The third Imam,
Abu Abd Allah Muhammad bin Idrees, better known as Imam Shafii, who is the
founder of Shafii School of Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence), belonged to the
Kuraish tribe, was a Hashimi and remotely connected with the Prophet of Islam (sws).
He was born in 767 A.C. in Ghazza. He lost his father in his childhood and was
brought up in poverty by his talented mother.
In Makkah, the
young Imam learnt the Holy Quran by heart. He spent considerable time among the
bedouins and acquired a thorough grounding in old Arab poetry. Later, he studied
Tradition and Fiqh from Muslim Abu Khalid Al-Zinjii and Sufyan ibn Uyaina. He
learnt Muwatta by heart when he was only thirteen.
When about 20,
he went to Imam Malik ibn Anas at Medina and recited the Muwatta before him
which was very much appreciated by the Imam. He stayed with Imam Malik till the
latter’s death in 796 A.C.
financial condition obliged him to accept a government post in Yemen, which was
a stronghold of Alids who were much suspected by the Abbaside Caliphs. He was
brought as a prisoner along with Alids before the Abbaside Caliph,
Haroon-ar-Rashid, to Rakka in 803 A.C.
The Caliph, on
learning the Imam’s arguments in his defence set him free with honour. In
Baghdad, he became intimate with the celebrated Hanafi Scholar Muhammad ibn al
Hasan al Shaibani.
Later, in 804
A.C., he went to Syria and Egypt via Harran. He was given an enthusiastic
welcome in Egypt by the pupils of Imam Malik. He spent six years in teaching
jurisprudence in Cairo and arrived in Baghdad in 810 A.C. where he began
teaching. A large number of learned scholars of Iraq became his pupils. In 814
he returned to Egypt, but as a result of disturbances, was soon compelled to
leave for Makkah.
He returned to
Egypt in 815/16 A.C. to settle down there finally. He died on January 20, 820
A.C. (29 Rajab 204 A.H.) and was buried in the vault of Banu Abd al Kakam at
Fustat amidst universal mourning.
His tomb, which
was built by the Ayubid Ruler al Malik at-Kamil in 1211/12 A.C. is a favourite
place of pilgrimage.
predecessors, Imam Abu Hanifa and Imam Malik, Imam Shafii too refused to become
Qazi (Judge) of the Abbaside regime. The years spent by him in Iraq and Egypt
were the periods of his intensive activity. He spent most of his time in writing
and lecturing. He was very methodical in his daily life and had systematically
divided his time for different types of work and he seldom deviated from this
states the Encyclopedia of Islam, ‘may be described as an eclectic who acted as
an intermediary between the independent legal investigation and the
traditionalism of his time. Not only did he work through the legal material
available, but in his Risala, he also investigated the principles and methods of
jurisprudence. He is regarded as the founder of “Usual al Fikh”. Unlike Hanafis,
he sought to lay down regular rules for “Kiyas”, while he had nothing to do with
“Istihsan”. The principle of ‘Ishtibah’, seems to have first been introduced by
the later Shafiis. In al-Shafii two creative periods can be distinguished, an
earlier (Iraqi) and a later (Egyptian)’.
writing, he made a masterly use of dialogue. He elucidates the principles of
jurisprudence in his Risala and has tried to adopt a mean between the Hanafii
and Maliki jurisprudence. The collection of his writings and lectures in
‘Kitabul Umm’ reveals his master intellect.
centres of his activity were Baghdad and Cairo. First of all, he follows the
Quran, then the Sunnah. The most authentic Traditions of the Prophet are given
the same consideration by him as the Quran. He was very popular with the
traditionalists and the people of Baghdad called him the ‘Nazir-us-Sunnat’
(exponent of the Traditions of the Prophet).
Imam Shafii who
combined in himself the principles of Islamic jurisprudence as well as the
fluent language of the people of Hejaz and Egypt was matchless both in
conversational and written language. His writings can favourably be compared
with those of the best writers of Arabic language of his time, including Jahiz.
of Imam Shafii spread from Baghdad and Cairo to distant parts of Iraq, Egypt and
Hejaz. The most notable of his pupils were al-Muzani, al-Bawaiti, al-Rahib
Sulaiman, al-Maradi, al-Zafarani Abu Thawr, al-Hamaidi, Ahamd ibn Hanbal and al-Karabisi.
third and fourth century A.H., the Shafiis won more and more of adherents in
Baghdad and Cairo. In the fourth century, Makkah and Medina were the chief
centres of Shafiite teachings besides Egypt.
School became predominant under Sultan Salahuddin Ayyubi. But Sultan Baibars
gave recognition to other School of Fiqh also and appointed judges of all the
advent of the Ottoman power, the Shafiites held absolute pre-eminence in the
Central lands of Islam. During the beginning of the 16th century A.C. the
Ottomans replaced Shafii with Hanafi Imams. Nevertheless, Shafiite teachings
remained predominant in Egypt, Syria and Hejaz. It is still largely studied in
Al-Azhar University of Cairo and followed by the Muslims in Southern Arabia,
Bahrian, Malay Archipelago, part of East Africa and Central Asia.
(From Hundred Great Muslims -- Ferozesons (Pvt) Ltd., Lahore)