Wednesday, 21 February 2018
Module Three:

Advanced comparative fiqh


This module is a comparative study of Islamic law. The three texts chosen for this area of study will highlight some of the most profound legal thought from contrasting legal traditions. In the first term students will study the Hanafi school of thought from the works of al-Shaybani, the great student of Abu Hanifah. In the second term students will study Kitab al-umm of Shafi’i. In the third term students will study al-Mahalla of Ibn Hazm.

Primary Text

Primary Text:

  • Hanafi: Al-Hujjah fi ikhtilaf ahl al-Kufah wa ahl al-Madinah of Muhammad al-Shaybani
  • Shafi: Kitab al-umm of al-Shafi’i
  • Zahiri: Al-Muhalla of Ibn Hazm

About the Text:

  • Al-Hujjah fi ikhtilaf ahl al-Kufah wa ahl al-Madinah of Shaybani. Although Shaybani was trained in the Iraqi tradition, he also studied the Madinan system under Malik. In this work, Shaybani refutes many legal positions of the Madinans and shows how the leading Iraqi scholars – who would come to be known as Hanafis – possessed a vast amount of hadith, and had an erudite legal method that analysed that tradition.
  • Kitab al-umm of Shafi’i is a foundational book of the Shafi’i school of law. It is another illustration of the expertise and open-mindedness that characterised early legal thought. Like Shaybani, Shafi’i was well travelled, and had learnt first-hand the legal traditions of Makkah, Madinah, Iraq and later Egypt. Therefore, his Umm shows his attempt at reconciling the competing narrations of these various legal traditions.
  • Al-Muhalla of Ibn Hazm is a later legal work, whose primary benefit is to show the legal tradition of those jurists who did not believe in a wide utilisation of analogical reasoning (qiyas). Furthermore, the work assists a student to understand the legal reasoning of schools outside of the four standard Sunni legal schools of law, and how great these other schools were. Many scholars describe this work as an encyclopaedia of Islamic law, because of the detail with which he discusses the legal positions and evidences of various jurists, including those of Hasan al-Basri (d. 110 AH), al-Layth ibn Sa’d (d. 175 AH), Ata' (d. 114 AH), Sufyan al-Thawri (d. 161 AH), al-Awzai (d. 157 AH), and others. Indeed, it has preserved the positions of many early jurists whose work was either not documented or lost. The only problem with al-Mahalla is that Ibn Hazm is often scathing in his criticism of his opponents, which has perhaps prevented it from being considered the best book of its kind on Islamic law. Nevertheless, its crucial importance remains.

About the Authors:

  • Muhammad ibn al-Hasan al-Shaybani was a disciple of Abu Hanifah. He was born in Wasit, Iraq, in 750 CE. Abu Hanifah died after having taught him for only two years. Shaybani then began training with Abu Yusuf, his senior, and the leading disciple of Abu Hanifah. He also studied with Sufyan al-Thawri and al-Awzai. He later went to Madinah and studied for two to three years with Malik ibn Anas, founder of the Maliki school of law.
    He taught Muhammad ibn Idris al-Shafi`i, the most prestigious of his pupils. Even later, when al-Shafi'i disagreed with his teacher and wrote the K. al-Radd ala Muhammad b. al-Hasan (Refutation of Muhammad b. al-Hasan (al-Shaybani)), he still maintained immense admiration for his teacher. Al-Shaybani accompanied Caliph Harun al-Rashid to Khorasan, where he served as Judge (qadi) until his death in 805 CE at Rey. He died on the same day and in the same place as the eminent philologist and grammarian al-Kisai; thus al-Rashid remarked that he ‘buried law and grammar side by side’.
  • Abu Abdillah Muhammad ibn Idris al-Shafi‘i was born in Gaza (150 AH). His father died when he was two. His family roots were from Yemen. Among his teachers were Malik ibn Anas and Muhammad ibn al-Hasan al-Shaybani. In Baghdad, he developed his first school of law (madhhab), influenced by the teachings of Abu Hanifah and Malik, and it is known as his “old school” (al-madhhab al-qadim).
    It was in Egypt that al-Shafi'i dictated his works to his students, and those sessions have been transmitted as his books. He developed the science of jurisprudence whereby he unified revealed sources – the Quran and hadith – with human reasoning. With this systematisation of the Shariah, he provided a legacy of unity for all Muslims and forestalled the development of independent, regionally-based legal systems. He died at the age of 54 on the 30th of Rajab in 204 AH (20 January 820 CE) in al-Fustat, Egypt, and he was buried in the vault of the Banu ‘Abd al-Hakam, near Mount al-Muqattam.
  • Abu Muhammad Ali ibn Ahmad ibn Sa?id ibn ?azm was born in Córdoba. He was a leading proponent and codifier of the Zahiri school of Islamic law, and produced a reported 400 works of which only 40 still survive, covering a wide range of topics such as Islamic jurisprudence and law, history, ethics, comparative religion, and theology. He was one of the leading thinkers of the Muslim world, acknowledged as the father of comparative religious studies. He was initially a follower of the Maliki school, who switched to the Shafi'i school and later finally settled with the Zahiri school. He is perhaps the most well-known adherent to the latter school, and the main source of extant works on Zahirite law. He studied the school's precepts and methods under Abu al-Khiyar al-Dawudi al-Zahiri.
    Ibn Hazm has been described as the second most prolific author in Muslim history, only surpassed by Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari. While much of Ibn Hazm's work was burned in Seville by an alliance of his sectarian and political opponents, a number of his books have survived. His writing style has been described as repetitive, which was Ibn Hazm's way of emphasising a point. His method of dialogue was harsh, and he appeared to have little fear or respect for those who disagreed with him, be they fellow academics or government officials.

