When Scholars Relate A Consensus On An Issue
Siddeeq Hasan Khan said:
“The people have become extremely careless in reporting consensus. Thus, we find those who have little knowledge of the scholars’ opinions presuming that what has been agreed upon in their mathhab or country is a consensus. This is indeed a great danger. By such indifferent claims, which are not based on careful study and piety, they cause a general harm to the Muslims.
As for the followers of the four Madhhabs, they consider any matter agreed upon among them to be a consensus. This is especially apparent in the later scholars among them, such as An-Nawawi in his explanation of Saheeh Muslim…”
He then quotes Ash-Shawkaanee as saying:
“Matters of consensus reported in the books arise from situations where the reporter was not aware of the difference in regard to a specific matter. Being unaware does not necessitate that a difference did not exist. The best that could be said is that he assumed that there was a consensus. And a person’s presumption is not sufficient as a basis or proof of consensus.
Those who take the consensus as an evidence would not take such a presumption, coming from just a single member of the Ummah. Allaah (swt) does not require this from his creatures. If a scholar says that he does not know any evidence from the Quraan or the Sunnah regarding a particular issue, his statement is not taken by any learned scholar as an evidence. If you understand this, it becomes easy for you to judge this kind of report about consensus.”
[As-Siraaj Al-Wahaaj, Min Kashfi Mataalibee Saheehi Muslim Bin Al-Hajjaaj, 1/3. Taken from Muhammad Al-Jibali’s book on night prayer]