Would it be correct to say that the Mâlikî and Shâfi`î schools of thought are the most similar among the four schools, meaning that they have more in common with each other than either does with the Hanafî school?
the Fatwa Department Research Committee - chaired by Sheikh `Abd al-Wahhâb al-Turayrî
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The Mâlikî School of Law is representative of the broader approach of “Ahl al-Hadîth” that was very strict on using hadîth and eschewed the excessive use of analogical reasoning and extrapolation.
The Hanafî School of Law is representative of a broader approach known as the school of “Ahl al-Ra’y”. They relied more heavily on deriving laws from the texts by way of analogous reasoning.
Both approaches, however, were firmly based in the Qur’ân and Sunnah.
Al-Shâfi`î started his academic life in Madinah as a student of Mâlik. He became one of the strongest proponents of the Ahl al-Hadîth approach. From there he went to Iraq and defended the Ahl al-Hadîth approach in an area dominated by the approach of Ahl al-Ra’y. It was here that al-Shâfi`î formulated what is known as his “Old School of Thought”. At the same time, he began studying with – and debating – the leading Hanafî scholar of his time, Abû Hanîfa’s collegue and student and co-founder of the Hanafî School of Law, Muhammad b. Hasan al-Shaybânî.
Al-Shâfî`î benefited from the ideas and the particular strengths of Ahl al-Ra’y. He then traveled to Egypt where he spent the remainder of his life. There he formulated what is known as his “New School of Thought” where he combined between the strengths of the two approaches. His “New School of Thought” is the Shâfi`î School that exists today. It combines between the strict adherence to the hadîth with the insights of deductive and analogous reasoning. Al-Shâfî`î had an extremely systematic and methodological approach to Law. He authored the first book ever written in Islamic Jurisprudence, al-Risâlah, wherein he systematically discusses how to approach the evidences of Islamic Law in order to reach Islamic verdicts correctly. Then he wrote a massive work in law wherein he applied the principles outlined in his Risâlah. This book is known as al-Umm.
Therefore, al-Shâfi`î’s School of thought was a novel approach, quite distinct from both the Mâlikî and Hanafî schools. It came as a very systematic approach to Law that was at the same time extremely strict in its adherence to a literal, textual approach to the Sunnah.
Source: Islam Today
-- Al Arabiya Digital