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

Imam Abu Hanifah & Knowledge of Hadith

(11) He is also accused of having few Ahadith, or a weak knowledge of Hadith.

This baseless accusation follows from lack of proper knowledge and prejudice. In fact, great scholars agreed that he was excellent in the science of fiqh and the science of Hadith too. They are not only the Hanafi ulama but also ulama of other schools of thought. We present remarks of some of them.

1. Ibn Jurayj was a great scholar of Hadith and fiqh. Imam Shafee’s mazhab derives mostly from him. Ibn Hajar said about him that when he learnt of Imam Abu Hanifah’s death he was greatly pained and said: (what a knowledge has departed!) (Tahzeeb al-Tahzeeb v1 450)

2. Makki ibn Ibrahim was a teacher of Imam Bukhari He was a student of Imam Abu Hanifah. His words about him are quoted by Hafiz Muzzi in Tahzeeb ul-Kamal:

“He was the greatest scholar of his times.” (marginal notes Tahzeeb al-Tahzeeb v1 451)

We must remember that the predecessors spoke of ilm (knowledge) to imply knowledge of Hadith. So these testimonies are concerning his knowledge of Hadith.

3. Sha’bah ibn al-Hujjah was called the Ameer ul-Mu’mineen in Hadith. He was the first imam known for examining the Ahadith narrators critically. He said:

“By Allah! He was the most understanding and of an excellent memory.”

When he learnt of Imam Abu Hanifah’s death, he said:

“The light of knowledge from Kufah has extinguished. These people will not find a man like him.” (Al-Khayrat ul-Hasanat p32)

4. Imam Abu Dawood said:

“Indeed Abu Hanifah was an Imam!” (Tazkirat ul-Huffaz v1 p160)

5. Yahya ibn Mu’een was an imam of critical examination, he said:

Further, he quotes Yahya ibn Sa’eed al-Quttan as saying:

“We acted on many of Imam Abu Hanifah’s sayings.” (Tahzeeb at-Tahzeeb v10 p450)

To a question he said once:

“Yes, he is trustworthy, yes, trustworthy.” (Manaqib al-Imam al-Azam v1 p192)

There are many other such quotations. Imam Abu Hanifah wrote down Kitab ui-Aathar when the most ancient books of Hadith had not even come to light, like Muwatta Imam Maalik, Musannaf Abdur Razzaq and Musannaf lbn Abu Shaybah.

Imam Abu Hanifah selected from forty thousand Ahadith for this book. Besides recognised scholars compiled seventeen masanads of Imam Abu Hanifah, none of which is less volumnious than sunan Shafee, Ibn Adi being one of them. He was displeased with the Imam in the beginning but relented later on and by way of expiation compiled the musnad.

The station of Imam Abu Hanifah in the science of Hadith is great and much can be said about him but we present this much as an example. However, we conclude with the remarks of the famous scholar of Ahl Hadith, Nawab Siddiq Hasan Khan:

“He was a practicing scholar. He was a worshipper and an ascetic, a God-fearing righteous man. He was humble and always showed humility to Allah.”

And also:

“His merits are many. Khateeb Baghdadi has devoted much to him in his Tareekh, but then added some comments that had better been ignored. For no one can doubt the integrity and piety of a man like Imam Abu Hanifah. The oniy shortcoming noted in him was poor Arabic.” (At-Taj al-Makallah p136-138)

We will see later the remarks about Arabic. Nawab Siddiq Hasan Khan did not deem it necessary to mention adverse remarks on Imam Abu Hanifah concerning Hadith. Besides, he has devoted his book, At-Taj al-Mukallal on scholars of Hadith. Imam Abu Hanifah also finds a mention in it as a Hadith scholar.

The remarks by Nawab Siddiq Hasan about the poor Arabic of Imam Abu Hanifah are perhaps taken from Qadi Ibn Khallikan because he has used the same words. But, the following words of Ibn Khallikan clarify the matter. The well-known gramarrian Abu Amr ibn al-Ula asked Imam Abu Hanifah about the command when someone is reported to have slain another person intentionally: does that call for qisas. The Imam said, “No!” He asked: (even though with a catapult). The Imam said: Amr said that he should have said correct!

But, this objection was not proper, for, some Arabs do say as the Imam said. Ibn Khallikan has mentioned this that this was the dialect of the people of Kufah. A poet says:

Imam Abu Hanifah too was from Kufah. (Wafayat al-Ayan v2 p165)

It turned out that the objector himself lacked proper knowledge of Arabic.

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