From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Imam Shafi'i)
Jump to: navigation, search
For other people named Al-Shafi‘i, see Al-Shafi‘i (disambiguation).
"Imam Shafi" redirects here. For the village in Iran, see Imam Shafi, Iran.
Islamic scholar
Abū ʿAbdillāh Muhammad ibn Idrīs al-Shāfi‘ī
Al-Shafie Name.png
Abu ʿAbdillah Muhammad ibn Idris al-Shafi‘i with Islamic calligraphy
Title Shaykh al-Islām
Born 767 CE/150 AH
Gaza, Palestine
Died 20 January, 820 CE/30 Rajab, 204 AH (aged 52-53)
al-Fustat, Egypt
Ethnicity Arab
Era Islamic Golden Age
Religion Islam
Jurisprudence Ijtihad
Main interest(s) Fiqh
Notable idea(s) Shafi'i madhhab
Notable work(s) Risalah: Usul al Fiqh, Kitab al-Umm

Abū ʿAbdullāh Muhammad ibn Idrīs al-Shāfīʿī (Arabic: ابو عبدالله محمد بن إدريس الشافعيّ‎) A Muslim jurist, who lived from (767 — 820 CE / 150 — 204 AH). Often referred to as 'Shaykh al-Islām' he was one of the four great Imams of which a legacy on juridical matters and 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. [3]: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.[4][5][6] 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 the Prophet 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[edit]

Early life, studies with az-Zanji in Mecca[edit]

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 maternal 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.[7]

Studies with Imam Malik in Medina[edit]

Al-Shāfi‘ī moved to Medina in his quest to learn Islam, as was the tradition of acquiring knowledge. There, he was taught by the famous Imam Malik ibn Anas. He memorized Muwatta Imam Malik at a very early age, whereby Imam Malik was very impressed with his memory and knowledge.[8]

786 – 809: Harun al-Rashid's era[edit]

After that, Al-Shāfi‘ī lived in Mecca and Baghdad, until 814/198.

Among his teachers were Malik ibn Anas and Muḥammad ibn al-Ḥasan al-Shaybānī, whom he studied under in Madinah and Baghdad.

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 falsely accused of aiding the Alawis in a revolt. He was taken in chains before the Caliph at Raqqa in 803/187.[9] Shaybānī was the chief justice at the time, and his defense of Shafi'i, coupled with Shafi'i’s own eloquent defense, convinced Harun ar-Rashid to dismiss the charge, and he directed Shaybānī to take 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.

al-Shafi'i left Baghdad in 804/188, possibly because Hanafi followers had complained to Shaybani that Shafi'i had become somewhat critical of the school during their disputations; as a result, Shafi'i is said to have participated in a debate with Shaybani over their differences, though who won the debate is disputed.[10] After spending some time teaching in Mecca, where Hanbal is said to have heard him lecturing at the Sacred Mosque,[11] Shafi'i eventually returned to Baghdad in 810/194.

809 – 813: Al-Amin's era[edit]

Muhammad ibn Harun al-Amin (787–813) (Arabic: محمد الأمين بن هارون الرشيد), Abbasid Caliph. He succeeded his father, Harun al-Rashid, in 809/193 and ruled until he was killed in 813/197.

813 – 820: Al-Ma'mun's era[edit]

Caliph Al-Ma'mun is said to have offered Shafi'i a position as a judge, but Shafi'i declined the offer.[12] In 814/198, Shafi'i decided to leave Baghdad for Egypt, although the precise reasons for this move are uncertain. It was in Egypt that Shafi'i dictated his works to students. Several of his leading disciples would write down what Shafi'i said, and Shafi'i would then have them read it back aloud so that corrections could be made.[13] Shafi'i's biographers all agree that what works we now have under his name are the result of those sessions with his disciples.[14]


At least one authority says that Shafi'i died as a result of injuries sustained from an attack by supporters of a Maliki follower named Fityan. The story goes that Shafi'i triumphed in argument over Fityan, who, being intemperate, resorted to some form of abuse. The Governor of Egypt, with whom Shafi'i had good relations, ordered Fityan punished by having him paraded through the streets of the city carrying a plank and stating the reason for his punishment. Fityan's supporters were enraged by this treatment, and they attacked Shafi'i in retaliation after one of Shafi'i's lectures. Shafi'i died a few days later.[15] However, Shafi'i is also said to have suffered from some sort of intestinal illness, so the precise reason for Shafi'i's death is unknown.[16]

He died at the age of 54 on the 30th of Rajab in 204 AH (20 January 820 AD) in al-Fustat, Egypt, and he was buried in the vault of the Banū ‘Abd al-Hakam, near Mount al-Muqattam. The qubba was built in 1212/608 by the Ayyubid Al-Kamil, and the mausoleum remains an important site today.[17][18]


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.

