Ma’shura In Islaam

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم


Sunni Muslims believe that Islam requires all decisions made by and for the Muslim societies to be made by shura of the Muslim community and believe this to be the basis for implementing representatives such as the highest like the Caliph. Traditionally however, the Amir/Sultan/Khalifa would consult with his Wazirs (Advisors) and make a decision, after taking into consideration their opinions.

Shia Muslims say that Islam requires submission to existing rulers if they are correctly appointed, so long as they govern according to Sharia or Islamic law. This is a more traditional approach, characteristic of many centuries of Islamic history.

The difference between the understanding of Ahlul-Sunnah and the Shia appears more semantic than actual — Shia accept that the rulers must be held accountable in all aspects of ruling, to ensure affairs are managed in the best possible way whether decisions were taken through mashura or not.


Meaning of Mashura:

A mashura, which is pronounced as mashwara in Arabic means a consultation, a council, an advice or a suggestion.

Mashwara is not (generally) the same as a meeting. A Mashwara (also called Shura) is where people are consulted on different matters of public importance. In Islam, those who are made in charge of certain affairs are required to consult those who are connected to those affairs. An Imam should consult his people, an Ameer should consult those under him, a ruler should consult his ministers etc. etc.

A meeting occurs when people come together to discuss and plan, or make collective decisions regarding different matters regarding an association, organization etc. The Arabic word for meeting is ‘Ijtima’, and not mashwara (as is sometimes understood). Although, both mashwara and meeting can be used interchangeably.

The discussions which can be held in a Mashwara are those which require the Jamaat’s input for the Imam/Ameer to make a decision (regarding any important matter of the Jamaat). For example, if the Imaam wants to have a monthly lecture, he may wish to consult the Jamaat on the day, time and choice of lecturer in order to make his decision.

These and other similar discussions take place in a mashura environment. In these cases, the Imam is not seeking an approval to have a class or a lecture, instead, he is consulting them to get a feedback which helps him in deciding.


Allah mentions the Ma’shura Principle in the Qur’an:

The first mention of the Shura in the Qur’an comes in Surah al-Baqarah, Allaah says:

“Mothers may breastfeed their children two complete years for whoever wishes to complete the nursing [period]. Upon the father is the mothers’ provision and their clothing according to what is acceptable. No person is charged with more than his capacity. No mother should be harmed through her child, and no father through his child. And upon the [father’s] heir is [a duty] like that [of the father]. And if they both desire weaning through mutual consent from both of them and consultation, there is no blame upon either of them. And if you wish to have your children nursed by a substitute, there is no blame upon you if you give payment according to what is acceptable. And fear Allah and know that Allah is Seeing of what you do.” (2:233)

This verse encourages that both parents decide by their mutual consultation about weaning their child. Allah Revealed the 42nd surah, naming it (Shura) Consultation:

“And those who have responded to their lord and established prayer and whose affair is [determined by] consultation among themselves, and from what We have provided them, they spend.” (42:39)

The 159th verse of Sura Ali-Imran orders Muhammad to consult with believers. The verse makes a direct reference to those (Muslims) who disobeyed Muhammad, indicating that ordinary, fallible Muslims should be consulted. The Qur’an says:

“So by mercy from Allah , [O Muhammad], you were lenient with them. And if you had been rude [in speech] and harsh in heart, they would have disbanded from about you. So pardon them and ask forgiveness for them and consult them in the matter. And when you have decided, then rely upon Allah . Indeed, Allah loves those who rely [upon Him].” (3:159)

  1. The first verse that mentions Mashura deals with family matters.
  2. The second verse is connected to the general lifestyle of Muslims who will enter Jannah, and thus is considered the most comprehensive surah on mashura.
  3. The third verse advises on how mercy, forgiveness and mutual consultation can win over people.

Prophet Muhammad ﷺ made all his decisions in consultation with his followers unless it was a matter in which Allaah has ordained something. It wasn’t uncommon among The Messenger’s ﷺ companions to ask him, if a certain advice was from Allaah or from him directly ﷺ. If it was from rasulAllaah ﷺ, they felt free to give their opinion, and he ﷺ let them give insight and opinions before coming to a ruling.

Sometimes Prophet Muhammad ﷺ changed his opinion on the advice of his followers like his decision to defend the city of Madinah by going out of the city, He listened to the advice of Salman al-Farsi and decided the Muslims would be better of if hey made a trench outside of the City of Madinah to better be able to defend themselves against the much larger confederate army.

The Ghazwa of Uhud is a prime example of the greatest of Human Beings, The Last and Final Messenger Muhammad participating in a mashura with other Sahaba.


