Madhhab (Arabic: مذهب [ˈmæðhæb], pl. مذاهب [mæˈðæːhɪb]; transliterated Urdu: mazhab or mezheb) is a Muslim school of law or fiqh (religious jurisprudence). In the first 150 years of Islam, there were many such "schools". In fact, several of the Sahābah, or contemporary "companions" of Muhammad, are credited with founding their own. The prominent Islamic jurisprudence schools of Damascus in Syria (often named Awza'iyya), Kufa and Basra in Iraq, and Medina in Arabia survived as the Maliki madhhab, while the other Iraqi schools were consolidated into the Hanafi madhhab. The Shafi'i, Hanbali, Zahiri and Jariri schools were established later, though the latter two schools eventually died out.
The four mainstream schools of Sunni jurisprudence today, named after their founders (sometimes called the A’immah Arba‘a or four Imaams of Fiqh), are not generally seen as distinct sects, as there has been harmony for the most part among their various scholars throughout Islamic history.
Generally, Sunni Muslims prefer one madhhab out of the four (normally a regional preference). but also believe that ijtihad must be exercised by the contemporary scholars capable of doing so. Others insist on taqlid, or acceptance of religious rulings on matters of worship and personal affairs from a higher religious authority without necessarily asking for the technical proof as a requirement. This practice is very common amongst Sufis, who follow an Islamic mystical order, tariqah.
Experts and scholars of fiqh follow the usul (principles) of their own native madhhab, but they also study the usul, evidences, and opinions of other madhhabs.
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