Sunni schools of theology
Hanbali school (Arabic: المذهب الحنبلي) is one of
the four traditional Sunni Islamic schools of jurisprudence (fiqh).
It is named after the Iraqi scholar
Ahmad ibn Hanbal
Ahmad ibn Hanbal (d. 855), and was
institutionalized by his students. The
Hanbali madhhab is the smallest
of four major Sunni schools, the others being the Hanafi,
Hanbali school derives
Sharia predominantly from the Quran, the
Hadiths (sayings and customs of Muhammad), and the views of Sahabah
(Muhammad's companions). In cases where there is no clear answer in
sacred texts of Islam, the
Hanbali school does not accept jurist
discretion or customs of a community as a sound basis to derive
Islamic law, a method that
Maliki Sunni fiqhs accept.
Hanbali school is the strict traditionalist school of jurisprudence in
Sunni Islam. It is found primarily in
Saudi Arabia and Qatar, where
it is the official fiqh.
Hanbali followers are the demographic
majority in four emirates of
UAE (Sharjah, Umm al-Quwain, Ras
al-Khaimah and Ajman). Large minorities of
Hanbali followers are
also found in Bahrain,
Yemen and among Iraqi and Jordanian
Hanbali school experienced a reformation in the Wahhabi-Salafist
movement. Historically the school was small; during the 18th to
Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab
Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab and
Al Saud greatly
aided its propagation around the world by way of their interpretation
of the school's teachings. As a result of this, the school's name
has become a controversial one in certain quarters of the Islamic
world due to the influence he is believed by some to have had upon
these teachings, which cites Ibn Hanbal as a principal influence along
with the thirteenth-century
Hanbali reformer Ibn Taymiyyah. However,
it has been argued by certain scholars that Ibn Hanbal's own beliefs
actually played "no real part in the establishment of the central
doctrines of Wahhabism," as there is evidence, according to the
same authors, that "the older Hanbalite authorities had doctrinal
concerns very different from those of the Wahhabis," rich as
Hanbali literature is in references to saints, grave
visitation, miracles, and relics. Historically, the
was treated as simply another valid interpretation of Islamic law, and
many prominent medieval Sufis, such as Abdul Qadir Gilani, were
Hanbali jurists and mystics at the same time.
2.1 Sources of law
3 Distinct rulings
5 Differences with other Sunni schools
6 Relationship with Sufism
7 Revival efforts
8 List of
9 See also
11 Further reading
12 External links
Map of the Muslim world.
Hanbali (dark green) is the predominant Sunni
Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
Ahmad ibn Hanbal, the founder of
Hanbali school, was a disciple of
Shafi'i and al-Zahiri, he was deeply concerned with
the extreme elasticity being deployed by many jurists of his time, who
used their discretion to reinterpret the doctrines of
Hadiths to suit the demands of Caliphs and wealthy. Ibn Hanbal
advocated return to literal interpretation of
Quran and Hadiths.
Influenced by the debates of his time, he was known for rejecting
religious rulings (Ijtihad) from the consensus of jurists of his time,
which he considered to be speculative theology (Kalam). He associated
them with the Mu'tazilis, whom he despised. Ibn Hanbal was also
hostile to the discretionary principles of rulings in jurisprudence
(Usul al-fiqh) mainly championed by the people of opinion, which was
established by Abu Hanifa, although he did adopt al-Shafi'i's method
in usul al-fiqh. He linked these discretionary principles with kalam.
His guiding principle was that the
Sunnah are the only
proper sources of Islamic jurisprudence, and are of equal authority
and should be interpreted literally in line with the
Athari creed. He
also believed that there can be no true consensus (Ijma) among jurists
(mujtahids) of his time, and preferred the consensus of Muhammad's
companions (Sahaba) and weaker hadiths. Imam Hanbal himself compiled
Al-Musnad, a text with over 30,000 saying, actions and customs of
Ibn Hanbal never composed an actual systematic legal theory on his
own, though his followers established a systemic method after his
death.[self-published source] Much of the work of preserving the
school based on Ibn Hanbal's method was laid by his student Abu Bakr
al-Khallal; his documentation on the founder's views eventually
reached twenty volumes. The original copy of the work, which was
contained in the House of Wisdom, was burned along with many other
works of literature during the Mongol siege of Baghdad. The book was
only preserved in a summarized form by the
Hanbali jurist al-Khiraqi,
who had access to written copies of al-Khallal's book before the
Relations with the
Abbasid Caliphate were rocky for the Hanbalites.
