Imam Shafai

AbūʿAbdullāh Muhammad ibn Idrīs al-Shafiʿee belonged to the Qurayshi clan Banu Muttalib which was the sister clan of the Banu Hashim to which Prophet Muhammad(Peace and Blessing be Upon Him) and the Abbasid caliphs (the second major Muslim dynasty Baghdad, 750/1258 A.D.) belonged.

He was born in Gaza and moved to Mecca when he was about two years old. He is reported to have studied with the “School of Mecca”. Then he moved to Madinah to teach others of the message of ISLAM and be taught by Malik ibn Anas (may ALLAAH have mercy on him).[786 – 809: Harun al-Rashid's era] After that he lived in Mecca, Baghdad and finally Egypt. Among his teachers were Malik ibn Anas and Muammad ibn al-asan al-Shaybaanee, whom he studied under in Madinah and Baghdad. At the time of Harun ar-Rashid, he had an appointment in Yemen, as a judge in Najran. Sunnis portray that his devotion to justice, even when it meant criticizing the governor, caused him some problems, and he was taken before the Caliph (Islamic Leader), falsely accused of aiding the Alawis in a revolt. At this time, al-Shaybaanee was the chief justice, and his defense of ash-Shafi’ee, coupled with ash-Shafi’ee’s own eloquent defense, convinced Harun ar-Rashid to dismiss the charge, and to direct al Shaybaanee to take ash-Shafi’ee to Baghdad. He was also a staunch critic of Al-Waqidi’s writings on Sirah.In Baghdad, he developed his first madhab, influenced by the teachings of both Imam Abu Hanifa and Imam Malik. Thus, his work there is known as “al Madhab al Qadim lil Imam as Shafi’ee,” or the Old School of ash-Shafi’ee.[813-820: Al-Ma'mun's era]

Imam Shafi’ee(may ALLAAH have mercy on him)died at the age of 54 on the 30th of Rajab in 204 AH (820AD). He was buried in al-Fustat, Egypt. Saladin (Salaah-al-Din Yusuf bn-Ayyub) built a madrassa and a shrine on the site of his tomb. Saladin’s brother Afdal built a mausoleum for him in 1211 after the defeat of the Fatamids. It remains a site where people petition for justice. Imam Shafi’ee developed the science of fiqh unifying ‘revealed sources’ – the Qur’aan and hadith – with human reasoning to provide a basis in law. 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. The four Sunni legals schools or madhhabs-keep their traditions within the framework that Shafi’ee established. Shafi’ee gives his name to one of these legal schools Shafi’ee fiqh – the Shafi’ee school – which is followed in many different places in the Islamic world: Indonesia, Malaysia, Egypt, Somalia, Yemen and southern parts of India. Today, many English speaking Muslims are introduced to the madhab of Imam Shafi’ee through the translated works Umdat as Salik (Reliance of the Traveller) and al Maqasid, both done by Shaykh Nuh Ha Mim Keller.

Works

He authored more than 100 books.

Al-Risala— The best known book by al-Shafi’ee in which he examined usul al-fiqh (sources of jurisprudence): the Qur’aan, the Sunnah, qiyas (analogy), and ijma’ (scholarly consensus). There is a good modern translation.

Kitab al-Umm – his main surviving text on Shafi’ee fiqh

Musnad Ash-Shafi’i (on hadith) – it is available with arrangement, Arabic ‘Tartib’, by Ahmad ibn Abd-Ar-Rahman al-Banna

Tradition says that he memorized the Qur’an at the age of seven; by ten, he had memorized the Muwatta of Imam Malik; he was a mufti (given authorization to issue fatwa) at the age of fifteen. He recited the Qur’aan every day in prayer, and twice a day in Ramadan. Some apocryphal accounts claim he was very handsome, that his beard did not exceed the length of his fist, and that it was very black. He wore a ring that was inscribed with the words, “ALLAAH suffices Muhammad ibn Idris as a reliance. “He was also known to be very generous. He was also an accomplished archer, a poet, and some accounts call him the most eloquent of his time. Some accounts claim that there were a group of Bedouin who would come and sit to listen to him, not for the sake of learning, but just to listen to his eloquent use of the language. Even in latter eras, his speeches and works were used by Arabic grammarians. He was given the title of Nasir al Sunnah, the Defender of the Sunnah. He loved Muhammad very deeply. Al Muzani said of him: “He said in the Old School: ‘Supplication ends with the invocation of blessings on the Prophet, and its end is but by means of it.’” Al-Karabisi said: “I heard al-Shafi’ee say that he disliked for someone to say ‘the Messenger’ (al-Rasul), but that he should say ‘ALLAAH’s Messenger’ (Rasul ALLAAH) out of veneration for him.” He divided his night into three parts: one for writing, one for praying, and one for sleeping. It is said that, when the Caliph wanted to appoint him as a judge, he refused, saying he was unfit for the post. When the Caliph replied “You are a liar”, he said “Then, if I am a liar, I am certainly not fit to be a judge”. Apocryphal accounts claim that Imam Ahmad said of ash-Shafi’ee: “I never saw anyone adhere more to hadith than al-Shafi’i. No one preceded him in writing down the hadith in a book.” Imam Ahmad is also claimed to have said, “Not one of the scholars of hadith touched an inkwell nor a pen except he owed a huge debt to al-Shafi’ee.”Imam Muhammad al-Shaybaanee said: “If the scholars of hadith speak, it is in the language of al Shafi’ee.”

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