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For other people named Al-Shafiʽi, see Al-Shafiʽi (disambiguation). Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_0

"Imam Shafi" redirects here. Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_1

For the village in Iran, see Imam Shafi, Iran. Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_2


Imam al-Fiqh

Al-Shafi'i اَلشَّافِعِيُّAl-Shafiʽi_header_cell_0_0_0

TitleAl-Shafiʽi_header_cell_0_1_0 Shaykh al-IslāmAl-Shafiʽi_cell_0_1_1
BornAl-Shafiʽi_header_cell_0_3_0 767 CE
150 AH 

Gaza, Jund Filastin, Abbasid CaliphateAl-Shafiʽi_cell_0_3_1

DiedAl-Shafiʽi_header_cell_0_4_0 19 January 820 CE (aged 54)
204 AH 

al-Fustat, Abbasid CaliphateAl-Shafiʽi_cell_0_4_1

ReligionAl-Shafiʽi_header_cell_0_5_0 IslamAl-Shafiʽi_cell_0_5_1
NationalityAl-Shafiʽi_header_cell_0_6_0 CaliphateAl-Shafiʽi_cell_0_6_1
EthnicityAl-Shafiʽi_header_cell_0_7_0 ArabAl-Shafiʽi_cell_0_7_1
EraAl-Shafiʽi_header_cell_0_8_0 Islamic Golden AgeAl-Shafiʽi_cell_0_8_1
DenominationAl-Shafiʽi_header_cell_0_9_0 SunniAl-Shafiʽi_cell_0_9_1
Main interest(s)Al-Shafiʽi_header_cell_0_10_0 Fiqh, HadithAl-Shafiʽi_cell_0_10_1
Notable idea(s)Al-Shafiʽi_header_cell_0_11_0 Shafi'i madhhabAl-Shafiʽi_cell_0_11_1
Notable work(s)Al-Shafiʽi_header_cell_0_12_0 Al-Risala, Kitab al-Umm, Musnad al-Shafi'iAl-Shafiʽi_cell_0_12_1
Muslim leaderAl-Shafiʽi_header_cell_0_13_0

Abū ʿAbdillāh Muhammad ibn Idrīs al-Shāfiʿī (Arabic: أَبُو عَبْدِ ٱللهِ مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ إِدْرِيسَ ٱلشَّافِعِيُّ‎, 767–820 CE) was an Arab Muslim theologian, writer, and scholar, who was the first contributor of the principles of Islamic jurisprudence (Uṣūl al-fiqh). Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_3

Often referred to as 'Shaykh al-Islām', al-Shāfi‘ī was one of the four great Sunni Imams, whose legacy on juridical matters and teaching eventually led to the Shafi'i school of fiqh (or Madh'hab). Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_4

He was the most prominent student of Imam Malik ibn Anas, and he also served as the Governor of Najar. Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_5

Born in Gaza in Palestine (Jund Filastin), he also lived in Mecca and Medina in the Hejaz, Yemen, Egypt, and Baghdad in Iraq. Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_6

Introduction Al-Shafiʽi_section_0

The biography of al-Shāfi‘i is difficult to trace. Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_7

Dawud al-Zahiri was said to be the first to write such a biography, but the book has been lost. Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_8

The oldest surviving biography goes back to Ibn Abi Hatim al-Razi (died 327 AH/939 CE) and is no more than a collection of anecdotes, some of them fantastical. Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_9

A biographical sketch was written by Zakarīya b. Yahya al-Sājī was later reproduced, but even then, a great deal of legend had already crept into the story of al-Shāfi‘i's life. Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_10

The first real biography is by Ahmad Bayhaqi (died 458 AH/1066 CE) and is filled with what a modernist eye would qualify as pious legends. Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_11

The following is what seems to be a sensible reading, according to a modern reductionist perspective. Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_12

