Fiqh by Maulana Maududi-Towards Understanding Qur'an
Detailed law derived from the Qur'an and the Hadith covering the myriads of problems that arise in the course of man's life have been compiled by some of the leading legislators of the past. The Muslims should forever be grateful to those men of learning and vision who devoted their lives to gaining a mastery of the Qur'an and the Hadith, and who made it easy for every Muslim to fashion his everyday affairs according to the requirements of the Shariah. It is due to them alone that Muslims all over the world can follow the Shariah easily even though their attainments in religion are never such that they could themselves give a correct and authentic interpretation of the Qur'an or the Hadith.
Although in the beginning many religious leaders applied themselves to the task, only four major schools of thought remain. They are:
Fiqh Hanafi: This is the Fiqh compiled by Abu Hanifa Numan bin Thabit with the assistance and cooperation. of Abu Yusuf Muhammad, Zufar and others, all of whom had high religious attainments to their credit. This is known as the Hanafi School of Fiqh.
Fiqh Maliki: This Fiqh was derived by Malik bin Anas Asbahi.
Fiqh Shafi'i: Founded by Muhammad bin Idris al-Shafi'i.
Fiqh Hanbali: Founded by Ahmad bin Hanbal.
All of these were given their final form within two hundred years of the time of the Prophet. The differences that appear in the four schools are but the natural outcome of the fact that the truth is many-sided. When different persons employ themselves in interpreting a given event, they come out with different explanations according to their own lights. What gives these various schools of thought the authenticity that is associated with them is the unimpeachable integrity of their respective founders and the authenticity of the method they adopted. That is why all Muslims, whatever school they may belong to, regard all the four schools of thought as correct and true. Even so one can normally follow only one of them in one's life (there is the group of Ahl-ul-Hadith who believe that those who have the required knowledge and learning should directly approach the Qur'an and the Hadith for guidance and those who are not bestowed with such knowledge and faculties should follow whichever school they like in any particular matter.