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Consensus And Religious Authority In Modern Islam: The Discourses Of The 'Ulamā’

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Chapter Summary

Observers of modern Muslim societies, and not just scholars of Islamic law, have long recognized the centrality of the doctrine of consensus in Islam. This centrality is underscored above all by the place of consensus, alongside the Qur&t;an and the normative example of the Prophet Muḥammad, as a fundamental source of law and legal norms in Sunni Islam. This chapter examines some of the ways in which the 'ulamā' have thought about issues relating to consensus in modern times. Given that appeals to consensus have long been central to articulations of religious authority, the 'ulamā’s ' discourses also illuminates how religious authority is itself re-imagined in a world which lacks earlier certainties either about consensus or about those who were once thought to represent it. The chapter indicates the degree to which many among the 'ulamā' have come themselves to explicitly recognize the fragmentation of their authority.

Keywords: ulamā; Islam; Muḥammad; Qur&t;ān; religious authority



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