Overview - Surah 42: ash-Shura (Consultation )

Surah Introduction

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The Surah emphasizes that the message of the Qur'an is from Allah Who revealed similar messages to other Prophets and Messengers.  The religion of Allah has been the same throughout history.  If Allah wanted He would have made all people into one Ummah, but He has given freedom to people to make their own choice by their free will. Allah will judge all people on the Day of Judgment. In the Surah it is also mentioned that the followers of this message are those who avoid major sins and who manage their affairs with mutual consultation.


  1. Allah revealed His message to His Prophets.  The purpose of revelation is to warn people about the Day of Judgment.  Had Allah willed, He would have forced all people into one Ummah, but the wrong-does will see the consequences of their deeds.
  2. The judgment is in the hand of Allah. He gave the same religion to all His Prophets. Muslims must invite people to Allah.
  3. Allah deals justly with all people. Allah accepts the repentance.  Allah's mercy is manifest in the universe.
  4. Believers should avoid sins, be patient, work with each other in consultation and practice forgiveness.
  5. The Prophet guides to the right path, the path of Allah.

The Surah takes its name from the Ayat, وَالَّذِينَ اسْتَجَابُوا لِرَبِّهِمْ وَأَقَامُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَأَمْرُهُمْ شُورَىٰ بَيْنَهُمْ وَمِمَّا رَزَقْنَاهُمْ يُنفِقُونَ  "And those who have responded to their lord and established prayer and whose affair is [determined by] consultation among themselves, and from what We have provided them, they spend." (42:38).

The following Surahs all have the letters, Ha-Meem as their opening Ayaat and interestingly what is common to all of them is their mentioning of the Prophet Musa. These Surahs are;

Surah 40: al-Ghafir
Surah 41: Fussilat
Surah 42: Shurah
Surah 43: Zukhruf
Surah 44: Dukhan
Surah 45: Jathiyah
Surah 46: al-Ahqaaf

There are 53 Ayat in this Surah.


Total Ayat53
Total Words *860
Root Words *213
Unique Root Words *0
Makki / MadaniMakki
Chronological Order* 62nd (according to Ibn Abbas)
Year of Revelation* 9th year of Prophethood
Events during/before this Surah*
Boycott of Banu Hashim Yr 3, Boycott of Banu Hashim Yr 2, Boycott of Banu Hashim Yr 1, 2nd Migration to Abyssinia, Physical beating and torture of some Muslims - 1st Migration of Muslims to Abyssinia, Public Invitation to Islam - Persecution of Muslims; antagonism - ridicule - derision - accusation - abuse and false propaganda., Revelation begins - Private Invitation to Islam , Revelation begins - Private Invitation to Islam , Revelation begins - Private Invitation to Islam
Events during/after still to occur*
Death of Abu Talib - Death of Khadijah - Stoning at Ta'if - al-Isra wal Mi'raj - Night Journey,1st Pledge of Aqabah,2nd Pledge of Aqabah,,Migration from Makkah to Madinah - Building of Masjid Nabi in Madinah - Treaty with Jews of Madinah - Marriage of Prophet to Aishah,Change of Qiblah from Jerusalem to Makkah - Battle of Badr,Battle of Uhud,,Battle of Ahzab - Expedition of Banu Quraydhah,Treaty of Hudaiybiyah - Letters to Kings and Rulers,,Conquest of Makkah - Battle of Hunain,Hajj led by Abu Bakr - Expedition of Tabuk,Farewell Hajj by Prophet - Death of Prophet - End of Divine Revelation
Names of Prophets Mentioned
Nuh, Ibrahim, Musa, Isa
Surah Index
Abraham, Adversity (patience during) , God (ability to do anything) , Angels, Beasts, Behaviour (each group given a law and way of life) (God could have made them one community), Behaviour (forgive readily) , Behaviour (peacemakers rewarded) , Behaviour (rulers make decisions after consultations) , Children (gift of female offspring) , Children (gift of male offspring) , Commandments (general religious) , Disbelievers (God’s promise to) , Earth, Government (rulers make decisions after consultations) , Hell, Humankind (mates of your own kind) , Judgement (Day) , Moses, Mountains, Noah, Oppression (blame is on oppressors) , Oppression (defend against) , Qur’an, Religion, Religion (divergence of opinion) , Religion (same as it was for the ones before you) , Resurrection (Day) , Revelation, Revelation (from behind a veil) , Revelation (nature of delivery) , Sea, Sexes (equality of) , Ships, Sin, Weather (rain)

Central Theme

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Theme 1: United Ummah [nation] and the virtue of consultation.

