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History of Four Imams in Islam

History of Four Imams in Islam

Concept of Four Imams in Islam

The four Imams in Islam are the most prominent figures in Islamic knowledge and jurisprudence history. They are known for their vast knowledge, wisdom, and contribution to Islamic law and theology development. The Fourth Imam in Islam is also known as Aima Arba.

The word “fiqh” literally means “understanding” or “comprehension” in Arabic. Islamic jurisprudence cannot be discussed apart from the scope of the four great imams of fiqh and their schools of thought. It is important to know and understand that despite their differences of opinion on matters of fiqh, these blessed Imams had nothing but the utmost respect for each other. A study of their lives will show how much respect and honor they had for each other.

Each Imam developed his methodology and approach to interpreting and deriving rulings from the Quran and Sunnah (the teachings and practices of the Prophet Muhammad). His schools of thought, known as madhabs, became influential and were followed by Muslims worldwide.

First Imam of Islam

Ali ibn Talib was the cousin or son-in-law and one of the fourth caliphs. Hazrat Ali was the first imam and successor in Shia Islam; However, Sunnis also recognized him as the fourth Caliph. They occupy a high position in almost all Sufi Muslim orders. Members of these orders trace their lineage through them to Prophet Muhammad (SAW).

Names of Four Imams

Four Imams in Islam, Imam Abu Hanifa, Imam Malik, Imam Shafi’i, and Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal, were all great Muslims and very important figures in the history of Islam. His teachings laid the foundation for Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh).

Imam Abu Hanifa

Nu’man Ibn Thabit Ibn Zuta Ibn Marzuban commonly known by his surname Abu Hanifa, or by Sunni Muslims as Imam Abu Hanifa. According to most sources, he was born in Kufa, Iraq, in 80 AH (699 AC). His father, Thabit Ibn Zuta, was a Persian.

Teachers of Imam Abu Hanifa

According to most of his teachers, the scholars at this time were among the Tabieen and the Tabi Tabieen: Abdullah bin Masoud (Kufa), Ibrahim al-Nakhi, Amir bin Al-Shabi, Imam Hamad bin Sulaiman, Imam Ata Ibn Rabah, Qatadah Ibn al-Numan, Rabiah bin Abu Abd al-Rahman And many scholars.

Students of Imam Abu Hanifa

Imam Abu Hanifa had thousands of students. Twenty-eight disciples of Imam Abu Hanifa became Qazis in different towns, cities, and provinces, and eight became Imams. Some of the students of Imam Abu Hanifa are as follows: Imam Abu Yusuf, Imam Muhammad bin Hasan Shaibani, Imam Zafar, Imam Malik bin Mithal, Imam Dawood Tai, Imam Mandal bin Ali,  Imam Nizar bin Abdul Kareem,  Imam Amr bin Maimon, Imam Habban bin Ali, Imam Abu Asma, Imam Zuhair bin Muawiya, Imam Hassan bin Ziyad And many scholars.

Books of Imam Abu Hanifa

Some of the books directly written by Imam Abu Hanifa are Fiqh al-Akbar, Kitab al-Radalat al-Qadiriya, Knowledge and Learning,  Fiqh al-Ibast, The Book of Disagreement of the Companions, Kitab al-Jaami, Al-Kitab Al-Awsat,  Kitab al-Sair, Risalah Abu Hanifa Ali Uthman al-Bayti, The Will of Imam Abu Hanifah in Al-Tawheed.

Death of Imaam Abu Hanifa

He died around 150 AH (767 AC) in Baghdad, aged 70, from abuse in prison or perhaps poison.

Imam Abu Malik

Imam Abu Malik Ibn Anas bin Malik Ashbahi al-Hamiri. He is commonly known as Imam Malik. Imam Abu Malik was born in Medina in 93 AH. He grew up in an environment steeped in knowledge and began learning from a young age. Due to his intelligence, he was allowed to issue fatwas at the young age of 21. He considered it sufficient to learn from the scholars who came to Medina. He taught knowledge in Madinah. Thus, he was known as “Imam Dar al-Hujra” (Imam of the Land of Migration), and during his lifetime, he never left Madinah except for the major and minor Hajj. The famous book of Imam Malik is al-Muwatta.

Teachers and Students of Imam Abu Malik

Among his teachers were Nafi, Ayyub al-Sakhtiani, Hameed Thaweel, Salama Ibn Dinar, Ata al-Khorasani, Az Zahri, and many other scholars besides them. He especially learned many lessons in jurisprudence from Rabi’a Ar’i. His students included Abdullah Ibn Mubarak, Abd al-Rahman Ibn Mahdi, Abdullah Ibn Wahib, Ibn Al-Qasim, Al-Qanbi, Saeed Ibn Mansur, Qutiba, Yahya Ibn Baqir and other scholars.

