The Jurisprudential sects of Islam
We learned that Islamic jurisprudence is the knowledge of Islamic laws, what is permissible and what is forbidden, what is obligatory, what is disliked and what is recommended, and what is correct and what is incorrect.
We also know that these Islamic laws are derived from the Qurān and prophetic traditions.
We also know that the Muslims in the time of the Prophet (s) would take their religious rulings from him. They would take the rulings that had to do with worship, like prayer, pilgrimage, fasting and spiritual purification, or the rulings that had to do transactions like trade, partnership, rent, land, marriage and divorce and other rules that are found in the religion from him.
Then, after his death, some situations arose in one's prayer, fast, life, business, partnership or pilgrimage, etc that did not occur during the Prophet's (s) lifetime. They needed to know what the religious ruling was. In this case they would refer to some of the companions ® to take the ruling from them. Some took rulings from Imām ‛Alī bin Abī T)ālib (a), some from ‛Abd Allah bin ‛Abbās and some from ‛Abd Allah bin Mas‛ūd. ‛Alī (a) was the most knowledgeable companion, the Prophet (s) said the following about him: "I am the city of knowledge and ‛Alī is its gate."
But, we see some different verdicts passed by different companions ® and the generation that came after them called the tābi‛īn. There were many mujtaheds and many differences in verdicts, but there were no jurisprudential sects like there are today. The Muslims would refer to the scholars amongst the companions, tābi‛īn and Imāms (a) for the religious rulings that they needed. Imām ‛Alī bin al-H)ussayn al-Sajjād (a), Imām Muh)ammad bin ‛Alī al-Bāqir (a) and Imām Ja‛far bin Muh)ammad al-S)ādiq (a) lived in these times.
How Jurisprudence sects were formed and when
The divisions of Muslims became widespread after the murder of the third khalīf, ‛Uthmān bin ‛Afwān. At that time the Muslims swore allegiance to Imām ‛Alī bin Abī T)ālib (a) but Mu‛āwīyyah bin Abī Sufyān refused to swear allegiance to him. Nobody followed him in this except the people of Syria. He formed his own, autonomous government there. He also took some jurists and some people who related traditions with him, and thus the major division was started. At the same time where the Muslims and the great companions believed ‛Alī (a) to be the rightful khalīf and the most knowledgeable person war was started between him and Mu‛āwīyyah bin Abī Sufyān. Here, the belief in the Ahlul-Bayt (a) grew. The Ahlul-Bayt are glorified in the Qurān, Allah said that he took all impurities from them and purified them, a thorough purification, he also made it obligatory to love them and accept their authority.
A Shia of the Ahlul-Bayt (a) is one who loves them, obeys them and believes in their rights.
The Shia had a strong presence during the fight with Mu‛āwīyyah and after Imām ‛Alī bin Abī T)ālib's martyrdom when his son al-H)assan bin bint Rasūl Allah (a) became the khalīf. After that a big argument arose between Imām al-H)ussayn bin ‛Alī bin Abī T)ālib (a) and Yazīd bin Mu‛āwīyyah which lead to a war between them in a place called Karbalā', Iraq. This war took place on the tenth day of the Islamic month 'Muh)arram' in the 61st year after the great migration. Imām H)ussayn and 78 of his companions and family members were martyred in this war.
With all of this, there were not jurisprudential sects of Islam as there are today. There were two different sects at that time. One of them followed the Ahlul-Bayt (a) those that Allah cleansed from all impurities and purified them a thorough purification, those who did not say anything except what their forefather, the messenger of Allah (s) said. The Ahlul al-Bayt (a) are none other than Imām ‛Alī, H)assan, H)ussayn and the nine Imāms that came from his lineage (a). The other group followed the Ummawī judges. Of course amongst the Ummawī judges there were different opinions and various verdicts.
At the end of the first century after the great migration different jurists appeared and the Islamic sciences took form. Examples of these jurists are: Sa‛īd bin al-Mussayib, al-H)assan al-Bas)rī and Sufyān al-Thūrī who lived in the same time as Imām Muh)ammad al-Bāqir bin ‛Alī bin al-H)ussayn bin ‛Alī bin Abī T)ālib. The scholars of this time learned from him.
Islamic jurisprudence started to spread out in the second century after the great migration. Islamic jurisprudential sects also started to form because many jurists appeared and they made many religious verdicts which differed from the verdicts of others. Some of the differences include leaving the hands down in prayer or folding them or in some of the rulings regarding wud)ū', fasting, divorce, inheritance, etc.
