Uploaded: Friday, May 22, 2015 - 8:57 PM
Better known as `Imam-e-`Adham' (The Greatest Imam), or by his kunyah `Abu Hanifah', Nu'man ibn Thabit was born in the city of Kufa (modern day IRazi Allah Anhuq) in the year 80 A.H (689 A.D). Born into a family of tRazi Allah Anhudesmen, the Imam's family were of Persian origin as well as descending from the noble Prophet's (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) Companion Salman al-Farsi (Razi Allah Anhu). Imam Abu Hanifah's father, Thabit, had met in Kufa Imam `Ali Ibn Abi Talib (Razi Allah Anhu) who made dua for him and his progeny, and some say that Abu Hanifah was a result of this dua.
A hadith given by al-Bukhari and Muslim states that Abu HuRazi Allah AnhuiRazi Allah Anhuh (Razi Allah Anhu) narRazi Allah Anhuted Allah's Messenger (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) as saying:"If the Religion were at the Pleiades, even then a person from Persia would have taken hold of it, or one amongst the Persian descent would surely have found it." Abu HuRazi Allah AnhuiRazi Allah Anhuh (Razi Allah Anhu) also narRazi Allah Anhutes:"We were sitting in the company of Allah's Apostle (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) when SuRazi Allah Anhut al-Jum`a was revealed to him and when he recited amongst them, (those who were sitting there) said `Allah's Messenger?' but Allah's Apostle (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) made no reply, until he was questioned once, twice or thrice, and there was amongst us Salman the Persian. Allah's Apostle (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) placed his hand on Salman and then said:"Even if faith were near the Pleiades, a man from amongst these would surely find it."
Imam as-Suyuti a Shafi'i alim (rh) remarked:"It has been communicated unanimously that this hadith refers to Imam Abu Hanifah."
Kufa at the time of the Imam's birth was a great center of knowledge and learning, with many of the noble Prophet's (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) Companions (Razi Allah Anhu) having taken residence there. Due to the presence of these veneRazi Allah Anhuble people who had engendered so much interest in hadith and riwayat that pRazi Allah Anhuctically every house in Kufa had become a center of these disciples and their disciplines.
At first, Imam Abu Hanifah was not a student of knowledge. However, by coincidence, while one day passing by the house of Sha'bi (an acclaimed "Great Scholar among the Successors (rh)"), Abu Hanifah was called in by the shaykh who mistook him for a student. "Where are you going young man?" asked Sha'bi. Abu Hanifah named the merchant he was going to see. "I meant to ask," asked Sha'bi, "Whose classes you attend?" ► "Nobody's," replied the Imam regretfully. "I see signs of intelligence in you," began Sha'bi,"you should sit in the company of learned men."
It was after this encounter that the young Imam began his quest for knowledge. Imam Abu Hanifah acquired knowledge from over four thousand people. His teachers included many prestigious men of the time whose sanad went back to a number of Companions (Razi Allah Anhu). He himself was blessed with the meeting of the Companions: Anas ibn Malik, Abdullah ibn Afwa and Sahl ibn Sa'ad (Razi Allah Anhu), thus gaining him the Razi Allah Anhunk of being a Tabi'i (Successor to the Companions).
Amongst Imam Abu Hanifah's shayukh was Hammad ibn Sulayman, he joined his circle at the age of 22, having already become a well-known debater and studied with this shaykh until the latter's death, whereupon he took over his majlis (circle) at the age of forty. Shu'ba, a leading muhaddith who knew-by-heart two thousand tRazi Allah Anhuditions was also a teacher of Imam Abu Hanifah. Shu'ba was greatly attached to Imam Abu Hanifah saying: "Just as I know that the sun is bright, I know that learning and Abu Hanifah are doubles of each other."
The Imam's quest for knowledge inevitably took him to the Holy Sanctuaries, at a time when Makkah was a busy center for learning. A number of acknowledged masters of hadith, who had had access to the Prophet's (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam) Companions (Razi Allah Anhu) had established their own schools there. Of these was `Ata bin Razi Allah Anhubah's (rh) school. `Ata was a famous Tabi'i who had associated with most of the Companions (Razi Allah Anhu) and acquired from this association a status of authority. He himself claimed to have met two hundred men who had associated with the Noble Prophet (sallal laahu alaihi wasallam). The leading Companions (Razi Allah Anhu) all acknowledged his learning. Abdullah ibn `Umar (Razi Allah Anhu), son of the Caliph `Umar (Razi Allah Anhu) often used to say:"Why do people come to me when `Ata ibn Abi Razi Allah Anhubah is there for them to go to?" Of the other Muhaddithin of Makkah whose classes the Imam attended was `Ikrimah. He was the slave and pupil of Abdullah ibn `Abbas, who educated him with great care and attention, making him so proficient that he, during his own lifetime gave Imam Abu Hanifah the authority to exercise personal judgement and rulings. "Imam Abu Hanifah was the first to analyze Islamic jurisprudence, divide it into subjects, distinguish its issues and determine the Razi Allah Anhunge and criteria for analytical reasoning (qiyas)."
