Abu Hanifa (R.A): A great jurist of Islam
AL-NUMAN bin Thabit, commonly known as Abu Hanifah, is considered as the one of the founders of four Sunni schools of thoughts. He is also widely known as Al-Imam Al-A?am (The Great Imam) and Siraj Al-Aimma (The Lamp of the Imams).
He is the first of the four Mujtahid Imams and the only Successor (tâbi‘i) among them, having seen the Companions, Anas ibn Malik, ‘Abd Allah ibn Abi Awfa, Sahl ibn Sa‘d al-Sa‘idi, Abu al-Tufayl, and ‘Amir ibn Wathila.
Islamic legal jurisprudence introduced by Abu Hanifa has a massive following both in Arab and non-Arab world. His services for the spread of Islam are lauded across the Muslim world.
Abu Hanifa resumed his journey for seeking knowledge by first dedicating himself to the study of theology. After mastering theology, Abu Hanifa pursued the study of Islamic legal knowledge (fiqh) in Kufa which was considered the centre of famous fiqh scholars.
Abu Hanifa studied fiqh from Hammad Ibn Sulaiman who was most knowledgeable teacher at the time. Abu Hanifa used to read every day from Hammad Ibn Sulaiman between Maghrib and Isha and whenever he got free time, he used to go to Hammad’s house. Hammad remained to be Abu Hanifa’s teacher for 18 years.
After the death of Hammad Ibn Sulaiman, the scholars of Kufa Madrasah agreed to appoint Abu Hanifa as the head of the Madrasah. Imam Abu Hanifa did not stay away from other fields. He also mastered the other fields of Islamic Studies.
After completing his education at Kufa and Basrah, Abu Hanifa went to Makkah and Madinah, the center of religious learning in Islam.
In Makkah, he learned hadith from Ata Ibn Rabah who was student of Abdullah ibn Abbas (R.A.). He educated Abu Hanifa with great care and attention.
According to most authentic sources, Imam Abu Hanifa was taught by alomost 4000 teachers. Among them, according to different sources, seven were Sahaba (companions of the Prophet (S.A.W.), ninety-three from the Tabieen (Companions of Sahabas) and the rest from the Tabi-tabieen (companions of Tabieen). The exact number of teachers of Abu Hanifah is unknown as he traveled a lot to different cities to gain religious knowledge.
Some of the famous books authored by Abu Hanifa include: Al- Fiqh al-akbar, Al-Aalim wa al-Mutaalim, Al-Fiqh al-Absat, Kitab ikhtilafa al-sahabah, Kitab Al-Jami, Al- Kitab al-Aswat, Kitab al-Sayer, Wasiya al-Imam Abu Hanifa fi al-Tawheed.
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 Godwariness then for his jurisprudence (fiqh).” Ibn al-Mubarak praised Abu Hanifa and called him a sign of Allah.
Both Ibn al-Mubarak and Sufyan al-Thawri said: “Abu Hanifa was in his time the most knowledgeable of all people on earth.” Ibn Hajar also related that Ibn al-Mubarak said: “If Allah had not rescued me with Abu Hanifa and Sufyan (al-Thawri), I would have been like the rest of the common people.” Dhahabi relates it as: “I would have been an innovator.”
Moreover, Al-Khatib narrated from Abu Hanifa’s student Abu Nu‘aym that the latter said: “Muslims should make du‘a to Allah on behalf of Abu Hanifa in their prayers, because the Sunan and the fiqh were preserved for them through him.
In addition, Al-Dhahabi 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.
Abu Hanifa was also an unmatched worshipper and God-fearing. He used to make 60 complete recitations (khatam) of Qur’an every Ramadan: one in the day, one in the night, besides his teaching and other duties.
Ibrahim ibn Rustum al-Marwazi once said: “Four are the Imams that recited the entire Qur’an in a single rak`a: `Uthman ibn `Affan, Tamim al-Dari, Sa`id ibn Jubayr, and Abu Hanifa.”
Ibn al-Mubarak said: “Abu Hanifa for a long time would pray all five prayers with a single ablution.”Abu Nu’aym states, “Even before observing Salaah Imaam Hanifah would weep and supplicate before Allah.”
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).”
During the reign of Ibn Hubaira, Imaam Abu Hanifah (R.A.) rejected his request of the post of Chief Justice as Imam did not want to collaborate with the corrupt. During the reign of Abu Jaafar Mansoor again, the above request was pledged, yet again rejected.
Consequently, he was imprisoned and violently beaten with restricted rations for 15 days, after which he was forcefully made to drink a poison that led to his martyrdom.
It is said that so many people attended his Janazah Salah (funeral prayer) that the funeral service was repeated six times for more than 50,000 people amassed to escort him to his eternal abode.
—The writer is Advocate-cum-columnist based in Quetta.