Schools of Muslim law


Muslim law is mainly based on the teaching of the Quran and Prophet Mohammad. It is known to be originated from the divine. Islam is one of the oldest religion and most followed major religions of the world. It is not like the man-made law that is passed by lawmakers and governed by the principles of modern systems of law. Muslim law is personal law. In Muslim Law, Islam signifies submission to the will of God and means purity, peace and obedience. The person who practices and follow Islam known as Muslim. The basic principle of Islam reveals that God is One and Mohammad is the Prophet of God. Muslim law originates from Arabia.


Schools under Muslim can be broadly defined in two parts_

  • Sunni School
  • Shia School

Who is Sunni?

The ‘Sunni’ word is derived from the Arabic word ‘Sunnah’ which means ‘way’, referring to “One of the path” or “one who follow the traditions of the Prophet”. One group that favours the principle of the election in choosing the Imam. This group is known as “Sunni’.

Who is Shia?

At the time of the death of the Prophet, there was a quarrel between the two groups imamate(temporal leadership of the religion) in which one group favour the principle of the election in choosing the Imam known as ‘Sunni’ and one group opposed the principle of the election in choosing the Imam and proclaimed that the Ali is the successor of the prophet. This group is known as ‘Shia’.

Sunni School

The four main Sunni School are:

  • The Hanafi School
  • The Maliki School
  • The Shafi School
  • The Hanbali School

All these schools are also known as orthodox schools.

The Hanafi School

The Hanafi School, also known as Kufa school and named after its founder, Imam Abu Hanifa. Abu Hanifa an-Numan Ibn Thabit was born in A.H. 80, during the region of the Umaiyad Caliph, Abdul Malik. During the time of Abu Hanifa, the jurists were divided into two groups. The jurists of Hijaz were called the upholders of the traditions, and the jurists of Iraq upholders of private opinion. Abu Hanifa does not blindly follow all the customs by the virtue of the majority following it. Abu Hanifa made an outstanding contribution to the science of law, was that he laid down the theories and principles of Muslim jurisprudence, and truly he was called the founder of Muslim jurisprudence. The Hanafi School was well represented in Iraq, its home country, as well as in Sariya, it spread far and wide to Afghanistan, to the subcontinent of India and Turkish Central Asia.

The Maliki School

Madina has always been a city of high juristic traditions. At Madina, the seat of traditional scholarship, he devoted himself to learning. This school get its name from Malik-bin-Anas. Malik’s jurisprudence emphasizes the Quran and the Sunna. The Maliki School give importance to the Sunna and Hadis. The Maliki School spread westward over practically the whole of North Africa, Central and West Africa, and Spain.

The Shafi School

The Shafi school get its name on the name of Muhammad Ibn Idris –ash _Safi, who lived for some time, his period was between 767 to 820 AD. He was the student of Malik Ibn Anas. . Founder and the protagonist of the Classical theory of Muslim jurisprudence. The Shafi School spread far and wide. It spread to lower Egypt, Hejha, South Arabia, East Africa and some part of South East Asia, it has large numbers of followers.

The Hanbali School

Abu Abdullah Ahmed Ibn Hanbal, a disciple of Imam Shafi, was the creator of this school. He founded the Hanbali School in 241 (AD 855). This Hanbali School is the most recent and least followers. Hanbal was the author of several treatises, the important ones are Musnad al-Iman Hanbal, That-ur-Rasul Kitab- ul _ Alal. Hanbali schools mostly prevail in Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
Shia Schools

The Shia Schools are as :

  • Ithna- Asharis School
  • Ismailis School
  • Zaidy School

Ithna- Asharis School_

These schools followers mostly found in Iran and Iraq. These schools based on the Ithna- Ashari laws. The majority of shias follows Ithna –Ashari laws. They are considered political quietists. The people who follow the Ithna Asharis school believe that the last of the Imams disappeared and to be returning as Mehdi(Messiah). Within this school, two sub-schools exist.
Akhbari– This school rigidly follow the tradition of Imam.
Usuli– This school give practical interpretation to the Quran.

Ismailis School

In India, the Ismailis consist of two groups: the khojas and Bohras. The khojas are also known as Western Ismailis and these groups represent the followers of Aga Khan, who they considered 49th Imam in this line of prophet, and the second one is the Bohras i.e., the Western Ismailis are divided into Daudis and Sulaymanis. The ” Bohra” means merchant, and they do not signify any particular school of Muslim law.

Zaidy School

The followers of Zaidy school are the maximum number in South Arabia but in India, the followers of Zaidy school are not found. The followers of Zaidi school are known for their political activism. This school is most dominant among all in Yemen.

Motizila School

Motizila School is lesser than comparing to Shia and Sunni School, the follower of these schools is found in minority and can be found in Iran. It is believed that they are the defectors of the Shia Act and this school was founded by Al- Gazzal.


We can conclude that Muslim law is governed by the various types of Schools in which Shia School and Sunni School are the famous schools, however, these schools also have sub-schools having different thinking and beliefs. In a Muslim law every school and sub school have its own beliefs and practices, they might have different beliefs and practises, but they all have the same destination. No school can be compared with the other schools because they have a different path with the same destination.

Author: Divya Tripathi,
Shri Ramswaroop Memorial University LLB 3 Year ( 2 Semester)

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