Recommended Reading list

It would be useful for students to have at least read:

  • Shafi’i, Muhammad ibn Idris, Kitab al-umm. Beirut: Dar Qutaybah, 1996
  • Shaybani, Muhammad ibn al-Hasan. al-Hujjah fi ikhtilaf ahl al-Kufah wa ahl al-Madina, Lucknow: Lajnat Ihya al-Ma’arif al-Numaniyah, 1888
  • Ibn Hazm, Ali, al-Mahalla,: Beirut, 1988
  • Ibn Anas, Malik, al-Muwatta, Beirut: Dar Ihya al-Turath al-Arabi, 1985

Further study

  • Al-Hujjah fi ikhtilaf ahl al-Kufah wa ahl al-Madinah: The best preparatory work for this class would be to consult the relevant sections from the Madinan tradition of the Maliki school, such as Malik’s Muwatta and Sahnun’s Mudawwanah (which collects the teaching of Malik’s student Ibn al-Qasim).
  • Kitab al-umm: The student would be best prepared for class by consulting the relevant sections of books that would oppose al-Umm from the Hanafi and Maliki schools, in particular.
  • Al-Mahalla: The best preparatory works for class would be to consult the relevant chapters of works by the Hanafis, Malikis and Shafi’is, so as to be in the best position to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the various stances.

Teaching Method

Teaching Method

Each class will consist of a 55 minute lecture, where the primary text will be read in Arabic along with its translation, commentary and relevance to the wider field. There will be an encouragement for the teaching to be interactive, with questions both posed of the students and welcomed from them. The teacher may also use power point presentations and post recorded webinars for study aid.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this module, students should be able to:

  • legal reasoning of the different legal schools, including ones outside of the four standard Sunni legal schools of law;
  • and the expertise, sophistication and open-mindedness that characterised early legal thought.


The module will cover the following topics:

  • Study selected chapters from al-Hujjah fi ikhtilaf ahl al-Kufah wa ahl al-Madinah of Muhammad al-Shaybani
  • Study selected chapters from Kitab al-umm of al-Shafi
  • Study selected chapters from Al-Mahalla of Ibn Hazm


This course will involve one short in-course essay and end-of-course written examination.

Teacher Profile

Dr. Mohammad Akram Nadwi is an Islamic scholar from the Indian city of Jaunpur and a graduate of the world renowned Nadwatul Ulama (India) where he studied and taught Shariah.

Shaykh Akram is a Muhaddith of the highest calibre who has specialised in Ilm ul Rijal [the study of the narrators of Hadith]. He has Ijaza (licenses) from many of the most renowned scholars of our time including Shaykh Abul Hasan Ali Al-Nadwi, Shaykh Abdul-Fattah Abu Ghuddah and Shaykh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi. Shaykh Akram Nadwi has a doctorate in Arabic Language and has authored and translated over 25 titles on Language, Jurisprudence, Qur'an and Hadith.

In May 2010, he completed a monumental 57-volume work on the lives of female scholars of Hadith in Islamic History. Also now available in English is Madrasah Life (2007) the translation (from Urdu) of his personal memoir of a student’s day at Nadwat al-Ulama.

His al-Fiqh al-Islami vol1 published by Angelwing Media is an original compilation of the fiqh (the codified legal rulings) of Imam Abu Hanifah and his school. For the first time in the English language, the detailed rulings of this school are presented together with the evidence on which they are based; every argument is fully and carefully referenced. Also, the author has taken present day circumstances into consideration, making al-Fiqh al-Islami the first authentic, reliable and relevant account of Hanafi practice in the English language.

Shaykh Akram is the recipient of the Allama Iqbal prize for contribution to Islamic thought. As a leading scholar steeped in traditional Islamic learning and in modern academia, Shaykh Akram is currently a research fellow at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, Oxford.

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