Al-Hafiz al-Kabir Abu Bakr Ahmad al-Harizmi wrote in his book"Musnad":
`Saif al-Aimma' reports that when Imam Abu Hanifah derived a matter from the Qur'an and Hadith, he would not give the answer to the inquirer unless all of them [his students] confirmed it. One thousand of Abu Hanifah's disciples attended all his classes when he taught in the Mosque of Kufa City. Forty of them were mujtahids. When he would find an answer for a matter, he would suggest to his students who would study it together, and when they reached an agreement of it being consistent with the Qur'an and Hadith, and with the words of the Sahabah (Razi Allah Anhu), he would be delighted and say, "Al-hamdu li'llah wallahu Akbar," and all those who were present would repeat his words. Then he would tell them to write it down.
Ibn `Abd al-Barr relates in"Al-Intiqa'":
`Abd Allah ibn Ahmad al-DawRazi Allah Anhuqi said:"Ibn Ma'inn was asked about Abu Hanifah as I was listening, so he said"He is trustworthy (thiqatun), I never heard that anyone had weakened him." No less than Shu'ba wrote to him [for narRazi Allah Anhutions], and ordered him to narRazi Allah Anhute hadith.'
►Ibn Hajar said in Kharija ibn al-Salt's notice in"Tahdhib al-Tahdhib":
Ibn Abi Khaythama said:"If al-Shu'bi narRazi Allah Anhutes from someone and names him, that man is trustworthy (thiqa) and his narRazi Allah Anhution is used as proof (yuhtajju bi hadithihi)".
Many well-known shuyukh narRazi Allah Anhuted from Imam Abu Hanifah, to name but a few: al-Thawri, ibn al-MubaRazi Allah Anhuk, Hammad ibn Zayd and `Abd al-Razi Allah Anhuzzaq (one of Imam al-Bukhari's shaykhs.) Al-Mizzi in"Tahdhib al-Kamal" names about one hundred names of those who narRazi Allah Anhuted from Imam Abu Hanifah.
Imam as-Shafi'i (rh) is recorded to have stated:"All men of fiqh are Abu Hanifah's children" and"I would not have acquired anything of knowledge had it not been for my teacher. All men of knowledge are children of the ulema of IRazi Allah Anhuq, who were the disciples of the ulema of Kufa, and they were the disciples of Abu Hanifah."
The Hanafi madhhab, entitled after the Imam, spread far-and-wide during the time of the Ottoman Empire. Today, more than half of the Muslims on the earth perform their `ibabadah according to the Hanafi madhhab. The Hanafi school has decided court cases in the majority of Islamic lands for the greater part of Islamic history, including the `Abbasid and Ottoman periods.
Not only was Imam Abu Hanifah's extRazi Allah Anhuordinary mind and knowledge something to be admired, but so too was his exemplary chaRazi Allah Anhucter and piety. Al-Dhahabi writes:"Accounts of his piety and devotion have reached a degree of tawatur (i.e., an unbroken chain of uncontRazi Allah Anhudicted narRazi Allah Anhutions)."
He was given the title of"The `Peg'" by some, for his continuous standing in pRazi Allah Anhuyer, often reciting the entire Qur'an in his nightly Razi Allah Anhukahs. He performed the Fajr pRazi Allah Anhuyer with the ablution made for the Isha pRazi Allah Anhuyers for forty years (due to him pRazi Allah Anhuying the whole night through). It is reported that he had recited the whole Qur'an seven thousand times in the place where he died.
He earned his living through tRazi Allah Anhude (sending goods to other places), and with the earnings he made, he met the needs of his students. He gave much to charity and every Friday he would distribute twenty gold coins to the poor for his parents' souls.
In the year 146 A.H, Abu Hanifah was sent to prison by Mansur, the leader at the time, after the Imam's refusal to state that Mansur was the rightful khalifa, as well as refusing the position of presidency of the Supreme Court in recompense. While in prison, Imam Abu Hanifah was thRazi Allah Anhushed with a stick. Mansur repented and sent the Imam money, only to be refused again. By now, Imam Abu Hanifah had become well-known and thousands flocked to meet and seek his opinion wherever he went. His imprisonment far from reduced his popularity, and Mansur realized that he would have to treat the Imam carefully, thus he allowed him to teach while still in prison. Mansur finally decided to do away with the great Imam and had him poisoned. Abu Hanifah, feeling the effects of the poison, bent down in pRazi Allah Anhuyer and died in the month of Razi Allah Anhujab. News of the Imam's death reached far-and-wide, and thousands gathered at the prison. The city Qadi washed his body, and kept repeating:"By God, you were the greatest faqih and the most pious man of our time ..."
By the time the bathing was finished, so many people had assembled that the funeRazi Allah Anhul pRazi Allah Anhuyer was performed attended by fifty thousand people.
The Great Imam died in Baghdad in 150 A.H at the age of seventy. May Allah (swt) be pleased with him. Ameen.
