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Al-Shura or consultation is a tool for reconstruction and reform, mentioned in the Qur’an and suggested in the practices of

the Prophet Muhammad (AAS)* and his Companions. At this time, Muslims remain largely unaware of al-shura’simportance and value, and Islamic scholars are uncertain about when the principle is obligatory and which matters call for consultation. In a modern context al-shura has been associated on the one hand with democratic participation in a decision- making process, with qualification particular to the Qur’an and the Sunnah; on the other hand critics challenge equating al-shura with democracy. The Muslim world, largely mired today in political authoritarianism, should adopt consultation as a way of life to protect individual and community interests and as a tool for reconstruction and reform. This book explores how the principle can be introduced and applied in Muslim society and life.


The concept of consultation (al-shura) remains obscure despite publication in recent decades of hundreds of books and articles on the subject. Numerous additional aspects of al-shura remain to be addressed. This book focuses on the fundamental concept and explains how the practice can activate and support efforts to benefit the Islamic community worldwide. The book’s source-based methodology and legislative principles derive from verses in the Holy Qur’an, events from the life of the Prophet, and examples set by the rightly-guided caliphs. A number of texts from the Holy Qur’an and Prophetic traditions connect consultation to all areas of life: spiritual and material, individual and corporate.

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Comment by Bilal Mahmud المكافح المخلص on November 26, 2019 at 12:55am

Basic Issues in Consultative Practice
Islamic law imposes no conditions or restrictions regarding how consultation is to be implemented. Rather, it leaves such matters to people’s discretion, choice, and shared deliberations. Comprehen- siveness and generality are features that emerge in the traditional Islamic texts describing consultation. As such, consultation is considered to have a wider, more general application, unless the issues at stake are so highly specialized that only those with relevant knowledge and expertise would be capable of offering the needed counsel.
Consultation concerning public affairs involves planning and facilitating the affairs of the state, society, and smaller communities and groups. Consultation also calls for the adoption of myriad organ- izational and executive procedures: it requires a system, or a detailed set of rules, which has been left silent by Islamic law. Consequently, the way has been left open for creative thinking within the domain of Islamic legislative principles.
Certain organizational basics or universals pertain to the establishment and practice of consultation in the realm of public affairs and their collective management. Such universals, like the details of consultative practice, are not spelled out in Islamic law. However, they may, through a process of induction and careful examination, be derived from the texts of Islamic law and the consultative practices that prevailed in the days of the Prophet and the rightly-guided caliphs.
Narrow conceptualizations of the role, spheres, and functions of consultation in Islamic life, based on a strict interpretation and application of traditional texts, likewise tended to narrow the circle of those concerned with the consultative process, implying that consultation was only suitable between the Prophet and two other Companions. Yet the Messenger of God consulted with untold numbers of his Companions as well as many other groups and individuals. We have abundant accounts in which he said, “Advise me, people.”
The two Qur’anic verses that form the basis for consultative practice offer a broad understanding of consultation and its range of applica- bility among all believers, including women. The principle of broad public consultation applies to all juristic discourse and generalizations

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unless there is specific evidence in support of an exception. In its various injunctions and prohibitions, Islamic law addresses both men and women alike, even when the masculine pronoun is used, singular or plural. We know of numerous instances in which the Messenger of God sought out the counsel of female Companions in particular, and in others, of men and women together, in important situations concerning war, or morality, or formulating Islamic practices.
The Qur’an includes two accounts of women’s involvement in consul- tation, both of which are set in a context showing that such involve- ment meets with divine approval and consent: the first is an account of Queen Sheba seeking others’ counsel,7 and the second of a woman who encouraged her father to hire Moses, a trustworthy person.8 Those who oppose women’s membership in public consultative councils (e.g. parliaments) object in saying that women are not allowed to hold positions exercising sovereignty over others in the public sphere. While this viewpoint is not easily supported, a woman ruling in the political or military sphere may be ineffectual if she is not viewed as effectual by those ruled, simply for being a woman.
Consultation might be limited at times, whether intentionally or unintentionally, to particular people to the exclusion of others. In relation to certain issues, only certain people are qualified to be consulted, in which case there is no basis for the entire community’s involvement. Scholars have said that such advisors require integrity, knowledge, and experience, and that advisors should be chosen by election or appointment. The appointment method has the advantage of allowing for the choice of competent, qualified individuals who are not known or appreciated by the public at large. Qur’anic revelation, the Sunnah, and commentaries on them indicate that these two methods can also be combined, with priority given to election.
When a sufficient number of people have been gathered for consul- tation and the purpose for which consultation was established has been fulfilled, there is no need to continue with the consultative process or to broaden the circle of those engaged. As God said to the Prophet, “Take counsel with them in all matters of public concern; then, when thou hast decided upon a course of action, place thy trust in God” (Surah ®l ¢Imr¥n 3:159).
Consultation on highly specialized questions and issues should involve the most highly qualified individuals, who would have the best