Led by the Hanbalite scholar Al-Hasan ibn '
Ali al-Barbahari, the
school often formed mobs of followers in 10th-century Baghdad who
would engage in violence against fellow Sunnis suspected of committing
sins and all Shi'ites. During al-Barbahari's leadership of the
school in Baghdad, shops were looted, female entertainers were
attacked in the streets, popular grievances among the lower
classes were agitated as a source of mobilization, and public
chaos in general ensued. Their efforts would be their own undoing
in 935, when a series of home invasions and mob violence on the part
of al-Barbahari's followers in addition to perceived deviant views led
to the Caliph
Ar-Radi publicly condemning the school in its entirety
and ending its official patronage by state religious bodies.
Sources of law
Like all other schools of Sunni Islam, the
Hanbali school holds that
the two primary sources of Islamic law are the
Qur'an and the Sunnah
found in Hadiths (compilation of sayings, actions and customs of
Muhammad). Where these texts did not provide guidance, Imam Hanbal
recommended guidance from established consensus of Muhammad's
companions (Sahabah), then individual opinion of Muhammad's
companions, followed in order of preference by weaker hadiths, and in
rare cases qiyas (analogy). The
Hanbali school, unlike
Maliki schools, rejected that a source of Islamic law can be jurists
personal discretionary opinion or consensus of later generation
Muslims on matters that serve the interest of
Islam and community.
Hanbalis hold that this is impossible and leads to abuse.
Ibn Hanbal rejected the possibility of religiously binding consensus
(Ijma), as it was impossible to verify once later generations of
Muslims spread throughout the world, going as far as declaring
anyone who claimed as such to be a liar. Ibn Hanbal did, however,
accept the possibility and validity of the consensus of the Sahaba.
the first generation of Muslims. Later followers of the
school, however, expanded on the types of consensus accepted as valid,
and the prominent Hanbalite
Ibn Taymiyyah expanded legal consensus to
later generations while at the same time restricting it only to the
religiously learned. Analogical reasoning (Qiyas), was likewise
rejected as a valid source of law by Ibn Hanbal himself,
with a near-unanimous majority of later Hanbalite jurists not only
accepting analogical reasoning as valid but also borrowing from the
works of Shafi'ite jurists on the subject.
Ibn Hanbal's strict standards of acceptance regarding the sources of
Islamic law were probably due to his suspicion regarding the field of
Usul al-Fiqh, which he equated with speculative theology (kalam).
In the modern era, Hanbalites have branched out and even delved into
matters regarding the upholding (Istislah) of public interest
(Maslaha) and even juristic preference (Istihsan), anathema to the
earlier Hanbalites as valid methods of determining religious law.
Ibn Hanbal taught that the
Qur'an is uncreated due to Muslim belief
that it is the word of God, and the word of God is not created. The
Mu'tazilites taught that the Qur'an, which is readable and touchable,
is created like other creatures and created objects. Ibn Hanbal viewed
this as heresy, replying that there are things which are not touchable
but are created, such as the Throne of God. Unlike the other three
schools of Islamic jurisprudence (Hanafi, Maliki, and Shafi), the
Hanbali madhab remained largely traditionalist or
theology and it was primarily
Hanbali scholars who codified the
Athari school of thought.
Wudu – One of the seven things which nullifies the minor
purification includes, touching a woman for the purpose of carnal
desire. This ruling is similar to the
Maliki opinion, however the
Shafi'i opinion is that merely touching a woman will break the wudu,
Hanafi opinion is that merely touching a woman does not
break the wudu.
Al-Qayyam – One position of the school according to Kashshaf
al-Qina` of al-Buhuti, and al-Mughni of
Ibn Qudama is the same as that
Abu Hanifa and his students; to place one’s hands below the
navel. Another position is that hands are positioned above the navel
or on the chest while standing in prayer, not similar to the
Hanafis, though others state a person has a choice i.e. either above
the navel or near the chest
Ruku – The hands are to be raised (Rafa al-Yadayn) before going to
ruku, and standing up from ruku, similar to the
While standing up after ruku, a person has a choice to place their
hands back to the position as they were before. Other madh'habs
state the hands should be left on their sides.
Tashahhud – The finger should be pointed and not moved, upon
mentioning the name of Allah.
Tasleem – Is considered obligatory by the Madh'hab.
Witr – Hanbalis pray Two Rak'ats consecutively then perform
Tasleem, and then One Rak'at is performed separately. Dua
recited after the
Ruku' during Witr, and Hands are raised during the
In the absence of a valid excuse, it is obligatory (at least for adult
men) to pray in congregation rather than individually.