The book Qamus al-alam states: Al-Imam al-azam Abu Hanifa's name was Numan. His father's name was Thabit. His grandfather's name was Numan, too. He was the first of the four great imams of the Ahl as-Sunnat. 'Imam' means 'profoundly learned scholar.' He was one of the main pillars of the brilliant religion of Muhammad ('alaihi 's-salam). He was a descendant of a Persian notable. His grandfather had embraced Islam. He was born in Kufa in 80 (698 A.D.). He was born early enough to see Anas ibn Malik, 'Abdullah ibn Abi Awfa, Sahl ibn Sad as-Sa'idi and Abu al-Fadl Amir ibn Wasila, four Sahabis (radi-Allahu ta'ala anhum). He learned 'ilm al-fiqh from Hammad ibn Abi Sulaiman. He enjoyed the companionship of many notables of the Tabiin, and of Imam Jafar as-Sadiq (rahmat-Allahi ta'ala 'alaih). He memorized innumerable hadiths. He was brought up so as to become a great judge, but he became an imam al-madhhab. He had a superior, and amazingly keen intellect. In 'ilm al-fiqh, he attained an unequalled grade in a short time. His name and fame became world-wide.
Yazid ibn 'Amr, Governor of Iraq during the time of Marwan ibn Muhammad, the fourteenth and last Umayyad Khalifa, who was a grandson of Marwan ibn Hakam (rahmat-Allahi ta'ala 'alaih) and was killed five years after assuming the caliphate in Egypt in 132 (750 A.D.), proposed to Abu Hanifa (rahmat-Allahi ta'ala 'alaih) to become a judge for the law-court of Kufa. But, since he had as much zuhd, taqwa and wara' as he had knowledge and intellect, he refused it. He was afraid of not being able to safeguard human rights because of human weaknesses. With a command from Yazid, he was given a whipping, hundred and ten blows to the head. His blessed face and head swelled. The next day, Yazid took the Imam out and oppressed him by repeating his offer. The Imam said, "Let me consult," and obtained permission to leave. He went to the blessed city of Mecca and stayed there for five or six years.
The 'Abbasid Khalifa Abu Jafar Mansur (rahmat-Allahi ta'ala 'alaih) commanded him to be the chief of the Supreme Court of Appeal in 150 A.H. [767 A.D.]. He refused it and was put into jail. He was subjected to whipping, ten blows more every following day. When the number of whipping reached one hundred, he attained martyrdom. Abu Sad Muhammad ibn Mansur al-Harizmi (rahmat-Allahi ta'ala 'alaih), one of the viziers of Malikshah (447-485 A.H., the third Saljuqi Sultan and the son of Sultan Alparslan), had a wonderful dome built over his grave. Afterwards, Ottoman emperors embellished and had his tomb restored several times.
Abu Hanifa (rahmat-Allahi ta'ala 'alaih) was the first who compiled and classified 'ilm al-fiqh, and he gathered information for each branch of knowledge. He wrote the books Fara'id and Shurut. There are innumerable books describing his extensive knowledge on fiqh; his extraordinary ability in qiyas; and his dumbfounding superiority in zuhd, taqwa, mildness and righteousness. He had many disciples, some of whom became great mujtahids.
The Hanafi Madhhab spread far and wide during the time of the Ottoman Empire. It almost became the official Madhhab of the State. Today, more than half of the Muslims on the earth and most of the Ahl as-Sunnat perform their 'ibada according to the Hanafi Madhhab. Citation from the book Kamus-ul alam ends here.
The book Mir'at al-ka'inat states:
The ancestors of al-Imam al-azam (rahmat-Allahi ta'ala 'alaih) come from the province of Faris, Iran. His father, Thabit, had met Imam 'Ali (radi-Allahu 'anh) in Kufa and Hadrat 'Ali had pronounced a benediction over him and his descendants. Al-Imam al-azam was one of the greatest among the Tabiin and saw Anas ibn Malik (radi-Allahu 'anh) and three or seven more of the as-Sahabat al-kiram. He learned hadith-i sharifs from them.
A hadith ash-Sharif, which al-Imam al-Harizmi reported from Abu Huraira (radi-Allahu 'anh) through isnad muttasil (an uninterrupted chain of reporters), states: "Among my Umma, there will come a man called Abu Hanifa. On the Day of Resurrection, he will be the light of my Umma." Another hadith ash-Sharif states: "A man named Numan ibn Thabit and called Abu Hanifa will appear and will revive Allahu ta'ala's Religion and my Sunnat." And another one states: "In every century, a number of my Umma will attain to high grades. Abu Hanifa will be the highest of his time." These three hadiths are written in the book Mawduat al-'Ulum and in Durr al-mukhtar. This hadith ash-Sharif is also well-known: "Among my Umma, a man called Abu Hanifa will appear. There is a beauty-spot between his two shoulder blades. Allahu ta'ala will revive His Religion through his hand."
