أبو حنيفة نعمان بن ثابت بن زوطا بن مرزبان
Nuʿmān ibn Thābit ibn Zūṭā ibn Marzubān with Islamic calligraphy
|Title||The Great Imam|
|Born||699 (80 Hijri)
Kufa, Umayyad Caliphate
|Died||767 (150 Hijri)
Baghdad, Abbasid Caliphate
|Era||Islamic golden age|
|Notable work(s)||Al-Fiqh al-Akbar|
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Abū Ḥanīfa al-Nuʿmān b. Thābit b. Zūṭā b. Marzubān (Arabic: أبو حنيفة نعمان بن ثابت بن زوطا بن مرزبان; c. 699 – 767 CE), known as Abū Ḥanīfa for short, or reverently as Imam Abū Ḥanīfa by Sunni Muslims, was an 8th-century Sunni Muslim theologian and jurist of Persian origin, who became the eponymous founder of the Hanafi school of Sunni jurisprudence, which has remained the most widely practiced law school in the Sunni tradition, predominates in Central Asia, Afghanistan, Persia (until the 16th century), Balkans, Russia, Chechnya, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Muslims in India, Turkey, and some parts of the Arab world.
He is often alluded to by the reverential epithets al-Imām al-Aʿẓam (“The Greatest Imam”) and Sirāj al-aʾimma (“The Lamp of the Imams”) in Sunni Islam. He is also considered a renowned Islamic scholar and personality by Sunni Muslims.
Born to a Muslim family in Kufa, Abu Hanifa is known to have travelled to the Hejaz region of Arabia in his youth, where he studied under the most renowned teachers in Mecca and Medina at the time. As his career as a theologian and jurist progressed, Abu Hanifa became known for favoring the use of reason in his legal rulings (faqīh dhū raʾy) and even in his theology. Abu Hanifa’s theological school is claimed to be what would later develop into the Maturidi school of Sunni theology.
Abū Ḥanīfah was born in the city of Kufa in Iraq, during the reign of the Umayyad caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan. His father, Thabit bin Zuta, a trader from Kabul (modern-day Afghanistan), was 40 years old at the time of Abu Hanifa’s birth.
His grandfather Zuta is said to have been brought as a slave from Kabul and transported to Kufa, where Abu Hanifa was born. He studied at Kufa and gradually gained influence as an authority on legal questions, founding a moderate rationalist school of Islamic jurisprudence that was named after him.
His ancestry is generally accepted as being of Persian origin as suggested by the etymology of the names of his grandfather (Zuta) and great-grandfather (Mah). The historian Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi records a statement from Imām Abū Ḥanīfah’s grandson, Ismail bin Hammad, who gave Abū Ḥanīfah’s lineage as Thabit bin Numan bin Marzban and claiming to be of Persian origin. The discrepancy in the names, as given by Ismail of Abū Ḥanīfah’s grandfather and great-grandfather, are thought to be due to Zuta’s adoption of the Arabic name (Numan) upon his acceptance of Islam and that Mah and Marzban were titles or official designations in Persia, with the latter, meaning a margrave, referring to the noble ancestry of Abū Ḥanīfah’s family as the Sasanian Marzbans (equivalent of margraves). The widely accepted opinion, however, is that most probably he was of Persian ancestry .
Adulthood and death
In 763, al-Mansur, the Abbasid monarch offered Abu Hanifa the post of Chief Judge of the State, but he declined the offer, choosing to remain independent. His student Abu Yusuf was later appointed Qadi Al-Qudat (Chief Judge of the State) by the Caliph Harun al-Rashid.
In his reply to al-Mansur, Abū Ḥanīfah said that he was not fit for the post. Al-Mansur, who had his own ideas and reasons for offering the post, lost his temper and accused Abū Ḥanīfah of lying.
“If I am lying,” Abū Ḥanīfah said, “then my statement is doubly correct. How can you appoint a liar to the exalted post of a Chief Qadi (Judge)?”
