Possessing an ideology is a prerequisite for a group of people to progress. They must have a belief that explains the existence of man, life, and the Universe in terms of origin, destination, and their inter-relationship, as well as a complete system that addresses every aspect of life. Once this system - derived from their belief - is implemented in life, revival is achieved. For a system to exist and to remain of the same nature as the belief it emanated from, to maintain the system, and to shield the system against any foreign ideas and pollution, the legislative sources must be clearly defined. Moreover, to ensure that the believers of that ideology follow nothing but the system that resulted from their belief, the sources of legislation must be defined. Also, the Muslim Ummah is in a very critical time period. It is attempting to initiate revival after its body debilitated and its unifying force as embodied in the state and which implemented the Islamic system, collapsed. Furthermore, it is attempting revival after centuries of Western invasions against the Islamic values and ideas, which left the Muslim Ummah uncertain of its ability regarding the Islamic system to solve contemporary problems. The decline in the Muslims' understanding of Islam and the fascination in Western ideas has paralyzed the Muslims with many erroneous concepts. For example, the Muslims blur the clear distinction between democracy and Islam, classifying Islam using the democratic paradigm. They exhibit a paucity of knowledge when asked to explain or discuss the Islamic political system, foreign policy, or sources of legislation. It is in this degenerate stage that the Ummah is being confronted with many proposals, suggestions, and offers, which duping the Ummah that it this is the way towards revival.
Some will suggest the implementation of foreign systems and laws, and more dangerously others will suggest altering and changing the system itself.
Therefore, to ensure that the Muslim Ummah's revival is nothing less than Islamic, the legislative sources must be well defined and explained to the Ummah. This will lead the Ummah to accept only those ideas and laws that are taken from the Islamic legislative sources1. This will help maintain its identity, protect its system, and ensure an ideologically correct revival. In this article, Ijma' will be discussed as a legislative source covering the following:
What is Ijma'?
Which Ijma' is valid?
How is Ijma' misused?
Before going into the details, we must emphasize a specific point, namely, following Islam, i.e. the Wahi (textual evidences) must serve as the basis in all our affairs. We are forbidden to follow anything else. Allah Ta'ala says,
''No, by your Lord, they will not become true believers until they put you [Muhammad] as a ruler in that which they dispute.'' [An-Nisaa' 4: 65]
He (swt) also says,
''And what ever the Messenger brought to you take it and whatever he ordered you to abstain from, do so.'' [Al-Hashr 59: 7]
He Ta'ala says,
''Indeed, ruling belongs to none but Allah.'' [Yusuf 12: 40]
suf:].Therefore, by definition, whatever the Ijma' is going to be, it must be based on the Wahi. Otherwise, just following the Ijma' of any group without Wahi would be on the same level as following the whims and desires of men.
All are Haram to follow and lead adherents astray. Allah Ta'ala says,
''And follow not their desires.'' [Ash-Shura 42: 15]
In addition, for any group to establish Ijma', there should be no possibility of agreeing on mistake. It is well known that the two basic sources of laws in Islam are the Qur'an and Sunnah, since they are both Wahi (revelation) from Allah Ta'ala. From the Qur'an and the Sunnah, the Ijma' (consensus) and Qiyas (analogy with reason or Illah) are taken.
Al-Adillat ush-Shari'ah must be decisive: The subject of Al-Adillat ush-Shari'ah (sources of Shariah) is one related to the Usool of the Deen, i.e. the basis of it. Therefore, to consider or to reject any source, the evidence must be conclusive (Qata'ee) and not conjectural (Thanni). A proof must exist that conclusively explains what Allah Ta'ala wants us to
use as a source of law for our actions. In other words, we must have decisive evidence that this source is from Allah, i.e. it is Wahi. There are two types of evidences that definitely classify it is Wahi. They are the Qur'an and the Sunnah reported by Tawatur. This is what the scholars of Usool called Qata'ee uth-Thubut (conclusive in report). Furthermore, the meaning contained in the Ayat and the Mutawatir Hadeeth must be Qata'ee ud-Dalalah (decisive in meaning). Imam Ash-Shatibi, in his book Al-Muwafaqaat stated, ''Usool ul-Fiqh of the Deen are Qata'ee, not Thanni. The proof for this is that they are part of the guidelines of the Shari'ah. Anything of this nature must be conclusive.'' [Vol. I, p.29]
What is Ijma'?
