What is fiqh during the era of Tabi’un?

The generation who succeeded the Companions and had the chance to see them are called tabi’i (plural tabi’un) or the Successors. This era begins with the end of the Khulafa al-Rashidun era and continues until the final years of the Umayyad State (the first quarter of 2nd century AH).

During the era of tabi’un, the method of the Companions was followed. The tabi’un jurists had learnt their knowledge from the Ashab. When they looked for the rulings of an issue, they would first consult the Qur’an and Sunnah. When no ruling was found in the Qur’an and Sunnah, then they would perform ijtihad based on the causes of the case.

The following are some of the most notable fuqaha who lived in this era:

In Kufa; Alqama, Masruk, Qadi Shurayh, Ibrahim al-Nakhai, Shabi, Hammad b. Abi Sulayman, Ibn Abi Layla. In Medina; Said b. El Musayyab, Qasim b. Muhammad, Nafi Zuhri, Rabi’at al-Ra’y. In Mecca; Mujahid, Ikrima, Ata b. Abi Rabah etc.

The following are significant characteristics of this era in terms of fiqh:

1- The political dissent that emerged during the period of Umayyads led to increase in the issues and questions and introduction of varying views.

2- The field of the science of fiqh widened and circles studying fiqh in major mosques started to develop.

3- The spread of weak and fabricated (mawdu’) sayings attributed to the Prophet (pbuh) took place among the people, which led to selectivity regarding hadīths and the establishment of the science of hadith analysis.

4- Due to the differences of both teachers and the regions, varying views began to emerge.

5- Written texts about fiqh started to emerge in this era.

6- Schools of Ahl al-Ra’y (people of opinion) and Ahl al-Hadith (people of tradition) were born in this period. The most prominent features of these schools are as follows:


The significant characteristics of the Prophet’s time in terms of fiqh are:

* Fiqh was shaped by revelation         * Tashri’ (issuing new rulings)

* Naskh (abrogation of some rulings)   * Gradualism (Tadrij)

* Non-existence of disagreements (ikhtilaf)

Ahl al-Ra’y (People of opinion or School of Kufa): Kufa, a city on the coast of the Persian Gulf, was a city that came to prominence with the expansion during the time of the Khulafa al-Rashidun. During the caliphate of Ali (r.a.), it was made the capital city because of its importance. Abdullah b. Mas’ud, one of the most notable Companions of the Prophet, came, settled and taught in this city. He is considered to have taken the fiqh of Umar (r.a.) to Kufa, which led to the rise of notable scholars such as Alqama, Ibrahim an-Nakhai, Hammad b. Abi Sulayman and subsequently Imam Abu Hanifa.

Contrary to Mecca and Medina, which were closed to other cultures, Kufa was a city open to all kinds of progress. There were more needs and problems in such a city, therefore a need for ijtihad arose due to the variety of arising issues and problems.

The socio-cultural environment was very different and the old customs had not lost their influence. There was a large new Muslim population, and the weak and fabricated sayings attributed to the Prophet were being spread among the uneducated people. These and other similar problems led to effectively the training of the great Muslim scholars (fuqaha).

Ahl al-Ra’y jurists rejected the assertions that contradicted the basic Islamic principles. They paid attention to the logic of already established rulings and then looked for logical answers for the questions.

 Ahl al-Hadith (People of Tradition or Hijaz/ Medina School): Most of the learned Companions of the Prophet chose to stay in Mecca and Medina and guide the people with their fiqh knowledge. The legal opinions of Abdullah b. Abbas and Abdullah b. Umar were effective in this formation. Scholars such as Imam Malik, Imam Shafi’i and later Imam Ahmad b. Hanbal who were the students of tabiun scholars such as Zuhri, Nafi, Rabiatu’r-Ra’y etc. became the most significant representatives of this School.

The most important characteristic of Ahl al-Hadith, the center of which was considered to be Medina, was their reliance on “athar”, which is a term used for both the ahadith of the Prophet, and opinions of the Sahaba and the Tabi’un.

Ra’y was not needed in the city of Medina since its characteristic of being closed to other cultures was maintained even after the death of the Prophet (pbuh). Due to having a large collection of ahadith, the ahl al-hadith jurists based their rulings more on the revealed sources than the human reason.

Source: Fiqh1 (According To The Shafi’i School Of Islamic Law), Erkam Publications