Incensed by this reply, the ruler had Abū Ḥanīfah arrested, locked in prison and tortured. He was never fed nor cared for. Even there, the jurist continued to teach those who were permitted to come to him.
On the 15 Rajab 150 (August 15, 767), Abū Ḥanīfah died in prison. The cause of his death is not clear, as some say that Abū Ḥanīfah issued a legal opinion for bearing arms against Al-Mansur, and the latter had him poisoned. The fellow prisoner and Jewish Karaite founder, Anan Ben David, is said to have received life-saving counsel from the subject. It was said that so many people attended his funeral that the funeral service was repeated six times for more than 50,000 people who had amassed before he was actually buried. On the authority of the historian al-Khatib, it can be said that for full twenty days people went on performing funeral prayer for him. Later, after many years, the Abū Ḥanīfah Mosque was built in the Adhamiyah neighbourhood of Baghdad. Abū Ḥanīfah also supported the cause of Zayd ibn Ali and Ibrahim al Qamar both Alid Zaidi Imams.
The tomb of Abū Ḥanīfah and the tomb of Abdul Qadir Gilani were destroyed by Shah Ismail of Safavi empire in 1508. In 1533, Ottomans conquered Baghdad and rebuilt the tomb of Abū Ḥanīfah and other Sunni sites.
Many people came to study under Imām Abu Hanifa from different parts of Muslim world in his lifetime. Imām Yusuf ibn Abd al-Rahman al-Mizzi listed 97 hadith scholars who were his students. Most of them were famous hadith scholars and their narrated hadiths were compiled in the Sahih al-Bukhari, Sahih Muslim and other famous books of hadith. Imām Badr al-Din al-Ayni included another 260 students who studied Hadith and Fiqh from Abu Hanifa.
His most famous student was Imām Abu Yusuf, who served as the first chief justice in the Muslim world. Another famous student was Imām Muhammad al-Shaybani, who was the teacher of the Shafi‘i school of jurisprudence founder, Imām Al-Shafi‘i. His other students include:
- Abdullah ibn Mubarak
- Abu Nuāim Fadl Ibn Dukain
- Malik bin Mighwal
- Dawood Taa’ee
- Mandil bin Ali
- Qaasim bin Ma’n
- Hayyaaj bin Bistaam
- Hushaym bin Basheer Sulami
- Fudhayl bin Iyaadh
- Ali bin Tibyaan
- Wakee bin Jarrah
- Amr bin Maymoon
- Abu Ismah
- Zuhayr bin Mu’aawiyah
- Aafiyah bin Yazeed
Sources and methodology
The sources from which Abu Hanifa derived Islamic law, in order of importance and preference, are: the Qur’an, the authentic narrations of the Muslim prophet Muhammad (known as hadith), consensus of the Muslim community (ijma), analogical reasoning (qiyas), juristic discretion (istihsan) and the customs of the local population enacting said law (urf). The development of analogical reason and the scope and boundaries by which it may be used is recognized by the majority of Muslim jurists, but its establishment as a legal tool is the result of the Hanafi school. While it was likely used by some of his teachers, Abu Hanifa is regarded by modern scholarship as the first to formally adopt and institute analogical reason as a part of Islamic law.
As the fourth Caliph, Ali had transferred the Islamic capital to Kufa, and many of the first generation of Muslims had settled there, the Hanafi school of law based many of its rulings on the prophetic tradition as transmitted by those first generation Muslims residing in Iraq. Thus, the Hanafi school came to be known as the Kufan or Iraqi school in earlier times. Ali and Abdullah, son of Masud formed much of the base of the school, as well as other personalities from the direct relatives (or Ahli-ll-Bayṫ) of Moḥammad from whom Abu Hanifa had studied such as Muhammad al-Baqir. Many jurists and historians had reportedly lived in Kufa, including one of Abu Hanifa’s main teachers, Hammad ibn Abi Sulayman.
