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A consultative council.

The first recorded shura in Islamic history was called by Caliph Umar in 644 to choose his successor. The choice of later caliphs, although usually designated by their predecessor, was customarily ratified by a shura of family members and political leaders. The shura soon became generalized as an Islamic tradition of leaders consulting members of a community or family and asking them to reach consensus on troublesome issues.

The term shura has been used throughout the Middle East in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries to confer traditional legitimacy on a variety of modern representative councils. The Ottomans applied the term to many of the administrative councils created by the nineteenth-century Tanzimat reforms. Political groups in twentieth-century Arab states, particularly around the Gulf, have based their demands for representative bodies on injunctions in the Qurʾan that men should conduct their affairs through shura, or consultation, with others.


Lapidus, Ira M. A History of Islamic Societies, 2d edition. Cambridge, U.K., and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

Peterson, J. E. The Arab Gulf States: Steps toward Political Participation. New York: Praeger, 1988.

elizabeth thompson

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