The jurisprudential sects of Islam that are taught and have scholars and students all over the world are:
1. The Ahlul-Bayt (a) sect. It is also called the Ja‛farī sect or the Shia Imāmīyyah sect.
2. The H)anafī sect.
3. The Mālikī sect.
4. The Shāfi‛ī sect.
5. The H)anbalī sect.
Each of these jurisprudential sects will be described:
The Ahlul-Bayt (a) Sect
It must be stated that the Ahlul-Bayt (a) do not have a separate sect, or different laws than their forefather Muh)ammad (s). Instead, they continued his path and took from him. Rules pertaining to worship, contracts and other miscellaneous subjects are all taken from one source full of wisdom and light, which is none other than the Prophet (s). Imām S)ādiq (a) said: "We do not give any legal rulings or ethical advice unless it was passed to us by our great father who obtained it from the Prophet (s)." So, their traditions, unless changed, depict the essence of Islam that was sent from the lord of the worlds.
The Ahlul-Bayt (a) sect is also named the Ja‛farī sect attributed to Imām Ja‛far S)ādiq bin Muh)ammad Bāqir bin ‛Alī Zayn al-‛Ābidīn bin al-H)ussayn al-Sibt) bin ‛Alī bin Abī T)ālib (a).
It is also named the Shia Imāmīyyah sect because of their belief in the 12 Imāms from the Ahlul-Bayt (a).
Imām Ja‛far S)ādiq (a) was the Imām of the Muslims in his time. He was the teacher of scholars and famous for his greatness, knowledge, abstinence from the world and worship.
Imām Ja‛far S)ādiq (a) was born in the 82nd year after the great migration, during the Ummayad reign. He taught and spread Islamic sciences in the prophet's mosque, just like his forefathers did. He would relate traditions from his father, al-Bāqir (a) who related them from his forefathers all the way up to the messenger of Allah (s). He gave 1000 jurisprudential verdicts and was ahead of the scholars of his time in Islamic sciences, for example theology, tafsīr and whatever else the Muslims treasured.
There were around 4000 religious students that related traditions from him.
Some of Imām S)ādiq's (a) students were Imāms of prophetic traditions and leaders of different sects, for example: Imām Abī H)anīfah (the leader of the H)anafī sect) and Imām Mālik bin Uns (the leader of the Mālikī sect).
The Ahlul-Bayt jurisprudential sect has spread today to different areas of the Islamic world, for example Iraq, Lebanon, Iran, Pakistan, Indonesia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, India, Azerbaijan, etc.
The Hanafi Sect
This sect is called the H)anafī sect because of its imām, Abī H)anīfah.
Abī H'anīfah's full name is al-Nu‛mān bin Thābit bin Zūt)ī al-Fārsī. His forefathers were from Kabul. Abī H'anīfah was born in the 80th year after the great migration and died in the year 150 in Baghdad.
Abī H'anīfah grew up in Kūfa and spent half of his life as a businessman before he became a seminary student and teacher. He studied under H'ammād bin Abī Salamah for eighteen years before he became a scholar himself. He was one of the big scholars of his time and reached the level of ijtihād. He accepted voting and syllogisms in addition to the Qurān and prophetic traditions as tools for deriving religious rulings. Many scholars of his time refuted him on this issue, for example Imām Muh)ammad al-Bāqir (a) and Ja‛far al-S)ādiq (a). They said that one must stick to the Qurān and the prophetic traditions.
His sect spread in Iraq and later in other areas of the Islamic world. Abī H)anīfah lived for 52 years during the Umayyad reign, but did not accept them. Rather, he believed that the khalīfat should be given to the family of ‛Alī (a). He even ruled in favor of the ‛Alawī uprising lead by Zayd bin ‛Alī bin al-H)ussayn bin ‛Alī bin Abī T)ālib and allowed money that was collected from taxes (zakāt) to be spent on the uprising. It should be mentioned that Zayd bin ‛Alī bin al-H)ussayn taught Abī H)anīfah for two years and ‛Abd Allah bin al-H)ussayn bin ‛Alī bin Abī T)ālib was also one of his teachers.
