al-Shafi`i (767-820)

A student of Malik who ended up becoming the founder of his own school of law, the Shafi`ite school. He wrote a famous "epistle" (the Risala) in which he showed how all of Islamic law is ultimately based on the Qur'an (something that was not at all taken for granted in his time.) To do this, he had to show that the Qur'an, which gives very little legal instruction, was explained and extended through the Sunna of the Prophet and the reasoning device of analogy.

It was al-Shafi`i and his followers who led Islamic law to regard only the Prophet's Sunna (as opposed to other types of sunna such as local practice or reports from early Muslims) as an authoritative basis for law. This required jurists to explain the relationship between apparently conflicting hadith and Qur'anic verses; this was the purpose of the hermeneutical discipline of usul al-fiqh (legal theory) that was developed especially among the Shafi`ites.

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