In the Arabic language, Ijma' means 'Azm or determination. It can also mean Ittifaq or agreement. As a term among the scholars of Usool, ''it is the agreement over a rule for an incident that already existed that it is a Hukm Shari'ah."'' While they agreed on this definition, they disagreed on whose Ijma' is valid. And based on their opinion, they defined Ijma'. While all Muslims are in agreement that Ijma' is a Daleel Shari' (legal evidence), they disagreed on whose Ijma' is binding. All agreed that the Ijma' of the Sahabah is a Daleel Shari'e but then deferred after the Sahabah era. Some said that the Ijma' of the Ummah in any era is binding, while others opined that it is not the Ummah but the Ijma' of the Ulama' or scholars at any time. Others viewed the Ijma' of the Itrah or the family of the Prophet as the only proper Ijma'. While these are Islamic opinions, they have been used nowadays by the West as tools in the hands of their Islamic ''reformers'' to reinterpret Islam. They are also used by scholars to legitimize the rulers' Haram actions and their illegitimate Kufr systems. How many times have we heard about the Ijma' of the scholars of regarding the British calling Saudi Arabia an Islamic state, the King being legitimate, seeking the protection and alliance of the American troops is allowed, etc.? How many times have we heard that there is Ijma' al Ulema stating that the Deen is based on Maslahah (benefit) of the people?
All of these examples demonstrate how an Islamic idea is used to legitimize Kufr ideas and systems. We also hear of an Ijma' of Ahl us Sunnah scholars that questioning the rulers and holding them accountable to the Ummah for the systems they rule by and the actions they perform based on Islam and discussing their affairs runs counter to the path of Ahl us-Sunnah. Therefore, discussing the issue of Ijma' should not be viewed as an academic or theoretical discussion. It is very practical and is directly related to our daily lives and the obligation of initiating Islamic revival. Now let us address the issue at hand.
For example, Imam Ash-Shawkani in his book Irshad ul-Fuhool said, ''It is the agreement of the Mujtahideen of the Ummah of Muhammad (saaw) after his death in a certain era on something.'' [p. 70]
Imam Ar-Razi is of the same opinion as Imam Ash-Shawkani, with the exception that he includes the Ijma' of the Ummah. He said in his book Al-Mahsool, ''The Ijma' of the Ummah is an evidence.'' [vol., p.9].
Ijma' as Sahabah is the Only Valid Ijma'
By having stated that this is the basis of the subject, we can easily reach to the conclusion that the only group of people who can have their Ijma' based on revelation is the group of Sahabah. This is so for the following reasons:
1. Their credibility, as a group, is established. Allah Ta'ala has complemented them in the Qur'an.
Allah Ta'ala says,
''Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah. And those with him are harsh on the disbelievers and merciful to each others.'' [Al-Fath 48: 29]
''And the early ones, the Muhajiroon and the Ansar and those who followed them with righteousness, Allah is pleased with them and they are pleased with Him.'' [At-Tauba 9: 100]
Also, He Ta'ala says,
''[wealth should be given] to the poor immigrants who were removed from their homes and to abandon their wealth, seeking the pleasure of Allah and giving victory to Allah and His Messenger.'' [Al-Hashr 59: 8-9]
Also, the Messenger (saaw) complemented them in many Ahadeeth. He (saaw) said, ''Allah has chosen my companions over all mankind except the prophets.'' And he said, ''Take care of my companions.''
And he (saaw) said, ''the best generation is my generation.'' Complementing them as a group reflects that they as a community cannot conspire to lie or commit any act of disobedience.
2. The Sahabah are the ones who carried Qur'an to us, compiled it and insured that it is kept in the same form as they received it from the Prophet (saaw). Allah (swt) says:
''We have, without doubt, Sent down the Message; And We will assuredly Guard it.'' [Al-Hajr 15:9]
This Ayah confirms their Ijma' as being correct. Qur'an was preserved through this Ijma', therefore, it has to be correct.
3. Although Sahabah as individuals are not infallible but the Sahabah as a whole group cannot agree on any mistake or error, since they are the ones who carried Islam to us.
