Islamic Shura, Democracy, and Online Fatwas

Author(s) Jens Kutscher
Contact Jens Kutscher, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, D-91054, Erlangen, Germany. E-mail:
Issue CyberOrient, Vol. 5, Iss. 2, 2011, pp. 50-72
Published November 10, 2011
Type Article
Abstract Publications on the Islamic shura concept – Arabic and English – usually include a comparison with present-day liberal democracy. This paper addresses the issue of shura and democracy from the perspective of Muslim communities residing in non-Islamic countries. How do muftis in their online fatwas respond to questions whether Islam and democracy can be reconciled? How do they address the issue of shura? This paper argues that one might well expect the shura concept to serve as a justification for the reconciliation of Islam and democracy or at least find the shura concept to be a distinctly Islamic understanding of democracy. The online fatwas considered for this survey (from,,, and reveal a number of distinct understandings of shura, which are nevertheless linked with each other – be they elections as an expression of shura, shura as a constitutional principle and perfect form of government, or shura in cases of hardship or the political participation of women. While muftis from all websites are unanimous in their defense of shura, their conclusions regarding the centrality and implications of this concept reflect the different streams of thought and currents they represent.
Keywords study of religion, websites, democracy, Islamic law, Islam and civil society, legal science, Islam and politics, fatwas