[Preface to Durr al-mukhtar writes: "A hadith ash-Sharif states: 'As Adam ('alaihi 's-salam) was proud of me so I am proud of a man of my Umma named Numan and called Abu Hanifa. He is the light of my Umma.' " Another hadith ash-Sharif states: "Prophets ('alaihimu 's-salam) are proud of me. And I am proud of Abu Hanifa. He who loves him will have loved me. He who feels hostility towards him will have felt hostility towards me." These hadiths are also written in the book Al-muqaddima by the profound scholar Hadrat Abu 'l-Laith as-Samarqandi and in Taqadduma, which is a commentary to the former. In the preface to the fiqh book Al-muqaddima by al-Ghaznawi hadiths praising him are quoted. In Diya' al-ma'nawi, a commentary on it, Qadi Abi 'l-Baqa said, 'Abul-Faraj 'Abd ar-Rahman ibn al-Jawzi, based on the words of al-Khatib al-Baghdadi, said that these hadiths were mawdu'. Yet this remark of his is bigotry, for these hadiths were reported by several chains of transmitters. Ibn 'Abidin, in his commentary on Durr al-mukhtar, proved that these hadiths were not mawdu' and quoted the following hadith ash-Sharif from the book Al-khairat al-hisan by Ibn Hajar al-Makki: "The ornament of the world will be taken away in the year 150." He went on, "The great fiqh scholar Shams al-aimma 'Abd al-Ghaffar al-Kardari (d. 562/1166 A.D.) said, "It is obvious that this hadith ash-Sharif refers to al-Imam al-azam Abu Hanifa, since he passed away in 150." A hadith ash-Sharif given by al-Bukhari and Muslim says, "If iman went to the planet Venus, a man of Faris (Persian) descent would bring it back." Imam as-Suyuti, a Shafi'i alim, remarked, "It has been communicated unanimously that this hadith ash-Sharif refers to al-Imam al-azam." Numan Alusi writes in the book Ghaliyya that this hadith ash-Sharif refers to Abu Hanifa and that his grandfather descended from a Faris family. 'Allama Yusuf, a Hanbali scholar, quoted in his work Tanwir as-sahifa from Hafiz 'Allama Yusuf ibn 'Abd al-Barr (b. 368/978 and d. 463/1071 in Shatiba), Qadi of Lisbon, Portugal, 'Do not slander Abu Hanifa and do not believe those who slander him! I swear by Allahu ta'ala that I know not a person superior to him, having more wara', or being more learned than he. "Do not believe what al-Khatib al-Baghdadi said! He was antipathetic towards the 'ulama'. He slandered Abu Hanifa, Imam Ahmad and their disciples. The 'ulama' of Islam refuted al-Khatib and censured him. Ibn al-Jawzi's grandson, 'Allama Yusuf Shams ad-din al-Baghdadi, wrote in his forty-volume book Mirat az-zaman that he was astonished to know that his grandfather had followed al-Khatib. Imam al-Ghazali (rahmat-Allahi ta'ala 'alaih), in his Ihya', praises al-Imam al-azam with such words as ''abid', 'zahid' and 'al-'arifu bi'llah'. If the Sahabat al-Kiram and the 'ulama' of Islam had different points of view from one another, it was not because they did not approve of each other's words or because they were unsociable to one another or because they disliked one another; mujtahids (rahmat-Allahi ta'ala 'alaihim ajmain) disagreed with one another concerning ijtihad for Allahu ta'ala's sake and to help the religion."1]
An alim dreamt of Rasulullah (sall-Allahu 'alaihi wa sallam) and asked him, 'What would you say about Abu Hanifa's knowledge?' He answered, 'Everybody needs his knowledge.' Another alim asked in his dream, 'O Rasul-Allah! What would you say about the knowledge Numan ibn Thabit has, who lives in Kufa?' He answered, "Learn from him and do as he says. He is a very good person." Imam 'Ali (radi-Allahu 'anh) said, "Let me inform you of a person called Abu Hanifa, who will live in Kufa. His heart will be full of knowledge and hikma (wisdom). Towards the end of the world, many people will perish because of not appreciating him, just as the Shiites will perish because of not having appreciated Abu Bakr and 'Umar (radi-Allahu 'anhuma)." Imam Muhammad al-Baqir ibn Zain al-'Abidin 'Ali ibn Husain (rahmat-Allahi 'alaihim, b. 57 A.H. in Medina and d. 113, buried in the shrine of Hadrat 'Abbas [radi-Allahu 'anh] in Medina) looked at Abu Hanifa and said, "When those who destroy the religion of my ancestors increase in number, you will revive it. You will be the savior of those who fear and the shelter of those who are confused! You will lead the heretics to the right way! Allahu ta'ala will help you!" When he was young, al-Imam al-azam (rahmat-Allahi ta'ala 'alaih) studied 'ilm al-kalam and marifa and became very skillful. Then after serving Imam Hammad for twenty-eight years, he attained maturity. When Hammad passed away, he took his place as a mujtahid and Mufti. His knowledge and superiority became known far and wide. His virtue, intelligence, sagacity, zuhd, taqwa, trustworthiness, readiness of wit, devotion to Islam, righteousness and his perfection in every respect as a human being were above those of all others of his time. All the mujtahids and those who succeeded him and noble people -even Christians- praised him. Al-Imam ash-Shafi'i (rahmat-Allahi ta'ala 'alaih) said, "All men of fiqh are Abu Hanifa's children." He said once, "I get blessings (tabarruk) from Abu Hanifa['s soul]. I visit his tomb every day. When I am in difficulty, I go to his tomb and perform two rak'as of salat. I invoke Allahu ta'ala, and He gives me what I wish." Al-Imam ash-Shafi'i was a disciple of Imam Muhammad.2 He remarked, "Allahu ta'ala bestowed knowledge upon me through two persons. I learned the Hadith ash-Sharif from Sufyan ibn 'Uyayna and fiqh from Muhammad ash-Shaibani." He said once, "In the field of religious knowledge and in worldly affairs, there is one person to whom I am grateful. He is Imam Muhammad." And again, al-Imam ash-Shafi'i said, "With what I learned from Imam Muhammad I have written a pack-animal-load of books. I would not have acquired anything of knowledge had he not been my teacher. All men of knowledge are the children of the 'ulama' of Iraq, who were the disciples of the 'ulama' of Kufa. And they were the disciples of Abu Hanifa."