Biography Al-Shafiʽi_section_1

Ancestry Al-Shafiʽi_section_2

Al-Shāfi‘ī belonged to the Qurayshi clan of Banu Muttalib, which was the sister clan of the Banu Hashim, to which the Prophet Muhammad and the 'Abbasid caliphs belonged. Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_13

This lineage may have given him prestige, arising from his belonging to the tribe of Muhammad, and his great-grandfather's kinship to him. Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_14

However, al-Shāfi‘ī grew up in poverty, in spite of his connections in the highest social circles. Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_15

Early life Al-Shafiʽi_section_3

He was born in Gaza by the town of Asqalan in 150 AH (767 CE). Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_16

His father died in Ash-Sham while he was still a child. Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_17

Fearing the waste of his sharīf lineage, his mother decided to move to Mecca when he was about two years old. Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_18

Furthermore, his maternal family roots were from Al-Yemen, and there were more members of his family in Mecca, where his mother believed he would better be taken care of. Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_19

Little is known about al-Shāfi‘ī's early life in Mecca, except that he was brought up in poor circumstances and that from his youth he was devoted to learning. Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_20

An account states that his mother could not afford to buy his paper, so he would write his lessons on bones, particularly shoulder-bones. Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_21

He studied under Muslim ibn Khalid az-Zanji, the Mufti of Mecca then, who is thus considered to be the first teacher of Imam al-Shāfi‘ī. Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_22

By the age of seven, al-Shāfi‘ī had memorized the Qur’an. Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_23

At ten, he had committed Imam Malik's Muwatta' to heart, at which time his teacher would deputize him to teach in his absence. Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_24

Al-Shāfi‘ī was authorized to issue fatwas at the age of fifteen .. Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_25

Apprenticeship under Imam Mālik Al-Shafiʽi_section_4

Al-Shāfi‘ī moved to Al-Medinah in a desire for further legal training, as was the tradition of acquiring knowledge. Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_26

Accounts differ on the age in which he set out to Medina; an account placed his age at thirteen, while another stated that he was in his twenties. Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_27

There, he was taught for many years by the famous Imam Malik ibn Anas, who was impressed with his memory, knowledge and intelligence. Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_28

By the time of Imam Mālik's death in 179 AH (795 CE), al-Shāfi‘ī had already gained a reputation as a brilliant jurist. Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_29

Even though he would later disagree with some of the views of Imam Mālik, al-Shāfi‘ī accorded the deepest respect to him by always referring to him as "the Teacher". Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_30

Yemeni Fitna Al-Shafiʽi_section_5

At the age of thirty, al-Shāfi‘ī was appointed as the ‘Abbasid governor in the Yemeni city of Najran. Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_31

He proved to be a just administrator but soon became entangled with factional jealousies. Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_32

In 803 CE, al-Shāfi‘ī was accused of aiding the 'Alids in an Alid revolt, and was thus summoned in chains with a number of 'Alids to the Caliph Harun ar-Rashid at Raqqa. Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_33

Whilst other conspirators were put to death, al-Shafi'i's own eloquent defense convinced the Caliph to dismiss the charge. Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_34

Other accounts state that the famous Hanafi jurist, Muḥammad ibn al-Ḥasan al-Shaybānī, was present at the court and defended al-Shāfi‘ī as a well-known student of the sacred law. Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_35

What was certain was that the incident brought al-Shāfi‘ī in close contact with al-Shaybānī, who would soon become his teacher. Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_36

It was also postulated that this unfortunate incident impelled him to devote the rest of his career to legal studies, never again to seek government service. Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_37

Apprenticeship under Al-Shaybānī, and exposure to Hanafī Jurists Al-Shafiʽi_section_6

Al-Shāfi'ī traveled to Baghdad to study with Abu Hanifah's acolyte al-Shaybānī and others. Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_38

It was here that he developed his first madh'hab, influenced by the teachings of both Imam Abu Hanifa and Imam Malik. Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_39

His work thus became known as "al Madhhab al Qadim lil Imam as Shafi’i," or the Old School of al-Shafi'i. Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_40

