We learned that Islamic jurisprudence is the knowledge of Islamic laws, what is permissible and what is forbidden, what is obligatory, what is disliked (not recommended, unfavorable) and what is recommended (favorable), and what is correct and what is incorrect.
We also know that these Islamic laws are derived from the Qurān and prophetic traditions.
We also know that the Muslims in the time of the Prophet (s) would take their religious rulings from him. They would take the rulings that had to do with worship, like prayer, pilgrimage, fasting and spiritual purification, or the rulings that had to do transactions like trade, partnership, rent, land, marriage and divorce and other rules that are found in the religion from him.
Then, after his death, some situations arose in one's prayer, fast, life, business, partnership or pilgrimage…etc that did not occur during the Prophet's (s) lifetime. They needed to know what the religious ruling was. In this case they would refer to some of the companions to take the ruling from them. Some took rulings from Imām ‛Alī bin Abī Tālib (a), some from ‛Abd Allah bin ‛Abbās and some from ‛Abd Allah bin Mas‛ūd. ‛Alī (a) was the most knowledgeable companion; the Prophet (s) said the following about him: “I am the city of knowledge and ‛Alī is its entrance.”
But, we see some different verdicts passed by different companions and the generation that came after them called the tābi‛īn. There were many mujtahids and many differences in verdicts, but there were no jurisprudential sects like there are today. The Muslims would refer to the scholars amongst the companions, tābi‛īn and Imāms (a) for the religious rulings that they needed. Imām ‛Alī bin al-Hussayn al-Sajjād (a), Imām Muhammad bin ‛Alī al-Bāqir (a) and Imām Ja‛far bin Muhammad al-Sādiq (a) lived in these times.
How Jurisprudence sects were formed and when
The divisions of Muslims became
widespread after the murder of the third khalīfa,
‛Uthmān bin ‛Affān. At that time the Muslims swore
allegiance to Imām ‛Alī bin Abī Tālib (a) but
Mu‛āwīyah bin Abī Sufyān refused to swear allegiance
to him. Nobody followed him in this except the people of
At the same time where the Muslims and the great companions believed ‛Alī (a) to be the rightful khalīfa and the most knowledgeable person war was started between him and Mu‛āwīyah bin Abī Sufyān. Here, the belief in the Ahlul-Bayt (a) grew. The Ahlul-Bayt are glorified in the Qurān. Allah said that he removed all impurities from them and purified them a thorough purification. Allah also made it obligatory to love them and accept their authority.
A shi’a (follower) of the Ahlul-Bayt (a) is one who loves them, obeys them and believes in their rights.
The Shia had a strong presence during the fight with Mu‛āwīyah and after Imām ‛Alī bin Abī Tālib's martyrdom when his son al-Hassan (also the son of the daughter of the prophet) became the khalīfa. After that a big argument arose between Imām al-Hussayn bin ‛Alī bin Abī Tālib (a) and Yazīd bin Mu‛āwīyah which lead to a war between them in a place called Karbalā', Iraq. This war took place on the tenth day of the Islamic month 'Muharram' in the 61stA.H.. Imām Hussayn and 78 of his companions and family members were martyred in this war.
With all of this, there were not jurisprudential sects of Islam as there are today. There were two different sects at that time. One of them followed the Ahlul-Bayt (a) those that Allah cleansed from all impurities and purified them a thorough purification, those who did not say anything except what their forefather, the messenger of Allah (s) said. The Ahlul al-Bayt (a) are none other than Imām ‛Alī, Hassan, Hussayn and the nine Imāms that came from his lineage (a). The other group followed the Umawī (Umayyad) judges. Of course amongst the Umawī judges there were different opinions and various verdicts.
At the end of the first century A.H. different jurists appeared and the Islamic sciences took form. Examples of these jurists are: Sa‛īd bin al-Mussayab, al-Hassan al-Basrī and Sufyān al-Thawrī who lived in the same time as Imām Muhammad al-Bāqir bin ‛Alī bin al-Hussayn bin ‛Alī bin Abī Tālib. The scholars of this time learned from him.
Islamic jurisprudence started to spread out in the second century A.H. Islamic jurisprudential sects also started to form because many jurists appeared and they made many religious verdicts which differed from the verdicts of others. Some of the differences include leaving the arms down in prayer or crossing them or in some of the rulings regarding wudū', fasting, divorce, inheritance, etc.
The jurisprudential sects of Islam that are taught and have scholars and students all over the world are:
1. The Ahlul-Bayt (a) sect. It is also called the Ja‛farī sect or the Shia Imāmīyyah sect.
2. The Hanafī sect.
3. The Mālikī sect.
4. The Shāfi‛ī sect.
5. The Hanbalī sect.
Each of these jurisprudential sects will be described:
The Ahlul-Bayt (a) Sect
It must be stated that the Ahlul-Bayt (a) do not have a separate sect, or different laws than their forefather Muhammad (s). Instead, they continued his path and were taught by him. Rules pertaining to worship, contracts and other miscellaneous subjects are all taken from one source full of wisdom and light, which is none other than the Prophet (s). Imām al-Sādiq (a) said: “We do not give any legal rulings or ethical advice unless it was passed to us by our great father who obtained it from the Prophet (s).” So, their traditions, unless changed, depict the essence of Islam that was sent from the lord of the worlds.
