Schools Of Muslim Law by Samidha Hegde@Lexcliq


There are two main schools of Muslim Law the Sunni and the Shia. In India, the majority of the Muslims are Sunnis and hence it is presumed that the parties to a suit are Sunnis unless proved otherwise.

Shia law has been applied to Shia since the decision of the Privy Council in Rajah Deedar Hossein v/s Ranee Zuhor-oon-Nissa-1841. The division between the Sunnis and the Shias originated in the dispute concerning the question of Imamat or the spiritual Leadership of Islam. Schools of Muslim Law:- After the death of the Prophet, the question arose who would be his successor. On this point, the Muslim community was divided into two factions. The Shias advocated that the office should go by the right of succession and thus Imamat i.e. headship should be confined to Prophet’s own family as his prophet. Whereas on the other hand the Sunnis advocated the principle of election by the Jamat and chose out their Imam by means of votes.

The majority of Muslims suggested that there should be an election to choose the successor of the Prophet. This group was led by the youngest wife of the Prophet. Thus the difference between the two lies in political events.


There are four major schools of Sunnis:

  • Hanafi School: The founder of this School was Abu Hanafi. This man was of principle and was well known for his deduction skills. He did not blindly follow all the customs by the virtue of the majority following it. He strongly relied upon his deductions from the Quran. His judgments were clear and straight analogical subtractions of the Quran. His deductions were not a result of unsighted reliance on customs. He further understood the vitality of tradition and gave it the status quo of law.

His contribution also was in the areas of Ijma and Ithesan and hence he was very well reputed and beloved. Thereby there was an immense number of followers of this School. This School found its emergence in Iraq and was later also followed in India, Pakistan, and Egypt.

  • Maliki School: this school was established by Malik-ibn-Anas of Medina. It recognizes the traditions of companions and as far as possible, new rules should be obtained exclusively from traditions.
  • Shafei School: this school was founded by Ash Shafei and is found in most parts of Southern India; it consists of the next largest group of Muslims of India. It also relied on traditions but examined them in the light of legal reasoning and logic in order to get a very balanced and systematic rule of law. He not only approved Ijma as a source of new law but also enlarged its scope.
  • Hanbali School: it was established by Ibn Hanbal. He rigidly adhered to the traditions of the Prophet and neglected Ijma and Qiyas. Under this school, there was no scope for private judgment and human reasoning.


There are three major schools of Shias:

Imamia School: this school is also known as Ithna Asharia School. This school is further divided into two sub-sects-

i) Akhbar

ii) Usuli. Akhbaris are very orthodox because they follow the rigid traditions of Imams. Usulis, on the other hand, interpret the texts of the Quran with reference to the practical problems of day-to-day life.​​

Ismailia School: they constitute the smallest minority group of Muslims and they considered Ismail as the seventh Imam.

Zaydis School: it was founded by Zyad ​​ and this school incorporates some of the Sunni principles as well


CONCLUSION:- Where it is not alleged not shown that the parties are Shias, there is a presumption that they are sunnies, to which sect the great majority of Mohammedans of this country belong. Shia law is also the law of the land. In India Shia law has been applied to Shia since the decision of the privy council.




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