also provide the reader with a more adequate basis for comparing Islamic constitutionalism with American constitutionalism.

Document Type


Publication Date