Friday, November 2, 2007

Imam as-Syafi'i

Abū ‘Abdu’llah Muhammad ibn Idrīs ash-Shāfiī was born in Gaza in the year 767 AD / 150 AH. At an early age, he left Gaza and moved to Mecca. By the age of seven, he memorized the entire Qur'an and afterwards began studying the Arabic language in Mecca. He developed full command in Arabic language with all of its various styles used by the major tribes. Later, he moved to Medina where he studied under Imam Malik and learned from him the Al-Muwatta' by the age of ten.

He eventually went to Iraq and came in close contact with Imam al-Hasan al-Shaybani and Qadi Abu Yusuf, the student of Abu Hanifa. There he refined his legal thinking in constant debates with Hanafi jurists where he took Malik's position in defence of tradition. This experience had a tremendous impact in moulding his own legal thinking since it brought to light the "weaknesses" in the Maliki school of thought. After moving back to Makkah for a short time and then returning to Baghdad, he finally decided to leave for Egypt where he could finally settle down to do more work in Fiqh and its methodology.

It is here where he produced a final version of Al-Risala and eventually died on the last day of Rajab 204 A.H. (820 CE). The original version of Al-Risala was produced in Baghdad and was probably less complete than the new version produced in Egypt. The progress of the Risala shows how Imam Shafii himself progressed from a strict follower of the Maliki school to becoming the founder of the Shafii school of thinking. His thoughts and method were tested by scholars of both the Hanafi school and the Maliki school through many debates where he not only excelled but refined his own thinking.

In summary Shafii went through three stages:
1. The first stage in Medina where he encountered with Malik.
2. The second stage in Baghdad where he was exposed to the Hanafi school. In this stage he wrote the first version of Risala.
3. The final stage in Cairo where redefined his own method and wrote the final version of Al-Risala.

The Arrangement of the Risala:
The Risala is arranged into a series of sections with general titles. The complexities of each subject are then explored either directly or by way of a third-party questioner who asks questions about various aspects of an issue such as abrogation. The chapters are, in order: Al-Bayan (explicit declaration), Legal Knowledge, The Book of Allah (Qur'an), Obligation of Man to accept the authority of the Prophet, Abrogation of Hukm Sharii, Duties, Nature of Allah's Orders of Prohibition and the Nature of Messenger's Orders of Prohibition, Traditions (Sunnah), Khabar Ahad (single individual traditions), Ijma (consensus), Qiyas (Analogy), Ijtihad, Istihsan (juristic preference), and finally Ikhtilaf (disagreement). Some, like the chapter on the Book of Allah, have many different subtopics, like the Arabic nature of the Qur'an, while others, such as Qiyas, are small and discussed more thoroughly in Imam Shafii's other books, such as Kitab-ul-Umm or Ikthilaf Al-Hadith.

Two schools of legal thought or madhahib are actually attributed to Imam Shafi`i, englobing his writings and legal opinions (fatâwa). These two schools are known in the terminology of jurists as "The Old" (al-qadîm) and "The New" (al-jadîd), corresponding respectively to his stays in Iraq and Egypt. The most prominent transmitters of the New among Shafi`i’s students are al-Buwayti, al-Muzani, al-Rabi` al-Muradi, and al-Bulqini, in Kitab al-Umm ("The Motherbook"). The most prominent transmitters of the Old are Ahmad ibn Hanbal, al-Karabisi, al-Za`farani, and Abu Thawr, in Kitab al-Hujja ("Book of the Proof"). What is presently known as the Shafi`i position refers to the New except in approximately twenty-two questions, in which Shafi`i scholars and muftis have retained the positions of the Old.

Abu Mansur al-Baghdadi in Manaqib al-Shafi`i and Naqd Abi `Abd Allah al-Jurjani fi Tarjih Madhhab Abi Hanifa relates the following example of the Imam's perspicuity at an early age:

Shafi`i was sitting at Malik's feet one day when a man came in and said: "I sell turtle-doves, and one of my customers returned one of them to me today, saying that it does not coo, so I swore to him on pain of divorce that my turtle-dove coos all the time!" Malik said: "You have divorced your wife and are not to approach her." Shafi`i was fourteen at the time. He said to the man: "Which is more, your turtle-dove's cooing or its silence?" The man said: "Its cooing."

Shafi`i said: "Consider your marriage valid, and there is no penalty on you." Whereupon Malik frowned at him saying: "Boy! How do you know this?" Shafi`i replied: "Because you narrated to me from al-Zuhri, from Abu Salama ibn `Abd al-Rahman, from Umm Salama, that Fatima bint Qays said: 'O Messenger of Allah! Abu Jahm and Mu`awiya have both proposed to me.'

The Prophet replied: 'As for Mu`awiya he is penniless, and as for Abu Jahm he does not put down his staff from his shoulder [from travel].' (Bukhari, Muslim) Meaning: in most of his states; for the Arabs declare the more frequent of two actions [exclusively of the other] because of its constancy. And since the cooing of this man's turtledove is more than its silence, I declared it constant in its cooing." Malik was pleased at his reasoning.

In the introduction of his compendium of Shafi`i fiqh entitled al-Majmu` al-Nawawi mentions that Shafi`i used a walking stick for which he was asked: "Why do you carry a stick when you are neither old nor ailing?" He replied: "To remember I am only a traveller in this world."

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