Reflection No. 4:14 on Q 3:159 – Consulting others

وَشَاوِرْهُمْ فِي الْأَمْرِ – wa shāwirhum fil-amri
And consult with them in (certain) matters (Sūrat Āli Imrān, No. 3, Āyat 159)

Consulting others and taking their opinions reveals a level of trust and respect for them. The practice of consulting others has many benefits. It stimulates thought, enhances self-esteem, strengthens relationships, and binds society together. There is great progress both for the individual as well as the society when members seek the opinion of others before making a decision. Of course it is necessary to consult those worthy of it, and eventually make the final decision yourself based on what seems most appropriate.

Consulting others, or Mashwara, was a practice of the Holy Prophet (s). He taught the Muslims to follow it in their own daily lives. Through this practice, the Prophet (s) nurtured higher level thinking among the Muslims, teaching them that they could also contribute to the running of the affairs in the Muslim society. There was no consultation regarding the laws revealed by Allah. Consultation can occur only in the implementation and operation of the laws. Sometimes the Holy Prophet (s) would put aside his own view on a matter and go along with a suggestion of a companion. Examples of this can be seen in the battles of ‘Uhud and Khandaq, where the Prophet (s) accepted suggestions of military tactics from the companions.

The benefits of consulting others include:

You add the intelligence and wisdom of others to your own, rather than relying only on yourself.
The likelihood of mistakes becomes less when more people think about a matter. Varied intellects and experiences are less likely to be wrong than one individual one. Imam Ali (a) has said: The Messenger (s) sent me to Yemen and advised me, ‘the one who consults does not regret’.
If the matter turns out successful, people will be happy and feel party to the success rather than be envious of it. And if the matter is unsuccessful, the person will not be blamed as many people were behind the decision.
Qualities like trust, respect, humility, self-esteem, love, etc. and many more positive traits are strengthened.
Better and enduring reward is for believers who conduct their affairs through mutual consultation (Qur’an 42:39).
Recite this verse when you have to make a decision and consider following the Sunnah (practice) of the Holy Prophet (s). It is better than acting only according to what you think is right. As Imam Ali (a) says: He who acts solely according to his own opinion gets ruined, and he who consults other people shares in their understanding. (Nahjul Balāgha, Saying No.161)

 Sources:

Āytaullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (ed), Tafsīr-e Namūneh;
Amīrul Mu’minīn Ali Ibn Abī Tālib, Nahjul Balāgha