Ijmāʿ is an Arabic
Arabic language
Arabic is a name applied to the descendants of the Classical Arabic language of the 6th century AD, used most prominently in the Quran, the Islamic Holy Book...

 term referring to the consensus of the Muslim community. Various schools of thought within Islamic jurisprudence may define this consensus as that of the first generation of Muslims
In Islam, the ' were the companions, disciples, scribes and family of the Islamic prophet...

 only; the consensus of the first three generations of Muslims
A Salaf is an early Muslim of the first three generations of proponents of the religion.-First generation:* See: List of SahabaThe Salaf are the first generation of Muslims, which included Muhammad's companions and followers at the time....

; the consensus of the jurists and scholars
Ulama , also spelt ulema, refers to the educated class of Muslim legal scholars engaged in the several fields of Islamic studies. They are best known as the arbiters of shari‘a law...

 of the Muslim world, or scholarly consensus; or the consensus of all the Muslim world, both scholars and laymen.


The hadith
The term Hadīth is used to denote a saying or an act or tacit approval or criticism ascribed either validly or invalidly to the Islamic prophet Muhammad....

 of Muhammad
Muhammad |ligature]] at U+FDF4 ;Arabic pronunciation varies regionally; the first vowel ranges from ~~; the second and the last vowel: ~~~. There are dialects which have no stress. In Egypt, it is pronounced not in religious contexts...

 which states that "My community will never agree upon an error" is often cited as support for the validity of ijmā'. Sunni Muslims regard ijmā' as the third fundamental source of Sharia law, after the divine revelation of the Qur'an
The Quran , also transliterated Qur'an, Koran, Alcoran, Qur’ān, Coran, Kuran, and al-Qur’ān, is the central religious text of Islam, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God . It is regarded widely as the finest piece of literature in the Arabic language...

, the prophetic practice or Sunnah
The word literally means a clear, well trodden, busy and plain surfaced road. In the discussion of the sources of religion, Sunnah denotes the practice of Prophet Muhammad that he taught and practically instituted as a teacher of the sharī‘ah and the best exemplar...

. Usuli Shia accepts ijmā' under restricted conditions as a source of Islamic law
Sources of Islamic law
Various sources of Islamic law are used by Islamic jurisprudence to elucidate the Sharia, the body of Islamic law. The primary sources, accepted universally by all Muslims, are the Qur'an and Sunnah. The Qur'an is the holy scripture of Islam, believed by Muslims to be the direct and unaltered word...

. Technically, it is “the unanimous doctrine and opinion of the recognized religious authorities at any given time”.


Many Muslim writers have claimed that the use of ijmā' makes Islamic law compatible with democracy
Democracy is generally defined as a form of government in which all adult citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives. Ideally, this includes equal participation in the proposal, development and passage of legislation into law...

. Various proponents of liberal movements within Islam
Liberal movements within Islam
Progressive Muslims have produced a considerable body of liberal thought within Islam or "progressive Islam" ; but some consider progressive Islam and liberal Islam as two distinct movements)...

  criticize the traditional view that ijmā' is only a consensus among traditional Islamic scholars (ulema
Ulama , also spelt ulema, refers to the educated class of Muslim legal scholars engaged in the several fields of Islamic studies. They are best known as the arbiters of shari‘a law...

). They claim that truly democratic consensus should involve the entire community rather than a small and conservative clerical class, especially since there is no hierarchical system in Islam and no concept of a human intermediate between a Muslim and Allah.

See also

  • Islamic democracy
    Islamic democracy
    Islamic democracy refers to two kinds of democratic states that can be recognized in the Islamic countries. The basis of this distinction has to do with how comprehensively Islam is incorporated into the affairs of the state....

  • Deliberative democracy
    Deliberative democracy
    Deliberative democracy is a form of democracy in which public deliberation is central to legitimate lawmaking. It adopts elements of both consensus decision-making and majority rule. Deliberative democracy differs from traditional democratic theory in that authentic deliberation, not mere...

  • Precedent
    In common law legal systems, a precedent or authority is a principle or rule established in a legal case that a court or other judicial body may apply when deciding subsequent cases with similar issues or facts...

  • Qiyas
    In Islamic jurisprudence, qiyās is the process of deductive analogy in which the teachings of the Hadith are compared and contrasted with those of the Qur'an, in order to apply a known injunction to a new circumstance and create a new injunction...

  • Ijtihad
    Ijtihad is the making of a decision in Islamic law by personal effort , independently of any school of jurisprudence . as opposed to taqlid, copying or obeying without question....

  • Ulema
    Ulama , also spelt ulema, refers to the educated class of Muslim legal scholars engaged in the several fields of Islamic studies. They are best known as the arbiters of shari‘a law...

  • Usul al-fiqh
    Usul al-fiqh
    Uṣūl al-fiqh is the study of the origins, sources, and principles upon which Islamic jurisprudence is based. In the narrow sense, it simply refers to the question of what are the sources of Islamic law...

  • Ashab al-Ijma'

External links

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