4. The Sahabah would not agree that a certain thing is Islamically permitted or forbidden without knowing whether that action was approved or disapproved by the Prophet (saaw). However, the Hadith in this regard is not narrated to us, but the rule is conveyed by the total agreement of the Sahabah (raa). The Ulema are in agreement that Ijma' as Sahabah is a binding proof. For example, It is reported that Omar (ra) before is death, after being stabbed, nominated 6 Sahabah as candidates to be Khalifs. He instructed that any of those 6 individuals should be killed if they disagreed on who was to be a Khalifah after 3 days of consultation. The Sahabah (raa) heard and approved the actions of Omar (ra), including Ali (ra), and no one objected.
Their approval on such serious matters where one or more of the Sahabah was to be killed could only reflect that there existed a Hadeeth which they heard from the Messenger (saaw) commanding them to do so, and thus limiting the time with which the Muslims may remain without a Khalifah to 3 days. This is obvious that this could only apply to the group of the Sahabah, since they were the only ones who witnessed the descent of the revelation. Therefore, the Sahabah were the only group to be complemented by Allah Ta'ala in the Qur'an and the Sunnah unconditionally; since their Ijma' is error free, and since they witnessed the revelation of the Wahi, their Ijma' is a Daleel Shari'. Other Ijma's
As for the opinions other than the Ijma' of the Sahabah, they are all invalid. This is what was reported about Imam Ahmad that he said: Any one who claims Ijma' after the Sahabah, he has lied.'' Also, Imam Ashirazi in his book Al-Luma' fi Usool il-Fiqh cites Imam Dawood as saying, ''The Ijma' of other than As-Sahabah is not binding.'' [p.90]
This is due to the fact that none of them is based on a Qata'ee Daleel and they are impossible to implement on the practical level. The most prominent type of Ijma' is that of the Ummah which resulted in the Ijma' of the Ulamaa'.
Ijma' of the Ummah
The Ijma' of the Ummah rests on evidences that are not Qata'ee. They use the following Ayat: ''And whosoever contradicts and opposes the Messenger after the Right Path and has been shown clearly to him, and follows other than the believers' way. We shall keep him in the path he has chosen, and burn him in hell - what an evil destination'' [An-Nisa' 4:115] and
''You are the best Nation raised for mankind, you command good and forbid evil, and you believe in Allah.'' [Al-i-Imran 3:110]
''And We have made you the best nation so that you bear testimony against mankind.'' [2:143]
They also bring forth the Ahadeeth, ''My Ummah will not agree on Dalalah'' and ''Whatever Muslims see good, it is good for Allah.'' He also (saaw) said, ''My Ummah will be divided into 73 groups, all in Hellfire but one. He was asked: O Messenger of Allah, which group is it? He said, the Jama'ah."'' None of these texts can be used as an evidence, since they are all Thanni in Thubut or in Dalalah. As for the first Ayah, they say that since not following the Messenger and the ''believers' way'' is condemned, then it is mandatory to follow them, and their Ijma' is binding. This understanding is weak. Even if it were strong, it would not be considered as a sound proof for this issue since the meaning is not conclusive. Also the word ''Huda'' that is used here means the Tawheed and the prophethood of Muhammad (saaw), and not the detailed Ahkam of Islam. Disobeying the Messenger in rules is Fisq (clear disobedience), and not Dalalah (abandoning Islam). As for the word ''Sabeel il-Mu'mineen'', it refers to the path which the Muslims follow, based on the 'Aqeedah. This meaning is strengthened by the fact that the Ayah was revealed addressing a man who committed apostasy. Therefore, the Ayah is addressing the subject of Islam and apostasy, and not the rules of Islam. As for the second Ayah, it merely complements the Ummah. As a matter of fact, the complement is conditional. Allah Ta'ala complements the Ummah when it commands good and forbid evil. In reality, there is no group that is unconditionally complemented by Allah Ta'ala, i.e. for being themselves, but the Sahabah. The later generation were complemented for following the Sahabah. At any rate, the complement in itself is insufficient to make their consensus a Daleel Shari'. This is similar to the complement of the Sahabah. Had it not been accompanied by the other factors mentioned above, their complement would not have sufficed either.