It was here that al-Shāfi'ī actively participated in legal arguments with the Hanafī jurists, strenuously defending the Mālikī school of thought. Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_41

Some authorities stress the difficulties encountered by him in his arguments. Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_42

Al-Shāfi'ī eventually left Baghdad for Mecca in 804 CE, possibly because of complaints by Hanafī followers to al-Shaybānī that al-Shafi'i had become somewhat critical of al-Shaybānī's position during their disputes. Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_43

As a result, al-Shāfi'ī reportedly participated in a debate with al-Shaybānī over their differences, though who won the debate is disputed. Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_44

In Mecca, al-Shāfi'ī began to lecture at the Sacred Mosque, leaving a deep impression on many students of law, including the famous Hanbali jurist, Ahmad Ibn Hanbal. Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_45

Al-Shāfi'ī's legal reasoning began to mature, as he started to appreciate the strength in the legal reasoning of the Hanafī jurists, and became aware of the weaknesses inherent in both the Mālikī and Hanafī schools of thought. Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_46

Departure to Baghdad and Egypt Al-Shafiʽi_section_7

Al-Shāfi'ī eventually returned to Baghdad in 810 CE. Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_47

By this time, his stature as a jurist had grown sufficiently to permit him to establish an independent line of legal speculation. Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_48

Caliph Al-Ma'mun is said to have offered al-Shāfi'ī a position as a judge, but he declined the offer. Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_49

Connection with the family of Muhammad Al-Shafiʽi_section_8

See also: Ahl al-Bayt and Banu Hashim Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_50

In 814 CE, al-Shāfi'ī decided to leave Baghdad for Egypt. Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_51

The precise reasons for his departure from Iraq are uncertain, but it was in Egypt that he would meet another tutor, Sayyida Nafisa bint Al-Hasan, who would also financially support his studies, and where he would dictate his life's works to students. Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_52

Several of his leading disciples would write down what al-Shāfi'ī said, who would then have them read it back aloud so that corrections could be made. Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_53

Al-Shāfi'ī biographers all agree that the legacy of works under his name are the result of those sessions with his disciples. Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_54

Nafisah was a descendant of the Islamic Nabi (Prophet) Muhammad, through his grandson Hasan ibn Ali, who married another descendant of Muhammad, that is Is-haq al-Mu'tamin the son of the Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq, who was reportedly a teacher of ash-Shafi'i's teacher Malik ibn Anas and Abu Hanifah. Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_55

Thus all of the four great Imams of Sunni Fiqh (Abu Hanifah, Malik, his student Ash-Shafi'i, and his student Ibn Hanbal) are connected to Imam Ja'far from the Bayt (Household) of Muhammad, whether directly or indirectly. Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_56

Death Al-Shafiʽi_section_9

At least one authority states that al-Shāfi'ī died as a result of injuries sustained from an attack by supporters of a Maliki follower named Fityan. Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_57

The story goes that al-Shāfi'ī triumphed in the argument over Fityan, who, being intemperate, resorted to abuse. Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_58

The Governor of Egypt, with whom al-Shafi'i had good relations, ordered Fityan punished by having him paraded through the streets of the city carrying a plank and stating the reason for his punishment. Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_59

Fityan's supporters were enraged by this treatment and attacked Shafi'i in retaliation after one of his lectures. Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_60

Al-Shafi'i died a few days later. Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_61

However, Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani in his biography of al-Shāfi'ī Tawālī al-Ta'sīs, casts doubt on this story saying "I do not consider this from a reliable source". Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_62

However, al-Shāfi'ī was also known to have suffered from a serious intestinal illness/hemorrhoids, which kept him frail and ailing during the later years of his life. Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_63

The precise cause of his death is thus unknown. Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_64

Al-Shāfi'ī died at the age of 54 on the 30th of Rajab in 204 AH (20 January 820 CE), in Al-Fustat, Egypt, and was buried in the vault of the Banū ‘Abd al-Hakam, near Mount al-Muqattam. Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_65

