Source: Sheikh Muhammad Baazmool
What is meant the term “schools of jurisprudence or fiqh”? And why are there only four such schools? And what should my position be towards them?1
The schools of jurisprudence are scholastic efforts which developed historically as a means to understanding how to practice the details of Islaam, and in each individual school of jurisprudence they are well-known scholars.
Historically there are two knowledge-based methodologies which developed in this area of Islamic knowledge. The jurisprudence methodology of the scholars of the Hijaaz, and that of the scholars of Iraq.
From the most important distinguishing features of the scholars of jurisprudence in the Hijaaz was that they rarely base their conclusions on derived opinions due to what they possessed of source texts of many hadeeth narrations from the prophet, as well as narrations from the scholars after the time of the Messenger.
Likewise from the most important distinguishing features of the scholars of jurisprudence in Iraq, was their frequently relying on derived opinion-based conclusions due to the scarcity of hadeeth narrations from the prophet, and narrations from the scholars which had reached them in that region of the world.
And the most well-known scholar from the scholars of jurisprudence in Iraq was Imaam Abu Haneefah.
Later Imaam ash-Shaaf’aee, who had been a student of Imaam Maalik, came forth and studied and benefited from the scholar’s works of the “people of opinion” in Iraq, while he already possessed knowledge of jurisprudence gained from the scholars of the Hijaaz. Such that he reconciled and joined both methodologies.
Thereafter Imaam Ahmad studied knowledge of jurisprudence from Imaam ash-Shaaf’aee, and proceeded upon the way of Imaam ash-Shaaf’aee, with the exception that he was significantly more knowledgeable of hadeeth narrations from the prophet, and narrations from the scholars of the Companions and the Successors, then those scholars who had preceded him in this field. Additionally there are other scholars in other different historical schools of jurisprudence.
But their different schools became extinct and no longer exist. For example the school of jurisprudence of Imaam al-Awzaa’ee in Sham, the land north of the Arabian Peninsula. Additionally, there was the school of jurisprudence of Imaam Sufyan ath-Thawree in Iraq.
There was the school of jurisprudence of Imaam at-Tabaree, and that of Ibn Raahawee, and other historical schools of jurisprudence that no longer are found.
These various schools of jurisprudence are developed methodologies of determining how to implement or act upon the guidance that is found within Islaam.
But a Muslim is not obliged to restrictedly only follow a specific one of them.
If he is from the general Muslims, what is required from him is that he ask about any matter from one of the people of knowledge that he knows is reliable in his practice and knowledge of Islaam, without making it a condition that the scholar be from a specific school of jurisprudence. Also if someone who has reached the level of having the scholastic ability to independently consider the evidences and to properly derive rulings, then he should proceed to consider the evidences and strive to reach the correct rulings in matters himself.
Lastly, if he is from those Muslims who are of the intermediate level. Such that he can to some degree consider the different evidences presented and explained in the statements of the scholars in their rulings, then it is required that he follow that evidence and ruling which seems to be closest to the truth and the most supported by the evidences.
The scholars of Saudia Arabia generally study the Hanbalee school of jurisprudence, based upon the rulings and principles of Ahmad Ibn Hanbal. They strive diligently to independently consider and comprehend the evidences from the Qur’aan and Sunnah, and they are of different level in their ability to undertake this.
Those scholars most distinguished by their ability to reach the correct judgments independently, in our age, were Sheikh Muhammad Ibn Ibraheem, Sheikh Ibn Humaid, Sheikh Ibn Baaz, and Sheikh al-‘Utheimeen, and the last of them who is still living is Sheikh Saleeh al-Fauzaan.
There are not any individuals who compare to our scholars, according to the limits of what I am aware of, in terms of the soundness and strength of their general methodology and the excellence of their overall way upon Islaam. And I do not praise anyone over what Allaah knows of them.
Similarly, other well-grounded scholars within the Muslim world are the likes of Sh. Ahmad Shaakir who lived in Egypt, Muhammad Haamid al-Faqee, who also had lived in Egypt, and Sheikh al-Albaanee who lived in both Syria and Jordan.
These scholars also stood upon the same path and way as our leading scholars whom I mentioned, may Allaah have mercy upon them all.