Receiving Advice, Rather Than Giving It
Nobody can be expected to know everything. They do not always make correct decisions on all subjects. They may feel the need then to canvass different opinions on the subject concerned. Producing different solutions by seeking other opinions and approaching matters from a different perspective is an important way of reaching better decisions.
This is an act of observance for believers, because it is a value that God advises in the Qur’an.
The important thing is for believers to exchange ideas and consult one another in an honest and friendly way, in other words, to advise one another.
The finest example of this for believers is the way that our Prophet (saas) would consult people of different ages and take them all into account.
In line with these words from the Qur’an, “... Over everyone with knowledge is a Knower” (Surah Yusuf, 76), no matter how much a believer knows about something, he must always bear in mind that somebody else may know more and may be able to make more accurate decisions, and must therefore be open to others’ opinions and suggestions. Because it is Almighty God Who inspires ideas in people’s minds. This inspiration of different ideas is a manifestation of the compassion of Almighty God. For that reason, when a believer needs to make a decision about something, he will consult people whose intelligence, conscience and honesty he trusts. In other words, he will exchange ideas with them.
Our Almighty Lord reveals this feature of believers as follows in the Qur’an:
“those who respond to their Lord and establish the prayer, and manage their affairs by mutual consultation and give of what We have provided for them;” (Surat ash-Shura, 38)
Why Is It Better to Exchange Ideas?
First of all, consulting other people enables one to avoid a way of thinking that greatly admires one’s own ideas. Admiration of one’s own mind, putting one’s own thoughts and opinions first, stems from a feeling of pride and is unpleasing to God.
After consulting others, everyone will better grasp the fact that no feature actually derives from oneself, and that everything takes place by our Lord’s leave. Human beings can only know so much as God teaches them. Only God knows best about any subject. Failure to appreciate that fact, thinking that knowledge actually stems from oneself, means attributing a characteristic that actually belongs to God to oneself instead, and believers must scrupulously avoid any such error.
Our Prophet (saas) Is the Best Example of Seeking Other People’s Advice
Our Prophet Muhammad (saas) reminded believers of the importance of this in the words, “If someone wishes to do something, God will grant him success if he seeks the opinion of a Muslim on the subject.” (The Qutub al-Sittah, [The Six Books], Vol. 16) Our beloved Prophet (saas) exhibited exemplary behavior to believers on the subject of consulting others, no matter what the subject concerned, throughout the course of his life. Despite being a prophet, he consulted other people and did not regard himself above seeking other people’s opinions. This attribute, which believers need to possess, was inspired in our Prophet (saas) by Almighty God:
“It is a mercy from God that you were gentle with them. If you had been rough or hard of heart, they would have scattered from around you. So pardon them and ask forgiveness for them, and consult with them about the matter. Then when you have reached a firm decision, put your trust in God. God loves those who put their trust in Him.” (Surah Al ’Imran, 159)
Why Do Non-Believers Not Consult One Another?
People who do not live by Qur’anic moral values tend to have the last word and prove that they are in the right. Rather than understanding what the other side is saying and benefitting from it, they usually seek to express and impose their own views. They therefore make it a habit not to consult anyone on some subjects. However, no matter how much one may know, there may always be something one can learn from other people. Even if the other side is less well informed, they may still look at matters from a different angle, make an objective assessment and come up with useful ideas. Therefore, decisions taken by believers aware of the wisdom of consulting others will always, by our Lord’s leave, result in more auspicious outcomes.
Consulting Others Is a Means to Good Outcomes for Muslims
The language they use in talking with one another is an excellent opportunity for Muslims to exhibit proper moral values. When Muslims come together to talk and seek one another’s opinions, they must try to understand what the other party has to say and to benefit from it, rather than always telling other people what they think. Bragging about oneself is incompatible with the moral values of the Qur’an and can damage the solidarity among Muslims. Instead, they should use the kind of language that praises God and our Prophet (saas) and that appreciates the excellent qualities of other Muslims.
We must not forget that one of the most important characteristics of Islam is moral virtue and the demonstration of moral virtue, behavior and language. The important thing must be to seek advice instead of giving it, to be open to criticism rather than offering it, to praise rather than to boast and to see good things rather than defects. This, by God’s leave, is how the bright future awaiting the Islamic world can be built and how the spirit of alliance, unity and brotherhood at the heart of Islamic moral values can be reinforced. To that end, Muslims must consult one another, and respect and value others’ views and ideas.