Chapter Fourteen

Imam Abu Hanifa (may Allah be pleased with him)

 

Nu’man ibn Thaabit ibn Zuti is the blessed name of Imam Abu Hanifa. His paternal grandfather, Zuti (may Allah be pleased with him), was of Persian descent, a true lover of and very close to ‘Ali (may Allah be pleased with him). It was because of his love that he came to stay in Kufa, the administrative capital of the great Khalifahs of Islam. When his son, Thaabit (may Allah be pleased with him), was a baby, he took him to ‘Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) so that he may make supplication for him. ‘Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) did so and gave glad-tidings of much blessings. As a result, Imam Abu Hanifa is the miracle and gladtidings of ‘Ali (may Allah be pleased with him).

Called “The Imam” by Imam Abu Dawud, and “The Imam, one of those who have reached the sky” by Imam ibn Hajar, he is known in the Islamic world as “The Greatest Imam” (al-imam al-azam) and his school has the largest number of followers among the four schools of Ahle Sunnah. Imam Abu Hanifa was born in 80 A.H, lived for 70 years and passed away during the year 150 A.H in Baghdad, Iraq. He was buried in the graveyard ‘Khairzaan.’ His blessed grave is visited by all.

Excellence of the Imam

Prophecies

The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) foretold his birth and spoke of his excellence. Imam Bukhari and Imam Muslim narrate from Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him), Tibrani from ibn Mas’ud (may Allah be pleased with him and Abu Muaim from Qais ibn Thaabit ibn Ubaada (may Allah be pleased with him), “If Imaan was at the Suraya star (Pleiades), some people of Persian ancestry would retrieve it.”

Imam Bukhari and Imam Muslim narrate that the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said, “Oath on He who control; of my existence! If the religion was hanging at the Suraya star, a man from Persia would reach for the retrieve it.”

Who of Persian decent besides Imam Abu Hanifa possesses this glory?

Meeting the Companions

Imam Abu Hanifa was born in the period of the companions of the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace). He particularly met these four,

1) Anas ibn Malik (may Allah be pleased with him) in Basra

2) ‘Abdullah ibn Aufa (may Allah be pleased with him) in Kufa

3) Suhail ib Sa’ad Saaidi (may Allah be pleased with him) in Madinah

4) Abu Tufail Aamir ibn Waasila (may Allah be pleased with him) in Makkah.

There are reports that he met others besides these, but this is the most chosen ruling. He was a student of Imam Hammaad (may Allah be pleased with him) and even had exclusive tutorials by Imam Jafar Saadiq (for a period of two years). Abu Muayyid Muwaffiq ibn Ahmad Khawarizimi narrates from Muhammad ibn ‘Ali Zaranjari that Imam Abu Hafs Kabir instructed (one of his students) to compile a list of Imam Abu Hanifa’s teachers. According to his instruction, a list was compiled. The list contained four thousand teachers, Subhanallah!

Foundation

Imam Abu Hanifa is the first in Islam to organize the writing of Fiqh under sub-headings embracing the whole of the Law, beginning with purity (tahara) followed by prayer (salaah), an order which was retained by all subsequent scholars such as Imam Malik, Imam Shafi`i, Imam Abu Dawud, Imam Bukhari, Imam Muslim, Imam Tirmidhi, and others. All these and their followers are indebted to him and give him a share of their reward because he was the first to open that road for them, according to the hadith of the Prophet:

“He who starts something good in Islam has its reward and the reward of those who practice it until the Day of Judgement, without lessening in the least the reward of those who practice it. The one who starts something bad in Islam will incur its punishment and the punishment of all those who practice it until the Day of Judgement without lessening their punishment in the least.”

There are four Imams who are the most excellent of the scholars of Mujtahideen and the most excellent of all is Imam Abu Hanifa. It’s for this reason that Imam Shafee once said, “The jurists are the children of Abu Hanifa and he is their father.”

Worship

Just as how Imam Abu Hanifa is the sun on the sky of knowledge, so too is he a master in practice. For 40 years, he performed Fajr Salaah with the ablution from his ‘Isha Salaah the night before! He kept fast for 40 years so discreetly that none knew of his fasting (when he used to bring food from his home, he would feed the students outside. His family thought that he ate outside whilst the people outside thought he ate in his home!)

