Four Imams

The Four Imams And Their Schools are Imaam Abu Hanifa (R.A) - Imaam Malik (R.A) - Imaam Al Shafi (R.A)- Imaam Ahmad Bin Hambal (R.A).

The Four Imams and Their Schools:

  1. Imaam Abu Hanifa (R.A)
  2. Imaam Malik (R.A)
  3. Imaam Al Shafi (R.A)
  4. Imaam Ahmad Bin Hambal (R.A)

The Arabic word FIQH refers to the legal rulings of the Muslim scholars, based on their knowledge of the SHARI`AH. The science of Fiqh started in the second century after Hijrah, when the Islamic state expanded and faced several issues which were not plainly covered in the Quran and Hadith.

The leaders of the Four Schools of Fiqh ( Islamic Law) are:

– Imaam Abu Hanifa (R.A) – Born in Kufah 80 AH – Passed away in 150 AH. The First of the four Imams and the Founder of the Hanafi School of Thought.
– Imaam Malik (R.A)- Born in Madinah 93 AH – Passed away in 179 AH. Founder of the Maliki School of Thought.
– Imaam Al Shafi (R.A)- Born in Rajab 150 AH – Passed away in 204 AH. Founder of the Shafi’i School of Thought.
– Imaam Ahmad Bin Hambal (R.A) – Born in 164 AH – Passed away in 241 AH. The last of the four imams and Founder of the Hambali School of Thought.

Although they differed in opinion, all the Imams had great respect for each other. All of them were unanimous on Aqaid (Islamic Beliefs). We, as Muslims, must respect the different Sunni schools of thought.

Imaam Abu Hanifa (R.A)

Numaan Bin Thaabit (R.A) was the First Imaam of Fiqh. His name was Abu Hanifa and title include “Imaam e Azam”. He was born in Iraq in 80 AH (699AD). Imaam e Azam (R.A) met the companions of the Prophet (S.A.W) and is counted amongst the rank of “Tabii” (name given to a person who has seen a Sahabi).

Imaam e Azam Abu Hanifa (R.A) was renowned for his sharp mind, discipline and integrity of character.
He was the first who compiled and classified ‘ilm al-fiqh, and He (R.A) gathered information for each branch of knowledge.
More than half of the Muslims on this earth today, follow the Hanafi School.

During His (R.A) last Hajj, he went into the Kaaba, and prayed Two Rakats, reciting the Whole Quran during the prayer. Then, weeping, he invoked, “O my Allah I have not been able to worship you in a manner worthy of you. Please forgive the defects in my service”.

At that moment a voice was heard, “O Abu Hanifa! You have acknowledged Me very well and have served Me beautifully. I have forgiven you and those who will be in your Madhab and follow you until the end of the world.”
Imam e Azam (R.A) passed away in 150 AH in Baghdad. His Janazah Prayer was offered 6 times. In the first, congregation 50,000 people participated. He was so popular that the people kept on offering the Janazah prayer for 20 days after his death.

Imaam Malik (R.A)

Abu Abdullah, Malik bin Anas (R.A) was the Second Imaam of Fiqh. He was born in Medina Shareef in the year 93 AH (715 AD). His ancestral home was in Yemen, but his grandfather settled in Medina after embracing Islam.

Imaam Malik’s followers and disciples developed a Fiqh school based on his books which came to be known as the Maliki School of Thought. Malikis are mostly found in North and West Africa, – Tunis, Algeria, Morocco and Egypt. Imaam Malik (R.A) was a very pious man, of independent character. He gave unbiased decisions and never bowed to political authorities.

Imaam (R.A) spent 55 years in the study of Fiqh and Hadith. He was regarded as the most authentic scholar of Hadith and Hadith literature.

Imaam (R.A) once live on herbs and roots for 3 days, he had to sell the beams of his house in order to pay for his education.
He (R.A) used to say that “one cannot attain the heights of intellectual glory, unless faced with poverty. Poverty is the real test of man; it awakens in him the hidden energies and enables him to overcome all difficulties”.
Sheikh Suyuti (R.A) has given a list of ninety-five Sheikhs from whom Imaam Malik (R.A) learnt Hadith and Fiqh. He himself said: “I did not start to give lectures in Fiqh and Hadith until I was declared eligible to do so by seventy teachers of Hadith and Fiqh.”

Imaam Malik (R.A) Passed away in 179AH and is buried in Janath ul Baqi, Madina Shareef.

Imaam Al Shafi (R.A)

Muhammad Bin Idris (R.A) was the Third Imaam of Fiqh. He was famously known as “Imaam Shafi”. He was born in Gaza, Syria in 150 AH. The lineage of Imaam Shafi (R.A) joined with our Beloved Prophet Mohammed (S.A.W) at the 7th Step, this being the Hashimi family of Quaraish. Imaam Shafi (R.A) possessed a very sharp memory.

He became Hafiz of Quran at the age of 7, and at the age of 13 memorized the whole of KITABUL-MUATTA of Imam Malik (R.A).
He was 20 year old when he went to Medina Shareef and became a student of Imam Malik (R.A). He also came into contact with about 81 Sheikhs from whom he acquired the knowledge of the Quran and Hadith. Baghdad and Cairo were the leading centres of Imaam Shafi’s (R.A) activities. It is from these two cities that teachings of the Shafi School spread.

Imaam Shafi (R.A) was an extremely generous personality who on numerous occasions gave away all he possessed to the poor and needy.

He never swallowed an unlawful piece of food in his entire life. He never at any time performed Jumma without Ghusal.
Imaam Ghazali (R.A) has quoted Imaam Shafi (R.A) as saying: “I haven’t taken food with satisfaction for the last 16 years, as a full stomach makes the body heavy, makes the heart hard, increases sleep and renders a man lazy for Worship”.
Imaam Shafi (R.A) passed away in the Year 204 AH and was buried in Egypt.

Imaam Ahmad Bin Hambal (R.A)

Ahmed bin Muhammad Hanbal was the Last of the Four Imam of Fiqh. He was known as ibn Hanbal. He was born in the city of Baghdad in the year 780 AD. Imaam ibn Hanbal (R.A) studied various subjects in his hometown and travelled far in search of knowledge. He was mainly interested in acquiring knowledge of Hadith traditions of the Holy Prophet (S.A.W).

He travelled widely through Iraq, Syria, Arabia and other countries of the Middle East studying religion and collecting traditions of the Holy Prophet (S.A.W). His (R.A)’s fame spread far and wide. His learning, piousness and constant Faithfulness to traditions gathered a mass of disciples and admirers.

Amongst the work of Imaam Ibn Hanbal (R.A) is the great encyclopaedia of Traditions called Musnad, containing over 28,000 traditions. His other works include Kitab-us-Salaat (the Discipline of Prayer) and Kitab-us-Sunnah (the Traditions of the Prophet (S.A.W).

The Hanbali School of Thought is the smallest group of the Four Sunni Madhabs. Hanbalies are mostly found in the Middle East countries. Imaam Ahmed Bin Hanbal (R.A) became ill in the year 855 AD. He performed proper ablution and kept on invoking Almighty Allah (S.W.T).

He passed away on Friday at the age of 75 years. 110 members from Banu Hashim came from the capital and offered Janazah.
Around 700,000 people offered his Janazah prayer.