Schools of Muslim Law

Schools of Muslim Law
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There was no Division among Muslims at the time of prophet Mohammad (peace be on him). All Muslim would follow the instruction of the prophet. All the problems were solved according to Quran and Hadith. The origin of division among the Muslims was started after the death of the prophet.

Main schools of Muslim law:

Muslim became into two main schools – Sunni and Shiya. In the part of Sunni, there were four caliphs – Abu Bakar (R.), Umar (R.), Osman (R.) and Ali (R.) as known as “Ahl -e- sunnah wal jamat”. But Shiya recognised Hazrat Ali (R.) was the only one caliph in Islamic law. Both schools are again divided into some sub sects.

Explanation of Sunni school and Shiya school:

Sunni schools have four sub sects schools – Hanafi, Maliki, Shafei, Hanbali. Sunni schools came from Abbasid period. Its improved and furnished in chronological order.

On the other hand, Shiya schools beliefs that Hazrat Ali (R) was the first descendant and heir of the prophet. The shiya are divided into several sub sects – 1) Ithna Ashariya 2) Ismailia 3) Zaidiya.

Schools of Muslim law:

Now we will discuss about schools of islamic law or muslim law step by step.

Sunni School:

1) Hanafi school: Hanafi school is the first and most popular school in Muslim law. Before being named Hanafi, this name was Kufa school. ★ Founder : Abu Hanifa (full name – Abu Hanifa An Noman Ibn Thabit) – Abu Hanifa known as Imami Azam. He was born at Kufa, Bagdad in 80 A.H. (699 A.D.).

Hanafi school is the dominant school in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Asia minor, Palestine and Cyprus. This school became widely spread in various territories. Imam Jafor Sadiq is the teacher of Abu Hanifa (founder Hanafi school). – Abu Hanifa learnt Fiqa from Hammad Bin Abi Sulaiman. Imam Mohammad and Abu Yusuf are two best pupils of Abu Hanifa.

Hanafi school used Hadith. In Hanafi school, “Hedaya” is the most famous and authoritative book about school of Muslim law. – Hanafi school emphasis on 3 parts. Such as – ★ Qiyas ★ Open opinion ★ Equity / Istihsan – Qiyas established based on the Quran, Hadith and Ijma.

2) Maliki school: Maliki school is the second school of Muslim law. Maliki school name derived from its founder – Malik Ibn Anas. He was the mufti of Madina. He was born at Medina in 95 A.H.

Maliki school explain things which came from Hadith. Malik Ibn Anas discovered about 8000 traditions of prophet. Maliki school based on Istislah/public good – Example : Donation – eye, blood for social work. It Rejects Qiyas totally. In Maliki school, Malik Ibn Anas consist law from Quran, Hadis/Sunnah/Ijma in directly. Imam Malik died in 179 A.H.

3) Shafei school: The founder of Shafei school is Muhammad Ibn Idris As-Shafei. He was born at Palestine in 145 A.H. He was the pupil of Imam malik. His period was between 767 AD to 820 AD.

In Shafei school, Imam Shafei conclude the ideas and theories of Hanafi school and Maliki school. He created the classical theory of Muslim law. According to the school (Shafei school), Ijma is the important source of muslim law. In shafei school, its main contribution is the Qiyas or analogy.

The Al Risala is the most famous and authoritative book of Shafei school by Muhammad Ibn Idris As-Shafei. In this book, they discussed about shafei school based on Qiyas (analogy), Ijma (consensus), Ijtihad (personal reasoning), Ijtihsan (juristic preference), Ikhtilaf (Disagreement). Shafei school is widely spread in Egypt, Southern Arabia, South East Asia, Malaysia. This is the second largest school of Muslim law. Imam Shafei devoted his life in reading and teaching. He died in 193 A.H.

4) Hanbali school: It is the fourth source or school of Muslim law. Imam Abu Abdullah Ibn Muhammad Ibn Hanbal is the founder of Hanbali school. He was born in 164 A.H. at Baghdad. He found the Hanbali school in 241 (AD 855).

Imam Hannal is the disciple of Imam Shafei and supports Hadis. He strongly opposed the Ijtihad. He imposed more importance on Hadith and Sunnah than Ijma and Qiyas. He collected large number of Hadith. Its followers would accept any Hadith without any hesitation. Hanbali died in 241 A.H.

Shia School:

1) Ithna Asharia: These Schools are based on Ithna Asharia laws. The followers are found in Iraq and Iran. They believe in the 12 Imams. Their last Imam was Al-Mehedi Muhammad Al-Muntazir. Ithna Asharia again divided into two schools, namely – ★ Akhbari ★ Asuli They reject Hadith which are not conformity with the Quran.

2) Ismailia: Ismailia are the followers of 7th Imam Ismail. In india, there are two groups, namely – ★ Nisari ★ Mustali Ismailia considered that the follower of schools has special knowledge of religious doctrine.

3) Zaidiya: The followers of Zaidiya are not found in India but south Arabia. They were the followers of Imam Zaid.

Others Schools:

There are some others schools besides the school of Sunni and Shiya. Such as –

1) Ibadi School – They gives more preference Quran and they do not give more importance of Sunnah.

2) Ahmadiya school – They claimed they are Muslims but not follow the prophet Muhammad.


Muslim law generally governed by Al Quran and Hadith. Jurists have followed many different schools in various time when Quran is silent. The teaching of these schools can be compared to different ways which all lead to the same destination and goal in similar.

Author: Md. Emran Sagor

Department of Law and Land Administration,

Patuakhali Science and Technology University (PSTU).

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