Schools of Muslim Law

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Introduction to Schools of Muslim Law

When Prophet Mohammed was alive, no schools or principles of Muslim were uniforms like they are today. After the death of the Prophet Mohammed, the question of succession to prophet arose. There were two conflicting views/opinions among Arabs. One group supported election method/principle, while the other group supported the principle of inheritance. Firstly is the election method according to which, Prophet Mohammed’s successor is to be elected by the Muslim Community. The other view (i.e., the principle of inheritance) the legal heir of the Prophet Mohammed should succeed. The members of the first group, who supported the Election principle/method came to be known as ‘Sunnis’. While the other group, who supported the principle of inheritance came to be known as `Shias’.

The main Schools of Muslim Law are: Shia and Sunni Schools


The Sunni School: Developed and the Abbadids, further divided into Hanafi, Maliki, Shafei and Hanabali Schools of Muslim law

  • Hanafi School: It was founded in Kula (which is now modem Iraq) and is also known as ‘the Ku& School’. It is named after its founder Imam Abu Hanifa. The Hanafi School is well represented in Iraq, its home country and also in Syria. It covers a vast majority of Muslims all over India. The Hanafi School is very important in respect of matrimonial law.
  • The Maliki School: It is also known as the Madina School. It is named after its founder Maliki-Ibn-Arras.
  • The Shafi School: It is founded in Egypt and is named after its founder Imam Shafi, a pupil of Malik. The Shafi School spread to lower Egypt, Hejha, South Arabia, East Africa and some parts of Iraq and Persia. There are some Shafis on the West Coast of India as well as in Cent. Asia.
  • The Hanabali School: It was founded by Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbail. The Hanabali School prevails in Saudi Arabia.


Imam Jafar laid the foundation of the Shia school. After the Sunnis, the Shias are the most in population in India. Shias do not accept any tradition. According to them, the Imam is the final interpreter of the law. The Shia School is further divided into:

  • Ismailias: After Jafars death, minority of the population followed his elder son Ismail, hence the name Ismailias. Originally prevalent in Egypt. Further divided into Khojas and Bohras in India.
  • Athna Asharias or Immamia: Those minorities which followed Musa Kazim after the death of Jafar came to be known as the Ithna Ashari School. 50% of the population in Iraq belongs to the sect,
  • The Zaidyas: After Imam Zaynul Abidin’s death, some people accepted their son Zayd as their Imam and Zaiydyas came into existence.

Thus, the aforementioned are the various schools of Muslim law which went on to develop into various principles, practices and customs according to their origin.

By Maahi Mayuri

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