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.[19]

Among the followers of Imam al-Shāfi‘ī’s school were:


He authored more than 100 books.

In addition to this, al-Shafi'i was an eloquent poet, who composed many short poems aimed at addressing morals and behaviour.

Personal life[edit]

Many stories are told about the childhood and life of ash-Shafi'i, and it is difficult to separate truth from myth:

Tradition says that he memorized the Qur’an at the age of seven; by ten, he had memorized the Muwatta of Malik ibn Anas; 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.

Al-Shafi‘i loved the Islamic prophet 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.”

Muhammad al-Shaybani said, “If the scholars of hadith speak, it is in the language of al Shafi’i.”

Shah Waliullah, an 18th century Sunni Islamic scholar stated:[23]

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.[24]
  • He said to the effect that no knowledge of Islam can be gained from books of Kalam, as kalam "is not from knowledge"[25][26] 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."[27]

Early Islam scholars[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ The Origins of Islamic Law: The Qurʼan, the Muwaṭṭaʼ and Madinan ʻAmal, by Yasin Dutton, pg. 16
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ Al-Nawawi, Tahdhib al-Asma wal-Lughat, v.1, pg.82
  5. ^ Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, Tawalli al-Ta`sis li-Ma'ali Muhammad bin Idris, pg.26
  6. ^ Ibn 'Asakir, History of Damascus
  7. ^ Ibn Kathir, Tabaqat Ash-Shafi'iyyin, Vol 1. Page 27 Dār Al-Wafa’
  8. ^
  9. ^ Khadduri, p. 12 (Translator's Introduction).
  10. ^ Khadduri, p. 13 (Translator's Introduction).
  11. ^ Khadduri, p. 13 (Translator's Introduction).
  12. ^ Khadduri, p. 14 (Translator's Introduction).
  13. ^ Khadduri, p. 15 (Translator's Introduction).
  14. ^ Khadduri, p. 15 (Translator's Introduction).
  15. ^ Khadduri, pp. 15-16 (Translator's Introduction). Khadduri cites for this story Yaqut's Mu‘jam al-Udabā, vol. VI pp. 394-95 (ed. Margoliouth, London: 1931), and Ibn Hajar's Tawālī al Ta'sīs, p. 86.
  16. ^ Khadduri, p. 16 (Translator's Introduction).
  17. ^ Qubba al-Imam al-Shafi'i
  18. ^ The Mausoleum of Imam al-Shafi'i
  19. ^ Ruthven Malise, Islam in the World. 3rd edition Granta Books London 2006 ch. 4, page 122
  20. ^ The Levels of the Shafiee scholars by Imam As-Subki طبقات الشافعية للسبكي
  21. ^ Nahyan Fancy, Science and Religion in Mamluk Egypt (2013, ISBN 1136703616), page 23: "... highlighted by the latter day Shafi'i authority, Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti."
  22. ^ Scott C. Lucas, Constructive Critics, Ḥadīth Literature, and the Articulation of Sunni Islam (2004, ISBN 9004133194), page 72: "It is somewhat astonishing that al-Dhahabi, a purported adherent to the Shafi'i madhhab, does not honor al-Shafi'i with the sobriquet Shayk al-Islam." (Emphasis added.)
  23. ^ Izalat al-Khafa p. 77 part 7
  24. ^ 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
  25. ^ Dhammul-Kalaam (Q/213)
  26. ^ Dhahabi, as-Siyar (10/30)
  27. ^ Ibn Abi Hatim, Manaaqibush-Shaafi'ee, pg. 182
  28. ^ The Quran
  29. ^ The Great Fiqh
  30. ^ Al-Muwatta'
  31. ^ Sahih al-Bukhari
  32. ^ Sahih Muslim
  33. ^ Jami` at-Tirmidhi
  34. ^ Mishkât Al-Anwar
  35. ^ The Niche for Lights
  36. ^ Women in Islam: An Indonesian Perspective by Syafiq Hasyim. Page 67
  37. ^ ulama,
  38. ^ 1.Proof & Historiography - The Islamic Evidence.
  39. ^ Atlas Al-sīrah Al-Nabawīyah. Darussalam, 2004. Pg 270
  40. ^ Umar Ibn Abdul Aziz by Imam Abu Muhammad ibn Abdullah ibn Hakam died 829
  • Ruthven Malise, Islam in the World. 3rd edition Granta Books London 2006 ch. 4
  • Majid Khadduri (trans.), "al-Shafi'i's Risala: Treatise on the Foundation of Islamic Jurisprudence". Islamic Texts Society 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

Helal M Abu Taher, Char Imam(Four Imams),Islamic Foundation,Dhaka,1980.

External links[edit]