I am afraid this is an incorrect inference. In
addition, the Qur’ān is a internally coherent Book and each verse has a specific
context, which, if disregarded, may lead to gross misinterpretation.
If we take a look at the context of 3:159, it becomes
evident that the verse occurs in the group of verses in which the behaviour of
the hypocrites and the events of the battle of Uhud and their aftermath are
under discussion. The hypocrites, we know from the Qur’ān, were given a time of
respite so that they might reform themselves. However, once the time was over,
they were severely dealt with as is evident from many verses of the Qur’ān. For
يَاأَيُّهَا النَّبِيُّ جَاهِدْ الْكُفَّارَ وَالْمُنَافِقِينَ
وَاغْلُظْ عَلَيْهِمْ وَمَأْوَاهُمْ جَهَنَّمُ وَبِئْسَ الْمَصِيرُ (٦٦:٩)
Strive hard against the Disbelievers and the Hypocrites, and be firm against
them. Their abode is Hell, an evil refuge indeed. (66:9)
The battle of Uhud was the time when they were still in the
period of respite. So, it was not appropriate to disregard them at that time.
Consequently, the Prophet (sws) is told to keep consulting them in various
affairs; however, he is not bound by what their majority says. If he decides
contrarily, he should repose his trust in Allah and do what he has decided. This
is a brief summary of the stress of the verse.
A more detailed look at the context of 3:159 and at the
various historical facts shows that the Prophet (sws) had consulted the Muslims
on whether they should fight the enemy from within the city or from the outside.
The Hypocrites opined that they should fight from within the city while the true
believers were of the opposite opinion. The Prophet (sws) it seems also held the
latter opinion. So when he and the believers decided to go out and fight, the
Hypocrites became angry and expressed their anger in various ways. Abdullāh Ibn
Ubayi for example departed right before the battle with his three hundred men
saying that his opinion was ignored. Another group of the Hypocrites that stayed
with the Muslims started spreading propaganda once the battle was over that the
defeat was due to the wrong strategy adopted. Consequently, verses 3:156-8,
while addressing the Hypocrites, mention these details in the following manner:
يَاأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا تَكُونُوا كَالَّذِينَ
كَفَرُوا وَقَالُوا لِإِخْوَانِهِمْ إِذَا ضَرَبُوا فِي الْأَرْضِ أَوْ كَانُوا
غُزًّى لَوْ كَانُوا عِنْدَنَا مَا مَاتُوا وَمَا قُتِلُوا لِيَجْعَلَ اللَّهُ
ذَلِكَ حَسْرَةً فِي قُلُوبِهِمْ وَاللَّهُ يُحْيِ وَيُمِيتُ وَاللَّهُ بِمَا
تَعْمَلُونَ بَصِيرٌ وَلَئِنْ قُتِلْتُمْ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ أَوْ مُتُّمْ
لَمَغْفِرَةٌ مِنْ اللَّهِ وَرَحْمَةٌ خَيْرٌ مِمَّا يَجْمَعُونَ وَلَئِنْ مُتُّمْ
أَوْ قُتِلْتُمْ لَإِلَى اللَّهِ تُحْشَرُونَ (٣:
O you who
believe, be not like the disbelievers who say of their brethren when they are
travelling through the land or fighting: ‘If they had stayed with us they would
not have died or been slain’ so that Allah may make a cause of regret in their
hearts. It is Allah Who gives life and death. And Allah knows what you do. And
if you are killed or die in the way of Allah, forgiveness and mercy from Allah
are far better than all they amass [of worldly wealth]. And whether you die are
or killed, verily, unto Allah you shall be gathered. (3:156-8)
Consequently, it is clear from these verses that the
Prophet (sws) in his capacity of a Prophet (sws) was advised to deal with the
Hypocrites of his times in a particular manner, as spelled out in the subsequent
verse; in other words, this subsequent verse also like the previous ones refers
to the Hypocrites:
فَاعْفُ عَنْهُمْ وَاسْتَغْفِرْ لَهُمْ وَشَاوِرْهُمْ فِي
الْأَمْرِ فَإِذَا عَزَمْتَ فَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى اللَّهِ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُحِبُّ
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 Allah. (3:159)
These verses cannot be related to us in any way today.
Technically speaking, the antecedent of the plural accusative pronoun in the
imperative verb ‘شَاوِرْهُمْ’ (consult) are the
hypocrites of the Prophet’s times. Owing to his position as Prophet, Muhammad (sws)
was divinely guided in their affairs and was told to deal with them with
latitude until the Almighty signaled to him that the period of respite was over.
Consequently, the verse cannot be extended to anyone beyond
the Prophet (sws).