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How to Study the Shafi’i Madhab | Islamic Studies

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How to Study the Shafi’i Madhab | Islamic Studies.

How to Study the Shafi’i Madhab


One question students of knowledge often ask is what is the proper method of acquiring the fiqh of a particular madhab. The following is a detailed guide to the study of the Shafi’i madhab in order to gain mastery. Whilst this is an indication, one should nevertheless follow what one’s teacher recommends.

Madkhal Literature

These works allow one to have a general overview of the historical development of the madhab, its nomenclature, its scholars, and its major written works. One normally begins reading madkhal works once one is intermediate. They should be often and reviewed in order to have a strong overview of the structure of the madhab.

  • Al-Nawawi (d.676) – al-Muqadimah of al-Majmu’
  • Al-Nawawi – al-Muqadimah of al-Tanqih
  • Shams al-Ramli (d.1004/1596) – Sharh Muqadimat Minhaj al-Talibin (Nihayat al-Muhtaj)
  • Muhammad b. Sulayman al-Kurdi (d.1194/1780) – al-Fawa’id al-Madaniyah
  • Alawi b. Ahmad b. al-Saqqaf (d.1335/1916) – al-Fawa’id al-Makkiyah (and its Mukhtasar)
  • Ahmad b. Mayqari b. al-Ahdal (d.1390/1970) – Sullam al-Muta’allim ila Ma’rifat al-Rumuz al-Minhaj
  • Ahmad b. Abi Bakr b. Sumayt al-‘Alawi al-Hadrami (1343/1924) – al-Idah fi Bayan Istilah al-Minhaj
  • Muhammad Hasan Hitu – al-Ijtihad wa Tabaqat Mujtahidi al-Shafi’iyah
  • Ali Jumu’ah – Imam al-Shafi’i wa Madrasatuh al-Fiqhiyah
  • Akram al-Qawasimi – al-Madkhal ila Madhab al-Shafi’i

Curriculum Texts

These works are studied from cover to cover with a qualified teacher. One might not study all, but the sequence here is in the typical order of study. They form the basis of one’s training in the furu’ after having studied the basic primary texts (al-Risalah al-Jam’iah, Safinat al-Naja, Mukhtasar al-Latif, etc.) The core texts are studied in class whereas the commentaries are usually referred to on occasion by the teacher and studied at home by the student. The purpose of studying these texts is to acquire familiarity with the masa’il and their locations within traditional texts so that, when needed, one can research an issue independently in the mu’tamad works.

al-Masa’il al-Ta’lim (i.e. al-Muqadimat al-Hadramiyah) with its primary commentaries Bushra al-Karim and/or Minhaj al-Qawim – This text is the basic work in ibadah and is particularly popular in Yemen, Syria, and South East Asia. One should be deeply intimate with this text and perhaps even memorise its abridgment, Mukhtasar al-Latif. The work is based chiefly upon Imam al-Nawawi’s works and has a number of important commentaries and marginal glosses. The most extensive gloss is the seven volume Hashiyat al-Tarmasi upon Ibn Hajar’s commentary, Minhaj al-Qawim. The best editions of the text and its commentaries are all by Dar al-Minhaj. Mustafa al-Bagha’s version has the evidences for the masa’il.

al-Ghayat wa al-Taqrib (i.e. Matn Abi Shuja) with commentary – This text has attained a popularity second only to Minhaj al-Talibin among the mutun. Almost every Shafi’i student will study it or its commentaries at some point. What makes it unique is that it is the only pre-tarjih al-Shaykhayn text in the curriculum, and seems to have replaced al-Shirazi’s al-Tanbih as the first text studied that covers the entire fiqh spectrum. The more prominent commentaries include Fath al-Qarib by Ibn Qasim (with its hashiyah by al-Bajuri or Nawawi al-Jawi), Kifayat al-Akhyar by al-Hisni, al-Iqna’ by al-Khatib (with its hashiyah by al-Bujayrimi), Tuhfat al-Labib by Ibn Daqiq al-Id, and al-Nihayah by Wali al-Din al-Basir. Mustafa al-Bagha has an edition of the text which mentions the evidences but the best edition is that by Dar Ibn Hazm.

