What is madhab in Islam? a madhab represents the laws of Fiqh, it is a school of Islamic jurisprudence or a school of thought, the linguistic meaning of Mazhab is “away”.

What are the 4 madhabs and why are they important? And how do they differ? Let’s find out.

How many Madhab in Islam?

There are 4 main Madhabs in Islam and they are Hanafi, Maliki, Hanbali, and Shafi.

1. Hanafi Madhab.

The Hanafi madhab was founded by Imam Abu Hanifah An-Nu’man Ibn Thabit. Imam Hanafi was born in the year 80 AH and died in the year 180 AH. He learned at the hands of 6 of the prophet’s companions. His Madhab is based on ijtihad, the Quran, and the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).

Imam Hanafi started learning about Fiqh and sunnah from a young age. He encouraged scholars to use logical reasoning regarding any issue especially if the solution is not in the Quran or Sunnah. He urged scholars to do their best to find a solution and a ruling regarding different matters.  

Among his prominent students are Imam Al-Qadhi Abu Yusuf and Imam Muhammad Ibn Hasan As-Shyaibani.

2. Maliki Madhab.

One of the known Madhab in Islam is the Maliki Madhab. The Madhab was founded by Malik bin Anas bin Malik bin Amer. He was also known as Abu Abdullah. Imam Malik was born in the year 95H and passed in the year 179H.

He was born in Madinah and he stayed there to learn from the great scholars, later on he became a Mufti and was called ‘Imam Darul Hijrah’ which means the Imam of Madinah. In his time many people traveled to Madinah to learn from him. Imam Malik wrote ‘Muwatta’ which took 40 years to complete and is now used as one of the important references.

During his time the people were close descendants of the Companions of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). Therefore the chain of narration is authentic.

The approach of Imam Malik Madhab:

The sources he took his answers from are many including the holy Quran, Sunnah of the Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him), analogy, and consensus.

The saying of the companion: Imam Malik used to take the answer regarding an Issue that is not found in the Quran and sunnah from the saying of the companions. The analogy: Imam Malik used it as evidence, like all other imams.

3. Hanbali Madhab.

Among the 4 madhab in Islam is the Hanbali madhab. The Madhab was founded by Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal. Imam Hanbal was born in the year 164H and passed away in the year 241H in Iraq. He learned at the hands of the great scholars in Iraq.

Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal traveled to Baghdad to learn and gain more knowledge. While he was there, he met Imam As-Syafi’I and became one of his students. Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal traveled around the world to meet and learn at the hands of the greatest scholars.

Among the students of Ahmad bin Hanbal are the most known authors of the two greatest books of hadith, they are Imam Al-Bukhari and Imam Muslim. Their books are called Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim.

Imam Hanbali Madhab approach:

  • The texts of the Qur’an and the Sunnah.
  • Consensus.
  • The sayings of the Companion: he used to take the answer regarding an Issue that is not found in the Quran and sunnah from the saying of the companions.
  • Measurement: Imam Ahmad used it when necessary.
  • Istihsan: he used it when necessary.

4. Shafi Madhab.

The Shafi madhab was founded by Muhammad ibn Idris al-Shāfi who was born in 767 AD and passed away in 802 AD. This Madhab is one of the 4 Madhabs in Islam. He was born in Gaza. Al-Shafi’s father died when he was still a little boy, so his mother took him to live with her in Mecca at the age of two years old. He memorized the whole Quran when he was seven and when he was 10, and he memorized Muwatta Malik when he was ten years old.

Al-Shafi said in his book ‘Al-Umm wa Al-Risala’ that his doctrine is based on the closest to the Quran and sunnah or what is known among the Companions without disagreement

The approach of Imam Al-Shafi’i in his Madhab:

  • The holy Qur’an, the Sunnah of the Prophet, and consensus.
  • The Holy Qur’an is without disagreement the first reference.
  • Al-Sunnah: Al-Shafi Madhab considers that the Noble Qur’an and the Sunnah are in the same rank in terms of inference. He also sees that the Sunnah abrogates the Quran, but the Qur’an does not abrogate the Sunnah. And if there is any conflict between the Quran and Sunnah then he takes the answer from the Quran.
  • Ijma’: Al-Shafi’i believes that consensus is an argument, and it cannot be mistaken for it.
  • Qiyas: Al-Shafi’i considered the analogy but without any expansion.

