Ijma’ (consensus) is a concept in Islamic jurisprudence that refers to the agreement or consensus of scholars from the Muslim community on a particular issue. It is considered as a significant source of Islamic law, alongside the Qur’an and Sunnah (the teachings and practices of Prophet Muhammad).
There are two main kinds of ijma’:
- Ijma’ al-Sahaba (Consensus of the Companions): This refers to the consensus reached by the companions of Prophet Muhammad, who were the closest and most knowledgeable companions that lived during his time. Their consensus is highly regarded due to their close proximity to the Prophet and their understanding of his teachings. The principle behind this type of consensus is that if the companions unanimously agreed on an issue, it is considered binding and authoritative.
- Ijma’ al-Ummah (Consensus of the Muslim Community): This refers to the consensus reached by the scholars of the Muslim community in different periods of Islamic history. It is based on the collective agreement of qualified scholars who have extensive knowledge of the Qur’an, Sunnah, and Islamic law. This kind of consensus is considered binding on the Muslim community as a whole, provided it meets certain conditions, such as the inclusion of qualified scholars, adherence to the Qur’an and Sunnah, and absence of clear evidence to the contrary.
The importance of ijma’ is derived from its foundations in the Qur’an and Sunnah:
- Qur’anic Basis: The Qur’an emphasizes the importance of unity and consensus within the Muslim community. In Surah Al-Imran (3:103), it states: “And hold firmly to the rope of Allah all together and do not become divided.” Ijma’ serves as a means of preserving the unity and harmony of the Muslim community by seeking agreement on matters of importance.
- Prophetic Tradition: Prophet Muhammad emphasized the significance of the consensus of his companions. He stated, “My ummah (community) will never agree upon an error.” This hadith indicates that the consensus of the companions is a reliable source of guidance and that the collective agreement of scholars can help prevent deviation from the true teachings of Islam.
Ijma’ plays a vital role in Islamic legal reasoning and the formulation of Islamic rulings. It provides a mechanism for addressing new issues and challenges that arise in different contexts. By relying on the consensus of scholars, the Muslim community can maintain unity and coherence in understanding and applying Islamic law.
However, it is important to note that ijma’ is not considered equal to the Qur’an and Sunnah in terms of its level of authority. If there is a clear and explicit textual evidence from the Qur’an or Sunnah that contradicts the consensus, the textual evidence takes precedence.
Overall, ijma’ is a significant concept in Islamic jurisprudence that helps guide the Muslim community in understanding and applying Islamic law. It is based on the consensus of qualified scholars and is considered binding unless there is clear evidence to the contrary.