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Studying Islamic Law according to 1 school of thought

Published: 27/08/2011 08:16:00 PM GMT
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I am reading a book called “Islamic Law According to the Four Schools” by Sheikh Abd al-Rahmân al-Jazîrî. My question is: Which of these four legal schools – Hanafî, Mâlikî, Shâfi`î, or Hanbalî – should I agree with and adopt in my practice of Islam? Please know that in my country, the Mâlikî school of thought is widespread.

Answered by

Sheikh `Abd al-Hakîm Balmahdî, professor at al-Imâm Islamic University, Riyadh

One of the best ways a person can spend his time is in seeking Islamic knowledge. The greatest branch of Islamic knowledge – after knowledge of Allah – is Islamic Law.

The book that you refer to in your question – Islamic Law According to the Four Schools by Sheikh Abd al-Rahmân al-Jazîrî – is a contemporary work. It is one of many such works that attempt to simplify Islamic Law for the general public by bringing together what their respective authors consider to be the strongest legal opinions from the various legal books of the four schools of thought. The goal of these works is to get everyone together on one opinion, rather than people adhering to a number of different opinions.

These modern books fail to achieve that goal, because they differ from one another just as much as the classical works differ. This disagreement is the natural result when scholars exercise their judgment and engage in the exercise of juristic discretion (ijtihâd). This is why we see so many books of this kind being written these days, and why we find in them so many disparate views regarding a single legal ruling. We often find when we survey the modern books that they exhibit the same spectrum of opinion that can be found in the classical works. The student is presented with the same distressing problem – which contemporary scholar’s view should he follow?

The soundest approach for a student to take is to begin his study of Islamic Law by studying one of the four schools of thought. It is best for him to study under the scholars of his own country and read the legal works written according to the school of thought that is practiced where he lives.

He should, at the same time, adhere to the etiquettes and manners that are appropriate for a student of knowledge. He should take his studies step by step, so Allah can bring him to the level of knowledge that he aspires to. He should not be impatient to reach the level where he can exercise his own juristic discretion. Indeed, the pleasures of being a student are unsurpassable and irreproducible. The best thing that a student can rely on while seeking knowledge is piety and the fear of Allah. We read in the Qur’ân: “Fear Allah, and Allah will teach you.”

Since you are form an area where the Mâlikî school of law is most prevalent, it would be best for you to begin by studying Mâlikî Law. The best text for you to begin with would be al-Risâlah by Sheikh Ibn Abî Zayd al-Qayrawânî. It is indeed a very beneficial treatise in Malikî Law. The treatise begins with a summary of creed, then presents the various topics of law in order, and concludes with a comprehensive chapter on ethics and manners. Its style is clear, easy, and a pleasure to read. Many good commentaries for it are readily available.

Source: Islam Today

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