The Institution of Shura: Mutual Consultation
Friday Sermon delivered at Masjid Mubarak, Islamabad, Tilford, UK
‘The Significance of Majlis-e-Shura and Mutual Consultation’
After reciting Tashahhud, Ta’awwuz and Surah al-Fatihah, His Holiness, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad(aba) recited the following verse:
‘And it is by the great mercy of Allah that thou art kind towards them, and if thou hadst been rough and hard-hearted, they would surely have dispersed from around thee. So pardon them and ask forgiveness for them, and consult them in matters of administration; and when thou art determined, then put thy trust in Allah. Surely, Allah loves those who put their trust in Him.’ (The Holy Qur’an 3:160)
The Importance of the Institution of Shura
His Holiness(aba) said that these days various countries are holding their Majlis-e-Shura (meeting of the consultative body). His Holiness(aba) said that although he has spoken about the importance of Shura and the responsibility of delegates, however since it has been a few years, His Holiness(aba) said that he deemed it appropriate to speak on the subject again as a reminder in light of the commandments of God, the Holy Prophet(sa) and the Community’s tradition.
His Holiness(aba) said that even in countries where the Shura has already taken place, the delegates can still take benefit from this advice, because their responsibilities continue after the Caliph of the Time has approved their proposals in order to ensure their implementation.
Complete Trust Should be Placed in God
His Holiness(aba) said that he would highlight certain aspects in light of the verse which he recited in the beginning along with the example of the Holy Prophet(sa). In the verse, Allah the Almighty testifies to the fact that the Holy Prophet(sa) was extremely tenderhearted towards his people. The verse also states that those who were to carry forth the same mission, especially his true servant who was to come in the latter days were to show the same kindness and compassion. God states that rather than kindness, if anger and strictness were to be shown, then people would flee away, which is why the commandment of forgiving and praying for forgiveness has been given. Similarly, the commandment of mutual consultation has also been given. It is thus that Majlis-e-Shura is held, but as the name indicates, this body exists to consult, not to make decisions. Hence, God states that after consultation, when a decision is made, then complete trust should be placed in God.
His Holiness(aba) said that the perfect example of trust in God is of the Holy Prophet(sa). Whereas the Holy Prophet(sa) received divine revelation to elucidate various matters at hand, the Holy Prophet(sa) would also consult with his Companions when it pertained to matters regarding which divine revelation had not yet been received. This shows us how the conduct of office bearers should be with members of the Community, and the fact that we should do things with mutual consultation. We are very fortunate that Allah the Almighty granted the Ahmadiyya Community the blessing of the Caliphate. As such, the Caliph of the Time, in accordance with the commandment of God and the teachings of the Holy Prophet(sa), consults with the members of the Community in various countries regarding their situations and matters pertaining to them.
Shura as a Means to Allah’s Mercy
His Holiness(aba) said that the example of the Holy Prophet(sa) seeking consultation was surely to guide us right and to establish unity in his people. It is narrated that when the Qur’anic verse about mutual consultation was revealed, the Holy Prophet(sa) said that this had been made a mercy for his people. Therefore, one who consults will receive blessings, whereas those who don’t consult cannot be saved from humiliation. Hence, although the Holy Prophet(sa) was exempt from this, he still established the example of mutual consultation in order to guide us.
Three Ways of Consultation by The Holy Prophet(sa) and the Rightly Guided Caliphs
His Holiness(aba) said that in light of this, we should be grateful for the establishment of Majlis-e-Shura and honour it. With regards to the manner in which the Holy Prophet(sa) sought consultation, we find three types of examples; one was that when counsel was required on a matter, an announcement would be made for people to gather. Then the Holy Prophet(sa) would consult with the people regarding the matter, after which he would make his decision. Although all people would gather, the leaders and chieftains of the various tribes would be the ones to actually speak as representatives of their people, and the people were perfectly content with this. The second manner in which consultation was sought was that the Holy Prophet(sa) would specifically summon those whom he thought were most apt to give suggestions on a particular matter. The third manner in which consultation would be sought was that when the Holy Prophet(sa) deemed it appropriate, he would summon people one at a time to seek their advice. These were also the same methods adopted by the Rightly Guided Caliphs.