Al-Suyuti relates in Tabyid al-Sahifa that a certain visitor came to observe Abu Hanifa and saw him all day long in the mosque, teaching relentlessly, answering every question from both the scholars and the common people, not stopping except to pray, then standing at home in prayer when people were asleep, hardly ever eating or sleeping, and yet the most handsome and gracious of people, always alert and never tired, day after day for a long time, so that in the end the visitor said: “I became convinced that this was not an ordinary matter, but wilâya (Friendship with Allah).”

Imam Abu Hanifa had performed 55 Hajj throughout his life, on his last hajj he was given a chance to go inside the Ka’bah and offered two cycles of Sunnah Prayer completing the Qur’aan. He then supplicated in sorrow and crying when a voice from a side of the Ka’ba saying, “You achieved my recognition in a good way and with sincerity did work (of the religion), I have forgiven you and those who will follow you till the last day.” 1

Qur’aan

He would complete 61 Qur’aan’s in every month of Ramadan. One during the day and one in the night, one in the course of the entire month and one with followers (Mutadis) in the Tarweeh Salaah.

The grave of Imam-e-Aazam is trusted for the acceptance of supplication. Imam Shafee states, “Whenever a need arose in my life, I would travel to Imam Abu Hanifa’s grave, perform two cycles of voltentry Salaah and make supplication through the blessing of his blessed grave. Through this, my need was fulfilled. When Imam Shafee would come to his grave he would perform Salaah according to Imam Abu Hanifa and leave his way and not read Qunoot-e-Naazilah. When asked why he did this, he replied, “I do this in respect of Imam Abu Hanifa. 2

Allah in his dream

Imam Abu Hanifa saw Allah (The Exalted) 100 times in his dreams! The final supplication he made to Allah (The Exalted) and the answer he received when seeing Him is recorded in Raddul-Muhtaar in detail.

When the great Imam went to Madinah and presented himself in the blessed court of the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) presented his Salaam “Assalamu ‘Alykum Ya Sayyid AlMursaleen” (Peace be upon you O Master of Prophets) a reply came saying “Wa ‘Alykumus Salaam Ya Imam Al-Muslimeen” (And peace be upon you O leader of the Muslims). 3

After completing his education, he made the intention of (Gousha Nasheen) and went to sleep. He saw the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) in his dream and he said, “O Abu Hanifah! Allah (The Exalted) has created you to revive my Sunnah, you should not commence (Ghousha Nasheen). 4

Fakhrudeen Raazi (may Allah have mercy upon him) says that Imam Aazam once went to retrieve a debt from a non-believer. Imam Abu Hanifa’s shoes became soiled with dirt near the debtor’s house, he went to clean it and some of the dirt went onto the house of the debtor. Imam Abu Hanifa became anxious that if I clean the dirt then I may take some of the material of the wall off and if I leave it then it will remain dirty! With this concern he knocked unto the debtor’s door, when he came out he was very defensive about being in debt, but Imam Abu Hanifa changed the subject and started to ask for his forgiveness and said how shall I clean the dirt of your wall?

When this non-believer realised the rights of a person that this great Imam had he said that this can be sorted, however, firstly make me a believer! He became a believer at the hands of the great Imam. 5

Many Follow

Many great Friends of Allah (Awliya), Ghaus, Qutubs, Abdaals and Autaads are followers (Muqalids) of Imam Abu Hanifa. The number of Saints found in the Hanafi School is not visible in any other.

In short, the entire Muslim Ummah bears testimony to the excellence of Imam Abu Hanifa. Those who speak against him, surely their ravings have no credibility.

Other Imams

Imam Maalik was born in 90 A.H and passed away at the age of 89 in the year 179 A.H. his blessed grave in in Madinah.

Imam Shafee was born in 150 A.H and passed away at the age of 54 in 204 A.H. he was born the day Imam Abu Hanifa passed away. Imam Ahmad ibn Hambal was born in 164 A.H and passed away at the age of 77 in 241 A.H.

