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12 — Consensus

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Consensus is the agreement of a generation of scholars concerning the legal value of an event. By scholars we mean jurists, and by event we mean a legal event.1 The consensus of this community, and no other, is an authoritative proof, because the Prophet (peace be upon him) has said “my community does not agree upon an error,” so revelation has affirmed the infallibility of this community. Consensus is an authoritative proof for the following generation, and for every generation.

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The correct view is that the probative authority of consensus is not conditional upon the passing of the generation in which it is reached. If we made it conditional on the passing of the generation, then one would take into consideration the dissenting statement of someone who was born during their lifetime and studied law and became one of the people of diligent inquiry, and they could then revoke the agreement they had reached.

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Valid consensus can be established by the scholars’ words, or by their actions, or by the words or actions of only some of them if those words or actions are disseminated and the others remain silent about them.

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The saying of a single Companion2 is not an authoritative proof, according to al-Shāfiʿī’s new opinion;3 according to his old opinion it is an authoritative proof.

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Key terms

  • consensus: ijmāʿ
  • scholars: ʿulamāʾ
  • event: ḥāditha
  • jurists: fuqahāʾ
  • authoritative proof: ḥujja
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Notes

  1. The event is a legally relevant act, and what is agreed upon is its legal value. ↩
  2. That is, one who saw the Prophet. ↩
  3. That is, the opinion al-Shāfiʿī expressed in the latter part of his life. ↩
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Source: http://waraqat.vishanoff.com/e/e12/