How The Holy Prophet(sa) Sought Consultation
His Holiness(aba) said that it is narrated that no one would seek consultation more than the Holy Prophet(sa). For example, when it came to sending Hazrat Mu’az bin Jabal to Yemen, the Holy Prophet(sa) consulted various people, including Hazrat Abu Bakr(ra), Hazrat Umar(ra), Hazrat Uthman(ra), Hazrat Talha(ra), Hazrat Zubair(ra), and many other Companions. Hazrat Abu Bakr(ra) said that had the Holy Prophet(sa) not asked them, they would not have said anything. The Holy Prophet(sa) said that in matters regarding which he had not received revelation, he was just like them. In this matter, the Holy Prophet(sa) also asked the opinion of Hazrat Mu’az(ra). Hence, this exhibits the humility of the Holy Prophet(sa) and the esteemed importance that must be given to mutual consultation.
His Holiness(aba) said that the Holy Prophet(sa) also consulted his Companions after his migration to Madinah, when the Makkans sought to destroy the peace of Muslims. After consulting them, the Holy Prophet(sa) set out towards Badr. In fact, during this consultation, the chieftains of the Ansar showed a great deal of sincerity and even made an oath, which greatly pleased the Holy Prophet(sa). This was because not only is the conduct of those from whom consultation is sought of the utmost importance, but they must be at the forefront in the fulfilment of whatever decision is made as a result of the consultation. Hence, all the delegates of Majlis-e-Shura must bear in mind that they must be the foremost in implementing whatever decision is made by the Caliph of the Time. It is only when they set their own practical examples that the rest of the membership of the Community will be prepared to implement it and be prepared to offer whatever sacrifice is required for it.
The Responsibilities of the Shura Delegates
His Holiness(aba) said that the Shura delegates must remember that every Ahmadi has pledged loyalty to the Caliphate, and thus, they must fulfil this pledge to the utmost degree. Just as the Caliph must abide by the commandment of seeking consultation and being kind hearted, those who are consulted also have the responsibility of doing the same, and giving their suggestions with the purest of intentions. The Shura delegates should reflect as to the level of their righteousness. It is narrated that Hazrat Ali(ra) said that only the intelligent and those given to worship. This is the standard required of the delegates. In fact, this is also guidance for those who elect the Shura representatives. They should select those who seem to be capable of giving sound counsel and are devoted to worship. When this is the spirit in which the representatives are selected, then a clear distinction is visible in the suggestions that they make.
His Holiness(aba) said that whilst giving suggestions and expressing opinions, the Shura delegates should not become influenced by someone else, they should not consider their personal friendships in the opinions they express, nor should they change their own opinions for fear of anything else. Rather, they should give their opinions whilst keeping righteousness at the forefront of their minds. They should remember that God knows what is in their hearts and what their actions are. They should be fearful of the fact that if they do not act to attain the pleasure of God, then they could incur His displeasure.
Attaining the Blessings of God
His Holiness(aba) said that in countries where the Shura has already taken palace, the delegates should continue to fulfil their responsibilities by vowing to set their practical examples whilst being mindful of their spiritual and practical states. They should act upon the decisions that were made with righteousness and also see to their fulfilment. It is in doing so that we can attain the blessings of God and that there can be blessings in the decisions that were made. When this is not done, then the decisions made can be such that they cause ruin or even disturb the peace. Hence, in order to avoid this, we must always analyse ourselves.
