Schools of Islamic Law (Part 1)

´The universally acclaimed head of the Islamic Commonwealth was the Prophet, Mohammad. He was supreme authority on the law as well as the Chief Administrator of the whole body of Muslims. After his death, the urgent problem was to discover his successor.

´The majority of Muslims recommended that there should be an election for the successor of the Prophet and the vision was given by Ayesha Begum, the youngest wife of the Prophet.

´This view was argued by the group that while Prophet exercised complete control over the Islamic Community, so the successor should be a person who could control the Muslims. This opinion required the assurance of the people and thus voting was the only technique to choose the successor

´The Prophet himself had recommended voting, so the Muslim society pleaded for the voting to find out the successor of the Prophet. The suggestions of the Prophets are called his tradition (Sunnat)

´The Muslim people relied on this tradition of the Prophet. Thus the voting was assumed in which Abu Bakr, was elected and became the first Caliph, who was the father of Ayesha Begum. This group of Muslims formed the Sunni sect of Islam with its leader Abu Bakr. They alleged the name Ahle-Sunnat-Wal-Jammat which means the people of the “tradition and assembly” and are universally known as Sunnis.

´Although Muslims in minority did not agree to the law of voting. That group gives preference to the divine headship of the Prophet rather than his organizational control and the group was headed by the daughter of the Prophet, Fatima.

´Their argument was that the Prophet’s heir should be a divine leader of the society as was the Prophet. They said that this superiority comes through the dignity which comes through blood. Therefore, a person who belongs to the family of Prophet Mohammad should be regarded as the most capable person to succeed him.

´Thus, the group of Fatima discarded the voting and relied upon the belief of succession.

´Subsequently, Ali was nominated as the first Imam by this group of Muslims who was the son-in-law of the Prophet (Fatima’s Husband) and was also his cousin. They constituted a separate sect called Shia by separating themselves from the majority group.

´These two sects formed two major schools of the Muslim law.

´ Later on, the Sunnis further split into several sub-sects in themselves, each sect representing a distinct School of Sunni-law. There was a similar split among the Shia’s.

´Following the death of the prophet Muhammad, there have always been differences of opinion in how best to understand the message of God.​

´Different interpretations on what Islamic law should be is reflected in the diverse range of schools of thought or ways of studying and practicing Islam

´The common factor among the different groups is the Quran and the recorded sayings and actions of the Prophet (peace and blessings upon him) – Sunnah – as sources of information and guidance. Within Sunni and Shi’a Islam there are six main schools of Islamic law

´There was a sweeping range of opinion in the first three centuries of Islamic history, and at one point, there were over 100 different schools of thought.

The Sunni School- Abu Hanafi

´The Sunnis are divided into four sub-sects, namely, the Hanafis, the Malikis, the Shafii, and the Hanbalis. The Sunni Mahomedans of India belong principally to the Hanafi School. In the State of Jammu and Kashmir, the majority of Muslims belong to the Sunni sect.

´The Hanafis School: – Abu Hanifa was the founder of the school. The school was named after its founder and is the most popular School of law. Abu Hanifa’s main contribution was that instead of accepting each and every tradition as law, he tried to find out the law in the texts of the Quran itself through analogical deductions.

´He favored systematically concluded personal judgments based on Quran over an unsighted dependence on the customs. According to him the changing needs of society must be incorporated into the law.

´The Hanafi School is the oldest surviving school of Islamic law, and the one with the largest following.

´He extended the doctrine of Ijma and developed Istehsan or juristic preference that bears a resemblance to equity.

´ This School has been admired by a large number of Muslim followers. The home of the school was Iraq and from where it spread over to other countries occupied by Muslims such as Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Afghanistan, China, and India, etc.

´Muslims in India and Pakistan are also belonging to this school

The Maliki School:

´Malik Ibn Anas was the founder of the School.

´ According to this school, the new rules should be obtained entirely from the traditions and if it is not achievable then only Qiyas and Ijma may be occupied into thought.

´A noticeable feature of this School is that it is the only School in which a married woman and her properties are always supposed to be under the control of her husband.

´ According to this school, a woman cannot deal with her personal properties without the approval of her husband. This School has no followers in India but is prevalent in Northern Africa and Spain.

The Shafi School:

´The founder of the school was Muhammad ash-Shafi.

´He analyzed the customs in the brightness of authorized way of thinking and judgment in order to get a very impartial and efficient rule of law.

´According to Ash Shafi, the Quran can solve all problems of human life. And the solutions may be derived either directly from the texts or from analogical deductions.

´ He made the greatest use of the established Qiyas as a full source of law.

´According to him, Qiyas is to be considered only after considering Quran, traditions, and Ijma

´The Shaefi’i School also has a wide influence in Egypt, Indonesia, the Philippines, Brunei, Singapore, Thailand, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives.

´The important feature of the Shafi School is that a woman is by no means regarded as a free instrument in her marriage.

´The permission of her guardian is necessary to legalize the wedding even if she is an adult.

The Hanbali School:
                          Ahmad ibn Hanbal

´The latest School of the Sunni sect was founded by Ibn Hanbal. His main characteristic was that he strictly adhered to the customs of the Prophet.

´Thus it is said that Hanbal was traditionist.

´He depends so much upon the customs that other sources of law namely Ijma and Qiyas were ignored by him. He accepted Ijma only of the companions of the Prophet.

´Under this school, there is no possibility for personal judgments and human calculation. The followers of this school are very few.

´The Hanbali School was developed in Baghdad, although today the followers of the school are concentrated mainly in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The Shia  School:

´The Imamiyah School:-

´ This School is also named as Ithna Ashriyah School. This is the only school that recognizes “Muta” or temporary marriage.

´The School is further separated into two sub-sects (1) Akhbari and the (2) Usuli.

´Akhbaris strictly follows the traditions of Imams.

´ On the other hand, the Results, understand the texts of Quran with reference to the real struggle of everyday life.

´The followers of this are found in Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan, and India.

´The Ismailiya School:

´The Shias did not recognize him as their Imam because Jafar Sadiq disinherited his eldest son. But there were some Shias, who recognized Ismail as the seventh Imam.

´They comprised of two main groups, (1) Khojas and (2) Bohras.

´Khojas were originally Hindus.

´ Bohras are also Ismailias and they were detached from the other group throughout the Fatimid caliphate regime. Ismailia is established in Central Asia, Syria, India, and Pakistan.

Ismailia of Bombay are either Khojas or Bohra

´The Zaidiyah School:-

´ Zyad, one of the sons of the fourth Imam founded the school.

´One of the strange characteristics of this School is that its theory includes some of the Sunni doctrines also. The followers of this School are in Yemen and not found in India.



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