The Four Schools of Fiqh

There are four accepted schools of thought. Their jurisprudence is accepted and alive throughout the world since more than a thousand years. Their leaders are Imam Abu Hanifah (d. 150 A.H), Imam Malik (d. 179 A.H), Imam Shafi`i (d. 204 A.H) and Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal (d. 241 A.H). These scholars were conversant with the era of the companions of the Prophet (peace and salutations be upon him) and possessed deep understanding of the Glorious Qur`an, Prophetic traditions, the Arabic language, the principles of Islamic jurisprudence and the essence of sharia. This is a very brief biography of the four illustrious leaders (each also known as an Imam) of the four unanimously agreed upon schools of Islamic jurisprudence:

The Hanafi School

The Imam of this school was called Abu Hanifah, Nu`man bin Thabit (may Allah have mercy upon him). He was of Persian origin. He was born in Kufa, Iraq, in the year 80 AH. The city of Kufa was the hub of learning and the new home for more than 1000 companions of the Prophet (peace and salutations be upon him). His father had met Ali (RA) who had supplicated for him and his family. The Imam is said to have had 4000 teachers many of whom had acquired knowledge from the companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him), mainly Umar, `Ali, Ibn Abbas and Ibn Mas`ud (may Allah be pleased with them all). His main teacher was Hammad b. Sulayman. He had about 800 students who themselves then became jurists and scholars. His main students were Imam Abu Yusuf and Imam Muhammad.

He was also a tabi`i who had met Anas (RA) on several occasions. He was unique in his knowledge, intelligence and piety. The Imam held an assembly of 40 senior members with whom he would discuss academic intricacies and only after reaching a unanimous decision a ruling was issued and penned down. He performed Hajj 55 times. He travelled many places including Makkah, Madinah and Basra and thus was able to accumulate the knowledge of jurisprudence and Hadith of Iraq and the Arabian peninsula. He was the first to compile the knowledge of sharia and to arrange it under different chapters. Mis’ar b. Kidam says, “I studied Hadith together with Abu Hanifah and he surpassed us all in his knowledge of Hadīth. We adopted zuhd (abstinence and piety) and he surpassed us all in this as well. We studied Fiqh (jurisprudence) together with him and you can see what he achieved in this field too”. Imam Shafi`i (may Allah have mercy upon him) said, “People are totally dependent on Abu Hanifah in Jurisprudence.” The Imam passed away in the year 150 AH in the city of Baghdad.

The major contributors to this school include Imam Abu Hanifah`s two students: Imam Muhammad b. Hasan and Imam Abu Yusuf. Imam Abu Yusuf`s original name was Ya`qub bin Ibrahim. He was born in Kufa, Iraq, in the year 113 A.H and passed away in Baghdad in the year 182 A.H. His main teacher was Imam Abu Hanifah and his students included Imam Ahmad b. Hanbal, Imam Muhammad, Yahyā b. Ma’īn etc. He authored the famous books, Kitab al-Athar and Kitab al-Kharaj. The other contributor was Muhammad bin Hasan Al-Shaybani. He had studied under Imam Abu Hanifah, Imam Malik and many others. He was born in Wasit in the year 132 A.H and passed away in Ray, Iran, in the year 189 A.H. His students included Imam Shafi’i, Abu Hafs, Yahya b. Ma’in etc. Some of his famous books are Muwatta Imam Muhammad, Jami’ Saghir, Jami Kabir and Al-Asl.

The Maliki School

The Imam of this school is Malik bin Anas (may Allah have mercy upon him) who was born in 95 AH and passed away in 179 AH at the age of 86. He was blessed to have been born and pass away in the blessed city of Madinah tayyibah. He was buried in Jannah al-Baqi`. He had a strong memory by nature. He is said to have more than 900 teachers, mainly Nafi` who remained in the service of Ibn Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) for a full period of 30 years. Imam Malik attended the classes of Nafi` for at least 12 years. Prior to attending classes to dictate the sayings of the Prophet (peace be upon him), Imam Malik would first have a bath or perform ablution, wear expensive and smart clothing, apply fragrance and comb his hair. He spent about 62 consecutive years in teaching jurisprudence and issuing legal verdicts. His students included Imam Muhammad, Ibn al-Mubarak, al-Qattan and others. His famous compilation is Muwatta Imam Malik. He was extremely cautious in rendering verdicts. Imam Malik himself says, “I did not start issuing legal verdicts until seventy jurists of Madinah testified that I was of the calibre to issue legal verdicts”. Yahya Ibn Ma`in says, “Imam Malik is the amir al-mu`minin (leader of the believers) in the field of Hadith”.

The Shafi’i School

The Imam of this school is Muhammad bin Idris (may Allah have mercy upon him). He was born in Gazzah in the year 150AH on the very day that Imam Abu Hanifah passed away. He died in Egypt in the year 204 AH. His lineage meets with that of the Prophet (peace be upon him) on the seventh level. He was extremely smart. He had memorised the entire Qur`an at the age of 7. He travelled to many places including Yemen, Makkah, Madinah, Baghdad and Egypt in acquisition of knowledge. His teachers numbering about 80 included Imams Malik, Imam Muhammad, Sufyan bin ‘Uyaynah and others. He had many students including Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal, ‘Ali b. Al-Madini and Is`haq bin Rahawayh. He had authored several works and writings. Mulla `Ali Qari (RA) has enumerated his writings as being 113. His main books are known as Kitab al-Umm and al-Risalah.

The Hanbali School

The Imam of this school is Ahmad bin Muhammad bin Hanbal (may Allah have mercy upon him) who was born in 164 A.H and passed away in 241 A.H at the age of 77. The city of birth and death was Baghdad, Iraq. His father passed away when the Imam was 3 years old. Some of his teachers were Imam Abu Yusuf, Imam Shafi`i, Yahya Ibn Sa`id al-Qattan, Sufyan ibn `Uyaynah and others. Despite in poverty, he travelled many lands in pursuit of knowledge including Baghdad, Kufa, Basra, Makkah, Madinah, Yemen and Syria. Due to his high courage, extensive travelling and amazing memory, he had memorised a million Hadiths. Up to 5000 students attended his lectures. His students included the greatest Hadith scholars such as Imam Bukhari, Imam Muslim, Imam Abu Dawud and others. His famous compilation is known as Musnad Imam Ahmad. The approximate number of people who attended his funeral was 80,000 men and 60,000 women.

May they all be entered in the highest level of paradise. Ameen.


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Posted in Uncategorised on 23rd Mar 2016 by Our Imam | 6869 Views