Continuing from our previous discussion, we gave examples of consultations of leaders with experts and those who were seniors.
However, seniority and experts weren’t the only group that Saidina Umar r.a. sought advice. Saidina Umar r.a. started to add younger people to the gatherings too, because he knew that the elders were approaching the end of their lives and would soon go to their Lord and His mercy and forgiveness, and the state needed to renew its manpower. The brilliant `Umar realized this fact and started to choose from among the youth of the ummah those whom he sensed were knowledge and pious. `Abdullah ibn `Abbas was one of the first of them, and `Umar continued to choose some of the youth of the ummah as advisors based on how much they knew of the Qur`an. `Abdullah ibn `Abbas said:
“Those who were well-versed in Qur’an were the members of `Umar’s council and his advisors, whether they were old or young.”
If at all, leadership through syura helped to develop young leaders. Az-Zuhri said to some young people: “Do not think too little of yourself because you are young, for when `Umar ibn al-Khattab was faced a difficult problem, he would call the young people and seek their advice, relying on the sharpness of their minds.
Women were part of the consultation and meetings and therefore, part of governing the country. Muhammad ibn Sireen said: Saidina Umar used to consult people about matters and he would even consult the women ,and if he saw something in a woman’s opinion that he thought was good, he would follow it. It is narrated that on one occasion he consulted the Mother of the Believers Hafsa r.a. If at all, this should reinforce the opinion on the importance of women in governance or leadership.
The areas of syura at the time of Saidina Umar were many and varied, such as the administrative and political fields, such as the selection of agents and governors, military matters, purely shariah issues, such as determining shariah rulings on whether things were halal or haram, and matters pertaining to courts and the passing of judgements.
For example, with regard to calamities, Saidina Umar practiced a consultative approach towards crisis management. He would assemble the Sahabah and widen the circle of advisors as much as possible, as he did when the plague struck Syria when he was on his way there. News of that reached Saidina Umar when the governors came to meet him in Saragh, which is a place near Syria. The Muhajireen and Ansar were with `Umar, so he assembled them asked them whether he would carry on or go back. They differed concerning that. Some said, “You came out seeking the pleasure of Allah and this should not stop you from carrying on.” Other said: “It is trial and death, and we do not think that you should go and meet it.”
Then he summoned the Muhajireen of Quraysh, and they did not differ concerning the matter, rather they advised him to go back. So Saidina Umar called to the people; “In the morning we will head back.” Abu `Ubaydah said: “Are you running away from the decree of Allah?” He said: ‘Yes. We are running away from the decree of Allah to another decree. Do you think that if you have camels and you go to a valley in which there are two areas, one which is green and one which is arid, if you graze your camels in the green are that is by the decree of Allah, and if you graze them in arid area that is also by the dcree of Allah?” `Abdur-Rahman ibn `Awf heard them and came to them and said: “The Prophet (SAW) said: ‘if you hear that this epidemic is in some land, then do not go there, and if it strikes a land when you are there, do not leave and flee from it.’
What we would like to emphasize is that the caliphate of the Rightly-Guided Caliphs was based on the principle of syura which is derived from the Qur’an and Sunnah. The reign of Saidina Umar was not an isolated case which was something invented solely by him, rather it was one of the principles of the system of Islam.