Answered by Sheikh `Umar al-Muqbil, professor at al-Imâm University
In order to discuss the four schools of thought in Islamic Law, we must first understand that there many great jurists, like al-Shâfi`î, Abû Hanifâh, Mâlik, Ahmad b. Hanbal, al-`Awzâ`î, layth b. Sa`d, al-Thawrî, and Ibn Jarîr al-Tabarî. All of these were independent jurists capable of juristic reasoning (ijtihâd).
However, the approaches of only four of these scholars became established. They are the approaches of al-Shâfi`î, Abû Hanifâh, Mâlik, and Ahmad b. Hanbal. The schools of thought based on their approaches to jurisprudence have lasted and have continued to be developed. Each school has had many adherents who have studied Islamic Law according to their chosen approach and have written major legal works based on it.
As for other schools of jurisprudence, they have not been developed nearly as much as those four schools nor have they become anywhere nearly as widespread.
However, this does not mean that those four schools of jurisprudence have a monopoly on the truth, though almost without exception the truth can be found within them. The reason for the continuation and proliferation of those four schools is that most of the great jurists since the third century of Islam have been affiliated with one or another of them.
The earliest scholars, the Salaf, who lived before the four schools of thought had been firmly established, were more like the founders of those schools. They used their own juristic abilities and derived the laws of Islam directly from the textual evidence. They would choose whichever opinion they saw had the strongest evidence to back it up. All of them sought to follow the truth. Sometimes they would be correct in their judgments and sometimes they would be mistaken.
After the four schools of jurisprudence became firmly established and settled, most jurists began to work within one or another of them. These scholars all had different abilities.
There is nothing wrong if a Muslim wishes to follow one of these established schools of jurisprudence as long as he does not become chauvinistic and biased to it. This is especially important when an opinion of his school is shown to go against clear textual evidence.
The words of the Prophet (peace be upon him) take precedence over the opinions of anyone else, no matter who they might be. The Prophet (peace be upon him) was protected from error in matters relating to Islamic Law. This cannot be said of anyone else.
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09-Aug-2008 01:23 AMRamadan Mubarak
09-Aug-2008 01:56 AM
- Join Date
- Apr 2003
Assalaamu 'alaikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh,
This is a very beneficial piece akhi. The main issue with studying Islam from any of the madhhabs is the 'taassub' or bigotry issue. When people think that their way os always correct and always the best, and all other methodologies must be by default wrong, this leads to many ills within the Ummah.
In regards to the Salaf ul Saliheen, Radi'Allahu 'anhum ajma'een, we know that the Hanafi madhhab has its roots in the school of 'Abdullab ibn Mas'ud radi'Allahu 'anh, so when people claim that how can you follow Imam Abu Hanifah - myself personally as someone who takes the fiqh from the Ahnaf, do not just follow Abu Hanifah - but millions of scholars who have worked on this school to bring about the best ijtihaad possible on matters where ijtihaad is allowed, and it goes past Imam 'Adham Abu Hanifah, to the Sahabah, and to the source of the legislation.
If we were Mujtahid's, then by all means we would be required to take 'directly' from the Qur'an and the Sunnah - but we are not - as we haven't even mastered perhaps 1 Islamic science let alone 20-30 or even 40! So we can be muqallid's and take from the scholars who themselves are Siddiquun scholars - as well as being the true inheritors of the prophets - and I have no shame in doing so Alhamdulillah - as it allows me to practise Islam without having doubt on matters which have been worked and solved some thousand + years ago, and on matters which are novel - and have scholars who are at the lowest level of Mujtahid - called iftaa - or faqih - who look at the whole corpus of Islamic Sciences and literature and come up with fatwas for today's scenario's (such as IVF, Abortion, Praying in space, Surrogacy, organ transplant (humanand non-human) - etc.
Abu KhadijahBilaal ibn Sa'd said, "Don't look at the meagerness of your sin, look at who it was that you disobeyed."
09-Aug-2008 03:12 PM
I love my mashaykh from Imam University and I thought this piece gave a very balanced and concise view of how Ahl us Sunnah look at such an issue, alhamdulillaah.Ramadan Mubarak