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
Iraq) in the year 80 A.H (689 A.D). Born
into a family of tradesmen, the Imam's
family were of Persian origin as well as descending from the noble
Prophet's (saw) Companion
Salman al-Farsi (ra).
Imam Abu Hanifah's father, Thabit,
had met in Kufa Imam
`Ali Ibn Abi Talib (ra) who
made dua for him and his
progeny, and some say that Abu Hanifah was a result of this dua.
given by al-Bukhari and Muslim states that Abu Hurairah (ra)
narrated Allah's Messenger (saw)
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 Hurairah (ra)
also narrates:"We were sitting in the company of Allah's
Apostle (saw) when Surat 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
(saw) made no reply, until he was questioned once, twice or thrice,
and there was amongst us Salman the Persian.
Allah's Apostle (saw)
placed his hand on Salman and then said:"Even if faith were
near the Pleiades, a man from amongst these would surely find
as-Suyuti a Shafi'i alim (rh)
remarked:"It has been communicated unanimously that this hadith
refers to Imam Abu
Kufa at the
time of the Imam's birth
was a great center of knowledge and learning, with many of the noble
Prophet's (saw) Companions (ra)
having taken residence there. Due
to the presence of these venerable people who had engendered so much
interest in hadith and riwayat
that practically 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 (ra).
He himself was blessed with the meeting of the Companions:
Anas ibn Malik, Abdullah ibn Afwa and Sahl ibn Sa'ad (ra),
thus gaining him the rank of being a Tabi'i
(Successor to the Companions).
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 traditions 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."
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 (saw)
Companions (ra) had
established their own schools there.
Of these was `Ata bin Rabah's (rh)
school. `Ata was a famous Tabi'i
who had associated with most of the Companions (ra)
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 (saw).
The leading Companions (ra)
all acknowledged his learning. Abdullah
ibn `Umar (ra), son of the Caliph
`Umar (ra) often used to
say:"Why do people come to me when `Ata ibn Abi Rabah 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
Abu Hanifah was the first to analyze Islamic jurisprudence, divide
it into subjects, distinguish its issues and determine the range and
criteria for analytical reasoning (qiyas)."
Abu Bakr Ahmad al-Harizmi wrote in his book"Musnad":
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 (ra),
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
Allah ibn Ahmad al-Dawraqi 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 narrations], and
ordered him to narrate hadith.'
Ibn Hajar said in
Kharija ibn al-Salt's notice in"Tahdhib
Abi Khaythama said:"If al-Shu'bi narrates from someone and
names him, that man is trustworthy (thiqa) and his
narration is used as proof (yuhtajju
Many well-known shuyukh
narrated from Imam Abu
Hanifah, to name but a few: al-Thawri, ibn al-Mubarak, Hammad ibn
Zayd and `Abd al-Razzaq (one of Imam
al-Kamal" names about one hundred names of those who
narrated from Imam Abu
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 Iraq, who were the disciples of the ulema
of Kufa, and they were the disciples of Abu Hanifah."
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
Not only was Imam
Abu Hanifah's extraordinary mind and knowledge something to be
admired, but so too was his exemplary character and piety.
Al-Dhahabi writes:"Accounts of his piety and devotion
have reached a degree of tawatur
(i.e., an unbroken chain of uncontradicted narrations)."
He was given the
title of"The `Peg'" by some, for his continuous standing
in prayer, often reciting the entire Qur'an
in his nightly rakahs.
He performed the Fajr
prayer with the ablution made for the Isha
prayers for forty years (due to him praying 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 trade (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 thrashed 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 prayer and
died in the month of Rajab. 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
funeral prayer 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.
By Maida Malik
Imam Abu Hanifa by Dr.