Abū ʿAbdillāh Muhammad ibn Idrīs al-Shāfi‘ī
|Born||767 CE/150 AH
|Died||820 CE/204 AH (aged 52-53)
|Era||Islamic Golden Age|
|Notable idea(s)||Shafi'i madhhab|
|Notable work(s)||Risalah: Usul al Fiqh, Kitab al-Umm|
Abu ʿAbdillah Muhammad ibn Idris al-Shafi‘i (Arabic: ابو عبدالله محمد بن إدريس الشافعيّ) was a Muslim jurist, who lived from (767 — 820 CE / 150 — 204 AH). He was active in juridical matters and his teaching eventually led to the Shafi'i school of fiqh (or Madh'hab) named after him. Hence he is often called Imam al-Shafi'i. He is considered the founder of Islamic jurisprudence.:1
The biography of al-Shāfi‘i is difficult to trace. Dawud al-Zahiri was said to be the first to write such a biography, but the book has been lost. The oldest surviving biography goes back to Ibn Abi Hatim al-Razi (died 327H/939) and is no more than a collection of anecdotes, some of them fantastic. The first real biography is by Ahmad Bayhaqi (died 458H/1066) and is filled with what a modernist eye would qualify as pious legends. The following is what seems to be a sensible reading, according to a modern reductionist point of view.
al-Shāfi‘ī belonged to the Qurayshi clan Banu Muttalib which was the sister clan of the Banu Hashim to which Muhammad and the Abbasid caliphs belonged. Hence he had connections in the highest social circles, but he grew up in poverty.
767 – 786: Al-Mansur to Al-Hadi's era 
Early life, studies with az-Zanji in Mecca 
He was born in Gaza, near the town of Asqalan. While still a child, his father died in Syria and thus his mother decided to move to Mecca when he was about two years old. His family roots were from Yemen, and there were more members of his family in Mecca, where his mother believed he would better be taken care of. He is reported to have studied under Muslim Ibn Khalid az-Zanji, the Mufti of Mecca at his time and is considered the first teacher of Imam ash-Shafi'i.
Studies with Imam Malik in Medina 
He moved to Medina to teach others of the message of Islam and be taught by Malik ibn Anas. He memorized Muwatta Imam Malik at a very early age whereby Imam Malik was very impressed with his memory and knowledge.
786 – 809: Harun al-Rashid's era 
He was appointed as a judge in Najran in the time of Harun ar-Rashid. Sunnis portray that his devotion to justice, even when it meant criticizing the governor, caused him some problems, and he was taken before the Caliph, falsely accused of aiding the Alawis in a revolt. al-Shaybānī was the chief justice at the time, and his defense of ash-Shafi'i, coupled with ash-Shafi'i’s own eloquent defense, convinced Harun ar-Rashid to dismiss the charge, and he directed al-Shaybānī to take ash-Shafi'i to Baghdad. He was also a staunch critic of Al-Waqidi's writings on Sirah.
In Baghdad, he developed his first madh'hab, influenced by the teachings of both Imam Abu Hanifa and Imam Malik. Thus, his work there is known as “al Madhab al Qadim lil Imam as Shafi’i,” or the Old School of ash-Shafi'i.
809 – 813: Al-Amin's era 
Muhammad ibn Harun al-Amin (787–813) (Arabic: محمد الأمين بن هارون الرشيد), Abbasid Caliph. He succeeded his father, Harun al-Rashid in 809 and ruled until he was killed in 813.
813 – 820: Al-Ma'mun's era 
Imam al-Shāfi‘ī developed the science of fiqh unifying 'revealed sources' - the Quran and hadith - with human reasoning to provide a basis in law. With this systematization of shari'a he provided a legacy of unity for all Muslims and forestalled the development of independent, regionally based legal systems. The four Sunni legals schools or madhhabs- keep their traditions within the framework that Shafi'i established.
Imam al-Shāfi‘ī gives his name to one of these legal schools Shafi'i fiqh - the Shafi'i school - which is followed in many different places in the Islamic world: Indonesia, Malaysia, Egypt, Somalia, Yemen as well as Sri Lanka and southern parts of India.
Saladin built a madrassa and a shrine on the site of his tomb. Saladin's brother Afdal built a mausoleum for him in 1211 after the defeat of the Fatamids. It remains a site where people petition for justice.
Among the followers of Imam al-Shāfi‘ī’s school were:
- Bayhaqi
- Hakim al-Nishaburi
- Jalaluddin Suyuti
- Al-Dhahabi
- al Ghazali
- Ibn Hajar Asqalani
- Hafidh ibn Kathir
- Imām an-Nawawi
- Imam Al-Mawardi
He authored more than 100 books.
- Al-Risala — The best known book by al-Shafi'i in which he examined principles of jurisprudence. The book has been translated into English.
