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date: 23 July 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This article surveys the three approaches—source-critical, phenomenological, and hermeneutical-theological—that prevail in the historiography of consensus in early, classical, and modern Islamic legal thought. The source-critical approach dominates the historiography of the early period. Scholars using this approach question the narrative found in classical Islamic legal theory: that specific verses of the Qur’an or Hadith of Muhammad establish consensus as a source of law. They believe instead that consensus emerged gradually, in response to the social needs of the Muslim community. Scholars using the phenomenological approach seek to define the doctrine of consensus in classical Islamic legal theory whilst scholars using the hermeneutical-theological approach view consensus as a powerful argument in issues of Islamic thought today. These approaches are not mutually exclusive and scholars often combine them. The article ends with identification of the areas for growth in future studies of consensus.

Keywords: Islamic law, ijma‘, consensus, historiography, phenomenology, hermeneutics, theology

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