Al-Dhahabi6 wrote one volume on the life of each of the other three great Imams and said: “The account of Abu Hanifa’s life requires two volumes.” Amongst the Imams, Imam Abu Hanifa occupies a unique excellence of gaining special guidance and blessings from the family of the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace). No other Imam has this glory. Imam Abu Hanifa said: “If those two years eren’t attained, I would have been destroyed.”

Sufyan al-Thawri praised Abu Hanifa when he said: “We were in front of Abu Hanifa like small birds in front of the falcon,” and Sufyan stood up for him when Abu Hanifa visited him after his brother’s death, and he said: “This man holds a high rank in Knowledge, and if I did not stand up for his science I would stand up for his age, and if not for his age then for his Godwariness (wara`), and if not for his God wariness then for his jurisprudence (fiqh).”

Enemies

Like every Friend of Allah, Abu Hanifa had his enemies. `Abdan said that he heard Ibn al-Mubarak say: “If you hear them mention Abu Hanifa derogatively then they are mentioning me derogatively. In truth I fear for them Allah’s displeasure.” Authentically related from Bishr al-Hafi is the statement: “No-one criticizes Abu Hanifa except an envier or an ignoramus.”

It was King Mansoor who brought the great Imam from Kufa to Baghdad and requested him to accept the position of the Grand Judge. After denying this position, Imam Abu Hanifa was incarcerated and later passed away during this imprisonment.

Decoration of the World

Allama Ibn Hajar Makki Shafee (may Allah have mercy upon him) has written a complete book called Khairaatuk-Hisaan fi Tarjamati Abi Hanifa An-Nu’man. In it, he records the following Hadith of the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace): “In the year 150, the decoration of the world will be taken away.”

150 A.H was the year of Imam Abu Hanifa’s demise. From this, we come to know that Imam-e-Aazam was the adornment of the Shari’ah and the embellishment of Shari’ah knowledge and practice. His son Hammad said as he washed his father’s body for burial: “May Allah have mercy on you! You have exhausted whoever tries to catch up with you.”

 

Did Imam Abu Hanifa have a weak memory?

One of the common attacks on the great Imam is that he had a weak memory, let us take a look at this and decide if this is true!

Imam Ibn Hajar7 calls Imam Abu Hanifah al-Imam, and al-faqih almashhur (the well-known jurisprudent), and Imam Dhahabi includes him among the hadith masters in his Tadhkirat al-huffaz (Memorial of the Hadith Masters). These titles are not given to anyone who is declared weak in hadith. And Imam Dhahabi before Imam Ibn Hajar, and Imam al-Mizzi before Imam Dhahabi, all concurred that no position claims Imam Abu Hanifa’s weakness should be retained, as Imam Dhahabi said8 : “Our Shaykh Abu al-Hajjaj al-Mizzi did well when he did not cite anything (in Tahdhib al-kamal) whereby he (Abu Hanifa) should be deemed weak as a narrator.”

The remainder of the “Salafi’s” references are therefore irrelevant and over-ruled, especially in view of Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr’s statement that “Those who narrated from Imam Abu Hanifa, who declared him trustworthy, and who praised him, outnumber those who criticized him” as related by Imam Ibn Hajar al-Haytami. 9

Muhammad ibn Sa’d al-‘Awfi said: I heard Ibn Ma’in say: “Imam Abu Hanifa was trustworthy, and he did not narrate any hadith except what he had memorized, nor did he narrate what he had not memorized.” Salih ibn Muhammad al-Asadi said on the authority of Ibn Ma’in: “Imam Abu Hanifa was trustworthy in hadith.”

  1. a) Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr relates10 ‘Abd Allah ibn Ahmad al-Dawraqi said: Ibn Ma’in was asked about Imam Abu Hanifa as I was listening, so he said:

“He is trustworthy, I never heard that anyone had weakened him: No less than Shu’ba wrote to him (for narrations) and ordered him to narrate hadith.”

Imam Ibn Hajar said in Kharija ibn al-Salt’ notice11: “Ibn Abi Khaythama said: If al-Shu’bi narrates from someone and names him, that man is trustworthy, and his narration is used as proof.”

