“Ijma” (consensus of opinion)
Ijma has been define as the agreement of the Muslim jurisconsults in any particular age on a a juridical rule. The Authority of Ijma as a source of law is founded on Quranic and Sunnah Texts; one each of which is given here;
“O ye who believe , Obey God and obey the Prophet and those of you who are in authority, and if ye have a dispute concerning any matter refer it to God and the Prophet.”
“There can be no consensus on error or misguided behaviour amongst my people.”
Ijma has been classified into three types:
- Ijma of the companions of the Prophet (Ijma Us- Sahabd)
- Ijma of the jurists (Ijma ul Fuqaha)
- Ijma of the people (Ijma ul Ummah)
While the first type is universally accepted and is incapable of being repealed, the other two types are somewhat disputed.
The Shia School did not accept Ijma except when it emanated from the family of the Prophet or unless the jurisconsults were endorsed in their consensus by the infallible Shia Islam. Sunnis on the other hand, hold that since Quran enunciated only a few rules of law which, after the death of the Prophet, who used to give guidance, and by no means sufficient to cover the numerous questions of the day-to-day developments, Ijma becomes necessary in the circumstances. As the learned alone are competent to make such deductions, their opinion on any question must be of valid authority.
Ijma may be constituted by decision expressed in words or by practice. Both are equally authoritative.
A few of the important requirements for the validity of Ijma are 1) it shall not come into conflict with the Quran or Hadith 2) Once a question is determined by Ijma, it cannot be reopened by individual jurists; 3) One Ijma may be reversed by a subsequent Ijma; and 4) When the jurists of an age have expressed only two views on a particular question, a third view is inadmissible.
In the opinion of Abdur Rahim, there is one serious defect in the rules regarding Ijma. It is the omission to provide a definite and workable machinery for the selection of the jurists who are qualified to take part in Ijma, and for ascertaining, collecting and preserving the results of their deliberations in an authoritative form.
Ijma has made a worthy contribution to Islamic Law since it has been made possible changes to suit the needs of changing times and usages, and in as much as it has been influenced by the opinions of jurists in all cases not provided for in the Quran or the traditions, or where those provisions were not explicit.
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