The Umayad's asked him to become a judge and he refused. Because of this, they put him in prison and whipped him for days, until the bridge of death. Then, the executioner helped him to escape and he escaped to Mecca. He lived moving in between Mecca and Medina as a nomad. In this time he studied for two years under Imām S)ādiq (a). He has a famous saying about this: "If it wasn't for these two years al-Nu‛mān would have been destroyed." He stayed there until the Umayyad dynasty collapsed and the Abbasid dynasty rose.
When the Abbasid dynasty came to power, Abī H)anīfah refused to help them. Mans)ūr imprisoned him lashed him 120 times. He died as a result of those lashes.
The Maliki Sect
This sect is named so in relation to its founder: Imām Mālik bin Anas bin Mālik al-As)bah)ī who was a member of the Yemenite al-As)bah) tribe.
Mālik bin Anas was born in Medina in the 93rd year after the great migration. He was a student of some of the Islamic jurists of his time including Nāfi‛, Mawla ‛Abd Allah bin ‛Umar and Ibn Shahāb al-Zahrī. He also studied under Imām S)ādiq (a) and related traditions from him. He said: "I have not seen anyone better than Ja‛far bin Muh)ammad."
He lived under Umayyad control for forty years and in this time he did not show himself as a scholar.
When the Umayyad dynasty fell and the Abbasid dynasty came to power he showed inclination towards the family of ‛Alī bin Abī T)ālib (a) and ruled that the khalafah was their right. He passed a verdict making it obligatory to aid Muh)ammad bin ‛Abd Allah bin al-H)assan bin ‛Alī bin Abī T)ālib who started a revolution against the Abbasid dynasty. Ja‛far bin Sulaymān, the Abbasid mayor of Medina, lashed him 50 times. The lashes were so hard that his shoes fell off.
Then the Abbasid khalīf, Abū Ja‛far al-Mans)ūr changed his mind and improved his relations with Imām Mālik. He asked Imām Mālik to write a jurisprudential book, in accordance to his sect, to be published and given to the people. Imām Mālik wrote the book Al-Mūt)ā', a book of religious verdicts. So, the jurisprudential sect of the Abbasid Empire was Mālakī. This book was also sent to Africa and Indonesia. He differed from Abī H)anīfah in the view of voting and syllogism. Imām Mālik died in the 179th year after the great migration.
The Shafi'i Sect
This sect was named after its founder Imām Muh)ammad bin Idrīs bin ‛Abbās bin ‛Uthmān Shāfi‛ whose lineage traced back to Hāshim bin ‛Abd al-Mut)t)alib, the Prophet's (s) grandfather.
Imām Shāfi‛ī was born in the 150th year after the great migration, the same year that Abī H)anīfah died. He was an orphan and his mother raised him in Yemen. When he reached 10 years of age he went to Mecca and learned how to read and write. He then went into the desert and lived there for 17 years before he became a religious student. He studied under the scholars of his time, for example Muslim bin Khālid al-Makhzūmī and Mālik bin Anas (the founder of the Mālikī sect). He studied the book al-Mūt)ā'. When Imām Mālik passed away he returned to Yemen.
During Rashīd's reign, he was charged with helping the ‛Alawī movement along with others by the governor of Yemen. He was then sent to Baghdād to be tried. Many were killed but Shāfi‛ī was saved.
He then migrated to Egypt and spread his sect there. His sect was also spread by his students in other parts of the Islamic world. Imām Shāfi‛ī died in the 198th year after the great migration.
He has said: "If there is a prophetic tradition in opposition to my view, throw my view against the wall."
The Hanbali Sect
This sect was named after its founder Ah)mad bin Muh)ammad bin H)anbal who was an Arab.
He was born in the 164th year after the great migration in Baghdād. He started his studies there at the age of 15. He was Shāfi‛ī's and ‛Ali Abī Yusif al-Qād)ī (Abī H)anīfah's student)'s student. He also studied under different scholars of his time, for example H)arīz, one of Imām S)ādiq's (a) students.
This sect was spread like the other sects. This sect is still present in the Arabic Peninsula and other parts of the Islamic world. Ah)mad bin H)anbal died in the 241st year after the great migration in Baghdād.
 Al-Sharīf al-Murtad)a, Tanzīyyah al-Anbīyyā’, page 212
 Bāqir Sharīf al-Qurayshī, Tafah)āt min Sīrah A’imah Ahl al-Bayt (a), page 12
 Asad H)aydar, Al-Imām al-S)ādiq wa al-Madhāhib al-Arba‛h, volume 1, page 175