[42:36] Whatever you are given is no more than temporary material of this life. What God possesses is far better and everlasting, for those who believe and trust in their Lord.
[42:37] They avoid gross sins and vice, and when angered they forgive.
[42:38] They respond to their Lord by observing the Contact Prayers (Salat). Their affairs are decided after due consultation among themselves, and from our provisions to them they give (to charity).
Al-Shura is an Arabic word and it means: consulting with others in an attempt to gather information and points of view and to seek guidance relevant to a particular issue in order to come up with the most intelligent decision that would lead to ideal consequences. Chapter 42 is called "Al-Shura/ Consultation" to highlight the practice as one of the believers' traits (42:38).
This reminder is to shed the light on the righteous boundaries of the process of consultation based on Quran. It has been observed over the years that some believers have unsound ideas about consultation which has been leading to the abuse of that practice.
To better understand that, one must ask: would God issue the practice of consultation as a trait for the believers even if the practice might lead to a decision that is against any of His teachings? There should be no disagreement that God would not do that simply because all that He advocates is righteous and is set for the advancement of us as individuals and as communities. God does not err, He does not contradict Himself and He does not advocate evil (20:52, 16:90, 4:82). If our redemption is solemnly promised by Him through our believe in Him, the Last Day, and leading a righteous life, then, sacrificing any of His righteousness standards cannot and should not be a price for practicing consultation. Therefore, the distinguishing factor between a righteous process of consultation and an abusive one would be basically whether or not the outcome of the process is a decision or a plan that conforms with the righteousness standards of Quran.
[3:104] Let there be a community of you who invite to what is good, advocate righteousness, and forbid evil. These are the winners.
There are other words, besides "al-shura", used in Quran in contexts that describe a consulting act with the messenger. These words are rightfully translated as "They consult you concerning... say..." (4:127, 4:176, 5:4, 8:1). Besides the important commands delivered in these verses, they are also set as examples to spell out the main objective of the consultation process : pointing out right information for the consulting party seeking the guidance. They also mandate the legitimacy of the party we consult with : a person or a group that possesses good knowledge about the matter in hand.
In the light of Quran, if a community matter was to be consulted, the process would be to merely remind each other with the teachings and ethics that are relevant to that matter in order to come up with an outline or plan that goes directly and entirely with God's will in Quran. The consulting party should not seek except the guidance that conforms with Quran's teachings and ethics. They have the obligation to analyze all the introduced information or advises in the light of Quran. The consulted party must posses the concrete knowledge of the straightforward teachings of Quran to earn the legitimacy of being consulted.
The main misconception about consultation is that some believers think it is about a majority vote! ; we agree, disagree, cast a vote and decide our affair based on what the majority agrees with even if that goes against any of the teachings of Quran! Satan, then, jumps in and offers a quick fix and justification through the deception that "we consulted among each other and we pleased God - mission is accomplished!". He thus makes us believe that the responsibility is divided equitably among the voters, giving us a false feeling of comfort that we, as individuals, are not fully accountable for the chosen decision. It is a group decision! ; a community decision! Unfortunately, this has been practiced for years, by submitters and community leaders. They have been trying to run away from their responsibilities thinking that they are clever & intelligent to deceive God and get excused or have much less share of accountability under the protection of "due consultation"!
In that regard, there are verses such as the following ones, that warn such leaders or those who are in charge to NOT follow the wishes or the personal opinions of community members in settling issues if they differ from what God has mandated. Not only do these verses outline both the objective and the ideal outcome of the consultation process, but also they shed the light on a responsible and righteous leadership and on how important it is to choose those we consult with:
[5:49] You shall rule among them in accordance with God's revelations to you. Do not follow their wishes, and beware lest they divert you from some of God's revelations to you. If they turn away, then know that God wills to punish them for some of their sins. Indeed, many people are wicked.
[13:37] We revealed these laws in Arabic, and if you ever acquiesce to their wishes, after this knowledge has come to you, you will have no ally, nor a protector, against God.
[45:18] We then appointed you to establish the correct laws; you shall follow this, and do not follow the wishes of those who do not know.
And a final note for such leaders or "figures in charge", it is noteworthy that in 3:159, God is directing His commands to a SINGULAR figure who is conducting a process of consultation:
[3:159] God loves those who trust in Him. It was mercy from God that you (singular tense) became compassionate towards them. Had you (singular tense) been harsh and mean-hearted, they would have abandoned you (singular tense). Therefore, you (singular tense) shall pardon them and ask (singular tense) forgiveness for them, and consult (singular tense) them. Once you (singular tense) make a decision, carry out (singular tense) your plan, and trust (singular tense) in God. God loves those who trust in Him.
The above figure is apparently in a leading position ; a leader, a messenger or a person in charger of executing plans. We clearly read that his responsibility is not limited to consulting with others, nor is it to follow a majority vote! It is to make the decision and execute the plan ; "Therefore, you shall pardon them and ask forgiveness for them, and consult them. Once you make a decision (singular tense), carry out your plan (singular tense), and trust (singular tense) in God. God loves those who trust in Him."
That decision and that plan, should NEVER be on the expense of violating any of God's commands in Quran; How dare we put our trust in God when we consult with each other and carry out plans that goes against His words and decreed will!!! How dare we expect God's support and try to earn His love & approval if our decisions, made after due consultation, are to conceal the truth, confound truth with falsehood, promote traditions, bury our heads in sand, freeze Quran, band against new knowledge, side with confessing idol worshipers! How dare we claim we are consulting among each other to please God and to be counted among those who believe and trust in God when our decisions after due consultation are nothing but a betrayal of His truth!
In conclusion, God doesn't command us to consult with each other to reach and follow a majority vote even if this majority vote leads to an agreement with Satan! Consultation is not about a majority vote! God doesn't command us to consult with each other to honor personal wishes or to share the accountability for wrong decisions or to free those in charge from their decision-making and execution responsibilities! Consultation is a duty to remind each other with the word of God and with the righteous standards relevant to the issue in hand so a final decision that entirely conforms with Quran could be reached and a plan that is pleasing to God alone could be executed by those who are in charge. This would lead to the advancement of our souls as individuals and the progress of the community by advocating righteousness and forbidding evil. Consultation is a process that mandates a wise choice of those we consult with and a responsibility to analyze and check all feedback and advises against Quran while dismissing whatever violates any of God's teachings. Even though the consultation process might appear as a group effort, we are all accountable for our responsibilities, ideas and actions as individuals!
Peaceful Friday, salaam and God bless.