Will you give information about which madhhab is common in which country?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Hanafi madhhab originated in Iraq and became the main fiqh madhhab in the country during the caliphate of Abbasids. This madhhab spread toward the east and developed in Khorasan and Mawaraunnahr. Many famous Hanafi fiqh scholars were from the countries in those regions. In Maghrib, Hanafis and Malikis co-existed until the 5th century. Hanafis were prevalent in Sicily. After Abbasids, there was a recession in Hanafi madhhab but it started to develop again with the foundation of the Ottoman State. Judges following Hanafi madhhab were sent even to the places whose people followed another madhhab in the Ottoman land from Istanbul, which enabled Hanafi madhhab to assume an official identity in those places (for instance, Egypt and Tunisia).

Today, Hanafi madhhab is prevalent in Central Asian countries and regions like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkistan, Bukhara and Samarkand. Turks living in Turkey and Balkan countries, and the Muslims in Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Greece, Bulgaria and Romania are generally Hanafis today. Some Muslims living in Hejaz, Syria and Aden region of Yemen are also Hanafis. (Abu Zahra, Abu Hanifa, translated by O, Keskioğlu, Ist. 1966, p. 473 ff)

Shafii madhhab spread especially in Egypt. For, the imam of the madhhab spent the last period of his life there. This madhhab spread in Iraq too because Shafii started to spread his views there. It also spread in Khorasan and Mawaraunnahr via Iraq; it shared fatwa and teaching with Hanafi madhhabs in those regions. However, Hanafi madhhab was prevalent there because it was the official madhhab of Abbasid administration.   

When the administration was overtaken by Ayyubis, Shafii madhhab got stronger and had authority over both people and the state. However, during the era of Mamluks, Sultan Zahir Baybars put forward the view that qadis should be appointed according to four madhhabs and applied this view. However, Shafii madhhab had a superior position even in that era. For instance, the authority to appoint qadis to provincial cities and the right to control the property of orphans and foundations belonged to Shafii madhhab. 

When the Ottomans captured Egypt, Hanafi madhhab became superior. When Muhammad Ali Pasha became dominant in Egypt, he abolished acting upon the other madhhabs except Hanafi madhhab. Shafii madhhab also entered Iran.

There are a lot of people who follow Shafii madhhab among the Muslims of East Anatolia, Caucasia, Azerbaijan, India, Palestine, Ceylon and Malay. The only dominant madhhab in Indonesia is Shafii madhhab. (Abu Zahra, ibid, 358 ff)

The fiqh scholars of Hanbali madhhab were very strong but this madhhab did not spread as it was expected. The people who followed this madhhab were always in minority. They did not form the majority in any Islamic country. However, after the families of Najd and Saud (d 795/1393) became dominant in Hejaz region, Hanbali madhhab became very strong in the Arabian Peninsula.

The reason why this madhhab did not spread very much was as follows: Before Hanbali madhhab was established, Hanafis were dominant in Iraq, Shafiis and Malikis were dominant in Egypt and Malikis were dominant in Maghrib. 

Maliki Madhhab was common in Hejaz at first. However, the number of its followers in this region decreased due to various reasons afterwards. 

Imam Malik's views were transferred to Egypt when he was still alive. Maliki madhhab started to spread to Egypt and settled there thanks to the Egyptian students brought up according to Maliki madhhab. However, Shafii madhhab became dominant there afterwards. Then, people continued acting based on both madhhabs in Egypt; Hanafi madhhab also existed especially as a reference in judicial affairs. However, when Fatimis became dominant in Egypt, Shiite came to the forefront in judiciary and fatwa issues. Fatimis established Jami'ul-Azhar and made it ilm center of Shiite madhhab; they tried to eliminate Sunni madhhabs.

When Fatimi domination was ended by Salahuddin Ayyubi, Ahl as-Sunnah was revived and Shafii madhhab became dominant again. However, Maliki madhhab also became strong thanks to the religious schools (madrasahas) where Maliki fiqh was taught. During the era of Mamluks, all four madhhabs were taken into consideration in judicial affairs. The chief qadi of Egypt was appointed among Shafiis and the second qadi among Malikis. In 1920's, personal law was revised based on Maliki madhhab.

Another area where Maliki madhhab is dominant is Maghrib. Maliki fiqh, which was taken there by Imam Malik's students, became widespread among people with the practices of the serious administrators who did not make decisions without consulting the scholars and who showed respect to fiqh scholars.  

Maliki Madhhab was the madhhab that had the most followers in Andalusia. Awzai madhhab was dominant in Andalusia at first. However, after 200 H, Maliki madhhab started to be dominant in the region. The first person to introduce Maliki madhhab to Andalusia was Ziyad b. Abdurrahman, who was one of the most distinguished students of Imam Malik.  

Maliki madhhab spread in Sicily, Morocco and Sudan; then, it reached Baghdad, Basra and even to Nishabur.

The reasons why Maliki madhhab spread in Egypt, North Africa and Andalusia but did not become active in other regions were as follows: There were no ilm centers and mujtahid imams with circles of education in the region between Andalusia and Madinah unlike the countries in the north and east of Madinah; it was difficult for the students who came from the west to go to the east, where fiqh schools developed.   The students who went to Madinah and were educated by Imam Malik did not feel the need to leave Madinah, which was the center of ilm, and go to the east after finding a master like Imam Malik. It is stated that the reason why Maliki madhhab did not spread much in the north and east was the great activity of ilm in Damascus and Iraq, which were on the way to the north and east; the students who went there to learn ilm became satisfied with the ilm they found there. (see Abu Zahra, ibid, 407 ff)

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