The discourse begins in a way as if to say: “Why are you expressing surprise and amazement at what Our Prophet is presenting before you? What he says is not new or strange, nor anything novel, which might have been presented for the first time in history: that Revelation should come down to a man from God and he should be given instructions for the guidance of mankind. God has been sending similar Revelations with similar instructions to the previous Prophets. It is not surprising that the Owner of the Universe should be acknowledged as Deity and Ruler, but what is strange is that one should accept another as divine and deity in spite of being His subject and slave. You are angry with him who is presenting Monotheism (Tawhid) before you, where as the polytheism (shirk) that you are practicing with regard to the Master of the Universe is such a grave crime as may cause the heavens to break asunder. The angels are amazed at this boldness of yours and fear that the wrath of God might descend on you any moment.”

After this the people have been told that a person’s being appointed to Prophethood and his presenting himself as a Prophet does not mean that he has been made master of the people’s destinies and he has come to the world with that very claim. God has kept the destinies in His own hand. The Prophet has come only to arouse the heedless and guide the strayed ones to the Right Path. To call to account those who do not listen to him and to punish or not to punish them is God’s own responsibility, and not part of the Prophet’s work. Therefore, they should take it out of their head that the Prophet has come with a claim similar to those that are made by their so called religious guides and saints to the effect that he who would not listen to them, or would behave insolently towards them, would be burnt to death: In this very connection, the people have also been told that the Prophet has not come to condemn them but he is their well wisher; he is warning them that the way they are following will only lead to their own destruction.

Then, an answer has been given to the question: Why didn’t God make all human beings righteous by birth, and why did He allow the difference of viewpoint owing to which the people start following each and every way of thought and action? The answer given is this: Owing to this very fact has it become possible for man to attain to the special mercy of God, which is not meant for other creatures, but is only meant for those endowed with power and authority, who should take God as Patron and Guardian not instinctively but consciously by willing choice. God supports the man who adopts this way and guides and helps him to do good and right and admits him into His special mercy. On the contrary, the man who misuses his option and makes his patron those who are not, in fact, the guardians, and cannot be, are deprived of divine mercy. In this connection, it has also been made clear that only God is the Patron of man and of all other creatures. Others are neither the patron nor have the power to do full justice to patronage. Man’s success depends only on this that he should make no mistake in choosing a patron for himself by the use of his free choice, and should take only Him his Guide Who, in reality, is the real Patron.

After this, it has been explained what the Faith (Din) being presented by the Prophet Muhammad really is : Its primary basis that as God Almighty is the Creator, Master and real Patron of the Universe and Man, He alone is Man’s Ruler, He alone has the right to give Man Faith (Din) and Law (system of belief and practice) and judge the disputes of man and tell what is Truth and what is falsehood. No other being has any right whatever to be man’s lawgiver. In other words, like the natural sovereignty, the sovereignty with regard to lawmaking also is vested only in God. No man or creature, apart from God, can be the bearer of this sovereignty. And if a person does not recognise and accept this Divine rule of God, it is merely futile for him to recognise the natural sovereignty of God.

On this very basis has God ordained a ‘True Religion’ for Man from the very beginning. It was one and the same Religion given to all Prophets. No Prophet ever founded any separate religion of his own. The same one Religion has been enjoined by God for all Mankind since the beginning of creation, and all the Prophets have been following it and inviting others to follow it.

This Religion and Creed was not sent so that man may rest content only with believing in it, but it was sent with the purpose and intention that it alone should be introduced, established and enforced in the world, and no man made religion be made to prevail in God’s earth apart from His Religion. The Prophets had not been appointed only to preach this Religion but to establish it.

This same was the original Religion of mankind, but after the death of the Prophets, selfish people created new creeds by creating schisms for vested interests due to self-conceit, vanity and ostentation. All the different religions and creeds found in the world today have resulted from corruption of the original Divine Truth.

Now, the Prophet Muhammad has been sent so that he may present before the people the same and original Religion in place of the various practices and artificial creeds and manmade religions, and may try to establish the same. On this, if instead of being grateful, you feel angry and come out to fight him, it is your foolishness; the Prophet will not abandon his mission only because of your foolishness, he has been enjoined to adhere to his faith at all costs and to carry out the mission to which he has been appointed. Therefore, the people should not cherish any false hope that in order to please them he would cater to the same whims and superstitions of ignorance which has corrupted God’s Religion before.

You do not understand how great an impudence it is against God to adopt a man made religion and law instead of the Religion and Law enjoined by God. You think it is an ordinary thing and there is nothing wrong with it. But in the sight of God it is the worst kind of polytheism (shirk) and a grave crime whose punishment will be imposed on all those who enforced their own religion on God’s earth and those who adopted and followed their religion.

