Ijmāʻ, or consensus, is considered a valid source of Islamic law by the four Sunni canonical schools. The concept of Ijmāʻ refers to the consensus of the scholars of a particular time and place on a particular issue. However, there is ongoing debate about the workability of Ijmāʻ as a source of law, specifically in terms of the selection of qualified jurists and the establishment of their deliberations in an authoritative form.
One argument in favor of the workability of Ijmāʻ is that the Islamic tradition has a long history of scholarly consensus on a wide range of legal issues. There are many examples of Ijmāʻ throughout Islamic history, from the consensus of the companions of the Prophet Muhammad to the consensus of later generations of scholars on various legal issues. Proponents of Ijmāʻ argue that this historical precedent demonstrates the viability of the concept as a source of Islamic law.
However, opponents of Ijmāʻ argue that the process of establishing consensus is inherently flawed. They argue that there is no clear mechanism for selecting qualified jurists to participate in the process, and that the criteria for selecting participants are often subjective and prone to political influence. Additionally, opponents argue that the establishment of consensus can be subject to manipulation and coercion, and that the resulting consensus may not accurately reflect the views of the majority of scholars.
Another argument against the workability of Ijmāʻ is that the concept is too vague and imprecise to be a reliable source of law. Unlike other sources of Islamic law, such as the Quran and the Sunnah, there is no clear definition of what constitutes a consensus, and no clear guidelines for how it should be established. This lack of clarity can lead to confusion and inconsistency in the application of Ijmāʻ as a source of law.
In conclusion, the debate over the workability of Ijmāʻ as a source of Islamic law is ongoing, with proponents and opponents presenting valid arguments. While the historical precedent of Ijmāʻ suggests that it is a viable source of law, concerns about the selection of qualified jurists and the establishment of consensus remain. Ultimately, the effectiveness of Ijmāʻ as a source of law will depend on the ability of scholars to address these concerns and establish clear guidelines for the process of establishing consensus.