Articles

observing the contemporary model of ijma

In my article on Mei 6, 2011 by Taufik Adnan Amal


Observing the Contemporary Model of Ijma�
Taufik Adnan Amal
Courtesy: Liberal Islam Network [12/4/2004]
http://islamlib.com/en/page.php?page=article&id=595 

The ijma� mechanism also open to the possibility of public deliberation and debate, so that various developing point of views individually as well as collectively get the opportunity to be heard by people who eventually will achieve consensus. When the majority decision is achieved, all the member of society � Muslim and non Muslim- must attempt to implement it. The initiator, adherent or whoever agrees with the minority view must accept the majority�s decision and try to implement it as a consensus.

The consensus or Ijma� has been the most important validation of various decisions within Islam for centuries, particularly for the Sunni. The prophet Muhammad had said: My people will not agree on a mistake. Binding ijma� authority is based on this hadith. Even in Sunni circles, the final authority of religious interpretation is laid on consensus (ijma�) or collective decision within Muslim society. Consequently, consensus plays an important role in Islam.

However, in traditional concept, it is only the �ulema� who are capable of achieving consensus. Common society is not taken into consideration. Hence, ijma� is an elitist concept. Besides, there is a classic concept that ijma� is oriented backward: into ulema�s concord in past times. Even according to certain schools of Islamic jurisprudence, ijma� is limited to the consensus of the Prophet�s companions. Any kind of ijma� afterward has no binding value, especially when it ratifies any doctrine which is against salafi tradition.

The wider notion of ijma� conveyed by al-Syafii and later on by al-Ghazali. For both of them, ijma� is the concurrence of muslim society in general. This notion is utopist since there is no complete or total agreement of the muslim society along the history. There was only majority�s agreement, even in the local level.

In the modern period, muslim thinkers are developing the concept of ijma� according to modern conditions. Muhammad Iqbal for instance, conveyed his notion regarding ijma� as the transfer of ijtihad power (interpretation and judgment) from individual representing schools of Islamic jurisprudence into an organized one in the form of a �permanent legislative constitution� or the Indonesian legislative assembly.

By transferring ijtihad into a legislative institution, which might have common Muslims or even non Muslims as members, Iqbal surely did not give any qualification for the enforcement of ijtihad, except for giving an insight into the legal field. Nevertheless, to avoid the possibility of misinterpretation of Islamic sources, Iqbal agreed on the coming of ulema to help and lead free discussion about matters regarding with Islam.

Following Iqbal�s thinking framework, the neo-modernist scholar form Pakistan, Fazlur Rahman declared a new possibility of ijma� in contemporary society. To him, ijtihad resulting from individuals or teams will crystallized into ijma� trough a tight interaction of ideas. Hence, ijma� �which is the majority people�s consensus- will be more dynamic, future oriented, and not monolithic. The minority, who think that their ijtihad is the closer to the truth, may assure the people about the truth of his notion. When the majority of people accept the minority�s notion, it will form a new ijma� and substitute the former ijma�. To Rahman, the activity to consolidate this people�s consensus is referred to in the Koran as syura (public deliberation).

On the governmental level, people�s ijma� will be formulated in the form of law and regulation by a legislative institution called syura- ijma� by Rahman. To him, people select this assembly without any technical qualification. The assembly could ask for the advice from the experts on complicated matters. Laws or regulations determined by the assembly may be right or wrong, but as long as they reflect the people�s will, it will always be Islamic and democratic since it represents people�s ijma�. Moreover, that consensus is susceptible to change since potentially there will always be the possibility for the minority to become the majority through the deliberation process.

Furthermore, Rahman elaborated his concept about syura- ijma� institution in an international assembly based on legislative institution of the muslim countries membership. The task is to give advice on the formulation of laws by the national assembly of muslim countries based on regional distinction and on the social situation of each country.

The above brief survey indicates that ijma� can deliver an effective base accepting majority rule. According to this, Louay M. Safi also argued that the state�s legitimacy depends on how far organization and country�s power reflecting the people�s will, since �as affirmed by the classic jurist- the legitimacy of governmental institution is not based on textual sources, but on the principle of ijma�. In other words ijma� opens the possibility of democratic legitimacy to the Muslims and offers them an institutional and procedural format to run it.

The ijma� mechanism also open to the possibility of public deliberation and debate, so that various developing point of views individually as well as collectively get the opportunity to be heard by people who eventually will achieve consensus. When the majority decision is achieved, all the member of society � Muslim and non Muslim- must attempt to implement it. The initiator, adherent or whoever agrees with the minority view must accept the majority�s decision and try to implement it as a consensus.

This sort of ijma� mechanism promotes the involvement of the whole of society, including the non Muslim, in the decision making process. There is nothing strange about it. Hasan al-Banna, in Nahwa an-Nur (1936), pointed out that some people think that by endorsing Islam as the life�s code, meaning that non-Muslim cannot live in the Muslim milieu and that the unity of various elements of society can�t be achieved. To al-Banna, this is against the equality principle and Islamic acceptance of the non-muslim minority. Islam to him, is sanctified in terms of the unity of general humanity (al-wahdah al-insaniyyah al-�ammah), unity of general religiosity (al-wahdah al-diniyyah al-�ammah), and the unity of particular muslim society (al-wahdah al-diniyyah al-khassah). The implementation of these principles, to al-Banna, will not create any friction, but instead create a unity with the sacred and religious dimension.

Similarly, Fazlur Rahman emphasized the attitude of anti-Islamic exclusivism regarding other religious communities, based on several Koranic verses (2:62 dan 5:69). Rahman�s interpretation is that anyone who believes in monotheism and the judgment day and performs good deeds will get salvation. Thus in the modern state, all citizens must be seen as equal, without discrimination among others, Muslim as well as non Muslim.

The previous thoughts agree on the citizen�s equality � Muslim as well as non Muslim- and on the equality of their rights and duties including the process of achieving consensus. Therefore, when an ijma� is achieved based on the majority principles, it ties all the members of society together without any exception.

As discussed above, people�s consensus or ijma� will be proposed by the local as well as national people representative institution. Such assembly �formed by the election- is a people�s representation translating their interest into coherent and consistent policies (preference representation). However, as an association of the selected people, this assembly also will influence public preference (preference formation), if a matter is not appropriate in being formulated into policy. For the formation of this preference, deliberation, advocation, proposal of law and other means involving people is important. Rahman recognizes this kind of activity as syura.

A possible way to form people�s consensus or to measure people�s agreement about something is through a referendum. Ijma� is based on the logical flow in the form of a referendum. People�s wide participation to determine a policy is expected in this ijma� referendum implementation.

The ratified convention of a Muslim country is another form of ijma� extension on the regional as well as on the international level. By ratifying such a convention, that Muslim country will be tied by agreement or ijma� to apply it.[]

**Taufik Adnan Amal, Lecturer of Faculty of Sharia IAIN Alauddin Makassar

(Translated by Lanny Octavia, edited by Jonathan Zilberg) 

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