Fiqh, The Legal Status of Following a Madhab / Monday, August 18th, 2008

Hanafis & Observance of Hadith

(10) It is also argued that the Hanafis rely on weak Ahadith. But, this is wrong. The correct answer is that their books must be examined to find out the truth. The following are some of those books.

  • Sharah Ma’ani al-Aathar, (Tahawi)
  • Fath al-Qadeer, (Ibn Numan)
  • Nasb ar Rayah, (Zayl’ee)
  • Al-Jawhar an Naqi, (Mardini)
  • Umdatul Qari, (Ayni)
  • Fath alMulhim, (Uthmani)
  • Bazlal Jamhud, (Saharanpuri)
  • Ala us Sunan, (Zafar Ahmad Uthmani)
  • Ma’arifus-Sunan, (Binnori)
  • Fayd ul-Bari, Sharah Saheeh Bukhari

Nevertheless, we do point out some basic points in brief.

(1) It is not necessary that the Saheeh (authentic) Ahadith are found only in Bukhari and Muslim. The authenticity of a Hadith depends on its line of transmission and the principles of Ahadith. Hundreds of Scholars have collected Ahadith apart from Bukhari and Muslim and every Hadith that meets the standard is authentic. Sometimes, a Hadith in any other book outranks the standard of Bukhari and Muslim, like Ibn Majah which is otherwise ranked sixth among the saheeh six books.

If a Hadith measures up to the standards, then even a Hadith in a book other than the Sahah Sittah is authentic. If this is understood, then many objections against the Hanafi school of thought are removed.

(2) The differences of opinion that we see among the mujtahids is primarily because the manner of deduction of each of them varies. Some rely on the sanad when they have to choose from Ahadith of different apparent conclusions. Some others reconcile the Ahadith while some mujtahids choose the Hadith on which the Sahabah conducted themselves. So, every mujtahid has a different approach and none of them can be accused of neglecting the authentic Ahadith. Generally, Imam Abu Hanifah tried to reconcile the Ahadith and to observe all of them as far as possible. He even relied on weak Ahadith if there was no conflicting report, notwithstanding disagreement with qiyas, for example, ablution is nullified by laughing, obligatory nature of zakah on honey, and so on.

(3) There is ijtihad on deciding whether a Hadith is sound or weak. And different imams have different results. Thus, Imam Abu Hanifah may regard a Hadith worth following while another mujtahid may c1assifi it as weak.

(4) Often a Hadith was received by Imam Abu Hanifah with a sound line of transmission, but a narrator after him may turn out to be weak, so the mujtahids after him who get the Hadith may reject it. Hence, he cannot be blamed for that.

(5) A scholar may classify a Hadith to be weak on the basis of the line of transmission through which he received it. But the same Hadith may turn out to be sound through another line of transmission, like:

(He who follows an imam) has been rejected by some scholars because of its line of transmission. But it is found with a very sound line of transmission in Musnad Ahmad ibn Manee’ and Kitab ul-Aathar.

(6) Sometimes a Hadith is weak in its sanad, but since it has been transmitted by many chains of transmission and many narrators have reported it from different areas, it is accepted and acted upon.

(7) Sometimes a Hadith is weak because of a weak narrator. It is not necessary that every weak narrator is always wrong. So, if other strong evidences point out to its strength then it is accepted. For instance, all the Sahabah and the tabi’een may have acted on it which is a strong evidence that it is authentic, example is the Hadith which the scholars have confirmed. Sometimes, such a Hadith is even preferred over a Hadith with a weak sanad, for instance:

Sayyidah Zaynab, the daughter of the Prophet was married to Abul Aas who was a disbeliever in the beginning, but became a Muslim later on. There is a difference of opinion whether the Prophet retained the earlier marriage or had them remarried. Sayyidina Abdullah ibn Umar reported that the Prophet had them remarried and fixed a fresh dower for the bride, but Sayyidina Ibn Abbas reported that he retained their earlier marriage. The first version is weak while the second is authentic, but a scholar of the calibre of Imam Tirmizi has preferred the first because of the acceptance of the Sahabah. (Tirmizi)

Accordingly, Imam Abu Hanifah too, relies on a weak hadith when there are strong evidences. Therefore, we must not criticise him for that.