Which madhab in Islam is most popular?

So, Which Madhab of the 4 Madhabs in Islam is the most popular? It is said that the Hanafi Madhab is the Most popular Madhab among the 4 madhabs. Why? Because the Hanafi madhab was followed by the Ottoman caliphs.

However, that doesn’t mean that the other 3 Madhabs are not correct. All 4 Madhabs contains ruling that are correct and some that are not correct. As a Muslim, you must seek the truth and follow what is true regardless of which Madhab it comes from.

Which madhab is followed in Saudi Arabia?

The Majority of Saudi Arabia follows the Hanbali madhab.

Which madhab is closest to the sunnah?

Which of the four Madhhabs is most correct? As Muslims, we seek to be guided by the Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). However, some matters are not found in either one of them. That is why we turn to Madhabs and Islamic ruling for an answer.

All 4 Madhabs followed the sunnah of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and the holy Quran. they all focused on teaching and spreading the right knowledge. They were all followers of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).

It is normal to find mistakes in the 4 madhabs because they were human just like us. Therefore, there is no one Madhab in Islam that is correct or closest to Sunnah.

Then which Madhab should I follow? You don’t have to follow one Madhab, instead, you should follow and adopt the most clear and sound one when it comes to a specific matter or issue.

Do You Have to Follow a Madhhab?

Do You Have to Follow a Madhhab in Islam? no, you don’t have to follow a specific Madhab in Islam. instead, you should seek to follow the clearest Madhab among the 4 Madhabs when it comes to specific issues.

In Fatawa al-Lajnah al-Daimah, the following question was asked: What is the ruling on following one of the four madhhabs in all cases and situations?

The answer was as follows:

“Firstly: the 4 madhhabs are named after the four imams – Imam Abu Hanifah, Imam Malik, Imam al-Shafi’i, and Imam Malik.

Secondly: These imams learned Fiqh (jurisprudence) from the Quran and Sunnah, and they are mujtahidin in this regard. The mujtahid either gets it right, in which case he will have two rewards, the reward for his ijtihad and the reward for getting it right, or he will get it wrong, in which case he will be rewarded for his ijtihad and will be forgiven for his mistake.

Thirdly: the one who is able to derive rulings from the Quran and Sunnah should take from them like those who came before him; it is not right for him to follow blindly (taqlid) when he believes that the truth lies elsewhere.

Rather he should follow that which he believes is the truth. It is permissible for him to follow in matters in which he is unable to come to a conclusion based on the Quran and Sunnah and he needs guidelines concerning a particular issue.

Fourthly:  Whoever does not have the ability to derive rulings himself is permitted to follow one whom he feels comfortable following. If he is not comfortable following him then he should ask until he finds someone with whom he is comfortable. 

Fifthly:  From the above, it is clear that we should not follow their opinions in all situations and at all times, because they may make mistakes, but we may follow their sound views based on the evidence.” (Fatawa al-Lajnah, 5/28 )


Now we understand that Madhab in Islam refers to the rules and acts that are followed. The 4 Madhabs are derived from the Quran, the sunnah of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), the sayings of the companions, and ijtihad if the solution is not found in any of them.

As Muslims we shouldn’t follow one Madhab at all times instead, we should try our best to find the soundest and the one that has more evidence when it comes to different matters. Because each Madhab has what is right and what is wrong.

We also learned that the Madhab in Islam is what guides us to the right path if we can’t find the answer in the Quran and Sunnah.

That is all for today’s article, if you found it useful then share it, and if you have a question, drop a comment below and we will be more than glad to help you.

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