Al-Imam al-azam acquired knowledge from four thousand people.
The 'ulama' of every century wrote many books describing the greatness of al-Imam al-azam.
In the Hanafi Madhhab, five hundred thousand religious problems were solved and all of them were answered. [editor's note: It is to be noted that that number is close to doubled in the present-day era.]
Al-Hafiz al-kabir Abu Bakr Ahmad al-Harizmi wrote in his book Musnad,
"Saif al-aimma reports that when al-Imam al-azam Abu Hanifa derived a matter from Qur'an al-karim and Hadith ash-Sharif, he would propound it to his masters. He would not give the answer to the inquirer unless all of them confirmed it." One thousand of his disciples attended all his classes when he taught in the mosque of Kufa city. Forty of them were mujtahids. When he found the answer for a matter he would propound it to his disciples. They would study it together and, when they were all in agreement that it was consistent with Qur'an al-karim and Hadith ash-Sharif and with the words of the Sahabat al-kiram, he would be delighted and say, "Al-hamdu li'llah wallahu akbar," and all those who were present would repeat his words. Then he would tell them to write it down."
"Being a mujtahid requires first being specialized in the Arabic language and in the various linguistic sciences such as awda', sahih, marwi, mutawatir; ways of radd; mawdu' vocabulary; fasih, radi and mazmun forms; mufrad, shadh, nadir, mustamal, muhmal, mu'rab, marifa, ishtiqaq, haqiqa, majaz, mushtarak, izdad, mutlaq, muqayyad, ibdal and qalb. Next you must be specialized in sarf, nahw, ma'ani, bayan, badi', balaghat, 'ilm al-usul al-fiqh, 'ilm al-usul al-hadith, 'ilm al-usul at-tafsir, and have memorized the words of the imams of jarh and tadil. Being a faqih requires, in addition to these, knowing the proof for every matter and studying the meaning, the murad and tawil of the proof. Being a muhaddith, that is, a scholar of hadith, requires only memorizing the hadiths as one heard them; it is not compulsory to know the meanings, murads, tawils, or to understand the proofs for the rules of Islam. If a faqih and a muhaddith disagree with each other about a hadith ash-Sharif, e.g. if the former says that it is sahih and the latter says that it is daif, the faqih's word will be valid. Therefore, al-Imam al-azam's word or decision is more valuable than all the others because he was the first mujtahid and the highest faqih due to his having heard many hadiths directly from the Sahabat al-kiram without any intervention. A hadith ash-Sharif that was said to be sahih by this exalted imam was said to be sahih by all Islamic scholars. A muhaddith cannot be in the grade of a faqih. And he can never reach the grade of an imam al-madhhab."
'Abdulhaq ad-Dahlawi, a scholar of hadith, wrote in his book Sirat-i mustaqim,
"Some hadiths which al-Imam ash-Shafi'i took as documents were not taken as documents by al-Imam al-azam Abu Hanifa. Seeing this, the la-madhhabi used it as an opportunity for traducing al-Imam al-azam and claimed that Abu Hanifa had not followed the hadith ash-Sharif. However, Hadrat al-Imam al-azam Abu Hanifa found and took other hadiths which were more sahih and dependable in documenting the matter."