Abū Ḥanīfah is regarded by some as one of the Tabi‘un, the generation after the Sahaba, who were the companions of the Islamic prophet, Muhammad. This is based on reports that he met at least four Sahaba including Anas ibn Malik, with some even reporting that he transmitted Hadith from him and other companions of Muhammad. Others take the view that Abū Ḥanīfah only saw around half a dozen companions, possibly at a young age, and did not directly narrate hadith from them.
Abū Ḥanīfah was born 67 years after the death of Muhammad, but during the time of the first generation of Muslims, some of whom lived on until Abū Ḥanīfah’s youth. Anas bin Malik, Muhammad’s personal attendant, died in 93 AH and another companion, Abul Tufail Amir bin Wathilah, died in 100 AH, when Abū Ḥanīfah was 20 years old. The author of al-Khairat al-Hisan collected information from books of biographies and cited the names of Muslims of the first generation from whom it is reported that the Abu Hanifa had transmitted hadith. He counted them as sixteen, including Anas ibn Malik, Jabir ibn Abd-Allah and Sahl ibn Sa’d.
Abu Hanifa ranks as one of the greatest jurists of Islamic civilization and one of the major legal philosophers of the entire human community. He attained a very high status in the various fields of sacred knowledge and significantly influenced the development of Muslim theology. During his lifetime he was acknowledged by the people as a jurist of the highest calibre.
Outside of his scholarly achievements Abu Hanifa is popularly known amongst Sunni Muslims as a man of the highest personal qualities: a performer of good works, remarkable for his self-denial, humble spirit, devotion and pious awe of God.
The honorific title al-Imam al-A’zam (“the greatest leader”) was granted to him both in communities where his legal theory is followed and elsewhere. According to John Esposito, 41% of all Muslims follow the Hanafi school.
Abu Hanifa also had critics. The Zahiri scholar Ibn Hazm quotes Sufyan ibn `Uyaynah: “[T]he aﬀairs of men were in harmony until they were changed by Abù Hanìfa in Kùfa, al-Batti in Basra and Màlik in Medina”. Early Muslim jurist Hammad ibn Salamah once related a story about a highway robber who posed as an old man to hide his identity; he then remarked that were the robber still alive he would be a follower of Abu Hanifa.
Connection with the family of Muhammad and Shi’ism
As with Malik ibn Anas (who was a teacher of Imam Ash-Shafi‘i,:121 who in turn was a teacher of Sunni Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal), Imam Abu Hanifah was a student of the Shi’ite Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq, who was a descendant of the Islamic Nabi (Prophet) Muhammad. Thus all of the four great Imams of Sunni Fiqh are connected to Ja’far from the Bayt (Household) of Muhammad, whether directly or indirectly.
In one hadith, Abu Hanifah once said about Imam Ja’far: “I have not seen anyone with more knowledge than Ja’far ibn Muhammad.” However, in another hadith, Abu Hanifah said: “I met with Zayd (Ja’far’s uncle) and I never saw in his generation a person more knowledgeable, as quick a thinker, or more eloquent than he was.”
Opposition to deviations in belief
Imam Abu Hanifa is quoted as saying that Jahm ibn Safwan (d. 128/745) went so far in his denial of anthropomorphism (Tashbih) as to declare that ‘God is nothing (Allah laysa bi shay’)’. And Muqatil ibn Sulayman‘s extremism (d. 150/767), on the other side, likened God with His creatures.
Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi narrated in his Tarikh Baghdad (History of Baghdad) that Imam Abu Hanifa said:
Two groups of the worst of people are from Khurasan: the Jahmiyyah (followers of Jahm ibn Safwan) and the Mushabbihah (antropomorphists), and he probably said (instead of Mushabbihah) “Muqatiliyyah” (followers of Muqatil ibn Sulayman).
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|Kitaab-ul-Aathaar||Narrated by Imam Muhammad al-Shaybani & Imam Abu Yusuf – compiled from a total of 70,000 hadith|
|At Tareeq Al Aslam Musnad Imam ul A’zam Abu Hanifah|
Confusion regarding Al-Fiqh Al-Akbar
Past Scholar, Ibn Abil-‘Izz Al-Hanafi even attributed the book to Abu Hanifa