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Ijmāʿ (Arabic: إجماع‎) is an Arabic term referring to the consensus or agreement of Islamic scholars on a point of Islamic law. Ijma_sentence_0

Various schools of thought within Islamic jurisprudence may define this consensus to be that of the first generation of Muslims only; or the consensus of the first three generations of Muslims; or the consensus of the jurists and scholars of the Muslim world, or scholarly consensus; or the consensus of all the Muslim world, both scholars and laymen. Ijma_sentence_1

Sunni Muslims regard ijmā' as the third fundamental source of Sharia law, after the Qur'an, and the Sunnah. Ijma_sentence_2

The opposite of ijma (i.e., lack of consensus on a point of Islamic law) is called ikhtilaf. Ijma_sentence_3

Usage Ijma_section_0

Sunni view Ijma_section_1

The hadith of Muhammad which states that "My ummah will never agree upon an error" and similar hadiths are often cited as a proof for the validity of ijmā'. Ijma_sentence_4

Justification for this doctrine presented a challenge, since these hadiths were transmitted through only a limited number of isnads (transmission chains) and did not qualify as providing certain knowledge under the classical science of hadith criticism. Ijma_sentence_5

Sunni scholars argued that the nature of human society was such that a community could not mistakenly agree that a statement had been made, and further that the consensus of the ummah about its inability to agree upon an error in itself certified the authenticity of this hadith. Ijma_sentence_6

Sunni Muslims regard ijmā' as the third fundamental source of Sharia law, just after the divine revelation of the Qur'an, and the prophetic practice known as Sunnah. Ijma_sentence_7

There are differing views over who is considered a part of this consensus, whether "the consensus is needed only among the scholars of a particular school, or legists, or legists of an early era, or the Companions, or scholars in general, or the entire Muslim community." Ijma_sentence_8

Malik ibn Anas held the view that the religiously binding consensus was only the consensus of Muhammad's companions and the direct successors of those companions in the city of Medina. Ijma_sentence_9

According to Iraqi academic Majid Khadduri, Al-Shafi'i held the view that religiously binding consensus had to include all of the Muslim community in every part of the world, both the religiously learned and the layman. Ijma_sentence_10

Thus, if even one individual out of millions would hold a differing view, then consensus would not have been reached. Ijma_sentence_11

In an attempt to define consensus in a form which was more likely to ever occur, Al-Ghazali expanding on al-Shafi'i's definition to define consensus as including all of the Muslim community in regard to religious principles and restricting the meaning to only the religiously learned in regard to finer details. Ijma_sentence_12

Abu Hanifa, Ahmad ibn Hanbal and Dawud al-Zahiri, on the other hand, considered this consensus to only include the companions of Muhammad, excluding all generations which followed them, in Medina and elsewhere. Ijma_sentence_13

Views within Sunni Islam branched off even further in later generations, with Abu Bakr Al Jassas, a hanafi scholar, defining even a simple majority view as constituting consensus and Ibn Taymiyyah restricting consensus to the view of the religiously learned only. Ijma_sentence_14

Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari's position was not entirely clear, as modern scholarship has attributed to him both the view that consensus means a simple majority, and that it means only the consensus of the companions of Muhammad. Ijma_sentence_15

According to Ahmad Hasan, the majority view is split between two possibilities: that religiously binding consensus is the consensus of the entire Muslim community, or that religiously binding consensus is just the consensus of the religiously learned. Ijma_sentence_16

The names of two kinds of consensus are: Ijma_sentence_17


  • ijma al-ummah - a whole community consensus.Ijma_item_0_0
  • ijma al-aimmah - a consensus by religious authorities.Ijma_item_0_1

Shia view Ijma_section_2

Initially, for Shia the authority of the Imams rendered the consensus as irrelevant. Ijma_sentence_18

With the development of sectarian communities of Imami Shīa Islam, the question of guidance and interpretation between different ulamas became an issue, however the importance of ijmā never reached the level and certainty it had in Sunni Islam. Ijma_sentence_19

Later, since Safavid and with the establishment of Usuli school at the turn the 19th century the authority of living mujtahid is accepted, however it dies with him. Ijma_sentence_20

For Shia, the status of ijmā is ambiguous. Ijma_sentence_21

Mu'tazilite view Ijma_section_3

The Mu'tazilite sect does not consider consensus to be a valid source of law, primarily due to their rationalist criticism of the first generation of Muslims, whom the Mu'tazila viewed as possessing defective personalities and intellects. Ijma_sentence_22

Shi'ite theologians Al-Shaykh Al-Mufid and Sharif al-Murtaza held the Mu'tazilite theologian Nazzam's book Kitab al-Nakth, in which his student Al-Jahiz reports that he denied the validity of consensus for this reason, in high esteem. Ijma_sentence_23

Modern scholarship has suggested that this interest was motivated by the desire of Shi'ite theologians to impugn the character of the first three leaders of the Rashidun Caliphate, Abu Bakr, Umar and Uthman. Ijma_sentence_24

See also Ijma_section_4


Credits to the contents of this page go to the authors of the corresponding Wikipedia page: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ijma.