A hadith ash-Sharif states: "The most beneficial ones of my Umma are those who live in my time. The next most beneficial ones are those who succeed them. And the next most beneficial ones are those who will come after them." This hadith ash-Sharif shows that the Tabiin were more beneficial than Taba' at-Tabiin. The Islamic 'ulama' all agree that al-Imam al-azam Abu Hanifa saw some of the as-Sahabat al-kiram, heard hadiths from them, and, therefore, was one of the Tabiin. For example, al-Imam al-azam heard the hadith, "A person who builds a mosque for Allahu ta'ala's sake will be given a villa in Paradise," from 'Abdullah ibn Awfa, who was a Sahabi. Jalal ad-din as-Suyuti, a Shafi'i scholar, wrote in his book Tabyid as-sahifa that al-Imam 'Abdulkarim, one of the Shafi'i scholars, wrote a complete book describing the Sahabis whom al-Imam al-azam had seen. It is written in Durr al-mukhtar that al-Imam al-azam saw seven Sahabis. Among the four aimmat al-madhahib, only al-Imam al-azam was honored with being one of the Tabiin. It is a rule in 'ilm al-usul that the view of those who admit something is preferred to the view of those who refuse it. It is obvious that al-Imam al-azam Abu Hanifa, being one of the Tabiin, is the highest of the aimmat al-madhahib. The la-madhhabis' denying al-Imam al-azam's superiority or their trying to vilify this exalted Imam by saying that he was weak in the knowledge of hadith, is similar to their denying the superiority of Hadrat Abu Bakr and Hadrat 'Umar (radi-Allahu 'anhuma). This perverse negation of theirs is not a sort of illness that can be cured by preaching or advice. May Allahu ta'ala cure them! The Muslims' Khalifa 'Umar (radi-Allahu 'anh) said during his khutba: "O Muslims! As I tell you now, Rasulullah (sall-Allahu 'alaihi wa sallam) told us during his khutba: "The most beneficial people are my Sahaba. The most beneficial after them are their successors. And the next most beneficial are those who will come after them. There will be liars among those who will come after these.' " The four Madhhabs which Muslims have been following and imitating today are the Madhhabs of those beneficial people whose beneficence was corroborated by Rasulullah (sall-Allahu 'alaihi wa sallam). The Islamic 'ulama' declare in consensus that it is not permissible to adopt a Madhhab other than these four Madhhabs.
Ibn Nujaim al-Misri (rahmat-allahi ta'ala 'alaih), author of the book Bahr ar-ra'iq, wrote in his work Ashbah, "Hadrat al-Imam ash-Shafi'i said that a person who wanted to be a specialist in the knowledge of fiqh should read Abu Hanifa's books." Abdullah Ibn Mubarak said, "I have not seen another specialist as learned as Abu Hanifa in the knowledge of fiqh. The great alim Mis'ar used to kneel in front of Abu Hanifa and learn what he did not know by asking him. I have studied under a thousand 'ulama'. Yet, had I not seen Abu Hanifa, I would have slipped into the bog of Greek philosophy." Abu Yusuf said, "I have not seen another person as profoundly learned as Abu Hanifa in the knowledge of hadith. There is not another alim who can expound hadiths as competently as he did." The great alim and mujtahid Sufyan ath-Thawri said, "In comparison with Abu Hanifa, we were like sparrows with a falcon. Abu Hanifa is the leader of the 'ulama'." 'Ali ibn Asim said, "If Abu Hanifa's knowledge were to be measured with the total knowledge of all the 'ulama' contemporary with him, Abu Hanifa's knowledge would prove to be greater." Yazid ibn Harun said, "I studied under a thousand 'ulama'. Among them I did not see anyone who had as much wara' as Abu Hanifa did or who was as wise as Abu Hanifa (rahmat-Allahi ta'ala 'alaih)." Muhammad ibn Yusuf ash-Shafi'i, one of the Damascene 'ulama', praises al-Imam al-azam Abu Hanifa much, explains his superiority in detail, and says that he is the leader of all mujtahids in his book Uqud al-jaman fi manaqibi'n-Numan. Al-Imam al-azam Abu Hanifa said, "We esteem and love Rasulullah's ('alaihi 's-salam) hadiths above all. We search for the words of the Sahabat al-kiram, choose and adopt them. As for the words of the Tabiin, they are like our words. Translation from the book Radd-i Wahhabi ends here. This book was printed in India and in Istanbul, in 1264 (1848 A.D.) and in 1401 (1981 A.D.), respectively.
