Advancing Shūrā: A social agent for democratization

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This study is an analytical comparison between Islamic articulations of shūrā (consultation) and notions of representative democracy. It emphasizes various epistemic understandings of shūrā in light of qur’anic exegesis and historical precedents of consultative rule in Islam. In particular, it identifies shūrā as an agent for democratization in contrast to its more familiar manifestation as a top-down consultative system. This is examined together with the works of influential Muslim scholars from modernist, Islamist and pro-democratic backgrounds to elucidate what aspects of democracy they accept and/or reject. The article does not exhaustively analyze each scholar’s interpretation of democracy. Rather, it selects scholars from different historical epochs with distinctive theoretical positions on shūrā. Overall, the study finds shūrā remains largely under-utilized as a result of post-colonial discourses on Islam and authoritarian political systems in Muslim-majority countries. The article finally examines how shūrā can be better facilitated as a social agent to renew civil society and combat authoritarian rule.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)345-362
Number of pages17
JournalIslam and Christian-Muslim Relations
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 18 Jul 2019


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