By Joseph Schacht
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Additional resources for An Introduction to Islamic Law
It is only natUral that the consensus of all Muslims should be regarded as MOVEMENTS AND THE TRADITIONISTS 31 not subject to error; that the consensus of the scholars, too, should be so regarded is not equally obvious, and the whole highly organized concept seems to have been influenced from abroad. 4- Originally the consensus of the scholars was anonymous, that is to say, it was the average opinion of the representatives of a school that counted, and not the individual doctrines of the most prominent scholars.
Shafi'i held that, whatever the extent of the knowledge of individual scholars, the community of Muslims as a whole had preserved the traditions from the Prophet in their totality, so that none of them were lost, and the consensus of the Muslims could not contradict the sunna of the Prophet as Shifi'i understood it. All this left no room for the discretionary exercise of personal opinion, and human reasoning had to be restricted to making correct inferences and drawing systematic conclusions 48 EARLY REASONING AND THE LAWYERS from the traditions.
The term isti in therefore came to signify a breach of strict analogy for reasons of public interest, convenience, or similar considerations. The use of individual reasoning in general is called jtihdd or 6Ftihdd al-ra'y, and mujtahid is the qualified lawyer who uses it. These terms are to a great extent synonymous in the ancient period, and remained so even after Shffi'. sdn stem directly from the advisory, cautelary activity of the early specialists. The oldest stage of legal reasoning is represented by Iraqian I.