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The Widening Scope of Ijma`

In the history of fiqh and usul the 4th and 5th centuries AH must be viewed as a period during which the notion of ijma` came to assume a much wider scope. This was a development which took place over a relatively short span of time and which was consolidated through the appearance of a large corpus of works by scholars of various orientations. It should also be noted that this far from being a fortuitous event was the direct outcome of the social and cultural conditions of the period. The works of this period, written under the title of `ilm al-usul (the science of fiqhi principles) or ijma`, discuss various aspects of the concept of ijma`, however, their common denominator is the wider application they envision for it. The most prominent topic occurring throughout these works is the notion of “silent consensus”, about which there existed three distinct views dating from the 3rd century AH: (1) a large number of Hanafites and Shafi`ites together with a group of Mu`tazilites, such as Abu `Ali Jubba’i, whose expanded version of ijma` included its silent version; (2) the likes of the Mu`tazilite Abu `Abd Allah Basri and the Ash`arite-Malikite Qadi Abu Bakr Baqillani who denied the authority of silent ijma`; (3) and minorities among the Shafi`ites, Hanafites – e.g. Abu al-Hasan Karkhi – and Mu`tazilites – e.g. Abu Hashim Jubba’i – who took a middle stance, i.e. they accepted the shar`i authority of silent ijma` while denying its reality as being a true ijma`. The theory of “compound consensus” – i.e. the divergence of opinion by the scholars of a given period over a few particular issues implies their tacit (and hidden) consensus against some other hypothetical views, and the appearance of a new view nullifying the compound consensus – was among he controversial topics which had come to meet with the approval of a large number of usulis (faqihs with rational leanings). The return to the concept of absolute majority with its roots in Tabari, while rejected by such usulis as Abu al-Hasan Karkhi, was supported by other usulis such as the Malikite Ibn Khawizmandad and Mu`tazilites such as Abu al-Hasan Khayyat. Among other ijma`-related issues were the dispute over its characteristics and its validity after the demise of its framers.

* source: Y"outh from Point of View of Logic & Feelings", Journal of Islamic Knowledge.Pakatchi , Ahmad "Islam Entry" The Great Islamic Encyclopedia. Ed. Kazem Musavi Bojnourdi.Tehran: The Center of Great Islamic Encyclopaedia , 1989-, V.8 ,pp.451

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