Abd al-Rahman al-Awza'i
|Main interest(s)||Hadith, Fiqh|
|Notable idea(s)||Awza'i madhhab|
|Schools of Law|
|Schools of theology|
For further information on the Awza'i madhhab see Awza'i.
Abu Amr Abd al-Rahman ibn Amr al-Awzai (707–774) was the chief representative and eponym of the Awzai school of Islamic jurisprudence.
Apparently, born in Baalbeck, Lebanon in 707, very little of al-Awzai's writings survive, but his style of Islamic jurisprudence (usul al-fiqh) is preserved in Abu Yusuf's (died 798) book Al-radd ala siyar al-Awzai, in particular his reliance on the "living tradition," or the uninterrupted practice of Muslims handed down from preceding generations. For Awzai, this is the true Sunnah of Muhammad (died 632). Awzai's school flourished in Syria, the Maghreb, and Muslim Spain but was eventually overcome by the Maliki school of Islamic law in the 9th century. However, given his authority and reputation as a Sunni Imam and pious ancestry, his views retain potential as a source of law and a basis for alternative legal approaches and solutions. He died in 774 and was buried near Beirut, Lebanon, where his tomb is still visited.
History of the Madhhab of al-Awza’i
In the Maghreb and al-Andalus
Some posit that the reason why the people of Morocco took up the madhhab of Imam Malik, is that the people of Morocco and al-Andalus were originally upon the madhhab of al-Awza’i. However since the Ummayad conquest of the region and the Berber revolt, Morocco and western Algeria were following Kharijites schools which were adopted by the ruling dynasties such as the Maghrawa, The emirate of Toudgha and the Ibadhi Rustamid dynasty. And, with the exception of Tunisia and al-Andalus, the Maliki school only became established in the region after the rise of the Almoravid dynasty.
Then during the rule of Al-Hakam I, the official fatwas were changed and given according to the opinion of Malik ibn Anas and the people of al-Madina. This was due to the opinion and preference of al-Hakam due to some political benefits he saw and they differ about the actual reason, which still remains unclear. Most hold that it was due to the scholars of al-Andalus travelling to Medina, then when they returned they spoke of the excellence of Malik, his wide knowledge and great station, so they honoured him and preferred his Madhhab. Others say that Imam Malik asked some of the people of al-Andalus about the rule in their region and they described it to him and Malik was very pleased by it since the Abbasids in that time did not rule in a manner that was agreeable. So, Imam Malik said to the person who told him, ‘We ask Allaah to enlighten our sacred precincts with your rule.’ This was transmitted to the ruler of al-Andalus, who already knew of the knowledge, excellence and piety of Malik; so he led the people to accept his Madhhab and ordered that the madhhab of al-Awza’i be abandoned. Later, the kings of Morocco and the west agreed that the rulings and actions should be according to the preferences of Ibn al-Qaasim al-`Utaqi (a famous student of Malik) only.[when?]
However it remains unclear why would an Ummayyad ruler opt for Malik and the people of Medina who were largely pro-Ahl al-Bayt and therefore were despised by the Ummayyads.
In Syria, the Madhhab of al-Awza’i remained the main school of thought until the 10th century, when Abu Zar’ah Muhammed ibn Uthman of the Shafi’ee Madhhab was appointed judge of Damascus. Abu Zar’ah began the practice of giving a prize of 100 dinars to any student who memorized the book, Mukhtasr al-Muzanee (the basics of Shafi’ee fiqh). Naturally, the practice caused the Shafi’ee Madhhab to spread rapidly in Syria, until none of al-Awza’i’s followers remained until the 11th century.
- John Esposito, The Oxford Dictionary of Islam, Oxford University Press, 2003
- “Nafh ut-Teeb min Ghasn il-Andalus ir-rateeb,” by Ahmad al-Muqree al-Maghribee (3/158)
- ”al-Madkhal,” pg.205-206, and “Fiqh al-Imaam al-Awza’i,” by ‘Abdullah Muhammed al-Jabooree,