Thus, after presenting a clear and visible concept of Religion it is said: “The best possible method that could be employed for your instruction and for bringing you to the Right Path has already been employed. On the one hand, God has sent down His Book, which is teaching you the truth in a most impressive way in your own language; and on the other, the lives of the Prophet Muhammad and his Companions are present before you, by which you can see for yourselves what kind of men are prepared by the guidance given in this Book. Even then, if you do not accept this guidance, nothing else in the world can bring you to the Right Path. The only alternative, therefore, is that you should be allowed to persist in the same error in which you have remained involved in for centuries, and made to meet with the same doom which has been destined by God for such wrongdoers.”

While stating these truths, brief arguments have been given, here and there, for Monotheism and the Hereafter, the world worshipers have been warned of the evil consequences and their punishment in the life hereafter, and the disbelievers have been criticized for the moral weaknesses, which were the real cause of their deviation from the truth. The Surah has been concluded with two important themes.

Firstly, that the Prophet was wholly unaware of this concept of the “Book” or the True Faith during the first forty years of his life and then his sudden appearance before the people with those two things, is a manifest proof of his being a Prophet.

Secondly, his presenting his own teaching as the teaching of God does not mean that he claims to have spoken to God, face to face, but God has conveyed to him this Guidance, as in the case of all other Prophets, in three ways: He speaks to His Prophets either through Revelation, or from behind a veil, or He sends an angel with the message. This thing was clarified so that the opponents did not have an opportunity of accusing the Prophet of claiming to have spoken to God, face to face, and the seekers of the truth should know by what methods God gave instruction to the man whom He had appointed to the mission of Prophethood.

Connection of the name of the Surah and its Ayaat

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Connection between the beginning and the ending of the Surah

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  • How Wahy [revelation] occurs and its purpose. In th beginning of the Surah there is a mention of the function/purpose and the need for Revelation. In the end of the Surah there is a mention of how this Revelation occurs:
  • حم ﴿١﴾ عسق ﴿٢﴾ كَذَٰلِكَ يُوحِي إِلَيْكَ وَإِلَى الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكَ اللَّـهُ الْعَزِيزُ الْحَكِيمُ " "Ha, Meem.'Ayn, Seen, Qaf.Thus has He revealed to you, [O Muhammad], and to those before you - Allah, the Exalted in Might, the Wise." (42:1-3)
    وَكَذَٰلِكَ أَوْحَيْنَا إِلَيْكَ قُرْآنًا عَرَبِيًّا لِّتُنذِرَ أُمَّ الْقُرَىٰ وَمَنْ حَوْلَهَا وَتُنذِرَ يَوْمَ الْجَمْعِ لَا رَيْبَ فِيهِ ۚ فَرِيقٌ فِي الْجَنَّةِ وَفَرِيقٌ فِي السَّعِيرِ "And thus We have revealed to you an Arabic Qur'an that you may warn the Mother of Cities [Makkah] and those around it and warn of the Day of Assembly, about which there is no doubt. A party will be in Paradise and a party in the Blaze." (42:7)
  •  وَمَا كَانَ لِبَشَرٍ أَن يُكَلِّمَهُ اللَّـهُ إِلَّا وَحْيًا أَوْ مِن وَرَاءِ حِجَابٍ أَوْ يُرْسِلَ رَسُولًا فَيُوحِيَ بِإِذْنِهِ مَا يَشَاءُ ۚ إِنَّهُ عَلِيٌّ حَكِيمٌ وَكَذَٰلِكَ أَوْحَيْنَا إِلَيْكَ رُوحًا مِّنْ أَمْرِنَا ۚ مَا كُنتَ تَدْرِي مَا الْكِتَابُ وَلَا الْإِيمَانُ وَلَـٰكِن جَعَلْنَاهُ نُورًا نَّهْدِي بِهِ مَن نَّشَاءُ مِنْ عِبَادِنَا ۚوَإِنَّكَ لَتَهْدِي إِلَىٰ صِرَاطٍ مُّسْتَقِيمٍ "And it is not for any human being that Allah should speak to him except by revelation or from behind a partition or that He sends a messenger to reveal, by His permission, what He wills. Indeed, He is Most High and Wise.And thus We have revealed to you an inspiration of Our command. You did not know what is the Book or [what is] faith, but We have made it a light by which We guide whom We will of Our servants. And indeed, [O Muhammad], you guide to a straight path -" (42:51-52)

Manuscripts / Inscriptions

Connection of the Surah to the Surah before/after it

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The Virtues of the Surah

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Special Features of the Surah

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Important key and unique words of the Surah

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Total Word Count per Ayat (shows how many words per Ayat) *

Period of Revelation

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Although it could not be known from any authentic traditions, yet one feels after a study of its subject matter that this Surah might have been sent down consecutively after Surah 41: Fussilat (Presented In Detail), for it seems to be, in a way, a supplement to it. This will become clear to every person who first studies Surah 41: Fussilat carefully and then goes through this Surah. He will see that, in that Surah the Quraysh chiefs had been taken to tack for their deaf and blind opposition so that anyone in Makkah and in its out-skirts, who had any sense of morality and nobility left in him, should know how unreasonably the chiefs of the people were opposing Muhammad, and as against them, how serious he was in everything he said, how rational was his standpoint and how noble his character and conduct. Immediately after that warning this Surah was sent down, which did full justice to teaching and instruction, and made the truth of the Prophet’s message plain in such an impressive way that anyone who had any element of the love of the truth in him and who had not been blinded by the errors of ignorance, could not help being influenced by it.

