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This article has been adapted from a Talk by Mufti Abdul Rauf Sakhrawi (DB), Darul Uloom Karachi on Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi (ra)’s ‘Aadab-e-Muaashrat.’

[Translated by Lubna Zuberi and edited by Dr. Meraj Din]

 

Consultation, the word, or rather a principle, also known as Istishārah in Arabic, Mashwara in Urdu, and Mashawara in Persian, is at the heart of Quranic discourse and played a significant role in the life of Prophet Muhammad (may Allah

subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)
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bless him and give him peace). When discussing consultation and the evidence supporting it in Islamic legal texts, scholars and writers have tended to focus on two Quranic verses, namely, 42 (Surah Az-Zukhruf):38 and 3 (Surah ‘Ali-Imran):159. However, Muslims remain largely unaware of the importance and value of consultation with scholars, and common masses remaining somewhat undecided as to whether it is obligatory or not and what matters call for consultation.

This article offers the crux of a talk given by Mufti Abdul Rauf Sakhrawi in Darul Uloom Karachi on Mawlana Ashraf Ali Thanvi’s book “Aadab-e-Muaashrat”. The book under discussion dwelt neither on definitions and linguistic analysis of the term, nor on points that are self-evident. Nor has the speaker concerned himself with lengthy introductions or digressions except within what he have deemed the necessary limits. Rather, his ongoing concern is to treat the issue to which he have made reference to in the introduction of his talk, as well as fundamental, current issues that serve to promote the practice of consultation and support efforts to on personal and collective level. The intention throughout is to bring the practice of consultation from a state of dormancy to one of effectiveness, from inertness to action, from passivity to responsiveness, and from dependency and subordination to a sense of mission and creativity.

Seeking Consultation: A Quranic Command

There are two levels of seeking consultation (mashwara). One takes the horizontal path (creation) and the other takes the vertical (Creator).  Allah

subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)
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commands the Prophet
ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)
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to consult his companions despite revelation coming to him. In the Quran, Allah
subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)
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orders the Prophet
ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)
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to:
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“….consult them [i.e., the Muslims] in the matter. And when you have decided, then rely upon Allah. Indeed, Allah loves those who rely [upon Him].” [Surah ‘Āli `Imrān: 3;159]

Seeking consultation in both religious and worldly matters carries deep meaning and helps one to avoid making grave mistakes regarding matters personal, political, or transcendental.

For example, the case that we might include in this category is the situation in which Abraham consulted his son about a command he had received from God. We read in the Holy Qur’an that,

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“when the child had become old enough to share in his [father’s] endeavors, the latter said: “O my dear son! I have seen in a dream that I should sacrifice thee: consider, then, what would be thy view!” The question of whether Abraham was to sacrifice his son had already been settled through a divine command. Nevertheless, Abraham said to his son, “Consider, then, what would be thy view.” In reply his son said, “O my father! Do as thou art bidden; thou wilt find me, if God so wills, among those who are patient in adversity.” [Surah Aş-Şāffāt:37;102]

Ashraf Ali Thanvi on Seeking Consultation

When seeking consultation, Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi

raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him)
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guides us to the following etiquettes. First and foremost, strive to do mashwara with your elders. If they pass away, ask people from the same age group as you. If they do not remain, seek consultation from those younger than you. At no point in life, must a Muslim become self-reliant. In essence, one must continue act upon all important matters after doing mashwara.

While the important question is whether all matters require consultation. Matters which are obligatory in religion, mentioned in Quran and hadith, do not require consultation: i.e., salah, fasting, zakah, hajj as ordained by Allah

subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)
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. Such obligatory commands are supposed to be followed without interpretation. Similarly, one cannot seek mashawara to act upon forbidden activities deemed sinful by Allah
subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)
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i.e., lying, backbiting, fornication, stealing, drinking alcohol, theft, or murder. One must act upon them as soon as one is aware of them.

Seeking consultation in permissible and optional matters is highly appreciated. Ordinary matters do not require consultation, and one can rely on own intelligence for opinion, if it is not against Islamic guidelines, or sinful. The basic method is: seek opinions, do istikhara, and see where the heart is inclined and act upon it.

Who Shall We Seek Consultation From?

 Not every person should be sought for consultation. Not everyone has the same intelligence, understanding, knowledge, and honest intention. Ashraf Ali Thanvi suggests that consultation is to be sought from people who have genuine concern for you, and also have the experience and expertise in the matters of your queries. Seek consultation from someone who is genuinely concerned, compassionate, and understands your goals. People with malice and enmity towards you can set you on the wrong path and meaningless direction.

