One of the teachings of the Qur’an is shura, that is, mutual consultation. The Qur’an inculcates the spirit of shura among believers, so that they may decide upon all issues by discussion and counseling. In the chapter Al-Shura (Mutual Consultation), this principle—placed in the context of virtues which will entitle believers to God’s beneficence—is mentioned as “those who conduct their affairs by mutual consultation and spend out of what We have provided for them”. (42:38)
What is a consultation? Consultation means the act of discussing something with somebody before making a decision about it. Consultation is not an isolated habit. The willingness to engage in it results directly from qualities like modesty, sincerity, caution, and the spirit of learning. Without these qualities, no one can engage sincerely in consultation. Belief in God brings with it all these virtues and makes one absolutely sincere in all aspects of life. It is this sincerity as well as modesty that compels a believer not to decide upon anything without first consulting others.
The best form of consultation is that in which one seeks others’ advice while endeavoring to share their experiences. A man who never consults anyone else is only half a man. While a man who does consult others becomes a whole human being. Consultation is very important, not just for the individual but also for the whole of society. As far as the individual is concerned, it is through consultation or discussion that he develops his personality. The consultation makes one a better person and a society comprising individuals of this kind becomes a wise society.
In such a society people trust and help each other. Indeed, the whole of society becomes like a family. Here consultation does not only mean addressing major issues. Issues of that kind no doubt warrant consultation but more important is personal consultation. Everyone needs to receive others’ advice in his or her daily life. The habit of consultation creates a degree of trust between the different members of society. Mutual trust and the spirit of cooperation are very important for building the best kind of society, and consultation is an essential part of that process.
Consultation is not an individual exercise: it is a bilateral procedure. Consultation is a mutual exchange—in its true spirit, a great source of intellectual development. When two individuals discuss some subject with each other, a third idea is bound to emerge, and it is this third idea that leads to personality development.
Consultation is not an isolated habit. The willingness to engage in it results directly from qualities like modesty, sincerity, caution, and the spirit of learning. Consultation in one sense is a give and take culture. When you discuss an issue with someone, it is not simply a verbal exchange. During a discussion, you take something from the other and also give something to the other.
Fruitful consultation has no conditions attached to it. It can be conducted between the rich and the poor, between seniors and juniors, between the educated and the uneducated, between the young and the old, between man and woman, in short, between everyone and everyone else. This all-encompassing nature of consultation makes it fruitful to the ultimate extent. One precondition for effective consultation is that both parties should have open minds. Both parties should be ready to accept opinions on their merits and without any bias.