Background Reasons for Revelation

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Relevant Hadith

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  • Three ways of Revelation have been explained in (42:51) - Inspiration, behind a Veil, or via a messenger Angel. 
  • Hasad [jealousy] is the reason behind splitting into sects (42:14)
  • Virtue of noble intentions in seeking the abode of the after-life (42:20)
  • Sin is the casue for evil and trials (42:30)
  • The Sunnah [practice] of Allah in Faraj [help] is that it occurs after severe Bala [tests]. (42:28)
  • The Heaven might have broken apart from above those who elevate Allah's creatures to His level if angels were not begging for forgiveness for the residents of Earth.
  • Islam is the same religion which was enjoined on Nuh, Ibrahim, Musa, and Isa. They were all ordained to establish Deen-al-Islam and do not create divisions in it.
  • He who desires the harvest in the Hereafter shall be given manyfold and he who desires it in this life shall be given a portion here but shall have no share in the Hereafter.
  • Whatever inflictions befall upon people, are the result of their own misdeeds.
  • True believers are those who establish Salah, give charity and defend themselves when oppressed.
  • The real losers are those who will lose on the Day of Resurrection.
  • It is Allah who gives daughters and sons as He pleases.
  • It is not vouchsafed for any human being that Allah should speak to him face to face.

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Miscellaneous Issues

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Shura, or consultation, embraces every facet of life and is easily adaptable to a variety of different situations. In Islam, it is encouraged not only in the political realm but on a social scale as well, involving families and professional entities. The Quran mentions shura when it refers to those “who (conduct) their affairs by mutual Consultation” (42:38) in the list of people that will have a lasting reward with God. Hence, shura is a binding Islamic principle.

Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him (pbuh), used to decide matters of importance, be it within the community or in his home, with the consultation of those around him. He set numerous examples in which he exercised shura, both in seeking advice and heeding it. In this way, he modeled how to be a just leader, an engaging military commander, and a father and husband that continually took counsel from his family. Indeed, shura was an integral process for him and he made it a prevalent practice in his society, fostering dialogue, mutuality, and unity.


From the very beginning of his prophethood, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) sought the counsel of his wife, Khadija. The first experience of revelation left the Prophet (pbuh) confused and he immediately rushed to Khadija for solace. Khadija comforted him and assured him that an honest man like him would not be forsaken by God. She took him to her cousin, Waraqa ibn Nawfal, a priest, who confirmed that Muhammad (pbuh) was a Prophet.

After Khadija’s death, the Prophet (pbuh) did not marry until a lady named Khawla bint Hakeem suggested that he do so for the sake of his children and for his own company. The Prophet (pbuh) asked her to recommend whom he should marry and followed her counsel.

Distressed, he went to his wife, Umm Salamah, who advised him to conduct these rites himself first, and his companions will surely follow. The Prophet heeded her suggestion, and as she had predicted, his companions followed suit, resolving the problem.

Similarly, shura among families as a whole – including children – is extremely important. Consultation strengthens the family unit and creates a culture of inclusive decision-making. It also cultivates confidence in children and nurtures a trusting relationship within the family. When shura is one of the family’s building blocks, then it is easier to get through the bumps of life, such as growth stages in children, behavioral changes, economic challenges, loss of loved ones, etc. The Prophet (pbuh) has stated, “The believers with the most perfect faith are those with the most perfect conduct and manners. And the best ones amongst you are those who are best to their families.”

The Larger Picture

The Islamic principle of shura is equally important beyond the family. It is a motivating and empowering factor in anything people undertake – from education to work to social causes to hobbies. It enables individuals to feel that their feedback is valuable and they can make a difference in the larger picture. Hence, in general, shura has a very positive influence on all sorts of professional or voluntary endeavors.

Some time later, when Umar, the second caliph, was on his deathbed, he instructed that his successor be chosen by mutual consultation among six companions. In general, the companions of the Prophet (pbuh) kept the spirit of shura alive by routinely seeking counsel and giving advice. This practice was so prevalent that individuals also felt free to approach their leaders without fear.

As time has gone by, and with various influences, Muslims in some parts of the world have relinquished this Islamic principle, clinging to rigid hierarchical structures instead. However, shura is a timeless concept which has to be understood and implemented according to the needs of time, place, and circumstances. When properly applied, it becomes essential to the well-being of families and organizations.