Safar\Rabi-Ul-Awwal 1424 H
Volume 16-05 No : 197
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(The House of Imran, " Al-Imran: 3:159)
This verse was the subject of our commentary last month. We discussed the main qualities of the Prophet’s (Pbuh) personality to which this verse referred and the fact that Allah had endowed the Prophet with compassion and soft-heartedness as a manifestation of Allah’s grace to the nation of Islam. We pick up our commentary on this verse where we left it last month when we mentioned that the principle of consultative government is fundamental in the Islamic system.
The decisive order, consult with them on the conduct of public affairs is issued by Allah to the Prophet at a time when consultation appears to have produced bitter results. Appearances suggested that it was due to the practice of consultation that disunity crept among the Muslims. They had different views, with one group of them preferring that the Muslims should stay in Madinah, waiting for the enemy to make its attack when they could repel that attack without difficulty. Another group was so eager to fight the disbeliever and advocated that the Muslim army should go out to meet them. The resulting disunity was clearly apparent when Abdullah ibn Ubbai ibn Salool withdrew with not less than one third of the army, when the enemy was knocking at the doorstep. That was a very serious incident with far reaching effects. Moreover, the plan adopted for the defense of Madinah did not appear to be the most sound from the military point of view. It was at variance with what had been learned from the past experience, as Abdullah ibn Ubbai said. The Muslims themselves adopted the opposite strategy in the following battle, staying in Madinah and digging a moat around it. Thus they showed that they had benefited by the lessons of Uhud.
The Prophet himself (Pbuh) was not unaware of the serious consequences, which would result from moving out. As a Prophet, whose dreams always came true, he had seen a dream and he interpreted it to mean that one member of his own household would be killed and a number of his companions would also fall in battle. He also said that the dream indicated that Madinah was akin to an impregnable fortress. In the circumstances, he was entitled to overturn the decision made on the basis of consultation. He, however, preferred to go ahead with that decision because the practical establishment of fundamental principles and allowing the Muslim community to learn hard lessons through their implementation was more important than avoiding temporary setbacks.
It would have been understandable if the Prophet, as a leader of the Muslim community, had abrogated the whole principle of consultation after the battle, in view of the division that it had caused at a particularly difficult time and the bitter defeat suffered as a result by the Muslim army in the battle. Islam, however, was cultivating a whole nation and preparing it to assume its natural role of leadership of mankind. Allah knew that the best method to achieve that purpose was for the community to be educated through consultation and to be trained to shoulder its responsibilities. It was expected to err, and indeed to make serious mistake, in order to learn how to correct its errors and to face up to their consequences. How else could it be trained to make the right decision? Losses can be borne if the net result was to make the whole nation able to understand its responsibilities and to shoulder them. To try to avoid errors and slips would not benefit any nation, if it meant that the nation would continue to enjoy supervision and protection. It is true that it could avoid material losses, but it loses its personality and its training to face up all events in practical life. It would be in the same position as a child who is not trained to walk in order to save the price of a pair of shoes for him.
It was necessary for Islam to allow the Muslim nation to achieve maturity in order to prepare it for its role of leadership. There was no alternative, but to allow the Muslim nation to achieve maturity in order to prepare it for its role of leadership. There was no alternative but to allow the Muslim community to practice its role without patronage or protection, during the lifetime of the Prophet and under his guidance. It may be suggested that the presence of wise leadership makes consultation superfluous and should dispense with the practical training of the Muslim nation in how to conduct such consultation in the most serious of matters- such as in the case of the battle of Uhud which might have determined the destiny of the young Muslim community which was surrounded by enemies and threats from all quarters. That wise leadership should have been allowed to make its own decisions on such serious matters. If such an assumption was true, the very presence of Muhammad (Pbuh), equipped with divine revelation, would have been sufficient to deprive the Muslim community at that time of its right to consultation, especially in the light of the bitter consequences which have resulted from the practice of consultation,. But neither the presence of Allah’s Messenger, equipped as he was with divine revelation, nor the events and complications that took place were enough to suspend the right of the community to be consulted. Allah, limitless He is in His Glory, knew that consultation must be practised in the most serious of matters, regardless of the consequences, losses and sacrifices. All these are small price for the attainment of maturity by the Muslim nation and for training it in how to conduct its affairs and bear the responsibility and accept the consequences of its decision. Hence the divine commandment at this particular point in the life of the young Muslim community: “Therefore, pardon them and pray for forgiveness for them and consult with them in the conduct of public affairs”. Thus the principle is established despite the risks that may attend its implementation. The flimsy argument which is often advanced in favour of abrogating this principle of consultation whenever a misfortune attends its implementation is rejected outright. The maturity of the nation cannot be achieved without putting this principle into effect. For the nation to achieve its maturity is far more important and far more valuable than any loss that may be incurred in the process.
The true picture of the Islamic system does not appear complete unless we examine the rest of the verse, to discover that consultation is never allowed to lead to hesitation and delay. Nor does it replace the need to rely ultimately on Allah: “When you have resolved upon a course of action, put your trust in Allah, Allah loves those who put their trust in Him”.
The role of consultation is to examine all views and select a particular course of action. When the process reaches this stage, consultation must give way to implementation with resolve and decisiveness, placing trust in Allah. Thus, Allah’s will determines the outcome as He pleases.
The Prophet gave the Muslim nation the lesson of consultation with all that is involved of convincing views, weighing them up, and bearing the responsibility for the results, even in the most serious of matters. He also gave the Muslim nation a second lesson in a decisive way with which he implemented the decision made and placed his trust in Allah. He gave his order to the Muslims to get ready to march and he himself went into his rooms to put on his armour. At that moment he was aware of what was awaiting him and his companions of suffering and sacrifices. On the other hand, those who were enthusiastic about meeting the enemy outside Madinah hesitated for fear that they might have imposed on the Prophet a course of action of which he did not approve. Therefore, they put the matter back to him, and assured him of their obedience whatever he decided. Nevertheless, even with this second opportunity, the Prophet did not go back on his decision, because he wanted to teach them the whole lesson of consultation and resolve, combined with complete reliance on Allah and submission to His will. He wanted them to realize that there was a specific time for consultation, but once a decision was taken there could be no room for hesitation and starting the process anew. That was bound to perpetuate the state of indecision.
Allah loves those who put their trust in Him. This is a distinctive quality of the believers. Reliance on Allah and putting our trust in Him and submission to His will constitute the final line, which maintains the proper balance in Islamic philosophy and Islamic life. That is the way to approach the fundamental principle that the ultimate authority belongs to Allah and that He does what He chooses.
This was one of the great lessons, which the battle of Uhud taught the Muslim nation. It remains a lesson to be learned by every new generation of Muslims. It does not apply to one generation to the exclusion of others.