Essay on the Shafi School of Muslim Law

The most remarkable feature of Shaft’s thought is that, although he made a sharp distinction between the rules emerging from the traditions of the Prophet, and systematic reasoning, he, in fact, closely blended both the rules, and thus he had the credit of being simultaneously tradition-bound and systematic. All his life, Shafi endeavoured to synthesize the traditions and systematic reasoning.

One with the Traditionists, he was wedded to the dogma that nothing can prevail over the tradition of the Prophet. And this led him to dogmatism and orthodoxy in legal thought. He at once, gullitoned the living tradition of the ancient schools.

So great was the adherence of Shafi to the traditions of the Prophet that he even rejected the doctrine of taqlid. Such was the attachment to the traditions of the Prophet that, according to Shafi, they could not be invalidated even by reference to the Koran.

The doctrines that Shafi propounded left no scope for the exercise of any discretionary personal opinion. These doctrines led to some inconsistencies in the thought of Shafi, but his “legal theory is a perfectly coherent system, superior, by far to the theory of the ancient schools, and he became the founder of the usul-al-fiqh, the discipline dealing with the theoretical bases of Islamic Law”.

In a way, Shafi is the founder of the first school of Muslim law on an exclusively personal basis. Muzani, a disciple of Shafi, composed his work Mukhtsar, which is nothing more than a summary of the basic doctrine of Shafi.

Shaft’s most famous work is Kitab-al-umm there are several works on the Shafi school, the most famous of them are: Hafar’s Tyhfat-al-Muhtaj, Ramli’s Nihajat-al-Muhtaj and Ghazzali’s Al-Wajiz. The Shafi School spread far and wide.

It spread to Lower Egypt, Hejha, South Arabia, East Africa, and some parts of Iraq and Persia. In Indonesia, Malaysia and South East Asia, it has large number of followers. There are some Shafis on the west coast of India as well as in central Asia.

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