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1038 Is it true that (I don't know the exact number) that there were about 300 Schools of Thought... And over time, now there are 4 - Hanafi, Shafi, Malaki and Hambali?
No this is incorrect.

A brief explanation about the Four Fiqhi Imams is given below:

Imam Abu Hanifa (R.A)

Nu’maan Bin Thaabit (R.A) was the First Imam of Fiqh. His name was Abu Hanifa and title include “Imam e Azam”. He was born in Iraq in year 80 AH.

Imam e Azam (R.A) met the companions of the Prophet (S.A.W) and is counted amongst the rank of “Tabii” (name given to a person who has seen a Sahabi).

He (R.A) was renowned for his sharp mind, discipline and integrity of character. He was the first who compiled and classified 'ilm al-Fiqh, and He (R.A) gathered information for each branch of knowledge. Imam e Azam (R.A) passed away in the year 150 AH.

Imam Abu Malik (R.A)

Abu Abdullah, Malik bin Anas (R.A) was the Second Imaam of Fiqh.

He (R.A) was born in Medina Shareef in the year 93 AH. His ancestral home was in Yemen, but his grandfather settled in Medina after embracing Islam.

Imam Malik (R.A)’s followers and disciples developed a Fiqh school based on his books which came to be known as the Maliki School of Thought.

He (R.A) spent 55 years in the study of Fiqh and Hadith and was regarded as the most authentic Scholar of Hadith and Hadith literature. Imam Malik (R.A) passed away in the year 179 AH.

Imam Shafi (R.A)

Muhammad Bin Idris (R.A) was the Third Imam of Fiqh.

He was famously known as “Imam Shafi” and was born in Gaza, Syria in the year 150 AH. The lineage of Imam Shafi (R.A) joined with our Beloved Prophet Mohammed (S.A.W) at the 7th Step, this being the Hashimi family of Quaraish.

Imam Shafi (R.A) possessed a very sharp memory. He became Hafiz of Quran at the age of 7, and at the age of 13 memorized the whole of Kitabul Muatta of Imam Malik (R.A).
He was 20 year old when he went to Medina Shareef and became a student of Imam Malik (R.A).

He (R.A) also came into contact with about 81 Sheikhs from whom he acquired the knowledge of the Quran and Hadith. Imam Shafi (R.A) passed away in the Year 204 AH.

Imam Ahmed Bin Hanbal (R.A)

Ahmed bin Muhammad Hanbal was the Last of the Four Imam of Fiqh.

He (R.A) was known as ibn Hanbal and born in the year 164 AH.

Imam ibn Hanbal (R.A) studied various subjects in his hometown and travelled far in search of knowledge. He was mainly interested in acquiring knowledge of Hadith traditions of the Holy Prophet (S.A.W).

Amongst the work of Imam Ibn Hanbal (R.A) is the great encyclopedia of traditions called Musnad, containing over 28,000 traditions. His other works include Kitab-us-Salaat (the Discipline of Prayer) and Kitab-us-Sunnah (the Traditions of the Prophet (S.A.W)).

The Hanbali School of Thought is the smallest group of the Four Sunni Madhabs.

Imam Ahmed Bin Hanbal (R.A) passed away in the year 241 AH.

(Answered by: Hafiz Mohammed Akhtar)
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