Some people in Sri Lanka maintain the impermisibility of ijma'. Are they right?
I am from Sri Lanka. We have people who call themselves "Ahl al-Qur`an wal-Hadith". They do not acknowledge ijma' (scholarly consensus) and qiyas (analogy), they maintain the impermissibility of taqlid and insist that ijtihad is mandatory upon every individual, even those who do not speak the Arabic language and they do not consider that the words of the Companions constitute binding legal evidence, alleging that the Companions contravened the Qur`an and sunnah. What do you think about their beliefs?
These invalid opinions cannot be attributed to the Sunnis: neither to the Ahl al-Hadith, ` nor the Ahl al-Ra`y nor any other recognized Islamic school of jurisprudence.
A Muslim scholar are unanimous that ijma' amounts to uncontestable definitive proof; it is part of what constitutes the identity of Islam, often referred to as 'categorically established religious doctrines' and is substantiated by the words of Allah,
If anyone opposes the Messenger, after guidance has been made clear to him, and follows a path other than that of the believers, We shall leave him on his chosen path—We shall burn him in Hell, an evil destination. [An-Nisaa`, 4:115]
Further evidence can be found in numerous reports from the Prophet , transmitted through multiple sources stating that the Islamic community will never agree upon an error.
Notable scholars have agreed on the bindingness of qiyas when its conditions are met as expounded in the books of principles of jurisprudence. Some scholars even went as far as issue a verdict that if an endowment is established for scholars, its beneficiaries may not include those of them who deny qiyas.
It is absurd and irrational to maintain that ijtihad is obligatory upon all Muslims, even those ignorant of the Arabic language, and to prohibit following the four schools of jurisprudence. Asking a layman to makeijtihad is tantamount to asking him to undertake an impossible task. If they then add to this the prohibition of following the four schools of jurisprudence, the meaning of this would be to destroy the principles of Islam in the name of Islam, and to forfeit the sunnah with the claim of adhering to it. Under such circumstances, scholars must intervene to suppress the blind and divisive propagation of such corrupt opinions. Adherents of these positions, who are sincere in their desire to attain the pleasure of Allah, would surely abandon their false beliefs if they knew the truth of the matter and the consequences of their beliefs.
The opinions of the Companions
The probity of the opinions of the Companions when they differ is a point of scholarly disagreement, as is mentioned in the books of jurisprudence. A Muslim must, however, observe the requisite etiquette with the Companions of the Messenger since it is they whom Allah has chosen to be the Companions of the best of creation, Prophet Mohammed and it is they who conveyed Islam and Islamic law. It is therefore disrespectful to accuse them of deliberately contravening the Qur`an and sunnah. One must think well of them and say, "This was the extent of so-and-so's knowledge" or "maybe he did not learn of this hadith" or "maybe he did not consider this hadith authentic."
A Muslim who loves Allah and His Messenger and is keen to follow true Islam, must not take religion from any arbitrary person nor listen to anyone who lacks the requisite knowledge to formulate opinions in matters of Islamic law. Imam Mohammed Ibn Sirin (may Allah have mercy upon him) said, "This knowledge is religion, so be careful from whom you take your religion."