The framing of Islamic law in the first four centuries of Islam is of great significance to scholars. During this period, the Islamic diaspora was in the earliest part of its development, establishing its identity and developing the foundations of its knowledge principles. These times were tumultuous; yet, at the same time, what occurred during these early centuries formed the bedrock upon which a further millennium of growth has taken place in this global religion. Many forces were interplaying during these early years in the context of Islamic law. “Independents,” who formed a majority of Islamic theorists, gradually disappeared and gave way to “Muqallidȋn” and there was discourse and allegiance amongst “Rationalists” and “Traditionalists.” There was a shift away from early regional schools (of thought) to personal schools and tremendous debate raged about Ijtihȃd and Taqlȋd. In more recent times, over the past century, orientalist commentators on the period, who have painted a picture of these early centuries of the Islamic legal system and jurisprudence as being somewhat cut and dry, have begun to be challenged. Schacht for example, who wrote in the early to mid-twentieth century, later had his views nuanced by scholars such as Hallaq and others. This paper thus examines the early formation of the four schools of Islamic law, recounts brief biographical accounts of their founders, and discusses the challenges faced during those early years of Islamic legal history, which are a source of disagreement among contemporary scholars.
|Keywords:||Islamic Law, Religion, Islam, Sunni, Eponyms, Ijtihad, Taqlid|
Senior Researcher and Muslim Chaplain, Saïd Business School, University of Oxford, Oxford, Oxfordshire, UK