The Shafi`i madhab is one of the four schools of fiqh or religious law within Sunni Islam. The Shafi`i school of fiqh is named after its founder: Muhammad ibn Idris ibn al-`Abbas, al-Imam al-Shafi`i, Abu `Abd Allah al-Shafi`i al-Hijazi al-Qurashi al-Hashimi al-Muttalibi (better known as Imam Shafi`i). The Shafi'i school is based upon the theories of the Islamic theologian Abu Abdullah ash-Shafi'i (767- 820). He was from 804 until 810 a student of Malik, the founder of one of the other schools.
The Shafi`i school is followed throughout the Ummah, but is most prevalent in Kurdistan, Egypt, Yemen, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Palestine, Syria and is the school of thought officially followed by the government of Brunei Darussalam and Malaysia. It is followed by approximately 15% of Muslims world-wide.
The Shafi`i tradition is particularly accessible to English speaking Muslims due to the availability of a high quality translation of the Reliance of the Traveller.
The Shafi`i school of jurisprudence is based on Qur'an (Koran), the Sunnah of the Prophet, Ijma' (the consensus of the scholars), the opinions of the Prophet's companions (mostly Al-Khulafa Ar-Rashidun, the first four caliphs accepted by Sunni Muslims) and Qiyas (though he is known to have significantly limited the scope for using qiyas in deriving Islamic law). His most famous books are Ar-Risalah and Al-Umm. They emphasized the use of proper instibat (derivation of laws) through the rigorous use of legal principles, as opposed to speculation and guess-work. He is largely responsible for systematizing the methods used for deriving Islamic laws.
The Shafi`i school is considered to be one of the more conservative of the four schools of Islamic jurisprudence, but there are many adherents of the Shafi`i tradition who maintain liberal views in practicing their religion.