Shafi’i is one of four main interpretations of Sharia Law within Sunni Islam. Depending on what surveys are used, Shafi’i is either second or third by size among Sunni Muslims, being very close in size to the Maliki school. Within Sunni Islam, all schools of law treat the Qur’an and hadith as main sources of doctrine and practice. Where these schools differ is on what further resources have authority, and to what extent human reason or discretion play in applying Islamic law. Shafi’i is notable for its rejection of human speculation in judicial matters, a major disagreement to schools such as Hanbali.
Shafi’i is considered a “conservative” approach to Islamic law. Like most Islamic schools, Shafi’i accepts the idea of analogy, also known as qiyas, which allows a judge to apply established Sharia rulings to a new situation or new idea. However, like the Hanbali school, Shafi’i does not allow for consideration of personal opinion or local custom. Nor does it accept legal arguments based on “the greater good” of either Islam or the local community. The concern of Shafi'i is the full, unhesitating acceptance of the hadith.
Shafi'i is most common in southeast Asia and eastern segments of Africa as well as among the Kurdish people.