Islam is a way of life, and Shura, or mutual consultation in all affairs, is part of it.
Whether it's community affairs (42:38) or family issues (2:233), Shura is a blessing for all members of the Muslim community.
In a family setting, Shura is a beautiful tool for building family closeness and cohesion. It allows all family members to voice concerns and opinions in an open and honest manner; it teaches young and old the proper etiquette of communication, and most importantly, it allows all members to feel that they are part of a team that shares common values and goals for the sake of Allah.
But Shura doesn’t just happen. It requires time, commitment, and skill. One of these skills is good listening.
In our culture, listening tends to be devalued in the face of talking. A person who speaks well is highly regarded, but a good listener is rarely praised. Communication is clearly a two-way street, and Shura without proper listening skills cannot succeed.
Here are seven tips for better listening that can strengthen Shura in your family.
Busy parents, especially moms, are excellent multitaksers: doing the laundry while talking on the phone, while getting dinner ready, while preparing for a meeting. But in the case of Shura, multitasking is clearly a liability, not an asset.
When the family settles down to conduct Shura, all distractions must be removed. The television and radio must be off, the computer put in sleep mode, the answering machine on, and newspapers, games, and magazines put away.
This way, everyone's full attention can be given to paying attention to what is being discussed.
In some families and cultures, what women and young people have to say is ignored or devalued. This attitude is a sure way to kill good listening, and by extension, family Shura from the start.
If we remember the example of our beloved Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, he consulted his wives and was very attentive to the needs of children. He respected all, and this is the attitude that we must adopt if we want to become good listeners who will succeed in implementing Shura in our families.
Making eye contact with the person speaking is critical in showing that you are paying attention, which validates the speaker's need to feel you are really listening.
As with eye contact, gestures like nodding your head, smiling or frowning (depending on what's being said) also show the speaker that you are paying attention.
How many of us are notorious for finishing other people's sentences? This bad habit is not only rude, it is also a sure way to annoy a speaker. When you interrupt, the message you give the speaker is: 'what you have to say doesn't really matter, so let me take over the conversation'.
Wait until the speaker is finished talking, then raise your hand or start speaking if no one else is to responding.
Remove all distractions
An attitude of respect
Make eye contact
This is a great way to show that you were paying attention. By asking questions related to what the speaker was talking about, you show your interest.
Of course, questioning must be done in a respectful manner. If you disagreed with something the speaker said, express your disagreement politely, without raising your voice or becoming rude.
Remember, you don't have to agree to everything
Listening carefully to what someone else is saying does not mean you have to agree with everything that is being said. Rather, what you are doing is allowing the speaker to express his or her emotions so that s/he feels validated and a constructive solution can be worked out about a disagreement or issue.
So even if, during family Shura, your six-year-old says he "never" gets to do anything fun with his friends and you vehemently disagree, don't jump in and interrupt. Let him express his frustration by listening carefully, and then, consult with him about how he feels this can be changed.