Islamic Jurisprudence is one of the oldest and most systematic forms of jurisprudence in the history of mankind. Though there were numerous schools of thought(madhaheeb) in th long history of Islam only four have survived namely, the Maliki Madhhab, the Shafi’e Madhhab, the Hanbali Madhhab and the Hanafi Madhhab. These four schools of thought or jurisprudence have been agreed upon and established by the fuqaha(jurists) of Islam by ijma’ and is binding upon the muqallid(the one who follows) with assistance from the scholars or ulama’ that are certified(with ‘ijaza) through unbroken chains of transmission of knowledge to the giants of Islamic thought. The Orthodox or Traditional path of Islam is the path for all well endowed Muslims. May Allah keep us steadfast in His deen.
Contrary to common propaganda spread by defectionists among whom are those who label themselves “salafis” the four madhhabs do not start and end with the respective founders. When one speaks of the Shafi’e madhhab for example, one is not limiting the maddhhab only to that of Imam Al-Shafi’e. Rather, one is referring to the extensive body of knowledge that has been gathered, scrutinised, refurbished, checked and rechecked by virtually thousands of scholars throughout the ages since Imam Al-Shafi’e himself. The same is true for the other three schools of thought. Contrary to popular belief the teachings of the Imams and those who followed afterwards are based on textual proof derived from the Qur’an and Sunnah. When a legal opinion is given by a qualified jurist it is not made out of whim, but rather careful consideration and analyses of proof texts that are available.
Sheikh Al-Hadith Muhammad Zakariyya Kadhlawi says,
“Quite frankly, I am surprised at the people who do not follow any particular school of thought [ghayr muqallidin] who, in spite of knowing what is right, provoke the masses into believing that those who do follow a school of thought do not give much weight to a hadith that is in opposition to the opinions of the Imams. The masses of those who do not follow a school of thought are, after all, ordinary laymen. I do not have any complaint against them. However, I do have a complaint against the people of knowledge who, in spite of having knowledge, conceal the truth from the masses. They are actually disguising the truth and deceiving the Umma.” (The Differences of the Imams(2004). Santa Barbara, California: White Thread Press. p. 80)