Ijma` – Role of Taqlid

The obligation to follow the opinion of those more knowledgeable than us is reported by Ibn Qayyim on his discussion of the different kinds of taqlid. He said:

There is an obligatory (wajib) taqlid, a forbidden taqlid, and a permitted taqlid… The obligatory taqlid is the taqlid of those who know better than us, as when a person has not obtained knowledge of an evidence from the Qur’an or the Sunna concerning something. Such a taqlid has been reported from Imam al-Shafi`i in many places, where he would say:  ‘I said this in taqlid of `Umar’ or ‘I said that in taqlid of `Uthman’ or ‘I said that in taqlid of `Ata’. As al-Shafi`i said concerning the Companions — may Allah be well pleased with all of them:  ‘Their opinion for us is better than our opinion to ourselves.'” Ibn Qayyim, A`lam al-muwaqqi`in `an rabb al-`alamin 2:186-187.

This is the meaning of Imam Ahmad’s frequent warning in his answers:

Beware of speaking on a matter regarding which you don’t stand on an imam (as your precedent): iyyaka an tatakallama fi mas’alatin laysa laka fiha imam.

Albani says:

This is a frequent saying of Imam Ahmad: see our editions of his responses to various questions, such as Masa’il `Abd Allah ibn Ahmad, Masa’il Ibn Hani’ al-Nisaburi, and Masa’il al-Kharqi.

Another saying of his under al-Ma’mun’s Inquisition was: “How can I say what was never said before?” (kayfa aqulu ma lam yuqal), cited by Ibn Taymiyya in his Majmu` al-fatawa (19:320-341). See Albani’s edition of San`ani’s Raf` al-astar li ibtali adillat al-qa’ilina bi fana’i al-nar (Beirut & Damascus: al-maktab al-islami, 1405/1984), p. 41.

Jamil Effendi Sidqi al-Zahawi of Baghdad (d. 1930 CE) wrote in al-Fajr al-sadiq, a refutation of the Wahhabi heresy:

Among the evidences for the probative value of ijma’ is the Prophet’s statement, on him be peace: “My community will never agree on error.” The content of this hadith is so well-known that it is impossible to lie about it [mutawatir] simply because it is produced in so many narrations, for example: “My community will not come together on misguidance”; “A group of my community will continue on truth until the coming of the Hour.”; “The hand of Allah is with the congregation”; “Whoever separates from the congregation…”; “Whoever leaves the community or separates himself from it by the length of a span, dies the death of the Jahiliyya (period of ignorance prior to Islam)” etc.

`Abd Allah ibn Mas`ud said:

Whatever the Muslims deem to be good is good in the eyes of Allah and whatever they consider bad is bad in Allah’s view.

This is an authentic saying of Ibn Mas`ud. Ahmad related it in his Musnad (1:379 #3599), also al-Bazzar and Tabarani in the Mu`jam al-Kabir as Haythami said in Majma` al-zawa’id, and he adds: “Its narrators are trustworthy.” Al-Amidi considered this to be a hadith whose chain of narration goes back to the Prophet (al-Ihkam fi usul al-ahkam 2nd ed. Beirut, 1401/1982, 1:214). Ahmad Hasan points out that Abu Hanifa’s disciple Imam Muhammad ibn Hasan al-Shaybani initially reported this as a hadith, but that later it was attributed to Ibn Mas`ud.

It is not true that its chain as related by Ahmad contains Sulayman ibn `Amr al-Nakha`i as claimed by `Abd al-Wahhab `Abd al-Latif the commentator to Malik’s Muwatta’ as narrated by Muhammad ibn al-Hasan al-Shaybani” in his notes (p. 91); nor that it is not contained in Ahmad’s Musnad, as `Abd al-Latif further claims; this is a mistake on the part of hafiz al-Sakhawi in al-Maqasid al-hasana (p. 368) where he says: “Ahmad narrated it in al-Sunna and whoever ascribes it to the Musnad is mistaken [it is in the Musnad]… It is extracted by al-Bazzar, al-Tayalisi, al-Tabarani, and Abu Nu`aym in his biography of Ibn Ma`sud in the Hilya, also by Bayhaqi in al-I`tiqad.”

Imam al-Tahawi said in his `Aqida al-tahawiyya:

Wa la nukhalifu jama`at al-muslimin “We do not separate [in belief and practice] from the largest group of the Muslims.”

The commentators have explained that the “largest group of the Muslims” here refers to the ijma` al-mujtahidin or consensus of major scholars.

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