The Need for Consultation (mushāwara)


http://www.flickr.com/photos/phool4xc/222385712/in/photostream/In the name of Allah, the most merciful, the most kind.

As Muslims, the best role model we have is of course, the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ (peace be upon him). About him, Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He) says:

And indeed, you are of a great moral character.

And as Aisha radi allahu `anha (may God be pleased with her) described the Prophet’s character and mannerisms as a walking Qur’an, we will look at one of the ways in which the Prophet Muhammad embodied Qur’anic values.

In the Qur’an, Allah (swt) orders the Prophet ﷺ to:

‘[…] consult them [i.e. the Muslims] in the matter. And when you have decided, then rely upon Allah. Indeed, Allah loves those who rely [upon Him].’ (Qur’an 3:159)

Allah (swt) commands the Prophet ﷺ to consult his companions despite revelation coming to him. The question is why does he do this? Imam al-Razi gives several explanations in his Tafsīr al-Kabīr.

Firstly, the Prophet ﷺ consulting the companions makes them feel important and respected. This in turn, reciprocates good feelings towards him, and ensures a healthy and respectful relationship, which would ultimately benefit the Companions. Note how this is intended to benefit those who are consulted more than the one consulting. This is a good reminder for those in authority to always keep those who are in their charge involved. This is more so when it comes to the domestic realm, where husbands sometimes may not feel it necessary to consult their wives. As we know the Prophet ﷺ consulted Khadija (ra) when he received the first revelation.

More telling is the incident of Hudaibia, when the Muslims had set out from Medina towards Mecca intending `Umrah. The polytheists of Mecca had blocked them and agreed to allow them to perform the `Umrah the following year. Now the Muslims had already assumed the ihram (a ritual state which prohibits certain things usually permissible). To come out of this state, the Muslims had to slaughter their animals, and trim or shave their head. The Prophet commanded the Muslims three times to do this, but because they were overcome with grief, none of them were obeying this command at first. The Prophet was worried, and came back to his tent, where his wife, Umm Salama, was. She advised him by suggesting he simply go outside, slaughter his offering, and shave his head. No sooner had the Prophet ﷺ done this in full view of the Companions, then they too followed and thus all had come out of ihram. The Prophet ﷺ consulted his wife in such grave matters, and did not see it below himself to do so.

Secondly, even though the Prophet ﷺ had an intelligence and qualities far above any other creation,  Imam Razi says it is not impossible, due to the vast nature of human knowledge, for him to over look something which someone else may not. Moreover, others may offer different perspectives. Thus we see the Prophet ﷺ consulted the Companions when making very important decisions. For example, the location of the battle of Uhud was decided based on the opinion of the Companions, as the Prophet ﷺ wanted to fight the battle from within Medina. In fact, Imam Razi mentions that the order to consult the Companions came after the Battle of Uhud, because the Companions may have felt the Prophet ﷺ was upset with them, as he followed their advice, and went out of Medina for the battle, which ultimately lead to the Muslims’ defeat. This was also the case in the battle of Badr, when, based on the advice of Hubab ibn al-Mundhir, the Prophet ﷺ changed his initial location for battle.  If such is the case with the Prophet ﷺ, what of an average Muslim, living fourteen hundred years after?

Thirdly, Imam Hasan al-Basri and Sufyan ibn ‘Uyayna are of the opinion that such an order was given to the Prophet ﷺ so that consulting each other will become an established sunnah (tradition) of the this Umma (community). This consultation, even in domestic affairs, is something we can do religiously, intending reward from Allah (swt), by adhering to this sunnah. This is significant as we often do not see such actions, e.g. consultation and holding a family meeting, as something ‘religious’ or something that is encouraged by our faith.

Fourthly, by consulting the companions, the Prophet ﷺ was able to gauge the understanding and intelligence of the Companions. Of course, this benefit is clear when a man consults his family. He will be able to keep his children involved, as well as be on the same ‘wavelength’ as them, ultimately leading to better communication and a more open and honest relationship.