The majority of the
Hanbali school considers admission in a court of
law to be indivisible; that is, a plaintiff may not accept some parts
of a defendant's testimony while rejecting other parts. This position
is also held by the
Zahiri school, though it is opposed by the Hanafi
Hanbali school is now accepted as the fourth of the mainstream
Sunni schools of law. It has traditionally enjoyed a smaller following
than the other schools. In the earlier period, Sunni jurisprudence was
based on four other schools: Hanafi, Maliki,
Shafi'i and Zahiri; later
Hanbali school supplanted the
Zahiri school's spot as the
fourth mainstream school.
Hanbalism essentially formed as a
traditionalist reaction to what they viewed as speculative innovations
on the part of the earlier established schools.
Historically, the school's legitimacy was not always accepted. Muslim
Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari, founder of the now extinct
Jariri school of law, was noted for ignoring the
entirely when weighing the views of jurists; this was due to his view
that the founder, Ibn Hanbal, was merely a scholar of prophetic
tradition and was not a jurist at all. The Hanbalites, led by
al-Barbahari, reacted by stoning Tabari's home several times, inciting
riots so violent that Abbasid authorities had to subdue them by
force. Upon Tabari's death, the Hanbalites formed a violent mob
large enough that Abbasid officials buried him in secret for fear of
further riots were Tabari buried publicly in a Muslim graveyard.
Similarly, the Andalusian theologian
Ibn 'Abd al-Barr
Ibn 'Abd al-Barr made a point to
exclude Ibn Hanbal's views from the books on Sunni Muslim
jurisprudence. In al-Muqaddimah, Ibn Khaldun—himself a
Egypt during the Mamluk-era—also noted that the following of this
school was rare and stated that this is due to the fact that they
Ijtihad as a whole.
Mamluk Sultanate and later the
Ottoman Empire codified
Sunni Islam as four schools, including the Hanbalite school at the
expense of the Zahirites. The Hanafis, Shafi'is and Malikis
agreed on important matters and recognized each other's systems as
equally valid; this was not the case with the Hanbalites, who were
recognized as legitimate by the older three schools but refused to
return the favor.
Differences with other Sunni schools
In comparison to the Hanafis and the Malikis, in the absence of a
consensus, the opinion of a
Sahabi is given priority over
early Hanbalis rejected) or al-'urf, which is completely rejected by
Hanbalis. Where Hanbalis require a unanimous consensus, Hanafis tend
to follow the consensus of
Kufa and Malikis that of al-Madina.
Zahiris, a less mainstream school, is sometimes seen as the closest to
Hanbalis and Hanafis. However the similarities are only true for early
Zahiris who followed the
Athari creed. The branch that was largely
Ibn Hazm which developed in al-Andalus, al-Qarawiyyin
and later became the official school of the state under the Almohads,
differed significantly from Hanbalism. It did not follow the Athari
and Taqlid schools and opted for "logical Istidlal" (deductive
demonstration) as a way to interpret scripture that wasn't clear
literally. Hanbalis rejected kalam as a whole and believed in the
supremacy of the text over the mind and did not engage in dialectic
debates with the Mu'tazila. Ibn Hazm, on the other hand, engaged in
these debates and believed in logical reasoning rejecting most of
Mu'tazila claims as sophists and absurd. Ibn Hazm, also scrutinised
hadith more severely. He adopted an attitude where he'd reject hadiths
if he discovered something suspicious about the lives of those who
reported it, or in the case where a person in the Sanad is not a
widely known figure. In doing so, he was aided by his vast historical
Relationship with Sufism
Sufism, often described as the inner mystical dimension of Islam, is
not a separate "school" or "sect" of the religion, but, rather, is
considered by its adherents to be an "inward" way of approaching Islam
which complements the regular outward practice of the five pillars;
Sufism became immensely popular during the medieval period in
practically all parts of the Sunni world and continues to remain so in
many parts of the world today. As
Christopher Melchert has pointed
Hanbalism and classical
Sufism took concrete shapes in the
ninth and early tenth-centuries CE, with both soon becoming "essential
components of the high-medieval Sunni synthesis." Although many
Hanbali scholars today, identifying themselves with the
Wahhabi contemporary movements within Hanbalism, shun Sufi practices
such as the veneration of saints at their tombs, which they deem
heretical innovations in the religion, it is important to recognize
that the Hanabali school of Sunni law has, in fact, had a very
intimate relationship with
Sufism throughout history, with such
controversies only manifesting themselves after the
eighteenth-century, once the movement of
Wahhabism became the primary
Islam practiced in Saudi Arabia.
