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The Shafi'i school (Arabic: شَافِعِي, romanized: Shāfiʿī, also spelled Shafei), or Madhhab al-Shāfiʿī, is one of the four major traditional schools of religious law (madhhab) in the Sunnī branch of Islam. It was founded by Arab theologian Muḥammad ibn Idrīs al-Shāfiʿī, "the father of Muslim jurisprudence", in the early 9th century.
The other three schools of Sunnī jurisprudence are Ḥanafī, Mālikī and Ḥanbalī. Like the other schools of fiqh, Shafiʽi recognize the First Four Caliphs as the Islamic prophet Muhammad's rightful successors and relies on the Qurʾān and the "sound" books of Ḥadīths as primary sources of law. The Shafi'i school affirms the authority of both divine law-giving (the Qurʾān and the Sunnah) and human speculation regarding the Law. Where passages of Qurʾān and/or the Ḥadīths are ambiguous, the school seeks guidance of Qiyās (analogical reasoning). The Ijmā' (consensus of scholars or of the community) was "accepted but not stressed". The school rejected the dependence on local traditions as the source of legal precedent and rebuffed the Ahl al-Ra'y (personal opinion) and the Istiḥsān (juristic discretion).
The Shafiʽi school was widely followed in the Middle East until the rise of the Ottomans and the Safavids. Traders and merchants helped to spread Shafiʽi Islam across the Indian Ocean, as far India and the Southeast Asia. The Shafiʽi school is now predominantly found in parts of the Hejaz and the Levant, Lower Egypt and Yemen, and among the Kurdish people, in the Caucasus and across the Indian Ocean (Horn of Africa and the Swahili Coast in Africa and coastal South Asia and Southeast Asia).
The fundamental principle of the Shafiʽi thought depends on the idea that "to every act performed by a believer who is subject to the Law there corresponds a statute belonging to the Revealed Law or the Shari'a". This statute is either presented as such in the Qurʾān or the Sunnah or it is possible, by means of analogical reasoning (Qiyas), to infer it from the Qurʾān or the Sunnah.
Al-Shafiʽi was the first jurist to insist that Ḥadīth were the decisive source of law (over traditional doctrines of earlier thoughts). In order of priority, the sources of jurisprudence according to the Shafiʽi thought, are:
The Foundation (al asl)
- Qurʾān — the sacred scripture of Islam.
- Sunnah — defined by Al-Shāfiʿī as "the sayings, the acts, and the tacit acquiescence of Prophet Muhammed as related in solidly established traditions".
The school rejected dependence on local community practice as the source of legal precedent.
- Qiyas with Legal Proof or Dalil Shari'a — "Analogical reasoning as applied to the deduction of juridical principles from the Qurʾān and the Sunnah."
- Ijmā' — consensus of scholars or of the community ("accepted but not stressed").
The concept of Istishab was first introduced by the later Shafiʽi scholars. Al-Shafiʽi also postulated that "penal sanctions lapse in cases where repentance precedes punishment".
The groundwork legal text for the Shafiʽi law is the Risālah ("the Message"), composed by Al-Shafiʽi in Egypt. It outlines the principles of Shafiʽi legal thought as well as the derived jurisprudence. A first version of the Risālah, "al-Risalah al-Qadima", produced by Al-Shafiʽi during his stay in Baghdad, is currently lost.
Differences from Mālikī and Ḥanafī thoughts
Al-Shāfiʿī fundamentally criticised the concept of judicial conformism (the Istiḥsan).
With Mālikī view
- Shafiʽi school argued that various existing local traditions may not reflect the practice of Prophet Muhammed (a critique to the Mālikī thought). The local traditions, according to the Shāfiʿī understanding, thus cannot be treated as sources of law.
With Ḥanafī view
- The Shafiʽi school rebuffed the Ahl al-Ra'y (personal opinion) and the Istiḥsān (juristic discretion). It insisted that the rules of the jurists could no longer be invoked in legal issues without additional authentications. The school refused to admit doctrines that had no textual basis in either the Qurʾān or Ḥadīths, but were based on the opinions of Islamic scholars (the Imams).
- The Shafiʽi thinking believes that the methods may help to "substitute man for God and Prophet Muhammed, the only legitimate legislators" and "true knowledge and correct interpretation of religious obligations would suffer from arbitrary judgments infused with error".
Al-Shāfiʿī (c. 767–820 AD) visited most of the great centres of Islamic jurisprudence in the Middle East during the course of his travels and amassed a comprehensive knowledge of the different ways of legal theory. He was a student of scholars Mālik ibn Anas, the founder of the Mālikī school of law, and Muḥammad Shaybānī, the great Ḥanafī intellectual in Baghdad.
- The Shafiʽi thoughts were initially spread by Al-Shafiʽi students in Cairo and Baghdad. By the 10th century, the holy cities of Mecca and Medina and Syria also became chief centres of Shafiʽi ideas.
- The school later exclusively held the judgeships in Syria, Kirman, Bukhara and the Khorasan. It also flourished in Northern Mesopotamia and in Daylam. The Ghurids also endorsed the Shafiʽis in the 11th and 12th centuries AD.
- Under Salah al-Din, the Shafiʽi school again became the paramount thought in Egypt (the region had come under Shi'a influence prior to this period). It was the "official school" of the Ayyubid dynasty and remained prominent during Mamlūk period also. Baybars, the Mamlūk sultan, later appointed judges from all four madhabs in Egypt.
- Traders and merchants helped to spread Shafiʽi Islam across the Indian Ocean, as far India and the Southeast Asia.
Under Ottomans and the Safavids
- Rise of the Ottomans in the 16th century resulted in the replacement of Shafiʽi judges by Ḥanafī scholars.
- Under the Safavids, Shafiʽi preeminence in Central Asia was replaced by Shi'a Islam.
The Shafiʽi school is presently predominant in the following parts of the world:
- Middle East and North Africa: Parts of Hejaz, the Levant (Palestine, Jordan and a significant number in Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq), Lower Egypt, among Sunnis in Iran and Yemen, and the Kurdish people.
- Asia: Northern region of Azerbaijan, Dagestan, Chechen and Ingush regions of the Caucasus.
- On the Indian Ocean
- Africa: Djibouti, Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea and the Swahili Coast (Kenya and Tanzania).
- South Asia: Maldives, Sri Lanka and southern India (Kerala, southern Tamil Nadu, western Karnataka).
- Southeast Asia: Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Myanmar, Thailand, Brunei, and the southern Philippines.
The Shafiʽi school is one of the largest school of Sunni madhhabs by number of adherents. The demographic data by each fiqh, for each nation, is unavailable and the relative demographic size are estimates.
Contemporary Shafiʽi scholars
From Middle East and North Africa:
- Ahmed Kuftaro
- Ali Gomaa
- Habib Umar bin Hafiz
- Abdullah al-Harari
- Ali al-Jifri
- Mohammad Salim Al-Awa
- Wahba Zuhayli
- Taha Jabir Alalwani
- Taha Karaan
From Southeast Asia:
From South Asia:
- 1.^ "The law provides sanctions for any religious practice other than the Sunni Shafiʽi doctrine of Islam and for prosecution of converts from Islam, and bans proselytizing for any religion except Islam."
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