Imam al-Shāfiʻī, Mālikīs and Egypt: Refuting derogatory remarks

By Mufti Zameelur Rahman

Recently, Nahiem Ajmal (Mufti Abu Layth) has put forward the claim that the great imām, Muḥammad ibn Idrīs al-Shāfi‘ī (raḥimahullāh), a founder of one of the four accepted madhhabs of fiqh, developed his ideas of juristic reasoning based on an emotional detachment from his initial allegiance to the school of his great teacher, Imām Mālik, another of the founders of one of the four accepted madhhabs of fiqh. He claims that although al-Shāfi‘ī was valued as a student of Imām Mālik during his time spent in ‘Irāq and Makkah, when he eventually settled in Egypt, he was eclipsed by Mālik’s more prominent students who had spent a longer time with him, and thus no longer held any authority as a representative of Mālik. As a result of being devalued in this way, al-Shāfi‘ī left his allegiance to Mālik, and developed his own juristic theory, in order to become independent of him and his school. Some of Abu Layth’s claims in order to support this idea are as follows:

  • When al-Shāfi‘ī arrived in Egypt, such prominent and long-time students of Mālik as Ibn al-Qāsim and Ibn Wahb were present
  • Al-Shāfi‘ī was a “little boy” when he went to study with Imām Mālik, probably “around 10 or 11”
  • To the Egyptian students of Mālik, al-Shāfi‘ī was a “nobody”
  • Al-Shāfi‘ī said “Layth ibn Sa‘d is more learned than Mālik” in order to provoke the Mālikīs who had “annoyed him”
  • In Egypt, al-Shāfi‘ī didn’t have “many friends”
  • Al-Shāfi‘ī “couldn’t stand Ashhab” because “Ashhab couldn’t stand him”
  • The isnād-centred theory of jurisprudence outlined by al-Shafi‘ī started with him, and he had no precedent

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Why do we refer to ourselves as Māturīdīs?

By Rustam Mahdi
Translated by Mawlānā Suhail Akubat

The following is a translation of a short and basic Arabic article by Rustam Mahdi entitled “Why do we call ourselves Maturidis?”[1] A brief footnote has been added to clarify one particular issue which Salafis commonly use to claim that Hanafi ‘aqida is different from Maturidi ‘aqida.[2] – The Translator

It saddens us that a statement has begun to circulate amongst people, especially the salafis, that: ‘Why do you call yourselves Maturidis? Is the creed of Abu Hanifah not convincing enough for you that you have turned away from it and have turned towards that which Abu Mansur al-Maturidi was inclined to?’

The problem with many Salafis is that they assume that whatever they present is clear binding proof, and do not notice doors that have been opened which they have no ability to close. It saddens us that we observe attempts at denigration using questions such as these, which are cheap in the marketplace of academia, by those ascribed to learning; although we do not find it surprising that they are widespread on the tongues of uneducated laymen.

Hence I would like to mention – and Tawfiq is from Allah – that it is from a person’s academic character to evaluate substances and not mere terminologies. This is because variation and divergence in terminologies is of no consequence when they point to the same reality. Hence it is fine for a person who believes in the Din of Muhammad (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) to refer to himself as “Muhammadi”, in attribution to him (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), or “Bakri”, in attribution to Abu Bakr al-Siddiq, or “‘Umari” in attribution to ‘Umar b. al-Khattab, or ‘Uthmani in attribution to ‘Uthman b. Affan, or “‘Alawi” in attribution to ‘Ali b. Abi Talib (Allah be pleased with them). All of these terminologies indicate that the one being attributed is on the Din of these very individuals.

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