Safwat al-Zubad – This is a blessed alfiyah (thousand-line poem) by Ibn Raslan which has attracted a number of valuable commentaries, chief of which perhaps is Fath al-Rahman by Shihab al-Ramli. Shams al-Ramli based his sharh, Ghayat al-Bayan, on that of his father. The other commentaries of note are Mawahib al-Samad by al-Fashni and Ifadah al-Sadah al-Umad by al-Ahdal. Safwat al-Zubad is studied in order to be memorised, usually after one has an intermediate familiarity with the madhab, before commencing with the larger, more advanced works. The best edition is the pocket-sized version by Dar al-Minhaj.

Umdat al-Salik with its commentaries – This is usually the first intermediate level text one studies that addresses the whole spectrum of fiqh. It contains a lot of issues and much is implied, thus expecting a degree of fiqh in the student. Scholars have said that a sign of tawfiq from Allah is one’s studying this text and that the doors of fiqh are opened upon its completion and mastery. It is based mainly upon the works of al-Nawawi, al-Rafi’i, al-Shirazi, and al-Subki. An indication of the views of al-Rafi’i is given with the expression ‘wa qeela’ (and it is said…) One should continue to read and review this text throughout one’s life as it really does abridge much from the larger reference works. The best sharh is that of Alawi b. Saqaf b. Muhammad al-Jifri (d.1273/1856), which is full of hadith evidence and explains where Ibn Naqib went against the mu’tamad positions (eighty or so instances). The best editions are those of Dar Ibn Hazm and Dar al-Minhaj.
Fath al-Mu’in – This work is extremely popular in South East Asia and is also studied in Syria and Yemen. Its continued popularity is down to its being an abridgment of the works of Ibn Hajar al-Haytami and the muta’akhirin in addition to having a valuable commentary, I’anat al-Talibin, which draws much from the later hawashi literature. There are many points mentioned in this text which are not found except in much larger works. The best edition is by Dar Ibn Hazm with valuable indices.
Minhaj al-Talibin with commentary – The final work studied is a magisterial summary of the views of al-Shafi’i and the Ashab al-Wujuh. The text is usually studied alone or with one of two commentaries based upon it: Fath al-Wahab by Shaykh al-Islam Zakariyah al-Ansari, which is a commentary of his own abridgement (Minhaj al-Tulab), or Mughni al-Muhtaj by al-Khatib al-Shirbini. Al-Shirbini’s commentary is popular due to its being a summary of previous commentaries as well as the clarity of his language. The famous commentaries by Ibn Hajar and al-Ramli are mainly used for reference (see the section on finding the mu’tamad below). They haven’t been studied for over a century due to their length and difficulty, especially Tuhfat al-Muhtaj. In South East Asia they prefer Fath al-Wahab (with the hashiyah of al-Jamal or al-Bujayrimi) and in the Middle East preference is given to Mughni al-Muhtaj. The best edition of Minhaj al-Talibin is by Dar al-Basha’ir al-Islamiyah in 3 volumes (with evidences) followed by Dar al-Minhaj in a single volume. The best edition of Mughni al-Muhtaj is by Dar al-Hadith in 6 volumes, though the binding quality is poor. Fath al-Wahab has no edition which can be recommended.
Contemporary Works
These works are clearly written and presented in contemporary Arabic, whilst being based on some of the classical texts.
  • Al-Taqrirat al-Sadidah (masterful summary based on Habib Zayn b. Sumayt’s classes)
  • Sharh al-Yaqut al-Nafis (particularly excellent in the mu’amalat sections)
  • Al-Fiqh al-Manhaji (an abridged version of Mughni al-Muhtaj with hadith evidence)
  • Al-Fiqh al-Shafi’i al-Muyasir (based on many authoritative hawashi works with evidences)
  • Al-Mu’tamad fi Fiqh al-Shafi’i (a modern masterpiece in the madhab)
Fatawa Works
All of the muta’akhirin are reliable sources of fatwa but the following are the most referenced due to their containing many modern issues not found elsewhere, making their utility particularly relevant.
Bughyat al-Mustarshidin

This collection of relatively modern fatawa was collected by Habib Abd al-Rahman b. Muhammad al-Mashur (1250-1320/1902) of Tarim, consisting of fatawa from some of the most reputable fuqaha of the last couple of centuries:

  • Abdullah b. Husayn Ba Faqih (1198-1296)
  • Abdullah b. Umar b. Abi Bakr (1209-1265)
  • Alawi b. Saqqaf b. Muhammad al-Jifri (d.1273)
  • Muhammad b. Abi Bakr al-Ashkhar (945-991)
  • Muhammad b. Sulayman al-Kurdi al-Madani (1127-1194)

Umdat al-Mufti wa al-Mustafti

This is a collection by Muhammad b. Abd al-Rahman al-Ahdal (1277-1352) of the famous Ahdal family. It is arranged according to fiqh chapters and contains many useful discussions and some modern issues rarely found elsewhere.