  1. b) Al-Haytami12 and al-Qurashi13 relate that Imam ‘Ali ibn al-Madini said: “From Imam Abu Hanifa narrated: Imam al-Thawri, Imam Ibn alMubarak, Imam Hammad ibn Zayd, Imam Hisham, Imam Waki` (ibn alJarrah al-Kufi), ‘Abbad ibn al- ‘Awwam, and Ja’far ibn ‘Awn. He (Imam Abu Hanifa) is trustworthy and reliable. Shu’ba thought well of him.” Ibn Ma’in said: “Our colleagues are exaggerating concerning Imam Abu Hanifa and his colleagues.” He was asked: “Does he lie?” Ibn Ma’in replied: “No! He is nobler than that.”
  2. c) Imam Dhahabi14 cites Ibn Ma’in’s statement about Imam Abu Hanifa: “There is no harm in him”, i.e. he is reliable. Ibn Salah15 and Imam Dhahabi16 have shown that this expression by Ibn Ma’in is the same as declaring someone as trustworthy: “Ibn Abi Khaythama said: I said to Ibn Ma’in: You say: “There is no harm in so-and-so” and “so-and-so is weak?” He replied: “If I say of someone that there is no harm in him: he is trustworthy, and if I say da’if: he is not trustworthy, do not write his hadith.” “Abu Ghudda in his commentary to Lucknawi’s Raf`17 has indicated that the equivalency of saying “There is no harm in him” with the grade of trustworthy is also the case for other early authorities of the third century such as Ibn al-Madini, Imam Ahmad, Duhaym, Abu Zur’a, Abu Hatim al-Razi, Ya’qub ibn Sufyan al-Fasawi, and others.

We find many of the past Scholars that have proven the state of the great Imam. When we read the amazing biography of the great Imam we find that Imam Abu Hanifa was afraid of Allah, was engaged in teaching or worship and always had the rights of others in mind. To complete I will quote the saying of two scholars as those who don’t follow an Imam are always taking faults, hence:

Al-Qurtubi (may Allah have mercy upon him) said: “One of the knowers of Allah said: A certain group that has not yet come up in our time but shall show up at the end of time will curse the scholars and insult the jurists.” 18

Imam Tahawi (may Allah have mercy upon him) writes: “The learned men of the first community and those who followed in their footsteps – the people of virtue, the narrators of ahadith, the jurists and analysts – must only be spoken about in the best way. Anyone who speaks ill of them is surely not on the right path.” 19

Wisdom of Imam Abu Hanifa

Imam Abu Hanifa had a vast amount of knowledge on Islam as well as worldly knowledge. He was very intelligent and recognised by the people as gifted. It said that Imam Shafi’i said, “Abu Hanifa’s intelligence, No woman has given birth to such a person.” Sayyinduna Bakr bin Jaysh states, “If the intelligence of Imam Abu Hanifa and the people of his time where gathered, the intelligence of Imam Abu Hanifa would outweigh the rest.” 20

Lets’ take a look at some of the incidents in his life and how he answered and dealt with them.

1) Qiyaas

‘Abdullah ibn Mubarak relates that when Imam Abu Hanifa went for Hajj he met Muhammad bin ‘Ali in Madinah. Muhammad bin ‘Ali said to him, “Are you the one who gives preference to Qiyaas over the hadith of my grandfather.” The Imam replied, “I seek Allah’s protection from this, sit down.” He sat, and the Imam sat in front of him with respect and said, “I would like to ask you three questions:

1) “Who is the weaker, man or woman?” “Woman” he replied. “How much does a man inherit and how much does a woman?” “The woman’s share is half that of a man,” he replied. The Imam said, “If I gave preference to qiyaas then I would have said the opposite.

2) “Is Salaah more superior or fasting?” He replied, “To observe Salaah.” The Imam replied, “If I gave preference to qiyaas over hadith then I would say a woman on her menstruation should make up (Qadha) of her Salaah and not her fast.”

3) “Is urine more impure or semen?” He replied “Urine.” The Imam replied, “If I gave qiyaas preference then I would have said it is not incumbent to have a bath after discharge of semen and it is incumbent to have a bath after the discharge of urine. I seek Allah’s protection from going against the Hadith.” Muhammad bin ‘Ali was so impressed by the Imam’s love for the Sunnah that he stood up and kissed the Imam’s forehead out of respect.

