Islamic Law and Legal Schools

QUESTION: Islamic Law – Legal Schools

ANSWER:

Sunni Islam hosts four law traditions: Shafi’i, Hanifi, Asbahi, and Hanbal, with the Hanafi School being the most influential. “The differences between the four legal schools of Sunni Islam are mainly confined to questions such as marriage and guardianship, with the Hanafis taking a more liberal view of female rights...There are small differences in the ritual of prayer. The most significant are in the laws of inheritance and in an institution know as muta’...or temporary marriage.”1

Islamic Law – Sunni and Shi’ite
Shi’ite Muslims have their own legal school, Ja’fari, a school of legal tradition and thought that remains to this day. Shi’ite leaders such as the Ayatollahs are interpreters of the law, to which individual Shi’ites are to submit. In contrast to Sunni practice, the Shi’ite religious leaders are recipients of the religious taxes of the people. This results in granting their mosques financial independence from the government, as commonly is the case among the Sunni, and giving religious leaders great political power over government authorities. The legal traditions of the Shi’ites have given them “the edge over their Sunni counterparts in adapting the law to contemporary circumstances.”2

Notes:

Rendered with permission from the book, Understanding the Times: The Collision of Today’s Competing Worldviews (Rev. 2nd ed), David Noebel, Summit Press, 2006. Compliments of John Stonestreet, David Noebel, and the Christian Worldview Ministry at Summit Ministries. All rights reserved in the original.

1 “World Briefing | Europe: Italy: Afghan Convert Thanks The Pope,” The New York Times, 31 March 2006, 82; online: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9B06E1DB1230F932A05750C0A9609 C8B63 (accessed 23 May 2006).
2 Ibid., 83.

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