In addition to the above late works, the following Mamluk-era works are noteworthy:

  • Fatawa al-Nawawi
  • Fatawa Sultan al-Ulama al-’Izz b. ‘Abd al-Salam
  • Fatawa al-Subki
  • Al-Hawi li’l-Fatawa li’l-Suyuti
  • Al-Fatawa al-Fiqhiyah al-Kubra li Ibn Hajar
  • Fatawa al-Bulqini
Studying the biographies of the major scholars of the school allows one to see the historical development of Islamic law as well as discovering valuable issues not found elsewhere, such as a particular scholars unique views on certain issues:
  • Taj al-Subki – Tabaqat al-Shafi’iyah al-Kubra
  • Al-Shirazi – Tabaqat al-Shafi’iyah
  • Al-Isnawi – Tabaqat al-Shafi’iyah
  • Qadi Shuhbah – Tabaqat al-Shafi’iyah
  • Qadi Abi ‘Asim al-’Abadi – Tabaqat al-Fuqaha al-Shafi’iyah
  • Muhammad Hasan Hitu – Al-Ijtihad wa Tabaqat Mujtahidi al-Shafi’iyah
Reference Texts
These works are typically not studied cover to cover but rather referred to in order to find a solution to a particular problem.
For finding the mu’tamad (reliable view) in the madhab:
  • Al-Majmu’ by al-Nawawi
  • Rawdat al-Talibin by al-Nawawi
  • Nihayat al-Muhtaj by Shams al-Ramli
  • Mughni al-Muhtaj by Khatib al-Shirbini
  • Tuhfat al-Muhtaj by Ibn Hajar
  • Fath al-Wahab by Zakariyah al-Ansari
  • Al-Ghurar al-Bahiyah by Zakariyah al-Ansari
  • Asna al-Mutalib by Zakariyah al-Ansari
For finding evidences and differences with other madhahib:
  • Al-Majmu’ Sharh al-Muhadhab
  • Ma’rifat al-Sunan li’l-Bayhaqi
  • Nihayat al-Matlab
  • Al-Hawi al-Kabir
  • Ibn Hajar – Bulugh al-Maram
  • Ibn Hajar – Talkhis al-Habir
  • Ibn al-Mulaqqin – Badr al-Munir
  • Ibn al-Mulaqqin – Tuhfat al-Muhtaj
Al-Majmu’ is perhaps the best book in the Shafi’i madhab. It retains the spirit and letter of the law and all other works fail to match its appeal. It’s only fault is that it is incomplete as al-Nawawi died after finishing the first quarter and starting the second.
For finding different opinions within the Shafi’i madhab:
  • Rawdat al-Talibin
  • Asna al-Mutalib with Shihab al-Ramli’s Hashiyah
  • Nihayat al-Matlab
  • Al-Tahdhib lil-Baghawi
  • Al-Bayan Sharh al-Muhadhab
  • Bahr al-Madhab lil-Ruyani
  • Fath al-Aziz lil-Rafi’i
For learning the views of Imam al-Shafi’i himself:
  • Kitab al-Umm
  • Mukhtasar al-Muzani
  • Ma’rifat al-Sunan

Usul al-Fiqh

The following is a suggestion based on advice and experience.

