Including Dissenting Opinions is Key


http://www.flickr.com/photos/fuzzyslowmo/5421163214/Lessons in Islamic Work: Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V | Part VI | Part VII | Part VIII |Part IX | Part X | Part XI | Part XII | Part XIII

One of the things that happens in work in general is that we have a tendency to sideline those who disagree with us. It just makes the whole decision-making process easier and things can move quicker, or so it seems. However, this is a major mistake and shura (decision-making) is not shura unless it includes those who disagree as well. Sometimes this takes extra time and seems to slow things down, but it makes for a richer decision-making process and also guards against group-think.

The Prophet ﷺ made shura in Badr and Uhud, as well as many other places in the seerah (biography of the Prophet). This was to establish the principle that taking shura is essential. One striking example of this is that when they went out before Badr, they were expecting to raid a caravan, not go to war. So when it became clear that war was upon them the Prophet ﷺ asked his companions if they agreed. Three of the Emigrants (Muhajirin) stood up and affirmed but the Prophet asked again. He wanted to include the Helpers (Ansar). When a representative from the Helpers affirmed the decision, he went with it and they prepared for war. Heﷺ made sure to include all parties in the decision-making process.

The companions also understood that in issues not related to revelation they could differ with him. This is why we see what happened when the Muslims were positioning themselves before the Battle of Badr.  They stopped at a certain point near the wells of Badr, and a companion named Hubab ibn al-Mundhir asked the Prophetﷺ if the decision was based on revelation or strategy. When heﷺ replied that it was strategy, he said that he thought it would be better if they positioned themselves differently, and the Prophet accepted his advice. This companion is not well known or commonly talked about but even he knew that in such matters his opinion was important.

Another example of this that I heard about recently was in relation to one national Muslim organization. Several years back there were some major disagreements nationally in regards to vision in the organization. There were two major camps, and in the end one won the public opinion battle. What the President did after that was the amazing part. When they put together the new board, there is always one seat that is not elected but chosen by the leadership. He insisted that that seat be filled by someone from the opposing camp. He did this so their voice would not be marginalized and would still be heard at the decision making table.

Another modern example was with one of the major Islamic groups internationally. They used to have a shura that was not binding and the amir (leader) would have the final say. When they switched to a binding shura (meaning the majority decision is binding on the board and not only in the hands of the amir) the then president of the organization did not state his opinion in meetings for seven years! He did this to make sure that the organizational culture would shift.

So in organizing it is always important to make sure that there are various view points at the table and that as long as everyone is agreeing on the major objectives then that difference should be welcomed and enriches the decision-making process.

Print Friendly

3 Comments

  1. O H says:

    I did not understand this point. Any explanation on this will be appreciated :)

    Another modern example was with one of the major Islamic groups internationally. They used to have a shura that was not binding and the amir (leader) would have the final say. When they switched to a binding shura (meaning the majority decision is binding on the board and not only in the hands of the amir) the then president of the organization did not state his opinion in meetings for seven years! He did this to make sure that the organizational culture would shift.

    • Jamaal says:

      salam,

      Basically there are two approaches to shura. One states that the leader listens to everyone’s opinion and then chooses whatever he wants. The other states that everyone states their opinion and then the majority must be followed.

      In the example the people were used to the former and then switched to the latter. To make sure that they did not forfeit back to consciously or subconsciously simply following the opinion of the leader he did not comment on issues and simply followed the majority.

Leave a Reply

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.

More in Belief & Worship, Community, Dawah (Outreach) (48 of 361 articles)