Majlis-e-Shura acts as a Helper of the Caliph
His Holiness(aba) said that the proposals made are sent to the Caliph of the Time. In fact, the Shura is called only upon the instruction of the Caliph of the Time. Hence, Majlis-e-Shura acts as a helper of the Caliphate. After the system of Caliphate, Majlis-e-Shura holds esteemed importance. A Shura delegate holds that position for a year’s time and they should understand the importance and gravity of this position. The agenda of the Shura and the proposals that are made give the Caliph of the Time insight into the issues at hand in different countries. The proposals made sometimes do not encompass the complete manner in which a problem can be solved, upon which the Caliph of the Time includes different aspects that perhaps were not in the view of the Shura delegates. Whatever approval is received should be implemented by every Shura member. It is only in doing so that we can be true helpers in the mission of the Promised Messiah(as).
Upholding the Sanctity of Shura
His Holiness(aba) said that sometimes when expressing an opinion, some people become very impassioned and speak in a manner that does not behoove the sanctity of Shura. Therefore, rather than delivering passionate and emotional speeches, they should express their opinions in a calm and appropriate manner. Sometimes, the Amir who is chairing the session may think that a person who is expressing their opinion is speaking against them or their executive body and then stop them from speaking. However, the Amir should be reasonable, and consider that the person expressing their opinion is doing so with pain for the Community. Similarly, when matters such as the budget are being discussed, there can be times where people have very strong opinions. Rather than letting emotions prevail, everyone should keep calm and listen to each other’s suggestions knowing that everyone is seeking the overall benefit of the Community. It should always be kept in mind that as delegates, they have been chosen as representatives and so never should anything be personal or contentious. Upon being elected as representatives, if the delegates are not at the standard of righteousness that is required, then they must continually seek forgiveness and strive to improve their condition. They must be helpers of the Caliph of the Time, and they must ensure that the decisions made by him are being implemented exactly as they were made.
Importance of Implementing the Decision of Shura
His Holiness(aba) said that sometimes, decisions are not fully implemented due to slackness on the part of office bearers. In such instances, not only should the Shura delegates draw the attention of the general membership towards implementing the decision, but they should also remind the office bearers. If despite this the decision is not being implemented, then the Shura delegate should write to the central headquarters. Bear in mind that one can make excuses to evade their responsibilities and get away with it in this life, but they will be questioned by God as to the responsibilities that were entrusted to them. This is something to be very cautious of. It should also be borne in mind that a delegate should not lodge a complaint against an office bearer upon having some sort of a personal disagreement with them. They must always tread upon the path of righteousness. The decisions should be implemented to such a degree that the proposal never has to be presented to the Caliph of the Time again, nor should the proposal be sent with the note that since the matter was already presented previously, it is suggested that it not be presented again. His Holiness(aba) said that this should be a source of embarrassment. The goal should be for something like this to never happen.
His Holiness(aba) said that it should also be analysed that there may be certain active Jama’ats which fully implement the decision made by the Caliph of the Time. It should be seen what it is that has drawn to so passionately and enthusiastically implement the decisions that have been made and those same principles should then be shared with the less active Jama’ats.
His Holiness(aba) said that we cannot bring about a change in the world with mere words, rather we must show our actions. If the Shura delegates focus on improving the standards of their worship and attending the mosque, then the overall attendance could increase in mosques three-fold. If Shura delegates were to treat others kindly and compassionately and pray for them, and if they were to increase the level of their obedience to the Caliph of the Time, then a revolutionary change within the Community can come about. We have been entrusted with a mighty task. The Promised Messiah(as) was sent with the mission of spreading the beautiful teachings of Islam to the world and to bring it under the Unity of God. The fulfilment of this mission requires constant effort. The fufliment of these tasks also requires funds. Hence, whilst discussing the budget, it should be seen how the most can be done whilst remaining economical.
His Holiness(aba) prayed that may we fulfil our responsibilities whilst treading on the path of righteousness. May Allah cover our shortcomings and continually shower us with His blessings.
Summary prepared by The Review of Religions