The Reasons For The Formation of Mazahib (Maliki)


What is the reasons for the formation of mazabih? What is formation of mazahib?

The Reasons For The Formation of Mazahib (Schools of Thought)

  1. With the expansion of Muslim territories and the addition of different cultures to the Islamic world, new problems and issues had arised.

Political and scholarly groups that arised after the death of the Prophet brought with them many conflicts. Likewise, due to the different backgrounds, education, sources and mentality of scholars at the time, many differing theories and teachings had emerged.

  1. The very same verses and ahadith were intepreted in a variety of ways by scholars.

The source of fiqh reaches back to the Qur’an and Sunnah of the Prophet. Different interpretations of those sources have lead to the birth of mazahib. For example, in the verse; .. when you rise to [perform]prayer, wash your faces and your forearms to the elbows and wipe over your heads and wash your feet to the ankles…”[1] different interpretations arised, as the syntax of the sentence was analyzed and due to difference in opinion regarding the semantic case of the word “feet” scholars have said that the ayah says “washing the feet” and others assert that it refers to “wiping the feet”.

The differing views regarding the interpretation of the Qur’an is based on the following:

Which definition of the word should be taken into consideration when interpreting? Which verse was revealed first? Has this verse been abrogated? Is this verse referring to a specific or general thing? The above issues are what lead to disagreement in opinion between scholars.

For example, the word kur’u is mentioned in the Qur’an [2]. The Hanafi school interpreted this word as menses, whereas the Shafi’i school translates it as cleanliness (tuhoor). Likewise, the word “lams” in the Qur’an has been interpreted with its literal meaning by the Shafi’i school, and with its figurative meaning by the Hanafis[3]. For this reason, the Shafi’i school propounds that the wudu’ is nullified by touching (the skin) of a woman, whereas the Hanafi school argues that intercourse with a woman is the intended translation.

The disagreement regarding interpretation of the Sunnah is due to the following:

As narrating (ahadith) with their intended meanings is acceptable, many ahadith of the Prophet have been narrated with their meanings and not word for word. However, the narrators have not considered that the words they have used as a replacement may be interpreted differently, thus resulting in different rulings. Disagreement and the emergence of various views were due to the following factors: More than one meaning for ahadith, two ahadith talking about the same topic in different styles, difference of knowledge of scholars, misconception of the meaning of a text, different methods of hadith analysis, confusion between weak hadith and general belief etc.

It should be noted that these differences do not alter or affect the religion’s essence, however it exhibits a variety in the performance of ‘ibadat etc. It encompasses the practical aspect of religion. The many mujtahids who may have different in opinions with each other are all in agreement that praying five times a day, fasting in Ramadan and paying zakat etc are obligatory ie. They do not differ in the basics of Islam, but in the small details.

  1.  The different education background, geography and methods of the Mujtahids lead to a variety of views which lead to the establishment of different mazahib.

The many narrations of the same hadith, various cultural and environmental factors have also lead to the variety of different rulings of Mujtahids.

While some mujtahids regarded the views of the Sahaba as an absolute source (daleel), others argued otherwise.

The Maliki school regards the traditions and practices of the people of Madinah as a fiqh source. Other views are that these practices may be regarded as a source in some circumstances with certain conditions.

  1. Some other factors affecting the different views of mujtahids were their different characters, personalities and approach to incidents.

This is quite natural as every person has different understandings, talents, skills and mentality. Additionally, a person’s background, past, experiences, knowledge and principles differ from those of another person. So it is inevitable that people with such differences will articulate  different views.

Their approaches to matters and the sources they consult when deriving rulings are all factors affecting their views.

  1. The preceding mujtahids had not applied ijtihad for every subject of fiqh. With the emergence of a need for ijtihad due to arising issues, the mujtahids tried to answer this need. Their rulings (ahkam) were compiled into books under appropriate titles. Scholars who studied and benefited from these books began to hold certain views. Thus, mazahib were formed.
  2. The Mujtahids’ views that were compiled in books lead to the systemization of schools (mazahib).

The students of he Mujtahid imams had returned to their cities and spread their knowledge, thus the views of the imams became widespread in particular geographic regions.

[1] Surah Ma’idah, verse 6[2] Surah Baqara, verse 228[3] Surah Ma’idah, verse 6

Source: Fiqh1 (According To The Maliki School Of Islamic Law), Erkam Publications

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