In the book Sayf-ul-muqallidin ala a'nak-il-munkirin, Mawlana Muhammad 'Abd al-Jalil wrote in Persian: "The la-madhhabi say that Abu Hanifa was weak in the knowledge of hadith. This assertion of theirs shows that they are ignorant or jealous. Al-Imam az-Zahabi and Ibn Hajar al-Makki say that al-Imam al-azam was an alim of hadith. He learned hadiths from four thousand 'ulama'. Three hundred of them were among the Tabiin and were 'ulama' of hadith. Al-Imam ash-Sharani says in the first volume of al-Mizan, 'I have studied three of al-Imam al-azam's Musnads. All of them transmit information from the well-known 'ulama' of the Tabiin.' Hostility which the la-madhhabi people bear against the Salaf as-salihin and their jealousy towards the mujtahid imams, particularly towards their leader al-Imam al-Muslimin Abu Hanifa, must have obstructed their perception and conscience to the extent that they deny the beauty and superiority of these Islamic 'ulama'. They are intolerant of the fact that pious people have what they do not have. It is for this reason that they deny the superiority of the imams of Islam and thus venture into the shirk (polytheism) of jealousy. It is written in the book Hada'iq: "When al-Imam al-azam Abu Hanifa memorized hadiths he wrote them down. He kept the hadith books he wrote in wooden boxes, some of which he always kept at hand wherever he went. His quoting only a few hadiths does not show that the number of hadiths he memorized was small. Only bigoted enemies of Islam may say so. This bigotry of theirs proves al-Imam al-azam's perfection; an inept person's slandering the learned indicates the former's perfection." Founding a great Madhhab and answering hundreds of thousands of questions by documenting them with ayats and hadiths could not have been done by a person who was not deeply specialized in the sciences of tafsir and hadith. In fact, bringing forth a new, unique Madhhab without a model or an example is an excellent proof for al-Imam al-azam's expertise in the sciences of tafsir and hadith. Because he worked with extraordinary energy and brought forth this Madhhab, he did not have time to quote the hadiths or to cite their transmitters one by one; this cannot be grounds for denigrating that exalted imam by jealously casting aspersions on him by saying that he was weak in the knowledge of hadith. It is a known fact that riwaya (transmitting) without diraya (ability, intelligence) has no value. For example, Ibn Abd al-Barr said, "If riwaya without diraya were valuable, a dustman's quoting a hadith would be superior to Luqman's intelligence." Ibn Hajar al-Makki was one of the 'ulama' in the Shafi'i Madhhab, but he wrote in his book Qala'id: "The great alim of hadith A'mash asked al-Imam al-azam Abu Hanifa many questions. Al-Imam al-azam answered each of his questions by quoting hadiths. After seeing al-Imam al-azam's profound knowledge in hadith, A'mash said, 'O, you, the 'ulama' of fiqh! You are like specialized doctors, and we the 'ulama' of hadith are like pharmacists. We cite hadiths and their transmitters, but you are the ones who understand their meanings.' " It is written in the book 'Uqud al-jawahiri 'l-munifa: "While 'Ubaidullah ibn 'Amr was in the company of the great alim of hadith A'mash, someone came up and asked a question. As A'mash thought about the answer, al-Imam al-azam joined in. A'mash repeated the question to the Imam and requested an answer. Al-Imam al-azam immediately answered it in detail. Admiring the answer, A'mash said, "O Imam! From which hadith do you derive this?' Al-Imam al-azam quoted the hadith ash-Sharif from which he derived the answer and added, 'I heard this from you.' " Al-Imam al-Bukhari knew three hundred thousand hadiths by heart. He wrote only twelve thousand of them in his books because he feared very much the threat in the hadith ash-Sharif, "If a person quotes, in the name of hadith, what I have not uttered, he will be tormented very bitterly in Hell." Having much wara' and taqwa, al-Imam al-azam imposed very heavy conditions for the transmitting of hadiths. He would quote only those hadiths fulfilling these conditions. Some 'ulama' of hadith transmitted numerous hadiths because their branch was wider and their conditions were lighter. The 'ulama' of hadith never belittled one another on account of differing conditions. Had this not been so, Imam Muslim would have said something to offend al-Imam al-Bukhari (rahmat-Allahi ta'ala 'alaihima). Al-Imam al-azam Abu Hanifa's transmitting only a few hadiths because of his circumspection and taqwa could only be a good reason for praising and lauding him."4
The book Mirat al-ka'inat goes on: "Al-Imam al-azam Abu Hanifa (rahmat-Allahi ta'ala 'alaih) performed morning prayer in a mosque and answered his disciples' questions until noon every day. After noon prayer, he taught his disciples again until night prayer. Then he would go home and, after resting for a while, return to the mosque and worship until morning prayer. Mis'ar ibn Kadam al-Kufi, one of the Salaf as-salihin, who passed away in 115 (733 A.D.), and many other great people reported this fact.
He earned his living in a halal way by trading. He sent goods to other places and with his earnings he met the needs of his disciples. He spent much for his household and gave an equal amount as alms to the poor. Moreover, every Friday he distributed twenty gold coins to the poor for his parents' souls. He did not stretch his legs towards his teacher Hammad's (rahmat-Allahi ta'ala 'alaih) house, though he lived at a distance of seven streets away. Once he found out that one of his partners had sold a large amount of goods incompatibly with Islam. He distributed all the ninety thousand aqchas earned to the poor, not taking one penny of it. After brigands had raided the villages of Kufa and had stolen sheep, he, thinking that these stolen sheep might be slaughtered and sold in the town, did not eat mutton for seven years, for he knew that a sheep lived seven years at the longest. He abstained from the haram to that degree. He observed Islam in his every action.
For forty years al-Imam al-azam (rahmat-Allahi ta'ala 'alaih) performed the morning prayer with the ablution he had made for the night prayer [that is, he did not sleep after the night prayer.] He performed hajj fifty-five times. During the last one, he went into the Kaba, performed a prayer of two rak'as and recited the whole Qur'an al-karim during the prayer. Then, weeping, he invoked, "O my Allahu ta'ala! I have not been able to worship Thee in a manner worthy of Thee. Yet I have understood very well that Thou cannot be comprehended through intelligence. For this understanding of mine, please forgive the defects in my service! At that moment a voice was heard, "O Abu Hanifa! You have acknowledged Me very well and have served Me beautifully. I have forgiven you and those who will be in your Madhhab and follow you until the end of the world." He read Qur'an al-karim from the beginning to the end once every day and once every night.
