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Shafeiyah: An Introduction to Islamic Jurisprudential Sects

1- A glance at the living of Shāfi‘ī

In terms of antiquity, Shāfi‘īyah is the third Sunni judicial school. Its founder is Abū ‘Abd Allāh Muhammad b. Idrīs, a jurist from the fourth generation of Successor jurists from Mecca. He is attributed to the Quraysh tribe, and was born in 150 A.H. in Gaza, Palestine. He started learning jurisprudence from Muslim b. Khālid al-Zanjī, and when he was only 14, Zanjī gave him permission to issue fatwa. He moved to Mecca at the age of 20, and studied under Mālik b. Anas. He stayed with Mālik for 9 years, until he died. Mālik used to praise him and gave him permission to issue fatwa.

After that, Shāfi‘ī was appointed as a judge in Yemen. He had secret relation with Zaydīyah, which led into captivity in 187 A.H. and he was taken before the Caliph, Ḥārūn, in Baghdad. However, it was not long before Ḥārūn released him, after knowing his scientific position. Shāfi‘ī was in scientific communication with Muhammad b. Ḥasan Shaybānī (d. 189 A.H.), a famous Ḥanafī jurist, in Baghdad. His acquaintance with Ḥanafīyah, led to develop a new school that was intermediate and combined of both Ḥanīfah, the school of rationalists spread through Iraq, and Mālikīyah, the school of traditionalists spread through Hejaz.

Shāfi‘ī proclaimed his new Jurisprudential sect by presenting the rules of deducing religious precepts, which was later entitled Uṣūl al-Fiqh. After that he went to Mecca, but in 195 A.H. returned Baghdad, meanwhile, he trained many students and authored “al-Risālah”, the first book concerning uṣūl al-fiqh. The book includes subjects as: the Qur’an, Sunnah, abrogating and abrogated, weakness factors of ḥadīths, isolated tradition, ijmā‘ (consensus), qiyās (deductive analogy), ijtihād (interpretive reasoning), istisān (juristic preference), and dissension. Muhammad b. Idrīs left for Egypt in 195 A.H. due to disseminate his new sect. in Egypt, Shāfi‘ī renewed his views that he had arranged in Iraq presenting in books of al-Risālah and al-Ḥujjah. He renewed al-Risālah and his new jurisprudential views, which were more credible and authentic in jurisprudence, were compiled in the book of al-Umm.

Shāfi‘ī is the first person who has written about uṣūl al-fiqh and Āyāt al-Aḥkām (verses of the revealed prescripts), and talked about incongruities between ḥadīths. He was also an accomplished archer, poet, astronomer, and Qur’an reciter. He used to show a great love to Ahl al-Bayt (A.S.) so that many people caviled him at this love, but he answered them by the poem that: “if loving the progeny of Muhammad is heresy …. Then Thaqalayn (the Qur’an and Sunnah) witness that I am a heretic.”

Shāfi‘ī authored many books, including:

–         Al-Ḥujjah, which was his old jurisprudential book,

–         Al-Umm, regarding fiqh. It is published in 7 volumes,

–         Al-Risālah, regarding uṣūl al-fiqh,

–         Al-Sunan,

–         Ikhtilāf al-Ḥadīth,

–         Fḍā’il Quraysh,

–         Ibṭāl al-Istiḥsān,

–         Kitāb al-Ijmā‘,

–         Kitāb Khilāf Mālik wa al-Shāfi‘ī,

He died in 204 A.H. in Fusṭāṭ, Egypt.

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