Alhamdulillah, praise and thanks to Allah for the countless blessings He has blessed us all with. Blessings and salutations to the Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his wives, his family, companions and all those that follow his teachings to the day of judgement.
We often hear the claim that ijma’ happens in a certain issue. Whoever disagrees would be considered as someone who differs with the ijma’, which is one of the agreed four sources of rulings. The basis that we should all understand is the true meaning of ijma’ and matters related to it. Hence, in this series of Irsyad Usul al-Fiqh, we will discuss this issue further.
The Definition of Ijma’ According to the Fuqaha
Imam al-Ghazali Rahimahullah defines ijma’ saying: The agreement for the ummah of the Prophet PBUH in matters pertaining to religion. See Syarah Mukhtasar Ibn Hajib, Mahmud bin Abd al-Rahman al-Asbahani (1/520).
Whereas, Imam al-Thusi give a different definition stating: (Ijma’ is) the agreement among the mujtahid in a certain time from among the ummah in religious matters. Refer Syarah Mukhtasar al-Raudhah, Sulaiman al-Thusi (3/5).
While Imam al-Zarkasyi Rahimahullah said: Ijma’ is the agreement of mujtahid from the ummah of Muhammad PBUH after his death in certain incidents for certain situations in certain matters in a certain time. See Bahrul Muhith, al-Zarkasyi (6/379-380).
Discussion Regarding the Definition Given by Imam al-Zarkasyi
According to the above definition stated by Imam al-Zarkasyi, there are several important points as the following:
- The agreement of the public in a certain issue is not considered as ijma’ for they are not mujtahid.
- The same goes to the agreement of some mujtahid is not considered as ijma’.
- The agreement of the ummah before the Prophet Muhammad PBUH is not included as ijma’ for it happens before his time.
- Ijma’ includes matters related to syarak, ‘aqliyyat, ‘uruf and language.
- The agreement of mujtahid is at the same time/era.
- What is meant by time/era is: Whoever is qualified (in terms of ijtihad) at a certain time when the incident happens, then he is from that time.
Who Are Qualified in the Issue of Ijma’?
There are some scholars whose opinion will be taken into account in the issue of ijma’ and some whose opinion will not matter. As an example, if the issue is regarding a problem in fiqh, then the jurists’ opinions will be taken into consideration. While if it is an usuluddin issue, then the theologians must reach an agreement. The same goes, if it is an issue of nahu, then the Arabic grammarians must decide on an agreement to come up with an ijma’. Refer al-Bahrul Muhith, al-Zarkasyi (6/415).
Reference Books Pertaining the Issue of Ijma’
Through our research, there is a limited number of books discussing this issue. Some of them are:
- Al-Ijma’ by Imam Ibn al-Munzir
- Maratib al-Ijma’ by Imam Ibn Hazm al-Zahiri (w.456H)
- Tasynif al-Asma’ Bi Masail al-Ijma’ by Imam al-Suyuthi (w.911H)
Some scholars like Syeikh Fuad Abdul Mun’im made a muqaranah (comparison) between the book Ijma’ written by Ibn al-Munzir and Maratib al-Ijma’ written by Ibn Hazm and draws the following conclusions:
- The issues stated by Ibn al-Munzir as ijma’ is unaffected if there are an opinion or two opinions that contradicts it. The reason is, ijma in his opinion is understood as the opinion of the majority of the scholars. While Ibn Hazm placed the issues where he is certain there are no differing scholar opinions as ijma’.
- Imam Ibn al-Munzir only includes the issues of ibadah (worships) and muamalah (dealings) as ijma’. Whereas, Ibn Hazm includes the issues of ibadah (worships), muamalah (dealings) and also aqidah (creed) as the issues in ijma’.
- The book al-Ijma’ written by Ibn al-Munzir is the most trusted resource in this issue, while Maratib al-Ijma’ receive numerous critiques by contemporary scholars. See Al-Ijma’, Ibn al-Munzir. Tahqiq Fuad Abdul Mun’im Ahmad.
Lastly, our chosen opinion in the definition of the term ijma’ is The agreement of the mujtahid from the ummah of the Prophet Muhammad PBUH as a whole on religious matters and issues that happens in certain times. This is also the opinion chosen by Imam al-Thusi as stated above. We pray that Allah SWT will give us understanding in this issue. Ameen.