What Is the Meaning of Madhhabs?

Answered by Ustadha Shazia Ahmad


What is the difference between Shafi’i and Hanafi? Is it essential to follow one? My husband and father-in-law say we are all Muslims, should not categorize ourselves as Shafi’i or Hanafi, and are all equal.

I want to get a good picture of the word Shafi’i and Hanafi so I can explain them to my husband.


Following a madhhab is the correct and traditional way of following Islam. Madhhabs (schools of thought or fiqh) have been followed for centuries and mistakenly left by the Wahhabi movement in the 18th century. Please see this article for a detailed answer to your question: What is a Madhhab? Why is it necessary to follow one?

The beauty of following madhhabs is that each Muslim correctly follows what has come to us from the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace). At the same time, the four different madhhabs award us some differences of opinion that are all correct and facilitate matters for the modern world or one’s situation. Indeed they are a great blessing. May Allah make it easy for everyone to follow one and practice how the Prophet practiced Islam.

Please see this link for several articles on the subject:
A Reader on Following Schools of Thought (Madhabs)

[Ustadha] Shazia Ahmad
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Ustadha Shazia Ahmad lived in Damascus, Syria for two years where she studied aqida, fiqh, tajweed, tafsir, and Arabic. She then attended the University of Texas at Austin, where she completed her Masters in Arabic. Afterward, she moved to Amman, Jordan where she studied fiqh, Arabic, and other sciences. She later moved back to Mississauga, Canada, where she lives with her family.