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Different Schools of Thought in Islam

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Islam is a religion which gives guidance for matters pertaining to all walks of life. Mainly the Holy Quran, Ahadith and ijtihad are the sources through which Muslims derive laws that regulate and govern both private and social life. These laws give guidance with respect to worship, prohibitions, and all contracts and obligations related to social affairs such as inheritance, marriage, divorce, conduct of war and the general administration of the state. In Islam the science of religious laws is called Fiqah and the expert in this field of law is called a faqih. Based on these faqih are derived the different schools of thought in Islam. These are as follows.

·         Hanafi

This school of thought was headed by Imam Abu Hanifa who was born in 80H and died in 150H in Baghdad. Imam Abu Hanifa was the greatest theologian and religious lawyer of his time. His approach towards religious affairs was very consistent; he focused a lot of reasoning and avoided extremes. 

·         Maliki

Led by Imam Malik bin Anas, who lived from 93H to 179H this school of thought is more dependent on Ahadith of the Holy Prophet compiled through his companions. Imam Malik served as a judge in the city of Madinah. His decisions are compiled in the form of a book called al-Muwatta.

·         Shaafi

Imam al-Shafi led this school of thought. He was a disciple of Imam Malik. He lived from 150H to 198H. Just like his teacher, he laid great stress on the Ahadith for the solution of any issue. He was a great philosopher and thinker. He had an unusual grip over Islamic laws and principles, hence had an exceptional understanding of judicial issues.

·         Hanbali

This fiqah was headed by Imam Ahamd Ibn Hanbal. He lived from 164H to 241H in Baghdad. This school of thought is considered to be the most rigid and inflexible. The idea behind this school of thought is to follow the Quran and Sunnah on the basis of literal injunctions. Followers of this school of thought generally are very strict with respect to the observance of religious obligations.   

·         Jafri

This school of thought was led by Imam Jafar ibn Mohammad al-Sadiq. He lived from 83H to 148H in Madina. The collection of his teachings is called usul. All his teachings were compiled by his followers in 400 usul. They have been compiled by gathering knowledge from ahadith, Islamic philosophy, literature, ethics and Quranic sources.

These are the different schools of thought in Islam that govern the Islamic way of life.

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