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Sources of Legal Thinking in Islam

Ijmah (Consensus)

The word Ijmah is derived from the word ‘Jama’, which means to unite or consensus. In Islamic legal terms, it means a procedure through which any principle of law is formulated by unanimous opinion.

It has also been defined as an agreement of the jurists among the followers of the Holy Prophet in a particular age on a question of law. 

If a legal solution is neither available in Quran nor in Sunnah, then Islam allows Muslims to find a solution which is agreed upon and accepted by the majority of the Muslims.

Justification of Ijmah as a source of Legal Thinking in Islam

What does the Quran say about Consensus?

  •  “And whose affairs are a matter of counsel.” (42:3 8)

  • “And consult them in affairs (of moment).” (3:159)

  • “ O, you who believe! Obey Allah and obey the Messenger, and those who charged with authority among you. If you differ in any thing among your selves, refer it to Allah and His Messenger, if you do believe in Allah and the Last Day” (4:59)

What does the Prophet (SAW) say about Consensus?

  •  “My community will never agree upon an error.”

  •  “What Muslims agree to be good is also good in the sight of Allah and what the Muslims agree to be bad is bad in the eye of Allah.”

  • “If anything comes to you for decision, decide according to the Book of Allah. If anything comes to you, which is not in the Book of Allah, then look to the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet If anything comes to you which is not in the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet , then look to what people unanimously agree upon.”


Conditions for the validity of Ijma

  • The Ijma must be performed by Mujtahids i. e those who have attained the status of Ijtihad.(Jurists)

  • There must be unanimous opinion among all mujthahids upon a  legal issue.(Hukm shari).

  • All the jurists participating in Ijma must be from the Ummah of Hazrat Muhammad

  • The Ijma must have taken place after the death of Holy Prophet

  • The Ijma must be performed by jurists of single determined period i. e. of the same generation.

  • The Ijma must be upon rule of law and all-non legal matters are excluded from the domain of Ijma.


Types of Ijma

  1. Ijma of the Companions: the consensual opinion of the Companions is believed to be most authoritative and accurate. It cannot be overruled or modified by subsequent Ijmas.

  2. Ijma of the Jurists: the opinion of learned scholars was believed to be the next best Ijma after the Ijma of the Companions.

  3. Ijma of Ummah ( All Muslims): At times, the mass acceptance of a principle as law is also accepted.


Examples of Ijma

  1. Election of Hazrat Abu Bakr as the First Caliph through consensus

  2. Compilation of Holy Quran in textual form during the period of Hazrat Abu Bakr.

  3. Taraveeh prayr too made congregational prayers during the period of Hazrat Umar.

  4. Second call for Juma prayers during the Caliphate of Hazrat Uthman.

  5. Retention of one standard version of the Holy Quran and burning of all others during the period of the Caliphate of Hazrat Usman to avoid confusion and chaos.

  6. In the contemporary world, Ijma is practised at the instance of the sighting of the moon for Ramadan, Eid or otherwise. The decision given by the Roiyat-e-Hilaal Committee of Pakistan, which consists of scholars and legal experts (that whether or not has the moon been sighted), is considered binding for all Muslims of the Pakistan region and they are obliged to observe all religious rituals likewise.

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