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Shafeiyah: An Introduction to Islamic Jurisprudential Sects

2- History

Egypt was the first place where the school of Shāfi‘īyah became in manifest, however, before it Ḥanafīyah and Mālikīyah were spread over there. After dominating Fāṭimī Caliphs over Egypt, and spreading Ahl al-Bayt’s jurisprudence through there, Shāfi‘īyah became unpopular in Egypt. However, when Ṣalāḥ al-Dīn Ayyūbī put an end to Fāṭimīs’ dominance over there, Shāfi‘īyah became popular there again. Ayyūbī government favored Shāfi‘īyah more than other Four Sunni Schools, and earmarked the chair of judgment for Shāfi‘īyah that was its official school. This situation continued at the time of Turkish Baḥrī government, but Ẓāhir bībrus includes other schools in judicial system; however non- Shāfi‘ī jurisdiction could not spread beyond the Cairo and Fusṭāṭ. Shāfi‘īyah was very famous in Egypt, and Sheikh al-Azhar was selected from Shāfi‘ī scholars until 1287 A.H. Shāfi‘īyah, after Egypt, was predominant in Iraq, cities of Khurāsān, Turkestan, Syria, and Yemen. It was also followed in Transoxiana, cities of Fars, Hejaz, and some parts of India. From 300 A.H. onwards, it holds negligible followers in Andalusia and Africa, too.

            Shāfi’īyah is the predominant sect in Egypt plateaus, Palestine, and Kurd-living areas. Most Muslims population of Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippine, India, China, Australia, majority of Iranian Sunnis, and half of Yemeni Muslims follow this sect. It is the second popular Sunni sect in Iraq, and challenges Ḥanbalīyah in Hejaz. A quarter of Muslims in Syria are Shāfi’ī, but very few people hold this sect in Afghanistan.

3- Sources of Deduction

Qur’an: Shāfi‘ī, just like other jurists, regard the holy Qur’an as the main and the first jurisprudential source. He resorted to its outward meaning, except while there was a reason indicating that another meaning is intended. In his point of view, abrogating the Qur’an by Sunnah is not acceptable, although it was supported by many traditions.

Sunnah: Shāfi‘ī regards Sunnah as an explanatory factor of the Qur’an. He strictly supports practicing the isolated ḥadīth, if the narrator was a reliable person with good memory, and the ḥadīth was connected to the Prophet (S.A.W). He criticizes Ḥanafīyah for preferring qyiās (deductive analogy) to isolated ḥadīth. He also rejects the conditions that Ḥanafīyah and Mālikīyah have imposed for practicing an isolated ḥadīth. He believes that in the case of being sound, practicing a tradition and ḥadīth, just like the Qur’an, is necessary.  However, he put some conditions to practice a mursal ḥadīth (a tradition transmitted by someone who has not heard it directly from the Prophet), such as being transmitted by Sa‘īd b. Musayyib.

Ijmā‘ (consensus): ijmā‘ is regarded as a proof in the next step after the Qur’an and Sunnah. For impossibility of knowing all opinions, Shāfi‘ī defined ijmā‘ as unawareness of an opposite idea. He rejected his professor, Mālik’s opinion for regarding the consensus of people of Medina as a proof, and said: the first level of ijmā‘ is the consensus of Companions.

Words of Companions: Shāfi‘ī has resorted to the words of Companions in his early fatwas, but, as many of his disciples say, he did not adduce them for issuing his new fatwas. Because he has quoted Companions’ words, and then apposed them, sometimes. Anyhow, his book, al-Umm shows that he regarded Companions’ words as a proof, except when there was an opponent, and always preferred them to qyiās.

Notes: personal opinion based ijtihād (interpretive reasoning) that has not substantiated by a script of the Qur’an and Sunah, is rejected by Shāfi‘īyah. This kind of ijtihād is called as istiḥsān, and is counted a jurisprudential source among Ḥanafīyah.

Maṣāliḥ Mursalah i.e. considering public interests while issuing fatwas, as what Mālikīyah believe in, is not counted as a jurisprudential source in Shāfi‘īyah.

4- Shāfi‘ī’s Features

–         Shāfi‘ī’s jurisprudential attitude is a middle way between Ahl al-Ḥadīth (adherents of ḥadīth) and Ahl al-Ra’y (people of opinion), because he combined Abū Ḥanīfah’s ideas with the Mālik’s one. He agreed Abū Ḥanīfah’s principles and opinions in some way, but, on the other hand, he adheres to ḥadīth, just like Mālik, so that he became celebrated in Iraq and Khurāsān as an Ahl al-Ḥadīth, and people of Baghdad named him the assistant of Sunnah. Encountering divergence between two schools of thought from Hejaz and Iraq (ḥadīth and personal opinion), Shāfi‘ī attempted to clarify his side and determine his own ideology. Therefore, he presented a clear method for relying on ḥadīths and some other secondary sources. He vindicated his ideology and attacked his opponents whether Iraqi or Hejazi.

–         He resorted to the appearance of text of the Qur’an and Sunnah to discover religious precepts, and did not go beyond it. He believed that relying on anything except the appearance of the texts is like relying on the supposition and imagination that, in turn, is the origin of many errors and a few rights. While, religious precepts must be based upon a foundation that is originated from a reason, which usually leads to the truth, not an imagination.

–         Deducing principles and sources presented by Shāfi‘ī contain both approaches, practical and theoretical.

–         Shāfi‘ī did not place importance on imaginary issues, and only deals with the precepts regarding real matters that were related to the actual events of the life. Therefore, his jurisprudence contains negligible amount of imaginary issues.

–         There is a great difference between Shāfi‘ī’s early opinions and his later ideas so that, sometimes, he propounds three views regarding one matter. This difference caused his jurisprudence to be dynamic and alive, and offered mujtahids (authorized interpreters of religious law) various options, so that they can elect one that is more appropriate according to the circumstances.

–         In the viewpoint of Shāfi‘ī, religious leadership needs two necessary terms:

·        Being from Quraysh,

·        Owing people’s acceptance,

–         The leadership without owing people’s allegiance is regarded as illegal in Shāfi‘ī’s point of view, except in necessity. Therefore, he justifies Imam Ali’s Caliphate and calls the people like Mu‘āwīyah and his followers, that opposed him, rebellious people. He also regards Imam Ali’s battles of Jamal, Ṣiffīn, and Nahrawān as religious wars. However, he rejects cursing them for those revolts.

–         Ḥadīth is applied to only the words of the Prophet (S.A.W) in the viewpoint of Shāfi‘ī.

–         The great affection for Companions and the Prophet’s progeny (Ahl al-Bayt) is the important prominence of Shāfi‘ī’s school.

–         Shāfi‘īyah believe in supplication and benediction of devoted friends of Allah, and do not reject their miraculous power.

–         Shāfi‘īyah are stipulated to do Friday prayer, congregation prayer, and prayer on the two feast-days. According to Shāfi‘ī jurisprudence, only one Friday prayer should be performed in a city.

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