Allah the Almighty ordered Prophet Muhammad to consult his companions.

Let me ask a question:

Who is the Prophet Muhammad?

He is the master of mankind, the most beloved creature to Allah, the one who is gifted with shrewdness, the best of Adam’s sons, the one whom revelation was descended upon, and he is the infallible, yet, and despite all these characters and privileges, he was asked by Allah to consult his companions. Allah said:

{Then when you have taken a decision, put your trust in Allah, certainly, Allah loves those who put their trust (in Him).} (3:159)

What concerns us in all that? What is the wisdom behind consulting?

Why, despite the endless wisdom that is included in Allah’s words, Allah asked the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) to consult his companions?

The reason to that is to sooth their souls by consulting them, namely, when you order someone and he has to carry out your orders, he will feel himself as a means in your hands. On the other hand, when you consult him, you give him the feeling that he is your partner, and this is one of the educational tactics.

The Prophet used to consult his companions in all battles, and consequently, when the companions recommended meeting the enemy and went out with the Prophet to fight them, they won’t feel as means, but partners.

Therefore, consulting soothes the souls of the consultants. When you ask your wife for her opinion on something you are intending to do in your house by saying: “What do you think of that matter?” Then she says: “Yes I see this a right thing to do.” When you start doing it, she will never feel being bossed, rather being treated as your partner.

Hence, the first wisdom the Prophet gained by consulting his companions is soothing their souls.

More Wisdom Behind Consulting

Whenever Allah orders His believers something, He will show them the wisdom behind this order, and by doing so, Allah is soothing their hearts, and this is exactly what was meant by the Prophet when he said to Abu Bakr and Umar:

“If you two are agreed upon a counsel, I would not oppose you.” (The History of Khalifas, 32)

What does this mean?

It means that when the Prophet said those words, he was then choosing the wise and the prudent among his companions to ask for their opinion (or else he won’t say: “I would not oppose you”), and by this act, he was supporting his opinion by theirs. Al-Nu’man ibn Basheer said: The Prophet said on the pulpit:

“He who is not grateful for a little cannot be grateful for the abundance, and he who is not grateful to people cannot be grateful to Allah [whereas] to talk about Allah’s blessings is gratitude, and leaving it is ingratitude (kufr). The community (jama’ah) [leads to] mercy, and dissension [leads to] debasement.” (Ahmad)

When you prefer an opinion which you see is right and evidence-based, and then you consult another person who recommends the same opinion, you will pluck up strength by that. Hence, you will feel supported when you see an opinion and consult a friend who agrees upon what you are going to do, and you will feel the validity of your opinion, and this is called “strengthening”.

Therefore, the first wisdom behind consulting is soothing the souls, whereas the second wisdom is that the Prophet feels strength because of his companions’ opinion.

We Should Ally with the Opinion of Scholars’ Majority

When I am asked a question, which I know its answer, and I give it to the inquirer supported by evidence from Quran or Sunnah or the opinion of schools of thoughts, I will be relieved when another scholar gives me the same answer as I gave to that person.

Man sometimes feels stronger because of his brothers, as when they support his opinion, that makes him feel relieved, still among the herd, and still one of the believers’ group. Accordingly, one should never choose the weak opinion, the solitary one, the poor in evidence, and the odd, yet, he should ally by the majority of scholars and Muslims. It was reported by Anas ibn Malik, he said: I’ve heard the Prophet saying:

“My nation will never gather upon misguidance, and if you witness any conflict, then follow the majority of my nation.” (Ibn Majah, 3950)

You should know that the Prophet is exclusively infallible by Allah, while his nation is inclusively infallible through Muslims’ gathering, and they never gather on something wrong. Whenever you read interpretation books, they say in it most of the time: The majority of scholars said so and so, hence, be with the majority (of course not the majority of mobs rather than the majority of scholars) of the believers, as the Majority of mobs are most likely astray.

{And most of them follow nothing but conjecture.} (10:36)

The majority I am pointing to is the majority of Muslims, and I might say in other occasions: be with the minority, and by this I mean: be with the minority of believers when the majority of people don’t have faith. Hence, firstly: consulting soothes the souls, secondly: it strengthens the consulted, assuring him that he is on the right path, as consulting gives strength and self-confidence.

The Prophet Set a Good Example

The delicate point in the whole matter is that when the Prophet consulted his companions carrying out Allah’s order to him, he lied down a law by this act, in order to be carried out by his nation after him.

Given he is a Prophet who is infallible and never errs, is guided by revelation, is supported by Allah, is protected by the divine providence, and is gifted by unlimited wisdom, what about generations of rulers and scholars to come after him of his nation? They don’t level up with Him, thus, if they are doubtful in respect of any matter, they will be in dire need to resort to consulting.

Hence, Prophet Muhammad made consulting a Sunnah and he set up an example for his companions. Given the Prophet is in no need for consulting his companions because of his wisdom and his infallibility, he consulted them though in order to set an example for scholars and rulers, who will come after his death.

Thereby, he laid down a law in consulting others. All of you remember the incident when the Prophet performed only two rak’as in a four Rak’at’s prayer, and then he was told by his companions:

“O Messenger of Allah, has the salah been shortened or have you forgotten [part of it]?”

The Prophet said:

“It has not been shortened, nor did I forget any part of it.”

He said:

“Yes, O Messenger of Allah, you did forget.”

Thereupon the Prophet asked (the people) and they confirmed to him that he offered only two rak’at, so he said:

“I forgot to make this sunnah that should be followed.” (Al-Bukhari, 6051)

If the Prophet were never to forget, not even once, throughout his mission, how would he lay down the law of Sujud Al Sahuw? The only way to do so is to forget, and for that Allah said:

{We shall make you to recite (the Qur’an), so you (O Muhammad) shall not forget (it), Except what Allah, may will.} (87:6-7)

Out of profound wisdom, Allah said: “except what Allah may will”, which means that the prophet should forget once to lay down the law of Sujud Al Sahuw, and his superiority protects him from forgetting, yet, Allah made him, for the wisdom of law-giving.

Again, the prophet consulted his companions to sooth their souls and get strength from their opinion, but definitely, he is in no need for their opinion and recommendation, as he is infallible, supported with revelation, and is gifted with wisdom, hence, he can do without their reasoning, yet he did so in order to set up a good example for them.

To be continued…

By Muhammad Ratib An-Nabulsi