2) Muslim or Kaafir?

Muhammad bin Mukatil relates that a man approached Imam Abu Hanifa and asked him, “What is your opinion regarding a person who 1) does not hope for Paradise, 2) is not afraid of the Hell fire. 3) he doesn’t fear Allah 4) He eats meat of animals not slaughtered according to religious requirements and 5) observes prayers without bowing (Ruku) and prostration (Sujood), and 6) testifies to what he has not seen. 7) He dislikes Haq (which is right) and 8) loves Fitna (trials and tribulations)?”

The students of Imam Abu Hanifa replied, “This person’s situation is difficult, problematic and hard to solve.” In another version it is narrated that they replied, “This person is very bad, and these characteristics are of a Kaafir.”

Imam Abu Hanifa replied, “This person’s situation is not at all difficult and these are not properties of a Kaafir, as this person 1) who doesn’t wish or hope for Paradise but wishes and looks forward to meeting Allah. 2) He fears Allah and not the fire of Hell. 3) He doesn’t fear injustice and in fairness from Allah in His rule. 4) He eats fish and Crust, they do not need slaughtering. 5) He reads Salaatul Janazah in which there is no bowing or prostration. 6) He testifies that there is only One Allah and Muhammad (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) is His Messenger, though he has not seen him. 7) He dislikes Haq which is death, as it is certain. 8) He loves his children, money, wealth and possessions as they are Fitna (as mentioned in the Qur’aan). After hearing this remarkable answer, the questioner stood up and kissed Imam Abu Hanifa on the forehead out of respect and said, “I bear witness that you are a vessel for knowledge.”

3) Tell or not to

Bishr bin Waleed relates that Qais bin Rabi’ah said I was with Imam Abu Hanifa when a man who was very depressed and downcast came to him. He sat down and said, “O Imam, thieves broke into my house last night. They took what they were able to carry but I managed to recognise one of them as he was from my locality and offers his prayers in my masjid. When this burglar realised that I had recognised him, he grabbed hold of me and tied me up. He then forced me to say under oath, ‘My wife is divorced, my slaves are free, and I will give everything I possess as charity if I mention his name r inform anyone regarding him or point him out to anyone with my hands or my head.’ I fear I will break and violate my oath if I do any one of these things.” The great Imam told him to go and send somebody he trusts. The man left and sent his brother to the great Imam.

The great Imam said to him, “Go to the ruler and relate your brother’s story to him and ask him to send one of his assistants. When the assistant comes tell him to gather everyone who offers their Salaah in your brother’s masjid and not to leave anybody out. Then tell the assistant to ask everyone to leave the Masjid after Salaah one by one, and tell him to ask your brother every time one of them comes out, “Is this the thief?” At the same time tell your brother to say, “This is not him,” if he is not the thief. When the thief comes out and the assistant asks your brother regarding hi, tell him to remain quiet at that moment, not to talk or point with his fingers or motion with his head etc. that way to the assistant will be able to catch him and take him to the Sultan.”

This was done, and the thief was caught. The thief was taken in and the stolen goods were taken from them and returned to the owner and all the thieves were imprisoned and punished.

4) Chief Justice

Kharija bin Musab relates that the ruler, Abu Ja’far invited the great Imam to make him the Chief Justice (Qadhi) but he refused and thus was imprisoned for a few days. The ruler called him once again, and questioned him, “O Abu Hanifa, why is it that you do not accept our work, dislike it and turn away from it, though those who were better than you have done the same type of work. The great Imam replied, “I am not fit to be Chief Justice.” “You are a liar,” he replied. The great Imam then said, “You have just decided that I am not suitable and fit to be Chief Justice.” The leader asked, “How?” The great Imam replied, “If I am a liar, then a liar is not fit to be the Chief Justice, and if I’m honest and right (as I mentioned) then the excuse is evident.”

5) Killer Snake

Yahya al-Marwazi relates that I heard Al Fadl Al Sijsy say, that “Abu Hanifa, Shareek, Sufyan and ibn Abi Layla happen to meet in some gathering. Somebody posed a question. ‘What would you say regarding a group of people who were sitting together when a snake appeared and started to crawl up the body of one of them. He hurriedly shook it off and it landed on another man. The second man shook it off onto a third man.

