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'Shura' – A Vehicle for Mutual Consultation, An Act of 'Ibadah' (Worship)


AbuBakr Karolia

South Africa, August 11, 2001

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For Muslims to develop a coherent, reliable and an ideal decision making process we have to understand through the wisdom of the Noble Qur`an and the Seerah and the way of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw) what methodology or approach to use.

Allah (SW) tells us in The Noble Qur`an in Surah 42 verse 38:

Those who hearken to their Lord, and establish regular Prayer; who (conduct) their affairs by mutual Consultation; who spend out of what We bestow on them for Sustenance;

The action words in the above verse are what the person ‘answers’ or ‘responds’ to the process of consultation in order to be successful. This verse tells us that to act in response to the commands of Allah (swt), which is to establish and perfect the Salaah (prayer), and our behavior, is to make decisions through ‘Shura’ (mutual consultation). Allah (swt) further reminds us to sacrifice and spend from Allah (swt) bounty from which He has provided. Allah (swt) has ranked ‘Shura’ (mutual consultation) between prayer and charity.

This explanation expresses Allah's (swt) pleasure on the Muslims when, in order to ascertain a certain action, they go through the process of discussion and consultation.

Shura’ (mutual consultation) can include every matter, with no difference between legislative matters or worldly affairs like war, politics, and the general interest of the people. This is because the verses that have been revealed on the subject of ‘Shura’ are general in scope and may be defined as a word which applies to many things, not limited in number, and includes everything to which it is applicable.

Al-Tabari in his Tafseer of this verse says that, "Allah ordered His Prophet (saw) to consult his companions in certain matters so that the community knows about it, and follows this principle by consulting among themselves when they are faced with calamities." The importance of Shura can be illustrated through the life of the prophet (saw). He consulted with his companions on the eve of the battle of Badr, on the day of Badr, on the day of Uhud, and on the day of Khandaq. Hence it is clear that Muslims have been commanded to undertake consultation i.e. Shura, and Allah has praised the Muslims for deciding their affairs by way of consultation.

This Shura process is a guidance from Allah (swt) and it will gain the appropriate blessing provided the correct respect is given to the approach. During the process all opinions within the context of the discussion must be thoroughly debated and canvassed.

The consultative process must ensure that every endeavor is made to ask all specialists to provide the relevant information and advice. The process must respect the professional opinions or advice in the field of expertise when decisions are made. This process of decision-making must be followed and adhered to, as all the commands and injunctions of Allah (swt).

In issues which directly involve the community, the Prophet Muhammad (saw) consulted with the majority of the people in Medina in the question of leaving Medina to fight the enemies at Uhud. This consultation can be with the masses or the representatives of the community. The Prophet (saw) consulted with Sa’ad Bin Mu’az and Sa’ad Bin Ubadah, the chiefs of Ansar in connection with the compromise with the tribe of Ghatfan.

Tabari comments in his tafseer of the Qur`an that: "It is the duty of the rulers to consult the scholars on matters not known to them and in religious matters not clear to them, to consult the leaders of the army in matters related to war, and leaders of the people in matters related to administration. The teachers, ministers and governors in matters related to the welfare of the country and its development". During the preparation for the battle of Badr, the Prophet (pbuh) consulted with the military expert Habaab al Mundhir.

This process must obey Allah (swt) His Rasul (saw) and those in authority over you and if you cannot reach an agreement then revert back to Allah (swt) and His Rasul (swt). When the decision has been taken then place your trust in Allah (swt).

The ‘political motion’ in the act of ‘Shura’ is when The Ameer (Leader) makes a decision through the fear of Allah (swt) and ‘Shura’ (mutual consultation) and is an incorrect decision, Allah (swt) gives him one ‘Thawab’ (blessing), but when he makes the correct decision, Allah (swt) gives him two ‘Thawabs’ (blessings).

This is the manner of consultation; this is the manner of ‘ibadah’ (worship) of the Almighty. The latter is when Allah is pleased with the decision and the act of ‘ibadah (worship) when the Ameer (leader) through a character of ‘Taqwa’ (Allah's (swt) consciousness) cannot make a incorrect decision, because Allah (swt) hand is on the shoulder of Ameer (leader).

This process of consultation and the final decision must be respected and adhered to. During discussions, if the final decision went against an individual's view, he must now support the motion and bless the process and do everything in his power to make the process successful. Allah's (swt) Rahma (mercy) will be on the process of ‘Shura’ (mutual consultation) and on the individual who disagreed. If the process is disregarded and abused it is a disobedience of Allah (swt) and His Rasul (saw). The process of ‘Shura’ is an obligatory consultative engine, which drives the actions and decisions of the Muslims and the Muslim Leadership and is an act of ‘Ibadah’.

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