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The Shari'ahs' Sources (Sources of Legislation)
The sources of the Shari'ah are the Qur'an, and the Sunnah of the Messenger, peace be upon him, which is the explanation of the Qur'an. The scholars have exerted great efforts for the deduction of rulings from these two great sources. Since the Islamic Shari'ah is the last of all divine laws, it is designed to suit every age and place; Hence, the judicial rulings deduced by the jurists are not alike, because such rulings are based on their understanding of the texts. The deduced rulings referred to as al-fiqh, or jurisprudence, were later compiled by different imams. There are four renowned madthahibs, or schools of thought established by different imams or scholars, whose teachings were widespread, and adhered to by large number of students. The four schools of thoughts are:
Al-Hanafi madth'hab, by Imam Abu Hanifa, (d.150/767).
Ash Shafi'ee, by Imam Muhammad bin Idrees ash-Shafi'ee (d 205/820).
Al-Malikee, by Imam Malik bin Anas (d 179/795).
Al-Hanbali, by Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal (d 241/855).
A person who is incapable of comprehending rulings, or deducing them from the Book and the Sunnah, he may consult any trustworthy man of knowledge who is known to be adhering to the correct conviction of ahlus-Sunnah wal-Jama'ah.