(8) Sometimes, effort is not made to understand Imam Abu Hanifah’s school of thought. Some scholars too have made this mistake, like the Ahl Hadith scholar, Mawlana Muhammad Ismail Salfi argues against the Hanafi point of view on progressing from one posture to another in salah. He writes:

The Ahadith tell us that a man offered his salah in the presence of the Prophet SAWS. He did not make the ruku (bowing posture) and sajdah (prostration) carefully. The Prophet told him three times: (Offer your prayer, for, you have not offered it). It is on the basis of this Hadith that the AhI-hadith and the Shafi’ee hold that if anyone does not perform these postures with composure then his salah is invalid. The Hanafi say, “After knowing the meaning of ruku’ and sajdah, we do not accept the explanation of the Hadith and rejection of the salah.” (Tahreek Azadi Fikr p32)

But, this is a wrong representation of the Hanafi principle. They also hold that if ruku and sajdah are not observed with composure, the salah will have to be repeated. However, there is a difference between fard and wajib, in the Hanafi thought, while the other imams do not differentiate between the two words. Imam Abu Hanifah holds that the fard of the salah are known from the Qur’an and continuous Ahadith, like the ruku’, sajdah, and so on. The wajib are what are known by ahad sources (single narrator, or single chain of narrators). In practice there is no difference in the two terms. If a fard is omitted, the salah has to be repeated and if a wajib is skipped, th salah is repeated; but, there is the difference in idea that the worshipper is said to be one who has neglected salah when he omits the fard and will attract the commands applicable to such persons. When he omits a wajib, he will not be called a neglector of salah but neglector of only one wajib of salah. In other words, his fard salah is discharged but it is wajib on him to repeat the salah. This does not contradict the Hadith. Rather, it is explained at the end of the same Hadith.

It is stated in Tirmizi that the Sahabah found it hard that one who lightens his salah should be termed neglector of salah. But, when the Prophet showed the man the correct way to- perform salah and to be careful while progressing from posture to posture, he said:

“When you do that your salah will be perfect, but if you diminish then there will be imperfection in your salah.”

Sayyidina Rifa’ah the narrator of this hadith said:

“And this thing seemed easier for the Sahabah than the first that diminishing from these things will diminish from the salah but not make it invalid.” (Tirmizi)

This shows that the aforesaid accusation against the Hanafis is wrong.

A mujtahid may differ from the conclusions of Imam Abu Hanifah. But, he should not term his entire school of thought to be weak, or accuse him of preferring qiyas to Hidayah.

Many scholars have praised Imam Abu Hanifah. However, we reproduce some comments of a great Shafi’ee scholar who is the imam of sciences of the Qur’an, Hadith, Fiqh and tasawwuf, Shaykh Abdul Wahab Sha’rani Shafee. He is not a Hanafi but he has rejected those who have labelled charges against Imam Abu Hanifah and even wrote about it in his book al-Meezan al-Kubra. He wrote:

“Know that in these chapters, I have not spoken in favour of Imam Abu Hanifah out of a sentimental attachment as is the custom with many people. Rather, I have responded on his behalf after examining his books thoroughly His rnazhab is the first of all the schools of thought to be compiled and arranged and according to some inspired people it will be the last to be taken away while writing a book on the reasoning of the juristic schools of thought, I read his and his students sayings and opinions and I did not find any of them not based on one of the following legal arguments or on a Qur’anic verse or on a Hadith, or a weak Hadith transmitted by many chains of transmission, or a correct qiyas drawn from an authentic source. Anyone who wishes to know more may study this book of mine.” (Al-Meezan al-Kubra v1 p63-64)

He devotes a whole chapter to repudiate those who acuse Imam Abu Hanifah of preferring qiyas to Hadith:

“Only those say such things who bear malice towards Imam Abu Hanifah. They are bold concerning their religion and not careful in what they say. They ignore Allah’s saying:

“Surely the hearing and the sight and the heart — all of these shall be questioned of.” (17:36)

He also relates in his book that Sayyidina Sufyan Thawri, Maqatil ibn Hayyan, Hammad ibn Salamah and Ja’far Sadiq visited Imam Abu Hanifah, and asked him about the accusations against him. He said, “It is not only the Qur’an and Hadith, but even the Aathar of the Sahabah, after which I use qiyas.” He explained to them his view-point from morning till Zuhr when they took leave saying.

“You are the chief of the ulama. Do forgive us for the misgivings we had harboured about you without knowledge.”

Imam Sha’rani also created a chapter on rejection of accusations that Imam Abu Hanifah’s most arguments are weak. He also created another chapter to establish that his school of thought is the most careful from a religious point of view. He wrote therein:

“…I have found it on the extreme limits of taqwa and carefulness.”

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