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In legal terminology ljma means ‘consensus of opinion of the learned in Islamic jurisprudence. It may be defined as the rule governing the Shariah which is the outcome of the consensus of Muslim jurists on a particular question of law within the limits laid down by the Quran and the Sunnah.
The commandments which stand proved by revelation are not many but the incidents that occur in day to day life are innumerable. The answers are to be determined by the Quran and Sunnah, otherwise the perfection of religion could be questioned.
The Quranic text:
(5: 3) lays down that Allah has completed the religion of Islam, that it will last forever and that Prophet Muhammad is the last of the prophets, In the Quran, however, only a few rules of law have been enunciated and these are not sufficient to cover the questions and problems that arise from day to day. If we add to this the fact that the guidance of the Holy Prophet PBUH is not there, it necessarily follows that any rule of law, which is not found to be clearly laid down in the Quran and by the precepts of the Prophet PBUH must be capable of being deduced from them.
As Ijma draws its sanction from the Quran and the Sunnah, it is generally considered to be a decisive authority and establishes a rule of law with certainty.
There remains no room for doubt, debate or disagreement when it is confirmed by ljma. The authority of ljma as a source of Islamic law is founded on certain Quranic and traditional texts. It owes its origin to the principle of mutual consultation – Shura – prescribed by the Quran which instructs the Holy Prophet PBUH One of the qualities of the believers as described by the Holy Quran is and consult them in affairs (of moment) . (3: 159)
who (conduct) their affairs by mutual consultation…” (42: 38)
The Holy Prophet PBUH supported the principle of ljma when he said: “If anything comes to you for decision, decide according to the Book of Allah. If anything comes to you which is not in Book of Allah, then look to the Sunnah of the Prophet PBUH, If anything comes to you which is not in the Sunnah of the Prophet PBUH, then look to what people unanimously agree upon.” (Abu Daud)
In reply to Hazrat Ali as to how to proceed in cases when there was no definite direction in the Holy Quran or the Sunnah, the Holy Prophet PBUH is reported to have said: “Gather together the righteous from among my Community and decide the matter by their counsel and do not decide it by any man’s opinion. ” (Abu Daud)
This seems to be the reason why the Holy Prophet PBUH consulted his companions, sometimes following their opinion,
Sometimes setting it aside.
The Holy Prophet’s PBUH opinion was authoritative in respect of religion-legal affairs and not on questions covering worldly benefits, for example, the decision of the Prophet PBUH in matters of war was considered right if he was inspired by Divine Revelation. In case, it was based on his personal opinion, he did not persist and changed his opinion.
Madinah was attacked thrice by the Quraish and every time the Prophet PBUH held consultations with his followers about the best way to repel the enemy. On one of these occasions, he acted upon the Opinion of the majority and marched out of Madinah to meet the enemy, although his own opinion was that the Muslim army should not leave the town. During the battle of Trench, he had a trench dug around Madinah on the advice of Salman Farsi.
The early centuries of Islam, Ijma was identified with the ljma of the community at large. The first four Khalifas of Islam are reported to have conducted the affairs of the state by consulting the intelligent and responsible people. Generally, they followed the majority opinion. This was easvof the fact that the companions were few and it was easy for them to amongst themselves.
The four Sunni schools of law hold ljma to be a valid source of law It essential principle of Islamic jurisprudence. The Muslim community was called upon to solve the first and most important constitutional problem that arose soon after the Prophet’ s PBUH death, namely, the selection of the spiritual and executive head of the community. Hazrat Abu Bakr was elected the Khalifa of the Muslim community after the Holy Prophet With consensus of the because agree companions.
The Quran was compiled in a book form on the suggestion of Hazrat Umar and by Ijma of the companions. During the Khilafat of Hazrat Usman, Azan for Friday prayers could not be heard due to noise in the markets. It was therefore, decided after ljma by the companions that another call should be given.
Ijma is of three types:
1. ljma or consensus of the Companions of the Holy Prophet PBUH which is also universally accepted and binding and is therefore, unchangeable.
2. ljma of the jurists.
3. ljma of the people, i.e., general body of the Muslim community.
As regards the last two, the jurists, particularly Imam Abu Hanifa, are of the view that they cannot be confined or limited to any particular age or country, and therefore, Ijma of one age can be modified by ljma of the same or subsequent age.
In the present political conditions the division of the Muslim community into a number of states has created problems for the formation of ljma. There are problems that are of purely religious nature and require the consent of the universal community; others relate to a local situation in a Muslim country.
The procedure of reaching Ijma in the first case may be discussed on an international level in a meeting of experts who represent different Muslim countries that will be regarded as permanent when confirmed by the universal community. As to the ljma on questions of a local situation in a particular Muslim country, the experts may form a consensus by discussions that will be of a temporary nature. This may be confirmed or rejected in course of time by the will of the local community.