On Mutual Consultation
The Muslims who had migrated with the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) from Mecca to Madinah did not rest at peace. The pagans of Mecca threatened the inhabitants of Madinah–the Ansar– of mass deportation if they did not expel the migrants from their city. The atmosphere heated up till the threat of war loomed at large. At this critical juncture, the guide of humanity, Hadrat Muhammad (ﷺ) instead of issuing orders dictatorially, consulted with his companions and supporters. The companions suggested that they should confront the enemy and outside Madinah. The Messenger of Allah kept on encouraging his companions. A prominent companion Hadrat Miqdad Bin Aswad (RA) suggested assertively, “ O Messenger of Allah you decide for war we will not say to you what Bani Israil had said to Musa: Go you and your God to fight we will remain here. We are all with you.” Consequently, the Messenger of Allah welcomed the advice of his companions and ordered the march for battle.
The Messenger of Allah kept on consulting with his companions at every step. They had just reached the battlefield when the Prophet chose a place for camping. One companion, Hadrat Habab Bin Mundhir, came forward and asked “O Messenger of Allah have you chosen this place according to divine revelation or in your own discretion?” The Prophet replied, “not by divine command but by my own opinion.” Hadrat Mundhir advised that this point was not at all suitable for camping. Let us camp near the well-spring and occupy the source of water supply. The Prophet favoured this opinion and accordingly, the Muslims used the well and denied it to the enemy. In the Battle of Barr, Muslims gained victory and took 70 prisoners of war. Now, the Prophet consulted his companions about the treatment of these prisoners. Hadrat Abu Bakr suggested that they released on payment of ransom. Conversely, Hadrat Umar advised that all of them should be killed. The Prophet favoured the opinion of Abu Bakr and the prisoners were released on payment of ransom.
Yet another example of blessings of mutual consultation is derived from the story of Bilqis the queen of Sheba who existed during the reign of Hadrat Suleiman (AS). Because of her wisdom, sagacity and foresight, her people had installed her as their queen. The people of Sheba were sun-worshippers. Hadrat Suleiman sent her a letter through an emissary inviting her to monotheism. Her action on receipt of the letter from Suleiman has been described in Quran in this way:
قَالَتْ يَا أَيُّهَا المَلأ إِنِّي أُلْقِيَ إِلَيَّ كِتَابٌ كَرِيمٌ (29) إِنَّهُ مِنْ سُلَيْمَانَ وَإِنَّهُ بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيمِ (30) أَلاَّ تَعْلُوا عَلَيَّ وَأْتُونِي مُسْلِمِينَ (31) قَالَتْ يَا أَيُّهَا المَلأ أَفْتُونِي فِي أَمْرِي مَا كُنتُ قَاطِعَةً أَمْراً حَتَّى تَشْهَدُونِ (32) (النحل : 29-32)
Translation of Meaning : “[The queen of Sheba] said [on receiving the letter from Suleiman]: O chieftains! Lo! there has been sent unto me a sublime letter. Lo! It is from Suleiman, and lo! it is in the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful; Exalt not yourselves against me, but come unto me as those who surrender. She said: O chieftains! Pronounce for me in my case. I decide no case until you give your testimony.” (An-Nahhl: 29-32).
Thus, by consulting with her chiefs the queen of Sheba presented herself at Hadrat Suleiman’s court and embraced the religion of monotheism. Certainly it was a blessing of consultation and a grace from Allah.
The Concept of Shura
Shura or mutual consultation means that one should seek the judgment of persons of knowledge, wisdom and experience in any given matter so that its pros and cons become clear.
Islamic rule is based on three pillars: Justice and equity; equality; and shura or mutual consultation, Shura being of fundamental importance. The importance of shura in an Islamic order may be gauged from the fact that God Almighty has commanded His Messenger to conduct his affairs in consultation with his community:
وَشَاوِرْهُمْ فِي الأَمْرِ (آل عمران:159)
Translation of Meaning: “Their governance is by mutual consultation” (Al-Imran: 159).
At another place, Allah (Ta’ala) says:
وَأَمْرُهُمْ شُورَى بَيْنَهُمْ (الشورى: 38)
Translation of Meaning: “and who (conduct) their affairs by mutual consultation” (Ash-Shura: 38)
The Domain of Consultation
All affairs which have been settled either by divine revelation or prophetic direction are beyond the domain of shura. Because in the presence of clear ordinances of Quran and Sunnah, no other opinion is called for. But as far as mundane affairs or emerging problems were concerned, the Prophet consistently used to consult with his companions until divine instructions were received. As soon as a revelation came, the Prophet implemented it immediately. It is narrated of Hadrat Abu Hurairah (RA) that he saw none consulting more with his followers, than the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ).
The Virtue of Shura
One who consults with others never repents. Allah (T) leads him to good and right decisions. The Messenger of Allah said:
“من أراد أمرا فشاور فيه امرأ مسلما وفقه الله لأَرشدِ أموره” (الطبراني)
Translation: “One who wanted to do something and consulted with a Muslim man Allah (T) will lead him to right action” [Tabrani].
If it is advisable for a man to consult with the people of opinion in his ordinary matters Allah (T) is more worthy of being consulted in matters concerning a Muslim. Thus if a Muslim’s affairs have deteriorated or he is in straits and sees no way out he must orient towards Allah. This is called iistikharah which has been taught to us by the Messenger off Allah. In such situations, the Prophet has recommended that after performing two cycles of nafil salat one should consult with God in his affairs. For this one should recite this prayer which is recommended by the prophet:
“اللهمَّ إنّي استَخِيرُكَ بعِلمِكَ وأستَقدِرُكَ بِقُدرَتِكَ ، وأسألُكَ من فَضلِكَ العظيمِ ، فإنّكَ تَقدِرُ ولا أقدِرُ ، وتَعلمُ ولا أعلَمُ ، وأنتَ علّامُ الغُيوبِ ، اللّهمَّ إن كُنتَ تعلَمُ أنّ هذا الأمرَ خيرٌ لي في ديني ومَعاشي وعاقِبَةِ أمري – أو قال عاجل أمري وآجله – فاقدِرهُ لي ويسّرهُ لي ، ثم بارك لي فيه ، وإن كُنتَ تعلمُ أنّ هذا الأمرَ شرٌّ لي في ديني ومعاشي وعاقبة أمري – أو قال في عاجل أمري وآجله – فاصرِفهُ عني واصرفني عنهُ واقدِر لي الخيرَ حيثُ كان ثم أرضِني” (بخاري)
“O my God I solicit your good on the strength of your knowledge and seek capacity on the strength of your might and supplicate for your great grace. Because you determine and I determine not; you know and I know not; and you are the knower of all things occult. O my God if you know that [such and such matter] is good for me in my religion and livelihood and ultimate outcome please determine it for me and facilitate it for me, then bless me in it. And if you know that this matter is bad for me in my religion and livelihood and ultimate outcome then please ward it off me and divert me from it. Determine the good for me wherever it may be then make me acquiesce in it”. [Bukhari].