- Kitab al-Umm - his main surviving text on Shafi'i fiqh
- Musnad ash-Shafi'i (on hadith) - it is available with arrangement, Arabic 'Tartib', by Ahmad ibn Abd ar-Rahman al-Banna
Personal life 
Tradition says that he memorized the Qur’an at the age of seven; by ten, he had memorized the Muwatta of Imam Malik; he was a mufti (given authorization to issue fatwa) at the age of fifteen. He recited the Qur’an every day in prayer, and twice a day in Ramadan. Some apocryphal accounts claim he was very handsome, that his beard did not exceed the length of his fist, and that it was very black. He wore a ring that was inscribed with the words, “Allah suffices Muhammad ibn Idris as a reliance.” He was also known to be very generous.
He was also an accomplished archer, a poet, and some accounts call him the most eloquent of his time. Some accounts claim that there were a group of Bedouin who would come and sit to listen to him, not for the sake of learning, but just to listen to his eloquent use of the language. Even in latter eras, his speeches and works were used by Arabic grammarians. He was given the title of Nasir al Sunnah, the Defender of the Sunnah.
He loved Muhammad very deeply. Al Muzani said of him, “He said in the Old School: ‘Supplication ends with the invocation of blessings on the Prophet, and its end is but by means of it.’” Al-Karabisi said: “I heard al-Shafi’i say that he disliked for someone to say ‘the Messenger’ (al-Rasul), but that he should say ‘Allah’s Messenger’ (Rasul Allah) out of veneration for him.” He divided his night into three parts: one for writing, one for praying, and one for sleeping.
Apocryphal accounts claim that Imam Ahmad said of ash-Shafi'i, “I never saw anyone adhere more to hadith than al-Shafi’i. No one preceded him in writing down the hadith in a book.” Imam Ahmad is also claimed to have said, “Not one of the scholars of hadith touched an inkwell nor a pen except he owed a huge debt to al-Shafi’i.”
Imam Muhammad al-Shaybani said, “If the scholars of hadith speak, it is in the language of al Shafi’i.”
|“||A Mujadid appears at the end of every century: The Mujtahid of the 1st century was Imam of Ahlul Sunnah, Umar bin Abdul Aziz. The Mujadid of the 2nd century was Imam of Ahlul Sunnah Muhammad Idrees as-Shafi'i the Mujadid of the 3rd century was Imam of Ahlul Sunnah Abu Hasan Ashari the Mujadid of the 4th century was Abu Abdullah Hakim Nishapuri.||”|
According to many accounts he was said to have a photographic memory. One anecdote states that he would always cover one side of a book while reading because a casual glance at the other page would commit it to memory.
He claimed that the game of chess was an image of war, and it was possible to play chess as a mental exercise for the solution of military tactics. Chess could not be played for a stake, but if a player was playing for a mental exercise, he was not doing anything illegal. Provided the player took care that his fondness for chess did not cause him to break any other rule of life, he saw no harm in playing chess. He played chess himself, defending his practice by the example of many of his companions.
- He who seeks pearls immerses himself in the sea.
- He said to the effect that no knowledge of Islam can be gained from books of Kalam, as kalam "is not from knowledge" and that "It is better for a man to spend his whole life doing whatever Allah has prohibited - besides shirk with Allah - rather than spending his whole life involved in kalam."
See also 
- The Origins of Islamic Law: The Qurʼan, the Muwaṭṭaʼ and Madinan ʻAmal, by Yasin Dutton, pg. 16
- Fadel M. (2008). The True, the Good and the Reasonable: The Theological and Ethical Roots of Public Reason in Islamic Law. Canadian Journal of Law and Jurisprudence.
- Al-Nawawi, Tahdhib al-Asma wal-Lughat, v.1, pg.82
- Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, Tawalli al-Ta`sis li-Ma'ali Muhammad bin Idris, pg.26
- Ibn 'Asakir, History of Damascus
- Ibn Kathir, Tabaqat Ash-Shafi'iyyin, Vol 1. Page 27 Dār Al-Wafa’
- Ruthven Malise, Islam in the World. 3rd edition Granta Books London 2006 ch. 4, page 122
- Izalat al-Khafa p. 77 part 7
- Diwan al-Imam al-shafi'i, (book of poems - al-shafi'i) p. 100; Dar El-Mrefah Beirut - Lebanon 2005. ISBN 9953-429-33-2
- Dhammul-Kalaam (Q/213)
- Dhahabi, as-Siyar (10/30)
- Ibn Abi Hatim, Manaaqibush-Shaafi'ee, pg. 182
- Ruthven Malise, Islam in the World. 3rd edition Granta Books London 2006 ch. 4
- "al-Shafi'i's Risala: Treatise on the Foundation of Islamic Jurisprudence" Majid Khadduri. Original 1961, reprinted 1997. ISBN 0-946621-15-2.
- al-Shafi'i,Muhammad b. Idris,"The Book of the Amalgamation of Knowledge" translated by Aisha Y. Musa in Hadith as Scripture: Discussions on The Authority Of Prophetic Traditions in Islam, New York: Palgrave, 2008
|Arabic Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
- The Biography of Imam ash-Shafi'i
- The Life of Imam al-Shafi'i at Lost Islamic History
- Short Biography of Imam Shafi'i
- Concise Summary of Imam Shafi'i
- Diagram of teachers and students of Imam Shafi'i