One of the foundations of Islamic management is the necessity for leaders and managers to consult their followers. As such, Syura (or meetings) is very essential in Islamic Theory of Management. Allah SWT says:
And by the Mercy of Allah, you dealt with them gently. And had you been severe and harsh-hearted, they would have broken away from about you; so pass over [their faults], and [Allah`s] forgiveness for them; and consult them in the affairs. Then when you have taken a decision, put you trust in Allah, certainly, Allah loves those who put their trust [in Him]. (Qur`an 3:159)
And Allah says:
And those who answer the Call of their Lord [i.e. to believe that He is the only One Lord (Allah), and to worship none but Him Alone], and perform as-Salah [Iqamat as-Salah], and who [conduct] their affairs by mutual consultation, and who spend of what We have bestowed on them. (Qur`an 42:38)
This verse mentions consultation (syura) alongside establishing prayer, which indicates that the ruling on syura is the ruling on prayer. The ruling on prayer is that it is obligatory according to Syariah, and by the same token syura is obligatory according to shaari`ah.
Often times employees or leaders, within the working context, rue meeting times and often consider them as a waste of time. Furthermore, they also consider seeking advice or consulting an expert as a sign of weakness or lack of competency. This is not parallel with Islamic Principles of Management.
It is imperative to understand that Islam not only promotes consultations and meetings, in fact, it actually acknowledges and makes it obligatory. Secondly, it is also critical to understand that leaders and employees that practice consultation/meetings (syura) is also realizing and implementing the Holy Quran.
Saidina Umar Al-Khattab r.a. adopted the principle of syura during his caliphate; he did not decree concerning public affairs without discussing it with others. If something new came up, he did not take a decision on how to handle it without first gathering the Muslims together and discussing it with them and consulting them.
It was narrated that he said, “There is nothing good in a decision taken without consultation.”
Consensus or majority opinion is also central and key to the syura. As Saidina Umar r.a. rightly pointed out:
“An individual opinion is like a single thread, two opinions are like two interwoven threads, and three can never be broken.”
Consulting or meetings are not simply held with anyone. It has to be conducted with those who are relevant and knowledgeable. During his caliphate, Saidina Umar r.a. frequently consulted with experts from different industries. For military issues, he consulted his military commanders while for agriculture, he consulted those experts in it. For religious matters, he mentions:
“It is the duty of the Muslims to run their affairs by consultation between them and people of wisdom, as the people should follow those who are in charge of the affairs. So long as they are united then their opinion becomes binding on the people and the people should follow them. Whoever becomes in charge of the Muslim`s affairs should follow the opinion of the people of wisdom and whatever they suggest is in the best interests of the Muslims, and whatever plans they draw up in the case of war, the people should follow their opinion.”
To this effect, Saidina Umar r.a. also had an inner circle from among the Sahabah and people of wisdom and understanding, including al-Abbas ibn `Abdul-Muttalib and his son `Abdullah – who was with him almost constanstly, whether he was travelling or not – and `Uthman ibn `Affan, `Abdur-Rahman ibn `Awf, `Ali ibn Talib, Mu`adh ibn Jabal, Ubayy ibn Ka’b, Zayd ibn Thabit, and others of their caliber whom he used to consult and seek their advice. These advisors used to express their views with full freedom and frankness. `Umar never accused any of them with regard to his character and honesty.
Saidina Umar used to consult them with regard to matters concerning which there was no clear text in the Qur’an and Sunnah, aiming to find out whether one of the Sahabah knew something from the Sunnah concerning it, for some pf the Sahabah might have known things that others did not. Similarly he used to seek advice in understanding those texts which might carry more than one meaning, in order to become familiar with all the possible meanings. With regard to these situations (concerning which there was no text), he would sometimes be content to seek the advice of one person or of a few people.
Syura is an essential part of a muslim’s life. Every muslim need to embrace this concept and practice it, whether they are leaders or employees.