How To Study The Shafi’i Madhab

Islamic Studies

How to Study the Shafi’i Madhab
15 JUL

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) – Muqadimah al-Majmu
al-Nawawi – Muqadimah al-Tanqih
Shams al-Ramli (d.1004/1596) – Sharh Muqadimah 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, with at least one text from each level covered. They form the basis of one’s training in the furu’ after having studied the basic primary texts in ibadah (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.

Elementary Level

al-Masa’il al-Ta’lim (i.e. al-Muqadimat al-Hadramiyah) with its primary commentaries al-Minhaj al-Qawim (elementary) and/or Bushra al-Karim (intermediate) – 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 basic 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 the elementary Fath al-Qarib by Ibn Qasim (with its advanced hashiyah by al-Bajuri or Nawawi al-Jawi); the intermediate Kifayat al-Akhyar by al-Hisni; the upper-intermediate al-Iqna’ by al-Khatib (with its hashiyah by al-Bujayrimi); the intermediate Tuhfat al-Labib by Ibn Daqiq al-Id, and the elemtary al-Nihayah by Wali al-Din al-Basir. Usually, only Fath al-Qarib and al-Iqna are ever fully studied. Mustafa al-Bagha has an edition of the text which mentions the evidences but the best edition is that by Dar Ibn Hazm.

Intermediate Level

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). Other commentaries are Fayd al-Ilah by al-Barakati and Anwar al-Masalik by al-Ghamrawi, which is very nice and clear. The best editions are those of Dar Ibn Hazm and Dar al-Minhaj. The best edition of Anwar al-Masalik is the Turkish edition.

Tuhfat al-Tullab bi Sharh Tahrir Tanqih al-Lubab by Shaykh al-Islam Zakariya al-Ansari – This is a precious work with an excellent layout and manner of presentation. In Maydan in Damascus they give particular importance to this work, which is one of the main intermediate level texts studied there. Tuhfat al-Tullab is one of the most popular texts ever in the madhab, attested by the vast amounts of manuscripts available throughout the Muslim world. The famous hashiya of Abdullah al-Sharqawi, who was the shaykh al-Azhar who led the ulama’s opposition to Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt, is replete with beneficial points and is highly regarded by specialists. The best edition of Tuhfat al-Tullab is the one published by Dar al-Basha’ir al-Islamiya, edited by Qasim b. Muhammad al-Nuri and titled, ‘al-Rawd al-Nadir.’ This edition combines Tuhfat al-Tullab with al-‘Imriti’s versification and footnotes extracted from Hashiyat al-Sharqawi. It also includes excellent indices.

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.

Advanced Level

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 (Manhaj al-Tullab), 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, Tuhfat al-Muhtaj by Ibn Hajar and Nihayat al-Muhtaj by 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/or difficulty. Tuhfat al-Muhtaj is especially difficult in its composition and has thus attracted a dozen hawashi upon it to explain its difficult passages. 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. The DKI edition is a type-up of the old Mustafa al-Babi al-Halabi edition. The 6 volume edition of Nihayat al-Muhtaj (without hawashi) recently published by DKI is actually quite decent. Our teachers in Madinah say there is nothing wrong with it. They also add that there is no decent edition of Tuhfat al-Muhtaj presently available.

Contemporary Works

These works are clearly written and presented in contemporary Arabic, whilst being based on some of the classical texts. They serve as excellent introductions to the study of the classical intermediate and advanced works of fiqh.

al-Fiqh al-Manhaji (an excellent intermediate level work in three volumes based on Mughni al-Muhtaj with hadith evidence)

al-Taqrirat al-Sadidah (a masterful summary based on Habib Zayn b. Sumayt’s classes covering texts in the Hadrami curriculum)

Fiqh al-Ibadah ‘ala al-Madhab al-Shafi’i (a splendid upper-intermediate work summarising Abd al-Karim al-Rifa’i’s classes on texts in the Syrian curriculum)

Sharh al-Yaqut al-Nafis (particularly excellent in the mu’amalat sections, could serve as an adjunct to the previous two texts)

al-Fiqh al-Shafi’i al-Muyasir (upper intermediate work 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 Ibn al-Salah
Fatawa al-Nawawi
Fatawa Sultan al-Ulama al-‘Izz b. ‘Abd al-Salam
Fatawa al-Subki
al-Hawi li al-Fatawa li al-Suyuti
al-Fatawa al-Fiqhiyah al-Kubra li Ibn Hajar
Fatawa Siraj al-Din Umar al-Bulqini
Fatawa Shihab al-Ramli


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:

al-Shirazi – Tabaqat al-Fuqaha’ (al-Shafi’iyah)
Ibn al-Salah – Tabaqat al-Fuqaha’ al-Shafi’iyah
Ibn Kathir – Tabaqat al-Shafi’in
Taj al-Subki – Tabaqat al-Shafi’iyah al-Kubra
al-Isnawi – Tabaqat al-Shafi’iyah
Ibn Qadi Shuhbah – Tabaqat al-Shafi’iyah
Qadi Abi ‘Asim al-‘Abadi – Tabaqat al-Fuqaha al-Shafi’iyah
Abd al-Wahhab al-Sha’rani – Tabaqat al-Kubra
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 – Iydah al-Qawa’id al-Fiqhiyah
al-Ahdal – al-Fara’id al-Bahiyah
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).

Sham (The Levant)

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
Amjad Rashid
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

Posted by Al-Asiri on July 15, 2012 in Fiqh
5 responses to “How to Study the Shafi’i Madhab”

Moamer Mohsin
August 2, 2013 at 2:44 pm
‘Habib Umar al Khatib’ does not exist. We have Habib Umar bin Hafidh or Umar bin Husain Al Khatib.


August 2, 2013 at 3:24 pm
Habib Umar al-Khatib does exist!

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