This refers to the agreement of all the mujtahidun of a particular time in the history of Islaam after the death of the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa salam), on a particular ruling concerning a particular incident, i.e. if an incident occurs and the opinions of all the mujtahidun of the Muslim Ummah at that time are sought on that incident and they all have a unanimous opinion on that incident, then it is considered as ijmaa'.
The Ijmaa', according to the scholars of Usol, has four components without which the Ijmaa' is legally incomplete. They are the following:
One: There should be a number of mujtahidun (those who have attained the level of personal deduction in the religion) at the time of the occurrence of that incident. This is because no consensus can be imagined in the absence of a number of opinions. And that was why there was no such ijmaa' as referred to by the scholars of Usool AI-fiqh during the life time of the Messenger of Allaah (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam), since he was the only mujtahid at that time.
Two: All the Mujtahidun must agree on a shar'i ruling as far as that incident is concerned at the time of its occurrence regardless of the country, tribe, or the group that they belong to as long as they are still within the fold of Islaam. Hence if only the Mujtahidun of the Two Sacred Mosques agreed on a ruling concerning an incident, that cannot be regarded as ijmaa' according to the scholars of usool AI-Fiqh. This is because AI-Ijmaa' requires a general agreement of all the Mujtahidun of the Muslim world on a ruling at the time of the occurrence of that incident.
Three: Every mujtahid must clearly express their own opinion either by writing on by passing a judgment or fatwa. It does not really mean whether their opinions are sought separately or they gather at a place where they all express their opinions.
Four: It must be established that they have all agreed on that particular ruling; hence if it is confirmed that most of them have agreed on that ruling while the opinions of others have not been known, then that cannot be called an ijmaa' coupled with the fact that the opinion of the majority is not a binding shar'i evidence.
Types of Ijmaa'
There are basically two types of Ijmaa' , namely: AI-Ijmaa' AI-Qat'I andAI-Ijmaa' Azh-Zhani.
AI-ijmaa' AI-Qat'i refers to a consensus that is necessarily known in the Ummah, for instance there is consensus of this Ummah on the obligation of the five daily prayers; likewise there is consensus of this Ummah on the prohibition of the zinaa. The implication of AI-Ijmaa' AI-Qat'i is that whoever denies it has become a disbeliever; unless if he grows up in place far away from the Muslim community or he has just embraced Islam. There is no body among the scholars who condemns this type ijmaa' as they most often have clear evidences directly either from the Quran or Sunnah.
AI-Ijmaa' Azh-zhani refers to the type which cannot be gotten except by researching and following up the works of the Pious Predecessors possibly one may be able to see a consensus. This is where the scholars disagreed on whether this type of Ijmaa is shar'I evidence or not.
To be continued InshaAllaah next edition.
This article was culled from the publications of Deen Communication Limited