Madhhab is Muslim schools of thought that are focusing on the law or fiqh (religious jurisprudence). In the first 150 years of Islam, there were many such "schools". In fact, several of the companion of the prophet Muhammad SAW, are credited with founding their own. But these schools were gradually consolidated or discarded so that there are currently four recognized schools. The differences between these schools of thought manifest in some practical and philosophical differences. The prominent Islamic jurisprudence schools of Damascus in Syria, Kufa and Basra in Iraq, and Medina in Arabia survived as the Maliki madhhab, while the other Iraqi schools were consolidated into the Hanafi madhhab. The Shafi'ie, Hanbali, Zahiri and Jariri schools were established later, though the latter school eventually died out.
It is claimed that the schools of Islamic legal thought were developed in the 9th and 10th centuries as a means of excluding dogmatic theologians, government officials and non-Sunni sects from religious discourse. Historians have differed regarding the time at which each of the various schools had emerged. It is said that Sunni Islam was initially split into six schools (Maliki, Hanafi, Shafi'ie, Hanbali, Zahiri, Jariri) before various ruling dynasties later narrowed the number down to four, with the Mamluk Sultanate in Egypt eventually creating four independent judicial positions, thus solidifying the Maliki, Hanafi, Shafi'i and Hanbali schools. Conversely, some view that Sunni jurisprudence falls into two groups: Ahli al-Ra'i, or people of opinions, due to their emphasis on scholarly judgment and reason; and Ahli al-Hadith, or people of traditions, due to their emphasis on restricting juristic thought to only what is found in scripture.
2.0. The Development of School of Islamic Legal Thought
The first development of Madhhab of imam is on the period of Umayyah dynasty. The early period of the Umayyah dynasty saw the division of Fiqh scholars into two main Madhhabs with respect to Ijtihad: Ahli ar-Ra’i and Ahli al-Hadith. These two Madhhabs evolved into a number of new Madhhabs during the shift from caliphate to monarchy system of ruling when the caliph was no longer the head of the Madhhab. Since scholars and their students were dispersed throughout the Umayyah state, their personal Ijtihad increased in order to solve local issues. It should be noted, however, that during both the period of the Umayyahs and that of the early Abbaasids, students of Fiqh freely and frequently changed teachers and exchanged legal opinions. In effect, therefore, the flexibility of the previous was maintained.
As shown Abbaasid dynasty, Fiqh was formalized and systematized. During this stage, the number of major Madhhabs dwindled to four; three major and one minor. In order words , the Madhhabs of great Imams like al-Awzaa’ee, Sufyaan ath-Thawree, Ibn Abee Laylaa, Abu Thawr and al-Layth ibn Sa’d had all disappeared leaving only the Madh-habs of Abu Haneefah, Imam Malik, imam ash Shaafi’ee and Ahmad ibn Hambal. In time, these schools of Islamic legal thought became so predominant that the common people soon forgot that any other schools even existed. Each of these schools soon took on dynamism of its own and their followers started the practice of naming themselves after their respective Madhhabs. For example, al-Husayn ibn Mas’oud al-Baghawee, author of the Fiqh classic, Shariah as-Sunnah, was Shaafi’ee after the Shaafi’ee Madh-hab.
During this stage the scholars of each Madhhab analyzed all the rulings of their Madhhab’s founding scholars, deduced the fundamental principles behind their rulings and codified them. They also made limited Ijtihad on issues which the founders had not come across. However, this area soon became exhausted due to the widespread use of hypothetical Fiqh, in and outside of court debates. Ultimately independent Ijtihad was discarded in favor of Ijtihad based upon the established...