Great Imams of Fiqh


Islamic Scholars

Map of the famous Imam’s jurisdiction



Imam Abu Hanifah

Imam Abu Hanifah (Nu’Man Bin Thabit Ibn Zuta Ibn Marzubin)  – 80H to 148H

  • Interesting Facts:
    • Trader by Occupation – Family Business for Silk-making textiles, run by father. Usul Fiqh from Imam Abu Hanifah is very “business-friendly”
    • Expert in Usul Fiqh, Tafsir and Kalam (theological discourse using reason and debate). Kalam is practiced between his students where a theoretical scenario was given for discussion and debate, roughly amongst 40 students.
    • Systematic formulation of Usul Fiqh – The methodology for deriving usul fiqh was well documented amongst his students into a systematic methodology. He was the first to compile and classify “the Fiqh Science”.
  • Life:
    • Born in Kufa, Iraq in 80H
    • Studied in Kufa. Iraq with various Muhaddis, including Imam Hammad (student of Anas bin Malik r.a.). Also learned with his contemporary, Imam Jaafar Sadiq from Madinah, Saudi whom was also the teacher for Imam Malik, as well as Atta Bin Rabah from Mekah, Saudi
    • Offered Work as a Chief Judge (Qadhi) in Baghdad by the Caliph, but twice rejected the offer, which was subsequently offered to his student, Imam Abu Yusuf. The incensed Abbasid Caliph Yazid ibn Amr firstly, then Caliph Al Mansur secondly (after a 5 years gap in Mecca) imprisoned Abu Hanifah and he died while in prison.
  • Direct Teachers:
    • Imam Hammad (Kufa, Iraq) – direct Fiqh student from the righteous companion, Abdullah Mas’ud and Malik bin Anas.
    • Imam Jaafar Sadiq (Madinah, Saudi) – contemporary colleague who assisted Imam Abu Hanifah on his learning of Fiqh.
  • Notable Students:
    • Imam Malik – Founder of the Maliki School of Thought
    • Qadhi Abu Yusof – Chief Judge (Qadhi)  – Teacher to Imam Hanbal, the founder of Hanbali School of Thought
    • Muhammad Hasan Al Shaybani – Teacher of Imam Shafie, the founder of Shafie School of Thought
  • Approach of Usul Fiqh:
    • Developed a wide range for the development of Usul Fiqh
    • Primary Sources greatly regarded and used.
    • However, Imam Abu Hanifah promotes reasoning (Ijthihad) based on the two primary sources, and willing to expand into Ijma’ (Fatwa by Mujtahid Ulama), Qiyas (Analogical Reasoning), and Istihsan (Juristic Preference in choosing a better ruling based on specific proof instead of general proof) which includes:
      • Maslahah i.e. Consideration of Public Interest (Masalih Muta’barah i.e. Acknowledged interest i.e. Daruriyat~Essential or Hajiyyat~Needed or Tahsiniyat~Refining, Masalih Mulghat i.e. Rejected interest, and Masalih Murasalah/Maslahah i.e. Neutral interest for the purpose of giving benefit or remove harm)
      •  Urf i.e. Custom
      • Sadd Ad Dhara’i i.e. Blocking the Means (to evil)
      • Shar Man Qablana i.e. the Revealed Law before Shariah (laws imposed to Moses, Abraham and Jesus) ** Allowed
      • Qawl al Sahabi i.e. Opinions of the Companions ** Allowed
      • Istishab i.e. presumption of continuity ** Allowed
    • Considered as part of Ahl Al Ra’y (School of Reasoning)
  • Major Books:
    • Kitabul Athar – Compilation of 70,000 Hadith as narrated by Muhammad Hasan Al Shaybani


Imam Shafie V2
Imam Shafie (Abu Abdullah Muhammad Idris Al Shafie)  – 150H to 204H

  • Interesting Facts:
    • Renowned Arabic Poet – Well known among Bedouins as a beautiful orator of the Arabic language
    • Memorised the Quran at age of 7 and the Al Mu’atta by Imam Malik by the age of 10 – Imam Malik was so impressed by this that he took and sponsored young Imam Shafie’s studies at his school in Madinah
    • Expert in both Maliki and Hanafi school of thought – Allows Imam Shafie to have a more balanced outlook for his school of thought
  • Life:
    • Born in Gaza, Palestine in 150H
    • Studied in Madinah, Saudi Arabia under Imam Malik
    • Worked in Najran, Yemen as a Judge
    • Captured and brought to Baghdad, Iraq to face charges but later impressed Caliph Harun Ar Rashid and was appointed as Royal Adviser. Studied under Imam Muhammad Al Shaybani
    • Moved to Cairo, Egypt to teach and developed the Usul Fiqh which is later expanded as the Shafie School of Thought, which became the second most popular school of thought after Imam Hanifah
  • Direct Teachers:
    • Imam Malik (Madinah) – Founder of the Maliki School of Thought
    • Imam Muhammad Al Shaybani (Baghdad) – Direct Student of Imam Hanifah of the Hanafi School of Thought
  • Notable Students:
    • Imam Hanbali – Founder of the Hanbali School of Thought
    • Ishaq Ibn Rahwayh – Teacher to Imam Al Bukhari, foremost compiler of Hadith Sahih
  • Approach of Usul Fiqh:
    • Ijthihad based on 4 main sources of Fiqh i.e. Quran, Sunnah/Hadith, Ijma’, Qiyas
    • Considered as part of Ahl Al Hadith (School of Traditions)
  • Major Books:
    • Kitab Al Umm – Compilation of codified legal opinions by Imam Shafie
    • Al Risalah Usul Al Fiqh – Outlined the 4 main sources of Fiqh and Introduced clear methodology for Usul Fiqh

Imam Hanbali

Imam Hanbal (Abu Abdillah Ahmad Muhammad ibn Hanbal al Shaybani) – 164H to 241H

  • Interesting Facts about Imam Hanbal
    • Most Learned Imam – Is well versed in the earlier teachings of Imam Hanifa, Imam Malik and direct student of Imam Shafie
    • Extensive Collection – His book, Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal contains more than 30,000 Hadith collected from his travels.
    • Imprisoned and Banished – Due to his criticism of the Mu’tazilla doctrine practiced by the Caliph of Baghdad, he was imprisoned and later banished from Baghdad
    • Popular Public Figure – Upon his death, it was reported about 800,000 people attended his funeral
    • Wahabi & Salafi’s Movements – His conservative and traditionalist approach to Fiqh was expanded into the Wahabi and Salafi movements which only accepts Quran and Hadith (including weak Hadith) as the only acceptable sources of Islamic Law
  • Life:
    • Born in Baghdad, Iraq in 164H
    • Studied in Baghdad, Iraq under Abu Yusuf
    • Travelled throughout Iraq, Syria and Arabia to collect Hadith
    • Returned to Baghdad to study under Imam Shafie
    • Became a Mufti in Baghdad, Iraq during his old age
  • Direct Teachers:
    • Abu Yusof (Baghdad) – Direct Student of Imam Hanifah of the Hanafi School of Thought
    • Imam Shafie (Baghdad) – Founder of the Shafie School of Thought
  • Notable Students:
    • Imam Muhammad Al Bukhari – Foremost compiler of Hadith Sahih
  • Approach of Usul Fiqh:
    • Ijthihad based on 3 main sources of Fiqh i.e. Quran, Sunnah/Hadith, Ijma’
    • Considered as part of Ahl Al Hadith (School of Traditions)
  • Major Books:
    • Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal – Extensive Compilation of Hadith