As for the Ahadeeth, they are all Thanni in Thuboot since they are Akhbar Ahad. In other words, they are below the Tawatur level and therefore not Qata'ee. Studying their texts however does not reflect a Daleel for Ijma'. The Hadeeth which says that the Ummah will not agree on Dalalah means that the Ummah will not abandon Islam as a whole, for ''Dalalah'' here means misguidance or going astray. This applies to the Usool of the Deen, and not the Furoo'. In other words, it does not say that they will not agree to an error or sin. This is possible and has taken place with the issue of the absence of Islam, and the issue of nationalism. They are forbidden to be without a Khalifah more than three days. They have been without one for more than 84 years. And Muslims are forbidden to be nationalistic, and they have accepted to be divided into 54 states in which they are proud of. As for the other Ahadeeth, they are all either Da'eef, i.e., weak or having nothing to do with the subject matter.
In addition, there are certain realities that make the Ijma' of the Ummah impossible, and therefore invalid, for Allah does not command the impossible:
a) It is impossible to gather the entire Ummah on one single opinion.
b) Most of the Muslims are 'Ammi (unable to perform Ijtihad). On what basis are they supposed to render their understanding?
c) Ijma' by definition does not mean that it is a majority opinion. It has to be an unanimous approval, in such a way, that there is not a possibility of even one single disagreement. It is for this reason, among others, that some scholars considered valid Ijma' to be that of Ijma' of Scholars (Ulema') and not Ijma' of the Ummah.
However, this opinion is wrong due to the following:
1) There is not a single proof for this idea, not Qata'ee or even Thanni. All that exists is some Hadith complementing Ilm and Ulema'.
2) The Mujtahideen(scholars) are the ones who are able to perform Ijtihad, be it in one issue or in a Madhab or in the entire Shari'ah. Some of them may know certain things, and others might not. So how could we require their Ijma' and make it binding! Ijtihad, by definition, is Thanni. The Mujtahidden engage in their utmost to reach the correct conclusion, while a margin of error remains that the conclusion they reached is wrong. How could we make people who are could agree on error and who reach a conclusion that might be wrong as a source of Shari'ah, where the error they reach will be binding on the Ummah of Muhammad until the Day of Judgment?
3) Who will decide who is a Mujtahid and who is not? For example, Ibn Hazm Ath-Thahiri was considered by scholars of his time to be a prominent and an outstanding Mujtahid. Others like Ibn Al-Arabi viewed him as ''a child from the desert who taught himself and criticized the majority of scholars.'' Similarly, the scholars nowadays who graduate from the institutions of the Saudi establishment do not view the graduates of Azhar as ''legitimate,'' that their Ilm is not according to their brand of As-Salaf. Who is a ''legitimate'' scholar and who is not?
4) As Imam Shirazi stated in his book Al-Luma', ''for Ijma' to be valid, all scholars of that time must agree to that rule. If some of them disagree, then it is not Ijma'.'' [P.91]
What issue other than the conclusive ones due to their Daleel are agreed upon by all scholars?
Besides the conclusive ones, there has always been someone who disagreed. And there will always be someone who will agree. The disagreement will always exist. In reality, there is much more to be said. Our concern is the manner that this issue effects us now.
For example, it is known for an item to be considered as a subject of Ijma', it must meet certain conditions.
Two conditions are:
There is no Ijma' (regardless of whose Ijma') when there exists a Daleel. If there is a text (Ayah or Hadeeth) that address an issue, no one can claim Ijma', for Ijma' serves as the third in the Adillat ush-Shari'ah.
The second condition is that Ijma' regarding something cannot conflict with the text. If there exists a Hukm based on a Daleel, no one can disobey it due to ''Ijma'.''
Examples of this nowadays are in abundance. For example, in the month of Ramadan, we often hear about ''Ijma''' of certain organizations that there is Ijma' that the moon will be
sighted nationally. Anyone who disagrees is considered to go against the Ijma'. But how could there be Ijma' if there are many Ahadeeth addressing the sighting of the moon, especially most of which instruct us otherwise?! Another example is the ''Shura'' meeting in the Masajid in some countries. It is often stated that no one is to speak in the Masjid unless authorized by the committee. And such an opinion cannot be reversed since there is Ijma' and Ijma' is binding. Not only is this Islamic idea of Ijma' being abused in these situations, but it also reflects that they have no idea what Ijma' is!
How Ijma' is Misused
This is what is most common nowadays. These days, clear-cut Haram is legitimized under the guise of Ijma', especially that of the Ulama. For example, the Saudi regime is headed by a monarch that rules according to a collection of rules, some of them from Islam and many emanate from the Western system. Riba, which is Qata'ee Haram is the basis of its economic system. The International Law, which is Kufr, is the basis of its foreign policy. It serves as a member in the United Nations, accepting their Kufr based resolutions.