The Ahlul-Bayt (a) sect is also named the Ja‛farī sect attributed to Imām Ja‛far al-Sādiq bin Muhammad al-Bāqir bin ‛Alī (Zayn al-‛Ābidīn) bin al-Hussayn (al-Sibt) bin ‛Alī bin Abī Tālib (a).
It is also named the Shia Imāmīyyah sect because of their belief in the 12 Imāms from the Ahlul-Bayt (a).
Imām Ja‛far al-Sādiq (a) was the Imām of the Muslims in his time. He was the teacher of scholars and famous for his greatness, knowledge, abstinence from the world and worship.
Imām Ja‛far al-Sādiq (a) was born in the 82ndA.H., during the Umayyad reign. He taught and spread Islamic sciences in the prophet's mosque, just like his forefathers did. He would relate traditions from his father, al-Bāqir (a) who related them from his forefathers all the way up to the messenger of Allah (s). He gave 1000 jurisprudential verdicts and was ahead of the scholars of his time in Islamic sciences, for example theology, tafsīr (exegesis) and everything else Muslims treasured.
There were around 4000 religious students that related traditions from him.
Some of Imām al-Sādiq's (a) students were experts in the prophetic traditions and leaders of different sects, for example: Imām Abī Hanīfah (the leader of the Hanafī sect) and Imām Mālik bin Anas (the leader of the Mālikī sect).
The Ahlul-Bayt jurisprudential sect has
spread today to different areas of the Islamic world, for example
The Hanafi Sect
This sect is called the Hanafī sect because of its imām, Abī Hanīfah.
Abī Hanīfah's full name is
al-Nu‛mān bin Thābit bin Zūtī al-Fārsī. His
forefathers were from
Abī Hanīfah grew up in Kūfa and spent half of his lifetime working as a merchant before he became a seminary student and teacher. He studied under Hammād bin Abī Salamah for eighteen years before he became a scholar himself. He was one of the big scholars of his time and reached the level of ijtihād. He accepted voting and syllogism qiyas in addition to the Qurān and prophetic traditions as tools for deriving religious rulings or fatwa. Many scholars of his time refuted him on this issue. In this regard, both Imām Muhammad al-Bāqir (a) and Ja‛far al-Sādiq (a) said that when making a fatwa one must stick only to the Qurān and the prophetic traditions.
His sect spread in
The Umayad rulers asked him to become a
judge and he refused. Because of this, they put him in prison and whipped him
for days, until he was on the brink of death. Then, the prison warden helped
him to escape and he fled to
The Maliki Sect
This sect is named its founder Imām Mālik bin Anas bin Mālik al-Asbahī who was a member of the Yemenite al-Asbah tribe.
Mālik bin Anas was born in
He lived under the Umayyad rule for forty years and during this time he did not portray himself as a scholar.
When the Umayyad dynasty fell and the
Abbasid dynasty came to power he showed inclination towards the family of
‛Alī bin Abī Tālib (a) and ruled that they were the
legitimate rulers and that rule khalafah was their right. He passed a
verdict making it obligatory to aid Muhammad bin ‛Abd Allah bin al-Hassan
bin ‛Alī bin Abī Tālib who revolted against the Abbasid
dynasty. As a punishment, Ja‛far bin Sulaymān, the Abbasid governor
Later on, the Abbasid khalīfa, Abū Ja‛far al-Mansūr changed his mind and improved his relations with Imām Mālik. He asked Imām Mālik to write a jurisprudential book, in accordance to his sect, to be published. Imām Mālik wrote the book Al-Mūattā', the book of religious verdicts, and the Mālakī jurisprudential sect became the official sect of the Abbasid Empire and missionaries were sent as far as Africa and Indonesia to preach Al-Mūattā' and the Mālakī sect. Imām Mālik differed from Abī Hanīfah on his views regarding voting and syllogism as valid sources of religious rulings. He died in the 179thA.H..
The Shafi'i Sect
This sect was named after its founder Imām Muhammad bin Idrīs bin ‛Abbās bin ‛Uthmān al-Shāfi‛ whose lineage traced back to Hāshim, the son of ‛Abd al-Muttalib, the Prophet's (s) grandfather.
Imām Shāfi‛ī was
born in the 150thA.H., the same year that Abī
Hanīfah died. He was an orphan and his mother raised him in
During Rashīd's reign, he was
charged with helping the ‛Alawī movement along with others by the
He then migrated to
The Hanbali Sect
This sect was named after its founder Ahmad bin Muhammad bin Hanbal who was an Arab.
He was born in
This sect was spread like the other
sects. This sect is still practiced in the