The word ’shura’ (شورى ) is an Arabic word with the sh-u-r root conveying the concept ‘to seek council’ or ‘to take out the honey’. It is interesting to note how, in the Arabic language, ‘seeking advice’ is given the same status as ‘extracting honey’ – one of the most sought after substances in nature.
The importance placed on advice is also reflected in the Qu’ran. The holy scripture makes reference to muslims conducting their affairs by consultation with one another (called Meccan Shura) and is intended as the basis for decision making amongst muslims.
The concept of ‘shura’ is evident in many Gulf countires for historical reasons and can be witnessed at family level all the way up to governmental decisions.
In practical terms a sheikh, leader or decision maker will make an important decision only after consultation, typically with a counsel (i.e. the shura). Interestingly, the decision is based on reaching a common consensus that all can agree on. This is in contrast to western democratic decision-making processes which rely on a basis of ’majority rules’. A key advantage of the shura decision-making process is that minority views are incorporated into the outcome instead of being outnumbered or disregarded. Ideally, everyone can come away with their needs met.
Furthermore, the process is an effective way of broadening the input of expertise, experience and foresight into any decision. Naturally, in real terms it will always be impossible to find one solution that meets everyone’s needs but nonetheless through a shura consultation various trade-offs will be made until all can come to agreement.
For businesses aiming to do business in the Middle-East and particularly in the Gulf, any final settlement will need to take this shura process into account.
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