This went on until the last man on whom the snake landed was bitten by it and died. Now, which of these men is liable to pay diyat (mulet) for the man’s death?’ All the men plunged into tackle this complex problem. Some said, ‘diyat was payable by all,’ others disagreed and said, ‘diyat was payable by the first man only.’ There was a lot of discussion between them and they could not reach an agreement. The great Imam sat silent through all this and smiled. They became unsettled and agitated. They turned to the great Imam and asked him to express his opinion. The following is the ruling the Imam gave: ‘When the first man threw the snake onto the second man and the latter escaped being bitten, the former was absolved from responsibility. The same was true of all succeeding men, except the last one who shook off the snake. Now, as regards to this last man there are two possible positions: If the snake bit the next man as soon as it landed on him, then the last man to throw the snake was liable to pay diyat; if on the other hand, there was an interval between the two events, then the man bitten was guilty of contributory negligence in not throwing off the snake promptly enough to save himself.’

6) Marriage

It has been reported that a man approached the great Imam and said, “I have a grown-up son who is slightly demented. If I do not marry him off, I am scared he may commit adultery. He then started to explain how he got him married with some woman but after a while he divorced her and thus made a loss (because of the dowry he had given her on his behalf). He bought him a slave girl, but he set her free and thus made another loss. “What shall I do?” he cried. The great Imam replied, “Go and buy a slave girl for yourself. Then get her married with your son, if he divorces her you will lose nothing and if he sets her free, she will not be free (as she is not his property).”

7) Thousand Dinars

It has been reported that a man died in Imam Abu Hanifa’s house and before he died he had entrusted in another man’s care a bag which had a thousand dinars inside it. He told him, “Keep it safe until my son has matured and when he has matured and become responsible give him what you like.” When the child attained puberty, this trustee handed over the bag and kept the dinars for himself and said, “Your father told me to give you what I like, and I like you to have the bag.” The child became puzzled and baffled and related this incident to the Scholars and asked for their help, but they couldn’t solve the problem. He then went to the great Imam and told him his father had made a very delicate bequest and was very wise in his (wasiah). He called the trustee and asked him, “Did the deceased tell you to give him what you like?” He replied, “Yes.” The great Imam said, “In that case give him the dinars as the deceased told you to give him what you like, and you like the dinars that’s why you kept them for yourself and nit the bad.” The dinars were taken from him and given to the son.

Many incidents have been recorded like these about the great Imam. What can one say about the Imam’s intelligence and his rulings? Words cannot explain, I will leave this for you to decide, however, I just wanted to leave you with a saying related by ‘Abdullah bin Mubarak: “One day, while I was sitting with Imam Malik, an older man came, who was received with extreme respect by the Imam and made to sit beside him. After he had gone, the Imam said to ‘Abdullah: “Do you know who this man was? He was Abu Hanifa of Iraq, who, if he wanted to could prove this pillar to have been made of gold.”

“O people! Ask the men of knowledge if you know not.” 21

Unfortunately, there are some who have considered themselves at liberty to raise objections to the Imam and slander him. They attempt to degrade his status and show him to be deficient in the field of hadith. however, anyone who studies the pages of history objectively will surely be impressed by his scholarship in the various fields of Islamic learning, especially his insight in hadith – the knowledge of which is indispensable for any jurist, let alone for someone regarded as “al-Imam al-Aazam.

Mazar al-Sharif of Imam Abu Hanifa

 

Shaykh Imam Ahmad Raza Khan was asked, “Why is Imam Abu Hanifa called “Abu Hanifa”? He replied, “Hanif” means “pages”. The illustrious Imam had a great love for writing and therefore, he was called by this title. 22

Imam al-Aazam, Siraajul Ummah, Imam Abu Hanifa, Nu’man ibn Thabit Kufi, Baghdad, Iraq.

Countless salutations be upon four gardens of leadership albeit, Imam Shafi’i, Imam Malik, Imam Ahmad Bin Hanbal and Imam Abu Hanifah Imam Ahmad Raza Khan

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