Life and Times of Imam Abu Hanifa

History & Biography / Sunday, August 17th, 2008

One day a man came to the Imam and said: “I kept some money somewhere in my house, but do not remember exactly here. I now need the money badly. Please tell me how I can find it.” Brother,” protested the Imam, “do not find this kind of problem mentioned in fiqh. Why have you come to me for advice?” but on further entreaty by the man he advised him to pray throughout the night. The man, accordingly, went home and started praying, he had prayed for a little while when he suddenly remembered where he had put the money. So he ran to the Imam and told him of the efficacy of his advice.

“Of course,” commented the Imam,” Satan did not like the idea of you praying for a whole night. So he made you remember at once where you had put your money however, you ought to have prayed throughout the night byway of giving thanks to Allah.”

One day Abu Hanifa was present at a gathering of some of the ulema of his time. One person at the gathering asked the following question: A number of men were sitting together, when a snake appeared and began to crawl up the body of one of them. He hurriedly shook it off, so that it landed on another man. The second man shook it off his body on to a third man. This went on until the last man on whom the snake landed was bitten by it and died in consequence. Now, which of these men is liable to pay diyat (blood money) for the man’s death? This was a complex problem of fiqh, on which the learned men present expressed different opinions. According to some, diyat was payable by all, according to others by the first man. There was a lot of discussion, but no agreed decision could be reached. Through all this Abu Hanifa sat silent and smiling. Ultimately everybody turned to him and asked him to express his opinion. The following is the ruling the Imam gave: When the first man threw the snake on to the second man and the latter escaped being bitten, the former was absolved from responsibility. The same was true of all the succeeding men except the last one who shook off the snake. Now, as regards to this last man there were 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. This view was accepted by all present, who complimented the Imam upon his ingenuity.

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