Also it is a leading member in the nationalistic Arab League, which is Haram. With all these illegitimate practices, there exists an Ijma' among the scholars of Saudi Arabia as represented by ''Hayatu Kibar al Ulamaa'' or the Council of the Grand Scholars that it is Haram to criticize the regime, sell or buy tapes that criticize it, or support anyone who does so. In addition, such persons would be considered as one practicing a deviant 'Aqeedah that is against that of Ahl us-Sunnah. In reality, the Islamic concept of Ijma' is being misused and abused. Such ''Ijma''' is invalid, for it contradicts with the Qata'ee rule of Al-'Amr bi'l Ma'roof wa'n Nahi an il Munkar as well as the fact that Ijma' al Ulama is not a correct Daleel Shari'.
Another example of an invalid Ijma' is the claim that since the purpose of Ahkam(rules) is to ensure the benefit of the people, then, as a result, they have made the laws of Islam revolve around benefit, as perceived by the human mind. This idea is one of several that is being used to ''reform'' Islam in such away that it becomes compatible with the Western value system, and make it possible to integrate Muslims in Western societies. Political participation has been made Halal under this pretext of Ijma'. How could there be Ijma' if Imam Ar-Razi or Imam Shatei disagreed with the notion of benefit? Or are they nobody? And how could it be Ijma' if there exists a plethora of texts that prohibit it?
The same concept of Ijma' is being used against forming political parties based on Islam. The same scholars of the Saudi establishment have claimed via that having Islamic parties, especially political, are Haram to establish since they are a division of the Ummah. Furthermore, they say that the Ahl us-Sunnah are against any group that is formed. . Their Ijma' is invalid because their it goes against the Ayah commanding the Muslims to carry the Da'wah and change the society to Islam in an organized fashion.
Allah Ta'ala says,
''Let there arise out of you a group of people inviting to all that is good, enjoining Al-Ma'ruf and forbidding Al-Munkar. And it is they who are successful.'' [Al-i-Imran 3: 104]
Also, how could it be Ijma' if the Mufasireen of the past viewed commanding the good and forbidding the evil in an organized way as mandatory, such as At-Tabari. Also, many contemporary scholars viewed working for the re-establishment of Islam as mandatory.
The concept of Ijma' is currently being used to isolate any people who look for revival. This is done by creating a ''mainstream'' that takes its validity from Ijma' of the Ulama. Their are new Fatawa that we hear of everyday, such as, making Riba Halal, legitimizing the peace process with the Jews, forbidding the criticism of the rulers on the basis of Islam, allowing political participation in the West on the basis of benefit, the Khilafah system can be replaced by any ''modern'' system as long it is just...etc. In reality, these opinions among many others are only the tip of the new and reformed Islam. This is Islam that is suited for the 21st century. It is the brand that is approved by the Western masters.
For anyone to speak against it, means he is going against Ijma'. Thus, Ijma' is being used to form a monopoly on Islam. The truth of the matter is that the concept of Ijma' al Ummah and especially Ulama, is being used by the regimes to prevent Islamic activism for the return of Islam via the Khilafah state from gaining strength and momentum. Hence, the misconception of the Ijma' of the Ulama has become an obstacle in the way for revival due to misuse by the Ulama of the establishment.
Therefore, it is vital for the Islamic movement that works for revival to define its Adillah ush-Shari'ah, primarily for two reasons:
To propagate its idea to the Ummah in order to purify Islam in their minds from any rules that became attached to it through this improper channel. Also to create a basis for thinking in the Ummah upon which it will judge ideas and rules. It will also enable it to see the politics of Ijma' that is used to legitimize Kufr. As a group that seeks revival via the establishment of Islam, it must adopt the legislative sources it will use once it assumes power and commences with the implementation of Islam. It is of great importance to explain to the Ummah the correct legislative sources in order to create an aware public opinion among the Ummah for the kind of state the party seeks. By adopting Al-Qur'an, As-Sunnah, Ijma' as-Sahabah and Qiyas with Shari' Illah as the only Adillah ush-Shari'ah, and by using these evidences as the only valid sources, this will result in protecting Islam from any foreign idea that might come to it in the future. It will not allow the depraved rulers to use corrupt people to legitimize Kufr in any form. Islam will inshaa' Allah return to prevail.