There is evidence that many medieval
Hanbali scholars were very close
to the Sufi martyr and saint Hallaj, whose mystical piety seems to
have influenced many regular jurists in the school. Many later
Hanbalis, meanwhile, were often Sufis themselves, including figures
not normally associated with Sufism, such as
Ibn Taymiyyah and Ibn
Qayyim al-Jawziyyah. Both these men, sometimes considered to be
completely anti-Sufi in their leanings, were actually initiated into
Qadiriyya order of the celebrated mystic and saint Abdul Qadir
Gilani, who was himself a renowned
Hanbali jurist. As the
Qadiriyya order is often considered to be the largest and most
widespread Sufi order in the world, with many branches spanning from
Turkey to Pakistan, one of the largest Sufi branches is effectively
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Al Saud succeeded in annexing
Mecca in 1926 and the
discovery of oil,
Hanbali school of theology has benefited from the
sponsorship of the Saudi state. Theology students from all over the
world are educated in
Saudi Arabia following this school of theology
Dawah succeeded in attracting new followers all over
the world. Since the beginning of the 20th-century, the school has
therefore gained more acceptance and diffusion in the Islamic world.
Abu Dawood (d. 275 A.H.) Famous compiler of Sunan Abu Dawood
Abu Bakr al-Khallal – Jurist responsible for the school's early
Al-Hasan ibn '
Ali al-Barbahari (d. 329 A.H.), an Iraqi traditionist
and a jurist, author of the book Sharh al-Sunnah.
Ibn Battah al-Ukbari (d. 387 A.H.), an Iraqi theologian and
jurisconsult, author of the book Al-Ibaanah.
Qadi Abu Ya'la (d. 458 A.H.)
Ibn Aqil (d. 488 A.H.)
Awn ad-Din ibn Hubayra (d. 560 A.H.)
Abdul Qadir Gilani
Abdul Qadir Gilani (d. 561 A.H.)
Abu-al-Faraj Ibn Al-Jawzi
Abu-al-Faraj Ibn Al-Jawzi (d. 597 A.H.) – A famous jurist, exegete,
critic, preacher and a prolific author, with works on nearly all
Hammad al-Harrani (d. 598A.H.) – A jurist, critic and preacher who
lived in Alexandria under the reign of Salahudin.
Abd al-Ghani al-Maqdisi
Abd al-Ghani al-Maqdisi (d. 600 A.H.) – A prominent hadith master
from Damascus and the nephew of Ibn Qudamah.
Ibn Qudamah (d. 620A.H.) – One of the major
Hanbali authorities and
the author of the profound and voluminous book on Law, al-Mughni,
which became popular amongst researchers from all juristic
backgrounds. One of two individuals referred to as Shaykh al-Islām
Diya al-Din al-Maqdisi (d. 643 A.H.)
Ibn Hamdan, Ahmad al-Harrani (d. 695 A.H.) - A jurist and judge born
and raised in
Harran and later practiced in Cairo
Taqi al-Din Ibn Taymiyah
Taqi al-Din Ibn Taymiyah (d. 728 A.H.) – A well-known figure in the
Islamic history, known by his friends and foes for his expertise in
all Islamic sciences. The second of two people referred to as "Shaykh
al-Islām" within the school.
Ibn Muflih al Maqdisi (d. 763 A.H.)
Ibn al-Qayyim (d. 751 A.H.) – The closest companion and a student of
Ibn Taymiyah, also a respected jurist in his own right.
Ibn Rajab (d. 795 A.H.) – A prominent jurist, traditionist, ascetic
and preacher, who authored several important works, largely commenting
upon famous collections of traditions.
al-Bahūtī (d. 1051 A.H.)
Muhammad ibn Abd-al-Wahhab
Muhammad ibn Abd-al-Wahhab – A leading
Hanbali jurist and
traditionist, patronym of the
Ibn Humaid (d. 1295 A.H.) – A
Hanbali jurist, traditionist,
Abd al-Aziz ibn Baz
Abd al-Aziz ibn Baz (d. 1419 A.H.) – Former
Grand Mufti of Saudi
Ibn al-Uthaymeen (d. 1421 A.H.) – A leading jurist, grammarian,
linguist, and a popular preacher.
Abdullah Ibn Jibreen – A leading scholar of
Saudi Arabia and was a
former member of the
Permanent Committee for Islamic Research and
Fataawa in Saudi Arabia.
Saleh Al-Fawzan – A well known scholar in
Saudi Arabia and prolific
author. He is currently a member of the Permanent Committee.
Abdul Rahman Al-Sudais
Abdul Rahman Al-Sudais – The leading imam and khateeb of the Grand
mosque chief of presidency of Haramain Committee, Saudi Arabia.
Saud Al-Shuraim – The Imam and khateeb of the Grand
a professor of Islamic law at Umm al-Qura University.
Islamic schools and branches
Islamic views on sin
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Fiqh by Shaykh Musa Furber
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