The qubbah (Arabic: قُـبَّـة‎, dome) was built in 608 AH (1212 CE) by the Ayyubid Sultan Al-Kamil, and the mausoleum remains an important site today. Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_66

Legacy Al-Shafiʽi_section_10

Main article: Shafi'i Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_67


Al-Shāfi'ī is credited with creating the essentials of the science of fiqh (the system of Islamic jurisprudence). Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_68

He designated the four principles/sources/components of fiqh, which in order of importance are: Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_69


  1. The Qur’an;Al-Shafiʽi_item_1_0
  2. Hadith. i.e collections of the words, actions, and silent approval of Muhammad. (Together with the Qur'an these make up "revealed sources".);Al-Shafiʽi_item_1_1
  3. Ijma. i.e. the consensus of the (orthodox) Muslim community;Al-Shafiʽi_item_1_2
  4. Qiyas. i.e. the method of analogy.Al-Shafiʽi_item_1_3

Scholar John Burton goes farther, crediting Al-Shafi'i not just with establishing the science of fiqh in Islam, but its importance to the religion. Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_70

"Where his contemporaries and their predecessors had engaged in defining Islam as a social and historical phenomenon, Shafi'i sought to define a revealed Law." Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_71

With this systematization of shari'a, he provided a legacy of unity for all Muslims and forestalled the development of independent, regionally based legal systems. Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_72

The four Sunni legal schools or madhhabs keep their traditions within the framework that Shafi'i established. Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_73

One of the schools – Shafi'i fiqh – is named for Al-Shāfi‘ī. Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_74

It is followed in many different places in the Islamic world: Indonesia, Malaysia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Somalia, Yemen as well as Sri Lanka and southern parts of India, especially in the Malabar coast of North Kerala and Canara region of Karnataka. Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_75

Al-Shāfi‘ī emphasized the final authority of a hadith of Muhammad (SallahuAlaihiwassalam) so that even the Qur'an was "to be interpreted in the light of traditions (i.e. hadith), and not vice versa." Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_76

While traditionally the Quran is considered above the Sunna in authority, Al-Shafi'i "forcefully argued" that the sunna stands "on equal footing with the Quran", (according to scholar Daniel Brown) for – as Al-Shafi'i put it – "the command of the Prophet is the command of Almighty Allah ." Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_77

Al-Shāfi‘ī Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_78

The focus by the Muslim community on ahadith of Muhammad and disinterest in ahadith of Muhammad's companions (whose ahadith were commonly used before Al-Shāfi‘ī since most of whom survived him and spread his teachings after his death) is thought (by scholar Joseph Schacht) to reflect the success of Al-Shāfi‘ī's doctrine. Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_79

Al-Shāfi‘ī influence was such that he changed the use of the term Sunnah, "until it invariably meant only the Sunnah of the Prophet" (according to John Burton this was his "principle achievement"). Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_80

While earlier, sunnah had been used to refer to tribal manners and customs, (and while Al-Shāfi‘ī distinguished between the non-authoritative "sunnah of the Muslims" that was followed in practice, and the "sunnah of the Prophet" that Muslims should follow), sunnah came to mean the Sunnah of Muhammad. Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_81

In the Islamic sciences, Burton credits him with "the imposition of a formal theoretical distinction" between `the Sunnah of the Prophet` and the Quran, "especially where the two fundamental sources appeared to clash". Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_82


Saladin built a madrassah and a shrine on the site of his tomb. Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_83

Saladin's brother Afdal built a mausoleum for him in 1211 after the defeat of the Fatamids. Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_84

It remains a site where people petition for justice. Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_85


Among the followers of Imam al-Shāfi‘ī’s school were: Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_86


Al-Dhahabi Al-Shafiʽi_sentence_87


Credits to the contents of this page go to the authors of the corresponding Wikipedia page:ʽi.