Fifthly, by consulting the Companions, they would have ownership in what happens. This means that they would exert their utmost as they will be responsible for the outcome. This is an effective way to share responsibility with children, and give them an opportunity to mature organically under the guidance of their parents. Thus they won’t be cut off, simply receiving do’s and don’ts, but actually taking part in deciding what these rules are.

Lastly, after the verse encourages the Muslims to consult, it also reminds them that they should ultimately be dependent on Allah (swt):

‘And when you have decided, then rely upon Allah. Indeed, Allah loves those who rely [upon Him].’ (Quran 3:159)

May Allah makes us of those whom He describes as “their affairs are mutually decided between them” and peace and blessings be upon our master and final messenger.

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14 Comments

  1. AbdelRahman Mussa says:

    I would like to add another advantage of consultation. Even if the collective decision leads to a defeat as mentioned above in the battle of Uhud… even then… there is a huge advantage in shurah/consultation.

    The advantage is that everyone learns the lesson (from the mistake) because everyone took the decision as opposed to just one or two individuals learning from their mistakes, the collective can now learn.

    If and when that previous leadership passes away, the collective is not left lost without any previous experiences. Shurah/consultation builds future servants of the ummah.

  2. Adesh Kosi Bukura says:

    Asalamu Aleikum,

    Jazak’Allah Kheir for this beautiful, piece of advice regarding Shurah,

    I’ll wish to add apoint to it, concerning our generation of today the dot com era, which is (may Allah help us overcome it, in sha’Allah) filled with temptations, in every step we take, in every glance we take, in every word we hear, and in every word we utter, due to tha dominance of music, Hollywood, Bollywood, Nollywood,

    As we can see how the west dorminate and influence the world through, so called democracy in quote,
    and their tool of influence is thru TV, RADIO, INTERNET, ranging frm their corrupt way of FREEDOM to all,

    Its high time the parents held shoora at homes with their children, and give an intractive way of talking not the stern parenting we were brought up with, it worked on us Alhamdulillah,

    The best way for todays parents especially Fathers is jst to be a good role model and a good facilitator,,, like our prophet pbuh, and make the Qur’an and hadith, be their refference bt not to be too dependant on this modern psychologist guide lines which as we all knw its influenced based on the corrupt bible, and the countries constitution apart frm few muslim who May Allah bless them one being you who offer nice and good advice guidlines.

  3. Yasmin says:

    Jazakallah khair for this great post!

  4. Adam says:

    JazakAllah Khair, the point on ownership particularly stuck out to me.

    I have a question: in 3:159, can an istekhara take the place of consulting with others? Particularly for matters of a more personal and sensitive nature…

    • fadia says:

      salamo alaikom
      i hope that this generation who are going to be husbands consider shorah as a way of handling the relationship with their wives

    • Haq says:

      Salam Br. Adam,

      Istikhara is a du’a (supplication) seeking help and good from Allah, whereas mushawara is an action that you do to benefit from the opinions and knowledge of others, thus Mushawara is to be accompanied by Istikhara, not replaced by it.

      Of course, with sensitive issues, you don’t have to discuss it with everyone, but only the closest people to you. The Prophet (pbuh) did not discuss everything with everyone, but sometimes he would hold secret counsel with the senior and elite companions only.

      Hope this helps,

      Haq.

  5. ArabianSpace says:

    Nice article!. the Shura is the only way for the society to function correctly and collectively.

  6. Rubaba says:

    Ameen thumma ameen and jazaakumul Laahu khairan

  7. Quran tutoring says:

    thanks for such an enlightening piece. It has great many reminders really my kind of thoughts on the thriftiness God bless.Through Quran recitation with proper meaning and understanding we will be able to the knowledge regarding Islam and Sunnah.

  8. sara says:

    A Muslim cannot be a true believer if he/she does not love and respect the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) the most after Allah because Love and Respect of prophet Muhammad (SAW) is the essential part of Imaan as the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said: “that is, none of you is Momin (true believer) unless I am dearer to him than his parents, his children and all other persons” (Sahi Bukhari).

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