Schools of Islamic Legal Thought otherwise called Madhahib in Arabic, emerged because of the independent interpretation of the general principles of the Quran and Sunnah by different prominent scholars over the centuries. Each school was designated under the name of its founding scholar. These schools were set up very early in Islamic history.

The purpose of each school was essentially to interpret the general principles of the Quran and Sunnah concerning specific cases and this was done by the eminent scholars. A considerable lot of them were under each school of Islamic idea and contributed to a great extent in forms of writings and books in which they in a different manner interpreted the Quran and sunnah and attributed their writings to sharia.

The reason of introducing Madhahib is on the grounds that even today Muslims all throughout the planet follow various traditions according to their understanding and learning of different schools. Distinct variations in forms of practices within Islam exist in which each school of thought is related in its manner.

There are three main schools of thought under which different new schools developed over hundreds of years: Sunni, Shia and Motazila. 

These fundamental schools of Muslim law developed after the death of the prophet when the question of carrying on his saying and traditions came. Each of these schools had an alternate understanding of how to spread the prophet’s words. The Sunni pushed Imamat to be based upon election. Then again, the Shia advocates believed for Imamat to be based upon the prophet’s family. Though the Motazila school before long became non-existent and just its historical perspective remained.

Schools developed under Sunni were-

Hanafi School ( 699 AD – 767 AD)

The founder of this school was Imam Abu Hanifa. He had two most important disciples – Abu Yusuf and Imam Muhammad. In India, generally Muslims follow Hanafi school. This school was continued in Pakistan, China, Turkey, Afghanistan as well. Among the entire Muslim population all throughout the planet, the followers of this school are one third.

Maliki School (711 AD – 795 AD)

The founder of this school was Imam Malik. They were supporters of the Hadiths anyway just the ones that were authentic or sufficient regardless of whether they were not right according to the boundaries laid down.

Shafi School ( 767 AD – 820 AD)

The founder of this school was Imam Muhammad ibn Idris Ash-Shafi. He was a disciple of the Maliki School. He was the first person to collect “Sources of Law”. They followed every one of the four sources. Their teachings were famous in, Syria, Egypt, Lebanon and some parts of Pakistan, Iraq, Yaman, Iran and India also.

Hanbali School (780 AD – 855 AD)

 Ibn Hanbali was the founder of the Hanbali School of Islamic Jurisprudence. They were strict in regards to the traditions of the Prophet and strictly confirmed to the Principle of Hadiths. Their methodology relied on Quran, Ijma, and Sunnat. They followed Qiyas only when they trusted it to be vital. They were dominant in Saudi Arabia for the most part.

Schools developed under Shia were-

Ashriya School

The founders of this school are twelve Imams, along these lines the Arabic Term Itna Ashris implies Twelvers. They are followed in Lebanon, Syria and Pakistan. Most of the Shias follow this school. In India also this school is followed by Muslims residing in Murshidabad, Lucknow and Deccan, Kashmir.

Ismailiyah School

The school of Ismailis acknowledged only seven Imams and were subsequently known as the  ‘Seveners’. Their origin could be followed to Egypt. There consist two groups of them viz, (1) the Kohojas or Eastern Isamilis who were accepted to be the supporters of Aga Khan who was the 49th Imam in the line of the prophet, and (2) Western Ismailis popularly called as Bohoras who were divided among the Sulaymanis and Daudis. They prevailed in Central Asia, Arabia, East Africa, Pakistan, Iran and Syria.

Zaidiyah School

Imam Zaidi founded this school.  They believed that Imam should be based on election, so the succession in this school is through the election. They trust Imam to be above and considered as a ‘right guide’.  The Zaidis were followed in the South of Arabia, mostly in Yemen.

Motazila School

The followers of this School are in minority and can be found in Iran. This School emerged out of a different Sect. It doesn’t co-relate itself to both of the two Sect either Sunni Sect or the Shia Sect. These Muslims were although defectors of the Shia sect. This Sect was founded by Al-Gazzal.

The adherents this Sect had faith in true divine justice and unity and accepted that evil could be overpowered by the good and that the Quran itself can only be the truest and divine source to overcome evil from the society.

References :

Syed Khalid Rashid, Muslim Law ( Eastern Book Company, Lucknow, 6th Edition, 2020 ).

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