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Thread: A Word on the Ijma of Scholars and its Claimed Authority

  1. #1

    Default A Word on the Ijma of Scholars and its Claimed Authority

    The notion that the ijma‘ of the four schools in Sunni jurisprudence has epistemological certitude in religion, and thus, by implication, the authority equivalent to that of the Qur’an and the Sunnah is as shaky as it is circular.

    When the idea gained currency in the fourth century hijrah, the proponents, with an essentially deontological epistemology, had to look to the Qur’an for textual evidence. Interestingly, few of the verses adduced were relevant. Moreover, there was hardly any consensus on the interpretation of these verses.

    Having found that the basis for their thesis was not sufficient to afford certitude to their conception, the proponents of ijma‘ then turned to the Sunnah for support, only to find that there was nothing mutawatir (sufficiently concurrent to become conclusive evidence) there as well.

    The next stop obviously was hadith, most of which corpus was in form of akhbar ahad (isolated narrations). These akhbar ahad, according to Sunni usul al-fiqh (principles of jurisprudence), were themselves zanni (probable) in varying degrees. Quite obviously, probability itself, regardless of its degree, could not become the epistemological foundation of certitude. Therefore, the jurists came up with a novel concept: that of tawatur ma‘nawi (concurrence of meaning), which they adduced as conclusive evidence based on inductive corroboration.

    The basic problem is not certitude of what the words in certain narrations mean but whether the words themselves can be traced back to the Prophet with certitude. All other sources gain certitude only when it can be established with certainty that the Prophet himself gave them this position.

    Since the words of the narrations in question themselves cannot be traced back to the Prophet with absolute certainty, it will be logically inconsistent to assert that certitude of meaning derived from something that does not itself have epistemological certitude can lend certitude to an entirely new concept, that is to ijma‘.

    Therefore, in terms of logical consistency, the idea of epistemological certitude through ijma‘ as a basis for ijtihad and interpretation is essentially based on circular argument. Apart from this major flaw in the foundational argument, there are many other inconsistencies in the whole construct as well as argumentation, which require a separate discussion.

    [These are not my words words but I came across it and found the thought to have been put in a very precise and sound fashion that I decided to paste it here]

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2011


    GAK for this informative article, however what is the exact meaning of the word epistemologica, I am deducing it probably means testimonial
    is that the correct meaning?

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