There is a nice statement worth mentioning on despotism, reasoning and free choice: “Despotism in opinion wastes the sane, and obliges the choosers”.

When someone acts autocratically despite the fact of being surrounded by wise people, he will cancel their reasoning by such an act.

Hence, despotism abolishes reasoning of wise people and turns the free choice of choosers to obligatory, and thereby, the sane will turn into foolish when he acts autocratically.

Imam Al-Shafi’i said:

“I’ve never seen someone keener on consulting his companions than the Prophet.”

Consultation Crucial for a Believer’s Life

We have missed an important point. As we said before that the wisdom behind consulting others (either you were a principal, hospital manager, company owner, father, business manager, or merchant) is to sooth their hearts, strengthen your opinion, and raise high their self-esteem.

But we still have another wisdom which unfolds a great educational purpose, as when you consult others, you have the chance to get to know their reasoning, their points of view, and you can sift the narrow minded from the wise, the short-sighted from the long-sighted, and the sincere from the unfaithful, hence, when you are consulting, you are testing people in the process without their knowledge.

Consulting is a crucial matter, and Allah the Almighty described the believer saying: {…they conduct affairs by mutual consultation.} (42:38)

And Allah ordered Prophet Muhammad to consult his companions. This means that consulting should be part of the believer’s life.

The Consulted is a Helper and the Consultant is Trustworthy

When he, whom you offer your advice to, accepts it, makes use of it, and praises you for it, he will be encouraging this righteous behavior which is enjoined by the noble Sunnah, and mentioned in Quran.

The Prophet, peace be upon him, encouraged his companions to consult each other, and aroused the interest in it. He said:

“The consultant must be trustworthy.” (Abu Dawud, 5128)

Allow me to mention the following example:

If someone asked about your opinion in regard of a young man, and you said to him: He is good or excellent, to which he said to you: Do you think I should accept him as a husband to my daughter? And you answered: yes, then he said: I ask you by Allah to tell me, will you accept him as a husband to your own daughter?

At that moment, if you felt deep in yourself that you won’t accept that young man as a husband to your daughter, then you should say that to him, therefore, tell the truth and don’t be diplomatic, as the consultant should be trustworthy.

I know some merchants who wear pants made of stagnant color of stock fabric just to tell their customers when they ask if this fabric is good or not: Don’t you see that I wear it. So he is wearing those pants in order to sell the fabric, and this is dishonesty.

Others will use the thing they are selling in order to tell their customers when they are asked about it: “I myself use it in my house”. One should consult others with the same thing he will consult himself with, and that should be for real not just to display the goods, or out of malice.

By Consulting We Draw out the Best of Opinions

Scholars said: “Consulting draws out the sweetest of opinions, and the best of what is hidden in chests, exactly like when we take honey from the bee hive.”  Therefore, when you consult a believer, you are bringing out his wise opinion.

Two days ago, I was asked by a brother about a land he bought, but after a while someone claimed to own part of it and he filed a suit case, and when he asked the owner about that matter, his papers weren’t complete, and though this brother won the case and became the owner of the whole land, yet he was not comfortable that part of it is not owned by the main owner who sold it to him, and kept feeling worried for three years.

The main owner of the land died and this brother asked me what to do? I said: It is easy, sell the part that you doubt owning and spend it on the poor as charity, in that case if the land was yours then you paid charity and will be rewarded for it on the Day of Judgment, and if it wasn’t yours, then it was kept for its owner to be rewarded in the hereafter (because he is now dead and if he were alive he would have given it to him), and by doing so your worries will be cleared.

This man was touched deeply by this solution which he couldn’t figure out himself, as he was worried that he has eaten ill-gotten money, given that he who transgresses a piece of land will be in hell, so how about 2000 sq. m. (half acre) of land?

There is a solution for any problem, but you need to seek it in order to find it. It was mentioned in the relic:

“Polish your minds by deliberation, and seek an aid in your matters through consulting”

Best of times is when you deliberate knowledge with others, consult them, ask for their evidence to support the matter in question, ask for their hints, and swap notes between your opinion and theirs, in that case, you are polishing your mind by deliberation, and seeking aid in your matters through consulting. However, don’t consult just any one; rather you should know who to consult.

{…and obey not him whose heart We have made heedless of Our Remembrance, one who follows his own lusts and whose affair (deeds) has been lost.} (18:28)

The Criteria of the Consultant

You should consult the believers. Scholars said: “The consultant should be trustworthy, respectful, adviser, steadfast, non self-absorbed, non hesitant, not liar, and he should not be fond of the matter he is consulting with (there is no conflict of interests).”

Namely, if the matter of consulting is a garden, then you shouldn’t ask someone who is fond of gardens by saying: “this garden is for me and for my neighbor, so what should I do?”

In this case, he might say to you: “take it”, out of his love to gardens, and he will be carried away by his love instead of being just.

Same goes for he who is ascetic about worldly life matters, like when you say to him: “there is a disagreement between me and the owner of this store, what should I do?” As he might say to you: “leave it to him”, because he is not interested in tangible things, and by this he is giving an opinion that might not be just for you if you have kids and the store should be yours according to the law.

Both men will be giving opinions very far from rightness, as the fond of the first will blind him from the truth, and the distance of the second will do the same. Also don’t consult a stingy person in money related matters, as he will say to you: “keep your money for a rainy day”, hence, the stingy can’t be a consultant. Instead, you should consult the trustworthy, respectful, adviser, steadfast, non self-absorbed, non hesitant, and who is not a liar. Abu Mas’ud reported that the Prophet Muhammad said:

“The consulted is an aid seeker, and the consultant must be trustworthy..” (At-Tirmidhi, 2822)

You are at liberty to pardon yourself from giving any opinion, and going silent might be the answer, and remember that you are trusted if consulted, hence, if a great conflict occurred because of consulting, you should pardon yourself from giving any opinion and this is better than giving an opinion that you are not convinced of, or giving an opinion opposite to what you know, as this is a major sin, so beware of consulting others with the opposite of what you know.

Guidance Is Sought from Allah and Consulting from Experts

“There will be no disappointing in performing Istikharah Salah (seeking guidance from Allah by performing two Rak’ahs), and there will be no regret in consulting.”

Istikharah is all about seeking aid from Allah, whereas consulting is sought from experts among believers. Being a believer only is not enough, and being an expert only is not enough, you should have both to be consulted. If the consultant was not a believer, then he won’t be a good adviser, as in his advice, he might have a conflict of interests, so he will hinder it from you, whereas the inexperienced believer will give you his opinion out of ignorance. Therefore, Guidance is sought from Allah and consulting is sought from experts.

Finally: “Whoever consults wise men will be borrowing their minds”. You can gain fifty years of experience from someone by asking him nicely: What do you think of this matter Master? And remember, he who consults wise men will be borrowing their minds.

I hope that we make use of this lecture practically in our daily life, and get yourself used to consulting others, to asking, to brain storming, to resorting to experts, to the pious, and to the believers, either in you trading or traveling, and beware of acting autocratically, as this will lead you to the worst of deeds.

By Muhammad Ratib An-Nabulsi