First Stage (overview and general perception after acquiring an intermediate level in nahw, sarf, and balagha)

  • Al-Waraqat by al-Juwayni with Sharh al-Mahalli or Ibn al-Firkah (advanced)
  • Al-Khulasah by Muhammad Hasan Hitu
  • Al-Wajiz by Muhammad Hasan Hitu
  • Usul al-Fiqh al-Islami by Wahba al-Zuhayli (introduces other schools’ sources)

Second Stage (developing foundations of reasoning, inference, and deduction using the mutaqaddim way)

  • Al-Risalah by al-Shafi’i alongside the rasa’il in al-Umm (Jima’ al-’Ilm, Ikhtilaf Malik, Ibtal al-Istihsan, etc.)
  • Lubb al-Usul by Zakariyah al-Ansari (abridged from Jam’ al-Jawami’) with his sharh Ghayat al-Uusl
  • Al-Lum’a by al-Shirazi with its Sharh by the author or al-Tabsirah
  • Al-Faqih wa al-Mutafaqqih by Khatib al-Baghdadi
  • Qawati’ al-Adillah by al-Sam’ani

Third Stage (takhrij al-furu ‘ala al-usul, i.e. practical derivation of furu’ from usul)

  • Al-Zanjani – Al-Takhrij
  • Al-Isnawi – Al-Tamhid

Fourth Stage (mastery of the mutakallim way)

  • Raf’ al-Hajib by Taj al-Din al-Subki
  • Jam’ al-Jawami’ by Taj al-Din al-Subki with Sharh al-Mahalli (with Hashiyat al-Attar) or al-Zarkashi’s brilliant sharh Tashnif al-Musami’ or al-Suyuti’s Nazm al-Kawkab al-Sati’ (with al-Itiyubi’s notes)
  • Nihayat al-Sul by al-Isnawi (the best sharh on Minhaj al-Wasul by al-Baydawi)
  • Al-Mustasfa by al-Ghazali
  • Al-Burhan by al-Juwayni
  • Al-Mahsul by al-Razi
  • Al-Ihkam by al-Amidi
  • Al-Bahr al-Muhit by al-Zarkashi (a brillaint encyclopaedia encompassing much of what preceded)

Al-Qawa’id al-Fiqhiyah

Legal maxims are crucial for developing one’s taffaquh:

  • Abdullah b. Sa’id al-Lhji – Al-Qawa’id al-Fiqhiyah
  • Ibn Abd al-Salam – Al-Qawa’id al-Ahkam li Islah al-Anam (a.k.a. al-Qawa’id al-Kubra)
  • Al-Suyuti – Al-Ashbah wa al-Naza’ir

Al-Maqasid al-Shari’ah

Understanding the general objectives of Islam is essential:

  • Al-Ghazali – Jawahir al-Qur’an
  • Al-Qawa`id al-Kubra by al-`Izz b. `Abd al-Salam

Consulting Scholars

Establishing and maintaining professional ties with scholars is essential. They can be consulted on a wide range of topics and often clarify misunderstood concepts. In our age we can also benefit from listening to recordings of classes by great scholars. The following is just a choice selection of contemporary Shafi’i scholars (some recently deceased, may Allah have mercy on them).


  • Muhammad Hasan Hitu
  • Mustafa al-Bagha
  • Mustafa al-Khinn
  • Muhammad Sa’id Ramadan al-Buti
  • Muhammad Tawfiq Ramadan
  • Rushdi al-Qalam
  • Wahba al-Zuhayli
  • Muhammad al-Zuhayli
  • Akram al-Qawasimi
  • Nuh Ali Salman al-Qudah
  • Abdullah al-Harari


  • Abd al-Azim Muhammad al-Dib
  • Ali Jumu’ah
  • Muhammad al-Sadiq Qamhawi
  • Abd al-Hamid al-Sayyid abd al-Hamid
  • Amr al-Wardani
  • Salim b. Khatib
  • Ahmad al-Hajjayn
  • Hisham al-Kamil
  • Muhammad Husayn Isa
  • Dr Atiyah Abd al-Mawjud


  • Habib Zayn b. Ibrahim al-Sumayt
  • Habib Umar al-Jilani
  • Hasan b. Ahmad al-Kaf
  • Muhammad b. Ahmad al-Kaf
  • Muhammad b. Umar al-Kaf
  • Muhammad Isma’il al-Zayn
  • Hamid b. Alawi al-Kaf


  • Muhammad Ali al-Khatib
  • Habib Salim b. Abdullah b. ‘Umar al-Shatiri
  • Habib Ali al-Mashur b. Muhammad b. Salim b. Hafiz
  • Habib ‘Umar al-Khatib


  • Abdullah b. Hasan al-Kuhaji
  • Ahmad al-Kubaysi (currently residing in the Emirates)

The West

  • Taha Karan
  • Muhammad al-Afifi al-Akiti
  • Tahir Jabir al-Alwani

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