Men in authority must hold consultation. When there is disagreement among the Muslims on an issue each should be asked to give his opinion, and whichever opinion is closest to the Quran and Sunnah should be adopted.
A man in authority (wall al-amr) cannot dispense with consultation. God has commanded His Messenger, “Pass over (their faults) and ask for God’s forgiveness for them, and consult them in affairs. Then, when you have taken a decision put your trust in God, for God loves those who put their trust (in Him)” (3:159). Abu Hurayrah says that no one consulted his companions more than the Prophet did.79 Some people have said that God commanded His Prophet to hold consultation in order that he might win over his Companions and set an example for the people to come later. He asked him to do so in matters in which he was not given any specific instructions, such as matters concerning war or other worldly affairs.
God has praised the Believers who hold consultation. He has said, “That which is with God is better and more lasting for those who believe and put their trust in their Lord: those who avoid the greater crimes and shameful deeds, and when they are angry even then forgive; those who hearken to their Lord, and establish regular prayer; who conduct their affairs by mutual consultation; and who spend out of what We bestow on them for sustenance” (42:36-38). When the person in authority consults people and as a result comes to know the will of God’s Book or the Prophet’s Sunnah or the consensus of the Muslims, he should follow it and act upon it. No one can ask for obedience in things which are opposed to them, however great he may be in religion or in worldly affairs. God has said, “You who believe! Obey God, and obey the Messenger, and those charged with authority among you” (4:59). But if the matter is something in which Muslims differ, everyone should be asked to give his opinion and state the reasons for it, and whichever view is closest to the Book of God and the Sunnah of the Prophet should be adopted; for God has said, “If you differ in anything among yourselves refer it to God and His Messenger, if you do believe in God and the Last Day. This is best and most suitable for final determination” (4:59).
People who have authority (ulu al-amr) are of two kinds: rulers (umard) and scholars (`ulama’). “If they are right, the masses will also be right. Both should obey God and His Messenger and adhere strictly to His Book in all that they say and do. In the new issues that come up, they must consult the Quran and Sunnah and try to find out what they are required to do. It is only in cases where they are unable to form an opinion either because they do not have time for it or because they are not able to find out the will
of God and His Prophet, or because arguments in favor or against are equally strong, they may follow the opinion of an earlier scholar in whose knowledge and piety they have confidence. This is the best view in this regard. However, some people say that they are not allowed to follow in any case anyone’s opinion without discussion. A third group says just the opposite – that they can follow in every case. All these three views have been held by different scholars in the school of Ahmad as well as other schools.
Author: Ibn Taymiyyah
Islamic Topic: ISLAMIC SOCIETY
Source: Book: [Fatawa 28:386-7] / Also mentioned in “Ibn Taymiyyah Expounds on Islam”