There are several different schools of thought within Islam. Their main difference is that, while they all agree on basic Islamic doctrine, they disagree on minor issues of jurisprudence and practice.
The Ammam Message
The Ammam Message, released in 2004, calls for tolerance and unity in the Muslim world. This statement was followed by the issuance of a three-point ruling defining who is and who is not a Muslim, rules and principles dealing with excommunication and religious edicts. This statement recognizes the diversity of schools of Islamic thought.
“The Amman Message started as a detailed statement released the eve of the 27th of Ramadan 1425 AH / 9th November 2004 CE by H.M. King Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein in Amman, Jordan. It sought to declare what Islam is and what it is not, and what actions represent it and what actions do not. Its goal was to clarify to the modern world the true nature of Islam and the nature of true Islam.” (for more information see The Ammam Message website)
Schools of Thought
Following are the main schools of thought in Islam. For details about each, you may want to see Al-Islam.org:
- Hanafi (roughly 31%, the oldest and yet most liberal school of thought)
- Maliki (about 25%; originally called the School of Medina; appeals to “common utility, the idea of the common good”)
- Shafi’i (about 16%; Imam Shafi’i’s book, Al-Risalah, is considered to be the foundation of Islamic jurisprudence)
- Hanbali (about 4%; a strict interpretation of Shari’a law; the Wahhabi branch is a subset, and most Wahhabis live in Saudi Arabia)
- Ja’fari (roughly 23%; Shi’a Muslims)