Death of Abu Malik

Imam Malik died at the age of 84 in 795 AD in Madinah and is buried in the famous Jannat al-Baqi cemetery in front of Masjid al-Nabawi.

Imam Shafi

The Imam’s full name is Abu Abdullah Muhammad ibn Idris al-Shafa’i ibn al-Abbas ibn Uthman ibn Saifi ibn Ubaid ibn Abd Yazid ibn Hasim ibn al-Muttalib [Abd al-Muttalib’s father, grandfather of the Prophet] ibn Abd Manaf. He is the only Imam who is related to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) because he belonged to the Quraysh crew of Banu al-Muttalib, which was the brother-in-law crew of Banu Hashim.

Teachers of Imam Shafi

Imam Shafi learned from scholars in different places like Mecca, Medina, Kufa, Basra, Yemen, Syria, and Egypt. Some of the prominent scholars who taught Shafi are as follows: Muslim bin Khalid al-Zangi (in Makkah), Sufyan bin Uyaina Hilali (in Makkah), Ibrahim Ibn Yahya, Imam Malik Ibn Anas (in Medina), Waqi’ bin al-Jarrah bin Malih al-Kufi (in Kufa), Muhammad bin Hasan al-Shibani (in Basra), Hamad Ibn Osama Al-Hashmi Al-Kuffi (in Kufa), Abdul-Wahhab bin Abdul-Majid Al-Basri (in Basra).

Student of Imam

Al-Shafi’i had many gifted students, some of whom became distinguished masters. Among his best students are Imam Abu Yaqoob al-Bawiti,  Abu Ibrahim Ismail bin Yahya al-Muzani, Rabi bin Sulaiman al-Mradi, Abu Ali al-Karabisi, and Ibrahim Bin Khalid Abu Thor. He also met Imam Ahmad bin Hambi and acquired mutual knowledge between the two.

Books of Imam Shafi

He authored more than 100 books. Some of these are as follows: Kitab al-Alam, Al-Risalah, Discord of Hadith, Alamlat, The Iraqi Dissent, Jama’at-ul-Ilam, Difference between Malik and Al-Shafi, Kitab al-Hijjah.

Death of Imam Shafi

He died in the year 204 AH (820 AC) at the age of 54 on a Friday in the month of Rajab of the Islamic calendar.

Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal

Ahmad bin Muhammad was the last of the four Imams in Islam of Hanbal jurisprudence. He was known as Ibn Hanbal. He was born in 780 in the city of Baghdad. Imam Ibn Hanbal (may Allah have mercy on him) studied various subjects in his city and traveled far and wide in search of knowledge. He primarily focused on acquiring knowledge of the blessed hadiths of the Messenger of Allah (PBUH).

Teachers of Imam Hanbal

He learned and wrote hadiths from Imam Shafi, Hashim, Ibrahim Ibn Sa’d, Sufyan Ibn Uyaina, Ibad Ibn Ibad, Yahya Ibn Abi Zayda and other scholars of his time. The number of teachers he cited for Kitab al-Musnad alone was more than 280.

Students of Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal

Students of Imam Ahmad were Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawud, Abu Zara, Mateen, Abdullah Ibn Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, Abul Qasim Al Baghwi, and many more students.

Books of Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal

Some of the book’s names are as follows: Musnad, Resala Shalat, Al Masail, Al Ashriba, Fadhail, and Ash Shahabah.

Death of Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal

He passed away on 12 Rabi Al-Awwal 241 Hijri at the age of 77.


In conclusion, the enduring impact of the four Imams in Islam—Abu Hanifa, Malik, Shafi’i, and Ahmad bin Hanbal—resonates through their contributions, shaping the rich tapestry of Islamic jurisprudence. Their teachings and methodologies, encapsulated in the Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi, and Hanbali madhabs, continue to guide and inspire Muslims. Worldwide fostering a deep respect for diverse perspectives within the Islamic legal tradition. The teachings of the Four Imams in Islam despite variations in their approaches. The unity of purpose among these esteemed scholars underscores the profound respect and honor. They held for one another, leaving an indelible mark on the history and understanding of Islamic law.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How many Fiqh in Islam?

The number of nineteen fiqhs of jurisprudence that developed during the first four centuries of Islam has reduced to five, of which four are Sunni and one is Shia. The Sunni fiqhs are Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi and Hanbali, and the Shia fiqh is Jafari.

What are the 4 madhabs?

There are four madhabs are as follows Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi and Hanbali.

What is the real name of the 4 imams?

The 4 great Sunni Imams Imam Abu Hanifa, Imam Malik, Imam As-Shafi’i, and Imam Ahmed ibn Hanbal.

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14 days ago

Allah bless you and improve your research that will guide all Muslim. Ameen

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