Definition of Ijma
Ijma is defined as agreement of the jurists among the followers of Muhammad in a particular age on a question of law. Its authority as a source of laws is founded on certain Quranic and traditional texts. The principle underlying these texts is expressed in especially apt terms in one of them which says;
“Whatever the Muslims hold to be good is good before God”
Quranic Texts in Favor of Ijma
- My followers will never agree upon what is wrong.
- It is incumbent upon you to follow the most numerous body.
- The (protecting) hand of God is over the entire body and no account will be taken of those who separate themselves.
- Whoever separates himself (from the main body) will go to hell.
- He who opposes the people to the extent of a span will die the death of men who died in the days of ignorance.
- God does not allow the people to go astray after He has shown them the right path.
- Obey God and obey the Prophet and those amongst you who have authority.
- If you yourself do not know then question those who do.
Ijma in Sunni Jurisprudence
The four Sunni Schools of law hold Ijma to be a valid source of laws not only upon the authority of the above texts, but also on the unanimity of opinion to that effect among the Companions.
The Shafis and Malikis recognize the authority of Ijma not merely in the matters of law and religion but also in other matters such as organization of the army, preparations for war and other questions of executive administration. Ijma is an essential and characteristic principle of Sunni Jurisprudence, one upon which the Muhammadan community acted as soon as they were left to their won resources an were called upon to solve the first and most important constitutional problem that arose on the prophhet’s death, namely the selection of the spiritual and executive head of the community.
The election of Abu Bakr to the Caliphate by the votes of the people was based, as is well-known on the principle of Ijma.
Ijma in Shia Jurisprudence
Some Shiahs, Kharijis and Nazzam do not recognize this sourc of law. Among the Shiahs some jurist hold that questions relationg to the Shariat cannot be authoritatively determined by mere consensus of opinion, while other Shiah jurists, though admitting the authority of Imja, base it on a presumption that, when the Mujtahids agree in a certain view, they voice the opinion of the invisible Imam. Nazzam and some among the Kharijis also dispute the validity of the doctrine.