People you seek consultation from should be well recognized as people who have the capacity and capability to guide you in the right direction [Ashab al-Rai]. He/she must have expertise, knowledge, and experience of the subject matter. Do not seek the opinion of the ill-informed or someone who is incapable of offering you anything meaningful in terms of consultation. For example, when seeking a partner, university, or country to move to, it is better to ask someone who has knowledge or personal experience with the matter sought. If he/she does not have experience or knowledge, how can he/she guide you. For example, medical issues require a doctor, woodwork requires a carpenter, building a house requires an architect/builder, stitching clothes requires a tailor.

The Manner of Seeking Consultation

One should not ask for mashwara at the wrong time or occasion, or the purpose will not be achieved. It is proper manners to politely request for a time for the consultation, whether it is by phone or in person. People are busy and you want the person to give you their undivided attention, not when they are in the middle of something. Do not look at your convenience, look at the convenience of the sought. Also, let them know the topic of consultation before the meeting; i.e., I want to seek consultation from you on a certain medical issue, domestic issue, cabinet installation, home buying, court case etc.

Be on time and present the person with the pros and cons of your situation, so the person can reflect and give you best option. Do not beat around the bush nor waste time with useless talk. When you waste valuable time and put the advisor in a painful situation, the person will lose compassion for you and not be able to give you good advice regarding your situation. Get to the point quickly: “This is my issue. I want to do this. I see these pros and these cons. What is your opinion?”

However, acting upon the consultation is your choice. Consultation is the act of seeking an opinion. It is not necessary for the seeker to act upon the opinion. One may seek several opinions from compassionate ashab al-rai (people of knowledge/consultation), reflect on which opinion best matches one’s needs, and opt to act upon whichever he/she deems suitable. Therefore, there should be no hard feelings from the opinion giver if his/her opinion is not followed.

Istikhara: Seeking Consultation from Allah
subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)
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After consultation with ashab al-rai (people of knowledge/consultation), one should do istikhara, the sunnah way to consult with Allah

subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)
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. This notion of consultation is to Allah Most High is called istikhara and is a nafl prayer for seeking guidance from Allah
subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)
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regarding all matters in one’s life. Jabir
raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him)
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narrated that the Prophet
ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)
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taught us istikhara in all matters as he taught us the chapters of the Quran. Whether the matter is a great and a life changing decision like marriage, moving, employment, college admissions, business, or small, like getting woodwork done or where to go on vacation, the act of seeking consultation (mashwara) is important. This is not complicated. In simple words you ask Allah
subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)
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“O Allah, this option seems the best to me, if it is best for me and my family, make it happen for me. If not, make my heart turn away from it.” There are two ways of doing istikhara:

Short Istikhara: Recite “Allahummaghfirli wakhtarli” (O Allah

subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)
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, forgive me and choose for me) while walking, standing, lying down, or after every salah. This is the easy way and does not require 2 nafl. It also completes the act of Istikhara.

 Long Istikhara: Perform 2 nafl salah, and then recite the dua’ of istikhara with the matter in mind. Some scholars prefer performing the salah and dua’ right before going to sleep without speaking to anyone and falling asleep reciting durood.

You can perform istikhara from 3-7 days. For important matters, do it for 7 days continuously. After that time, check the inclination of your heart, then trust in Allah

subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)
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and act upon your inclination.

It is important to note that after performing istikhara, and acting upon your inclination, the result may come in or against your expectations or inclinations. People say, “We did istikhara, but we faced such failure, troubles, and humiliation.” People expect the results of an istikhara to always be in line with their understanding of what is right. That is incorrect. Success and failure are predestined and written. Hence do not act upon important matters without istikhara or consultation. They are the acts of sunnah.

The main aim of consultation is to redirect every decision of your life towards the true reason of your existence. To make Allah

subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)
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the companion of every step and decision in your life. To shape your every dream, aspiration, and goal in such a way that it pleases Allah Most High.  The benefit of consultation (mashwara) is that the one who seeks it, does not make it about himself. Allah Most High says in the Quran,
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“O you who have faith! Enter all together into submission whole-heartedly.” [Surah Al-Baqarah: 2;208]

The foundation of the message of Islam is submission to the will of Allah Most High. The Quran says: “Say, ‘Indeed it is the guidance of Allah which is [true] guidance. And we have been commanded to submit to the Lord of all the worlds.” [Surat Al-‘An`ām: 6;71]

May Allah

subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)
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guide us to seek His consultation and the consultation of those who know and make this beneficial for us in this world and in the Hereafter.

 

 

 

 

 

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