lmam Muhammad ibn Idris ash-Shifi’i, the founder of one of the four orthodox sects of Sunnis, was born at Askalon in Palestine A.H. 150. He was of the same tribe as the Prophet, and is distinguished by the appellation of al-Imamu ‘l-Muttalibi, or Quraish Muttalibi, because of his descent from the Prophet’s grandfather, ‘Abdu ‘l-Muttalib. He derived his patronymic ash-Shifi’i from his grandfather, Shafi’i Ibn as-Sa’ib. His family were at first among the most inveterate of Muhammad’s enemies. His father, carrying the standard of the tribe of Hashim at the battle of Badr, was taken prisoner by the Muslims, but released on ransom, and afterwards became a convert to Islam. Ash-Shafl’i is reported by Muslim writers to be the most accurate of all the traditionists, and, if their accounts be well founded, nature had indeed endowed him with extraordinary talents for excelling in that species of literature. It is said that at seven years of age he had got the whole Qur’an by rote; at ten he had committed to memory the Muwatta’ of Malik, and at fifteen he obtained the rank of Mufti. He passed the earlier part of his life at Gaza, in Palestine (which has occasioned many to think he was born in that place); there he completed his, education and afterwards removed to Makkah. He came to Baghdad A.H. 195, where he gave lectures on the traditions, and composed his first work, entitled al-Usul. From Baghdad he went on a pilgrimage to Makkah, and from thence afterwards passed into Egypt, where he met with Imam Malik. It does not appear that he ever returned from that country, but spent the remainder of his life there, dividing his time between the exercises of religion, the instruction of the ignorant, and the composition of his later works. He died at Cairo A.H. 204. Although he was forty-seven years of age before he began to publish, and died at fifty-four, his works are more voluminous than those of any other Muslim doctor. He is said to have been the first who reduced the science of Jurisprudence into a regular system, and to have made a systematic collection of traditions. Imam Hambal remarks that until the time of ash-Shafi’i men did not know how to distinguish between the traditions that were in force and those that were cancelled. His first work was, as before-mentioned, the Usul, or” fundamentals,” containing all the principles of the Muslim civil and canon law. His next literary productions were the Sunan and Masnad, both works on the traditional law, which are held in high estimation among the Sunnis. His works upon practical divinity are various, and those upon theology consist of fourteen volumes. His tomb is still to be seen at Cairo, where the famous Salahu ‘d-din afterwards (A.H. 587) founded a college for the preservation of his works and the, propagation of his doctrines. The mosque at Hirah was built by Sultan Ghiyasu ‘d-Din for the same purpose. Imam ash-Shafi’i is said to have been a person of acute discernment and agreeable conversation. His reverence for Gad was such that he never was heard to mention his name except in prayer. His manners were mild and ingratiating, and he reprobated all unnecessary moroseness or severity in a teacher, it being a saying of his that whoever advised his brother tenderly and in private did him a service, but that public reproof could only operate as a reproach. His principal pupils were Imam Ahmad ibn Hambal and az-Zuhairi, the former of whom afterwards founded a sect [HANBAL.]
The Shafi’i sect of Sunnis is chiefly met with in Egypt and Arabia.
Based on Hughes, Dictionary of Islam