Al-Imam al-azam had so much taqwa that for thirty years he fasted every day [except the five days of a year on which it is haram to fast]. He often read the whole Qur'an al-karim in one rak'a or two. And sometimes, during salat or outside it, he read an ayat describing Heaven and Hell over and over again and sobbed and lamented.5 Those who heard him pitied him. Among the Umma of Muhammad ('alaihi 's-salam), reciting the whole Qur'an al-karim in a single rak'a of salat fell to the lot of only 'Uthman ibn 'Affan, Tamim ad-Dari, Sad ibn Jubair and al-Imam al-azam Abu Hanifa. He did not accept any presents from anyone. He wore clothes like those of the poor. Yet at times, in order to exhibit the blessings of Allahu ta'ala, he wore very valuable clothes. He performed hajj fifty-five times and stayed in Mecca for several years. Only at the place where his soul was taken, he had read the whole Qur'an al-karim seven thousand times. He said, "I laughed once in my life, and I regret it." He talked little and thought much. He discussed some religious matters with his disciples. One night, while leaving the mosque immediately after performing the night prayer in jamaat, he began to talk with his disciple Zufar on some subject. One of his feet was inside the mosque and the other was outside. The conversation continued until the morning adhan. Then, without taking the other step out, he went back in for the morning prayer. Because Hazrat 'Ali (radi-Allahu 'anh) had said, "It is permissible to have a personal allowance of up to four thousand dirhams," he distributed to the poor what was more than four thousand dirhams of his earnings.
The Khalifa Mansur revered the Imam very much. He presented him ten thousand aqchas and a jariya. The Imam did not accept them. At that time one aqcha was worth one dirham of silver. In 145 A.H., Ibrahim ibn 'Abdullah ibn Hasan ibn 'Ali was recruiting men in order to help his brother Muhammad (rahmat-Allahi ta'ala 'alaihim ajmain), who had proclaimed himself the Khalifa in al-Madinat al-munawwara. When he came to Kufa, it was rumored that Abu Hanifa was helping him. Mansur heard this and had the Imam taken from Kufa to Baghdad. He told him to tell everybody that Mansur was rightfully the Khalifa. He offered him the presidency of the Supreme Court of Appeal as a recompense. He imposed on him very much. The Imam did not accept it. Mansur imprisoned him and had him thrashed with a stick thirty strokes. His blessed feet bled. Mansur repented and sent him thirty thousand aqchas, only to be refused again. He was imprisoned again and thrashed ten strokes more every day. [According to some report] on the eleventh day, for fear that the people might rebel, he was forced to lie down on his back and poisonous sherbet (a sweet fruit drink) was poured into his mouth. As he was about to die, he prostrated (sajda). Some fifty thousand people performed janaza salat for him. Because of the enormous crowd, it was performed with difficulty and finished not before the late afternoon prayer. For twenty days many people came to his tomb and performed janaza salat for him near his tomb.
He had seven hundred and thirty disciples. Each of them was famed for his virtue and pious deeds. Many of them became Qadis or Muftis. His son Hammad (rahmat-Allahi ta'ala alaih) was one of his notable disciples. Passages from the book Mirat-ul-kainat ends here.
They have been leaders guiding the ahl-i din,
rahmat-Allahi 'alaihim ajmain.
There were some disagreements between al-Imam al-azam and his disciples on the information that was to be deduced through ijtihad. The following hadith ash-Sharif declares that these disagreements were useful: "Disagreement (on the 'amal, practices) among my Umma is [Allahu ta'ala's] compassion." He feared Allahu ta'ala very much and was very careful in following Qur'an al-karim. He said to his disciples, "If you come across a document (sanad) inconsistent with my words on a subject, ignore my words and follow that document." All his disciples swore, "Even our words inconsistent with his words surely depend on a proof (dalil, sanad) we had heard from him."
Hanafi Muftis have to issue fatwas agreeable with what al-Imam al-azam said. If they cannot find his word, they should follow Imam Abu Yusuf. After him, Imam Muhammad should be followed. If the words of Imam Abu Yusuf and Imam Muhammad are on one side and those of al-Imam al-azam on the other, a Mufti may issue a fatwa according to either side. When there is darura (a pressing difficulty), he may issue a fatwa suitable with the words of the mujtahid who showed the easiest way. He cannot issue a fatwa that does not depend on the words of any of the mujtahids; such an issue cannot be called a fatwa.
1. It is explained in the second fascicle of Endless Bliss that a mawdu' hadith does not mean 'false, made-up hadith' in 'ilm al-usul al-hadith.
2. Al-Imam al-azam Abu Hanifa's two leading disciples were al-Imam Muhammad bin Mubarak al-Shaybani and Al-Imam Abu Yusuf al-Ansari (rahmat-Allahi ta'ala 'alaihim).
3. First published in India in 1264 (1848 A.D.); reprinted in Persian in Istanbul in 1401 (1981 A.D.).
4. Saif al-muqallidin 'ala a'naqi 'l-munkirin.
5. Crying out of love for Allah ta'ala in salat does not break the salat in the Hanafi Madhhab.