The first Argument:

The most commonly quoted and most known debate over a shura decision began with the debate over the ruler in the Islamic world. When Prophet Muhammad ﷺ died in 632GA, a tumultuous meeting at Saqeefah selected Abu Bakr As-Siddeeq as his successor. This meeting did not include some of those with a strong interest in the matter—especially Ali ibn Abi Talib, Prophet Muhammad’s ﷺ cousin and son-in-law; people who wanted Ali to be the caliph (ruler) (later and still known as Shia ) still consider Abu Bakr an illegitimate leader of the caliphate, even with overwhelming evidence that points towards Abu Bakr being personally selected by RasulAllaah ﷺ, the gripe they hold is that Ali Ibn Abu Talib was not present at the decision.

In later years, the followers of Ali (Shi’atu Ali) as the ruler of Muslims became one school of thought, while the lineage of followers that stood by the selection of RasulAllaah ﷺ, and his ﷺ successor Abu Bakr became the Sunni school of thought.


Is Shura Necessary:

The Sunni school of thought holds the concept of the Mashura high, as well as a part of dealings and decisions, especially when it comes to running Masajid and other Muslim Institutions, but they do not deem it necessary and feel that one Amir can make all of the decisions necessary.

However when it comes to Classical Early Sunni Scholars, their opinion is that: Shura is Obligatory and Necessary. While they all agree that shura is recommended in the Qur’an they differ on the Hukm of it.

The safe stance being with the early scholars. Mashura is necessary, The Qur’an, numerous ahadith of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ and his companions are all proofs for it. They say that most of the first four caliphs, were chosen by shura.

The Shi’a school of thought believe that Prophet Muhammad ﷺ had clearly indicated that Ali was his appointed infallible ruler of Muslim nation regardless of shura, a recommendation that was ignored by the first three caliphs. Shi’a do not stress the role of shura in choosing leaders but believe that the divine successor is chosen by Allaah, from the lineage of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ (Ahl al-Bayt).


Shura and contemporary Muslim-majority states:

In some Muslim majority nations, shuras seem to play a role in the constitution or governance. But only by name. Some majority Muslim nations, such as Turkey, are secular republics, and Morocco is a constitutional monarchy. They could thus be said to be ruled by one version of shura. The Parliament of Pakistan is officially called the Majlis-i-Shura, although the constitution resembles a western democracy. In Egypt, the Upper House of Parliament is known as the Shura Council. Though they call themselves Shura Councils, they are just another form of People Rule, i.e. Democracy.

In some monarchies and clerical regimes, there is a shura with an advisory or consultative role. Saudi Arabia, a monarchy, was given a shura council, the Consultative Assembly of Saudi Arabia, in 1993; there are now 150 members. All real power is held by the King, who is elected by family members. Oman, also a monarchy has a shura council; all members are elected except the president, who is appointed by the Sultan. The council can only offer advice, which may be refused if vetoed by the Sultan.


Is Mashura a form of Democracy:

Many traditional Sunni Scolars agree that to be in keeping with Islam, a government should have some form of council of consultation or majlis al-shura. While the classical Sholars and some Contemporary Scholars with authority claim that although shura must be recognized; Allaah & His Laws and never the people are sovereign. Thus Shura can never resemble a people rule governance.

Al-Mawardi in his Monumental work on Governance the Islamic Way – Al Ahkam al-Sultaniyyah – has written: “…that members of the majlis should satisfy three conditions: they must be just, have enough knowledge to distinguish a good caliph from a bad one, and have sufficient wisdom and judgment to select the best caliph.”

Al-Mawardi also said in Al Ahkam al-Sultaniyyah that: in emergencies when there is no caliphate and no majlis, the people themselves should create a majlis, select a list of candidates for caliph, and then the majlis should select a caliph from the list of candidates.”

Many contemporary Muslim Scholars have compared the concept of Shura to the principles of western parliamentary democracy. Using the following kalam: What is the shura principle in Islam? … It is predicated on three basic precepts. First, that all persons in any given society are equal in human and civil rights. Second, that public issues are best decided by majority view. Third, that the three other principles of justice, equality and human dignity, which constitute Islam’s moral core, are best realized, under shura governance.


Interesting Fact:

Shura, as an institution, was not an Islamic innovation. Mashura is a custom dating back to the pre-Islamic era. Before Islam came, the Arab had an Institution called assembly. It was a tribal council composed of the elders of the tribe. Important matters of the tribe, such as peace, war and security, were decided by mutual consultations in the council. This tradition was so strongly rooted in Arab society that even the Bedouins conducted their affairs by mutual consultation.

Ibn Attiya (d.993GE), who was an early Qur’an Mufasir, related that a Bedouin chief said that he would never be cheated until his people were also cheated, because he would do nothing until he had consulted them. It is this institution which was reorganized in Islam and was given the name shura, Though it existed in a similar shape and form In pre-Islamic Makkah.

والله تعالى أعلم

وصلى اللهم وسلم وبارك على نبينا محمد وعلى آله وصحبه والتابعين

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