Splendid Teachings of Islam
Islam and Consultation
Muhammad Hamid Siraaj ‘Attari Madani
Intelligence is a gift from Allah Almighty which He distributes among people as per His will; while some are shrewd enough to quickly dissect complex matters, others struggle to understand the simplest of issues. As a faith that resonates with human nature, Islam recognises the intellectual disparity among people and therefore encourages us to consult others before making important decisions.
Throughout life, we face situations where the benefits and harms of a given course of action are not immediately clear to us. In such instances, Islam teaches us to consult others so that we can be guided towards decisions that will stimulate blessings, progress, and success. As we seek counsel, Allah Almighty opens the doors of goodness, if the counsel is sound, and protection from humiliation and criticism if the counsel was not in our best interests.
We can sense the importance of consultation from several verses and hadith. For example, Allah Almighty even commanded His Beloved صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم to consult with others, even though the Beloved Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم was the most perspicacious and insightful person to set foot on the Earth. Sayyiduna Wahb b. Munabbih رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَلَيْه commented on this fact stating:
I studied 71 books of the earlier scholars. All of them confirmed that from the first of creation till the last, all those who were given intelligence by Allah Almighty, their intelligence combined is like a grain of sand before the world’s deserts when compared to the intelligence of the Beloved Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم; his opinion is greater than the opinion of everyone else, (Siraat-ul-Jinan, vol. 10, p. 257).
Despite such magnificent intelligence, Allah Almighty commanded the Beloved Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم to consult with others:
وَ شَاوِرْهُمْ فِی الْاَمْرِۚ-
‘And consult with them in matters,’
[Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 04, Surah Aal-e-Imran, Verse 159)
According to Imam Al-Qurtubi: Allah Almighty commanded His Beloved Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم to consult others not because Allah عَزَّوَجَلَّ and His Beloved صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم require their advice, but to demonstrate the importance of consulting others and so that his nation emulates him in this regard, (Qurtubi, vol. 4, p. 192).
It is stated in one narration that when the aforementioned verse was revealed, the Honourable Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم remarked: ‘Allah عَزَّوَجَلَّ and His Beloved صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم do not need advice, rather Allah Almighty has made consultation a mercy for my nation,’ (Shu’ab-ul-Iman, vol. 6, p. 76).
We find in multiple hadith that the Honourable Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم would take advice himself and would instruct others to do the same. For example,
1. ‘Consult the intelligent ones; you will attain success. And do not oppose them, otherwise, you will be humiliated,’ (Firdaus-ul-Akhbar, vol. 1, p. 62, Hadith 273).
2. ‘Whoever intends to do something and consults a Muslim about it, Allah Almighty will guide him towards something correct,’ (Durr-e-Mansoor, vol. 7, p. 357).
Manners of consulting others
1. Think carefully about who you consult. Taking guidance and advice from people who are inexperienced, irreligious, or unwise will do more harm than good.
2. The adviser should also keep his fellow believer’s best interests in mind and provide the best advice. The Most Honourable Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم said: ‘Whoever consulted his brother and he advised him contrary to his interests, he has betrayed the one seeking advice,’ (Abu Dawood, vol. 3, p. 449, Hadith 3657, selected).
It would be wise for us as a community to make the sunnah of consultation an integral part of our lives because good fortune, happiness, and progress are borne from it.