The Formation of the Sunni Schools of Law, 9th-10th Centuries C.E.


The Sunni schools of law are named for jurisprudents of the eighth and ninth centuries, but they did not actually function so early. The main division at that time was rather between adherents of ra'y and ḥadīth. No school had a regular means of forming students.
Relying mainly on biographical dictionaries, this study traces the constitutive elements of the classical schools and finds that they first came together in the early tenth century, particularly with the work of Ibn Surayj (d. 306/918), al-Khallāl (d. 311/923), and a series of ḥanafī teachers ending with al-Karkhī (d. 340/952). Mālikism prospered in the West for political reasons, while the ẓāhirī and Jarīrī schools faded out due to their refusal to adopt the common new teaching methods.
In this book the author fleshes out these historical developments in a manner that will be extremely useful to the field, while at the same time developing some new and highly original perspectives.

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Christopher Melchert, Ph.D. (1992) in History, University of Pennsylvania, is a student of Islamic movements and institutions of the ninth and tenth centuries C.E. He has published half a dozen articles besides this, his first book.
' Melchert puts the institutional history of Islamic law on a new evidentiary basis. His account of the origins of the madhhab s of law is clear and carefully documented. Readers will find new accounts of how the different schools approached the law: of the nature of traditionalist jurisprudence, of its effect on jurisprudence by ra'y , of the compromise nature of the classical madhhab s of law. Of basic importance is Melchert's thorough knowledge of the sources and his insightful use of them. He has made a fundamental contribution to the field.'
George Makdisi, Professor Emeritus of Arabic and Islamic Studies, University of Pennsylvania.
' …this book could have enormous significance for scholars working in Islamic theology, history, and Sufism.'
Jonathan E. Brockopp, Religious Studies Review, 2000.
All students of the Classical Period of Islam, and students of Islamic law in all periods.