Sunni Orthodoxy: When Was It Established and Systematized?

Answered by Shaykh Faraz A. Khan

Question: Is it true that “Sunni orthodoxy” was established in the third Islamic century? I have read this in many books authored by non-Muslims. My understanding is that orthodoxy was known from the first century, but systematized as a science in the third century. Is this understanding correct?


Answer: Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah,

I pray this finds you in the best of health and states.

Your understanding is correct, mashaAllah. Sunni orthodoxy was codified and organized formally in the second, third and fourth centuries, as 4 schools of jurisprudence (Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi’i, and Hanbali) and 2 schools of beliefs (Ash’ari and Maturidi).

Yet the teachings of those formal schools were in essence a presentation of revelation itself: the Qur’an sent down to our Master Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), and his Noble Sunna that explained and exemplified the Qur’an. The codified Sunni orthodoxy of those later centuries was merely a systematic formalization of what was inherited from the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and his Companions.

For more detail, please see related articles on, as well as the following:

A Reader on Following Schools of Thought (Madhabs)

The Ash`aris & Maturidis: Standards of Mainstream Sunni Beliefs

How Are Madhabs Any Different From Sects In Christianity?

And Allah knows best.
Faraz A. Khan

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani