Working Paper No. 3

The Hijaz in Perspective: Islamic Statehood and the Origins of Arab Self-Determination (1916-2016)


The Hijaz (Hejaz and Hedjaz, الحجاز al-Ḥiǧāz) is an obscure Arabic geographic designation to the western region of the Arabian Peninsula. In Arabic, the word means barrier which denotes the mountain range that separates it from the central Arabian plateau. In 1916, the Hijaz attempted an Arab Renaissance, through what is known as the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire, to achieve its three goals, of fighting poverty, disease and ignorance. Today, the word seems to be folded into historical texts, and into its modern mother state, Saudi Arabia. Yet the Hijaz opens our eyes to the world of Islam, and to the not too distant international legal history that defines the modern-day Middle East. This paper asserts that the crisis in the Middle East can be understood best in the context of Islamic governance and international legal history. The Hijaz is central to such understanding.

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