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knowledge and value to contribute. These include questions relating to science, law, and the judiciary, and industrial, economic, and military planning. Consultation increasingly entails the exchange of knowledge and expertise and discussion of those aspects of an issue that will make possible proper assessment and planning. Consequently, a large and growing number of issues requiring consultation need to be referred solely to those most qualified to deal with them.
In the Muslim context, the consultative council (majlis al-sh‰r¥) operates alongside the head of state and his government. Such councils have now become permanent, major institutions in most nations of the world as well as in the majority of Islamic states. They are composed of senior advisors who, according to the Islamic principle of consul- tation, should possess knowledge, integrity, and experience.
There has been widespread discussion in our day of the question of whether the outcome of the consultative process is binding or merely instructive. How we are to treat the majority opinion of consultative councils, and decisions made by means of consultation that are supported by a majority? Early Muslim scholars viewed consultation for leaders as instructive, while more contemporary scholars and thinkers tend toward the view that a leader or someone in a position of power or authority who seeks counsel of advisors is obliged to abide by what most or all of these advisors have agreed upon (binding consultation).
There is a fundamental inclination in reputable hadiths to adhere to the point of view agreed upon by the majority of those who have been consulted. The same implication can be derived from the tradition where the Messenger of God said to Ab‰ Bakr and ¢Umar, “If the two of you were to agree on a given matter, I would not challenge any counsel you might give me.”9 Regarding points of view that will become binding legislation for the community as a whole, the worthy (not corrupt) majority view should be adopted and adhered to by consultative councils and bodies with decision-making powers.
The Qur’an contains no explicit ruling on adhering to the majority view in consultative settings. While in some places, the Qur’an does single out the majority, or some majorities, for criticism, there are numerous other places in which it likewise criticizes “the elders” or “notables” of the community, describing them as profoundly misled and deceptive. Prophetic hadiths and other traditions also warn us

Al-Shura Text Bib_Layout 1 28/08/2013 11:13 Page 10 against the corruption of Islamic society’s ruling elite, namely, its scholars and political leaders, whose corruption can ruin the commu- nity just as their honor and integrity can reform and bless it. In the Qur’an, the contrast and comparison are not between small numbers and large ones, but rather between good and bad choices.
The verse cited frequently thus far, namely, Qur’an 42:38, which commends those “whose rule [in all matters of common concern] is consultation among themselves,” suggests that in true consultation, the view adopted is communal, and the decisions made are shared in common rather than made by a single individual.
The Queen of Sheba stated that she would never make a weighty decision without the consent of her noble advisors: we find nothing anywhere in the Qur’an that would counter it or nullify its validity. Similarly, what we find in the life and example of the Prophet testifies to the soundness of the Queen’s words. The Queen of Sheba is held up in the Qur’an as an example of commendable conduct and good management whose life came to an auspicious end. The queen’s words and actions testify to the fact that she was worthy of the authorization granted to her by the consultative council and that she was a woman of experience, understanding, and wisdom.10
The Prophet’s application of the principle of consultation during his lifetime provides powerful support for the notion that the consultative process ends with the adoption and application of the view held by the majority of those who have been consulted. At the Battle of Badr, the Prophet did not wish to go into battle until he was certain that he had the support of the majority of his Companions, emigrants, and supporters. At the Battle of Uhud, the majority opposed the Prophet’s particular defensive strategy. He listened to their case and proceeded with the majority’s suggestion. This consultation and its aftermath have aroused a great deal of discussion in our time, as to whether the majority view should be binding or the opposite.
In one reading, the Prophet relinquished his own point of view in favor of that held by the majority of his Companions. Things then proceeded on this basis without veto, abrogation, or objection; in fact, immediately after this, the divine command to “take counsel with them in all matters of public concern” was revealed. A second interpretation indicates that adherence to the majority view when it opposes the imam’s is an incorrect and unsound course of action. According to the latter

Comment by Bilal Mahmud المكافح المخلص on November 26, 2019 at 1:00am

understanding of events, the defeat the Muslims suffered during this battle came as a lesson to be learned. The second reading disregards the clear, evident meaning of the event and relies instead upon assump- tions that negate its apparent significance.
Neither the Companions who took part in this battle, nor the Prophet – who never missed an opportunity to warn, teach, and instruct – ever mentioned this as the reason for their defeat. Indeed, the Qur’an itself deals in detail with this battle and its implications, yet without so much as a single mention of this interpretation.
The Prophet, who frequently employed the practice of consultation, just as often did not consult but instead acted without waiting to hear other people’s views, which is what one would expect of someone who is the Messenger of God and receiving divine revelation and instructions. In cases when there was no divine instruction, he did not hesitate to consult others.
The idea of respect for the majority is neither new nor foreign to our Islamic culture and legal system, and is deeply rooted in Islamic society, thought, and legal practice. The principle of giving greater weight to the majority has been supported and applied by Muslim scholars from the early days. Hadith scholars, for example, give greater weight to accounts supported by a larger number of narrators. Similarly, jurists and scholars of the principles of jurisprudence give greater weight to juristic interpretations supported by a larger number of academics and thinkers. If scholars disagree on an issue, the soundest approach is to adopt the view held by the majority. The same principle applies to the views held by the Companions.
Those with knowledge and experience regarding relevant matters are the guides along the path to rightness and truth. They are the guides along the path to perceiving what is required by the Qur’an and the Sunnah and the intents and purposes that underlie them. Rightness and truth can be assumed to rest – if not always, then most of the time – with the majority.
Such evidence is drawn from the Qur’an, the life of the Prophet, and the examples set by the rightly-guided caliphs, as well as from principles laid down by Muslim jurists, scholars who have devoted themselves to the study of the principles of Islamic jurisprudence (u|‰liyy‰n), and Hadith scholars.

Comment by Bilal Mahmud المكافح المخلص on November 26, 2019 at 1:41am

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