The Status of Consultation in Islam

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By: Shad Muhammad Shad | Student of Islamic Jurisprudence  | Jamia Daarul Uloom, Karachi

Consultation means to seek advice regarding your problem from an expert in that field.
A person has to deal with many situations in his life. Sometimes he finds himself worrying about what to do and what not to do and sometimes there are several possibilities and many ways in front of him to achieve his aim and fulfill his ambition but he doesn’t know which way is more useful, beneficial and important for him. He hesitates and needs other’s opinions and guidance. In such a situation the teachings of Islam advise us to consult sages.
Similarly when a man is going to solve a problem or make a decision about doing something which is of great importance Islam tells him that he should consult others. When the matter has more than one opinion mutual consultation is necessary at that time.
If we take a look at the Holy Quran we will find that the it mentions the importance of consultation and gives clear injunctions at two places … one of them is in Surah Al-Imran (verse no 159). Allah Almighty advises his messenger and says:
’’وشاورهم في الأمر‘‘[159:3]
 “Consult them [your companions] in the matter.”
Secondly, when Allah Almighty admires the believers and mentions their qualities, he says:
’’وأمرهم شورى بينهم‘‘[38:42]
“Whose affairs are settled with mutual consultation between them.”
There are many Ahadeeth related by Rasoolullah صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم about the great value and necessity of consultation.
Rasoolullah صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم said:
عن بن عمر عن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم أنه قال: ’’من أراد أمرا فشاور فيه وقضى لله هدي لأرشد الأمور‘‘
[Shuab ul imaan Al-Baihaqi- (6/75)]
“A person who intends to do something, then goes in consultation and comes up with a decision to do or not to do that, he gets from Allah Almighty guidance towards an option which is correct and beneficial.”
The great commentator of the Holy Quran Imam Al-Qurtabi wrote:
وقال عليه السلام :  ’’ما ندم من استشار ولا خاب من استخار‘‘
[(4 /240)Tafseer Al Qurtabi]
“Rasoolullh صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم  said, the one who consults, is not to regret and the one who prays for optimum solution, (from Allah) is not disappointed.”
Rasoolullah صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم consulted his wife Hazrat Khadija رضی اللہ عنہا from the beginning till her death. [Fiqhussirat. Page: 170]
The first consultation of Rasoolullah صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم with his noble companions رضی اللہ عنہم was the consultation in the matter of making Hazrat Abu Bakr رضی اللہ عنہ the first caliph of the Muslims.
Likewise, the Imams used to consult others in matters.
Imam al Bukhari said:
وكانت الأئمة بعد النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم يستشيرون الأمناء من أهل العلم في الأمور المباحة ليأخذوا بأسهلها[1 /240]
The great imam, Ibn e Temia said:
إن الله أمر بالمشاورة نبيه صلى الله عليه وسلم فغيره أولى بالمشورة
 ](1 /[Fiqh ul Istishara (4
“Allah Almighty ordered His messenger to consult, so the others are more in need of consultation.”
In addition to that, it is also a general thing that however one is wise, he needs to consult some time or the other in his life.    
From the above statements of the Holy Quran and Hadith we find the consultation in one’s matters is a sunnah of Rasoolullah صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم and of his noble companions, whether the matter relates to an issue of authority, or society or a personal matter.
But, there are some important points which we have to remember and follow:
First point is that if we are in need of consultation in our affairs, we must choose the man who is an expert in that special field and competent enough to be consulted due to his knowledge and expertise.
Rasoolullah صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم said,
عن أبي هريرة مرفوعا ’’استرشدوا العاقل ترشدوا ولاتعصوه فتندموا‘‘
[(25 /46)Roohul Ma,ani ]
“Seek counsel from the wise person, you will be on the right path, and do not act against it (advice), lest you regret.”
2. Secondly, it is very important to ascertain the limitation of consultation. It is necessary to bear in mind that we do not need to consult; rather it is not even permissible for us to consult in the orders of Shariah …obligations or duties…(faraiz and wajibaat)  which the Muslims are supposed to perform because we have to abide by them without asking anyone’s opinion.
For example, asking somebody if one should offer salah or not or to pay zakah or not is not permitted.
Similarly the consultation is forbidden deeds which are not permissible in shariah must be avoided. For example, asking somebody if one can drink wine is not allowed.
Allah Almighty said in the Holy Quran,
}مَا كَانَ لِمُؤْمِنٍ وَلَا مُؤْمِنَةٍ إِذَا قَضَى اللَّهُ وَرَسُولُهُ أَمْرًا أَنْ يَكُونَ لَهُمُ الْخِيَرَةُ مِنْ أَمْرِهِمْ} [[Al-Ahzaab: 36
“It is not open for a believing man or a believing woman, once Allah and his messenger have decided a thing that they should have a choice about their matter.”
However, one can ask the Islamic experts how to carry out his obligations and duties and how to avoid the impermissible deeds. One can also consult in situations and in matters which are not included in the do’s and don’ts of Shariah. He can ask the Muftiyan-i-keram whether he should do something or not, and which path is beneficial for him.
3. The third point is that Shariah has stipulated certain responsibilities for the consultant. They are as follows:
A- The Eligibility:
It is necessary for the consultant to be knowledgeable and possess great skill in the relevant field or else he is not permitted to advise others. He must avoid advising and refer the seeker to someone else who has the necessary qualities.
Imam al qurtabi said:
’’وصفة المستشار في أمور الدنيا أن يكون عاقلا مجربا‘‘
[- (4 / 240)Tafseer Al Qurtabi]
“And the quality of consultant in worldly matters is being a wise and experienced person.”
B-The Honesty:
If one comes to the consultant and wants to seek advice the consultant should put himself in his place and suggest for him what he would suggest for his own self.
Rasoolullah صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم said,
عن علي قال سمعت رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم يقول: ’’المستشار مؤتمن فإذا استشير فليشر بما هو صانع لنفسه‘‘
[(2 /340)Almujam Al Awsat]
“The person whose counsel is sought is a trustee. When counseled then, he must counsel with what he would propose to his own self. (To do otherwise is a breach of trust)”
There is another hadith reported from Rasoolullah صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم that:
’’ومن أشار على أخيه بأمر يعلم أن الرشد فى غيره فقد خانه‘‘
[ (3/ 350)Sunan Abi Dawood]
“Whoever knowingly misguides his brother (Muslim) towards a wrong path breaches a trust.”
C-Keep a Secret:
The one being consulted is like a trustee. Thus disclosing one’s secret is like breaching a trust and as one despises and loathes his secret being publicly discussed, it is prohibited for the consultant to discuss anyone’s secrets with others.
The above mentioned hadith includes this responsibility too; a part of it is that;
’’المستشار مؤتمن‘‘     “Consultant is a trustee.”
However, if a person intends to attack or harm someone else, it is allowed to warn the person under attack so that he realizes the danger and stays away from him. Although it is backbiting, it is allowed in shariah as an exigency.
One must keep in mind that from Shariah’s point of view it is not mandatory for one to abide by the opinion of the consultant. Consultation is made only to seek the advice of the sages in a particular field in order to get rid of doubts. It often becomes a source of satisfaction to us, then we may have a clear an independent choice to choose any courses of action. But we should place trust in Allah and not only in consultation. Allah Almighty said:
}فَإِذَا عَزَمْتَ فَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى اللَّهِ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُحِبُّ الْمُتَوَكِّلِينَ}
 [[Al-Imran-verse :15
“And once you have taken a decision, place your trust in Allah. Surely, Allah loves those who place their trust in Him.”