Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, states: “it is so crucial for our existence and survival as a viable and dynamic community that we are doomed to rise or fall relative to our strict adherence to the principle of shura or its abandonment.
The significance of shura can be recognized when we consider the fact that it is the only way to forge a consensus and establish transparency and accountability, all of which are essential for the healthy survival of a community.
It is because of the crucial importance of shura that Allah has declared it mandatory for the leadership. Allah ordered His Messenger to consult the people in all their affairs except that which is strictly governed by revelation: “It was by the mercy of Allah that you were lenient with them (O Muhammad). Had you been stern and hard-hearted, they would surely have dispersed from around you. So pardon them and ask forgiveness for them and consult them in the affairs; and when you are resolved, put your trust in Allah. Allah loves those that trust (in Him)” (Aal `Imran: 159). “And those who answer the call of their Lord and establish Prayer, and whose affairs are a matter of consultation between them, and who spend of what We have provided them” (Ash-Shura: 38). The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) went a step further to exhort individuals to follow the path of shura in personal matters as well when he said, “Whosoever seeks counsel of Allah (before acting) will never lose; whosoever consults people (before making decisions) will have no reason to regret.”
It is no wonder, then, that the glorious era of Islamic rule was characterized by diligent application of the principle of shura, whereas the gloomiest periods were those where the principle of shura was abandoned and rulers and leaders made arbitrary decisions.
Since the order of Allah implies an imperative, no leader in Islam can dispense with shura, which is a direct order from Allah to His Messenger, and after him to all those who exercise authority among Muslims. If, therefore, a certain leader were to abandon the decision of shura in favour of his own whimsical opinions or reasoning, he has certainly betrayed the trust of the community. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) sounded dire warnings against such actions of rulers and leaders when he said, “Whosoever assumes a position of power or authority over Muslims and dies while having betrayed their trust in exercising authority over them, he will be barred from entering paradise!” (Reported by Al-Bukhari and Muslim). In another report by Muslim, “Whosoever wields power over Muslims and yet failed to exert his utmost in discharging the trust as diligently as possible cannot hope to enter paradise with them.”
In light of what has been stated above, it is easy to conclude that no Muslim leader conscious of his/her accountability before Allah can afford to place himself/herself above shura, for by doing so he/she is clearly betraying the trust of the community and thus incurs the wrath of Allah. Furthermore, while there
is blessing and protection of Allah in decisions arrived at through consensus through consultation, there is no guarantee of blessing or protection in arbitrary decisions of individuals.