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http://www.sunnipath.com/resources/Questions/qa00000854.aspxAbu Hanifa & His Life
Answered by Sidi Faraz Rabbani
Abu Hanifa & his life
From: http:// Cyberislam.com
Abu Hanifa: Al-Nu`man ibn Thabit
Courtesy of As-Sunah Foundation
al-Taymi, al-Imam Abu Hanifa (d. 150), called "The Imam" by Abu Dawud, and "The Imam, one of those who have reached the sky" by Ibn Hajar, he is known in the Islamic world as "The Greatest Imam" (al-imâm al-a`zam) and his school has the largest number of followers among the four schools of Ahl al-Sunna. 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.
Abu Hanifa is the first in Islam to organize the writing of fiqh under sub - headings embracing the whole of the Law, beginning with purity (tahara) followed by prayer (sala), an order which was retained by all subsequent scholars such as Malik, Shafi`i, Abu Dawud, Bukhari, Muslim, Tirmidhi, and others. All these and their followers are indebted to him and give him a share of their reward because he was the first to open that road for them, according to the hadith of the Prophet: "He who starts something good in Islam has its reward and the reward of those who practice it until the Day of Judgement, without lessening in the least the reward of those who practice it. The one who starts something bad in Islam will incur its punishment and the punishment of all those who practice it until the Day of Judgement without lessening their punishment in the least." Al-Shafi`i referred to this when he said: "People are all the children of Abu Hanifa in fiqh, of Ibn Ishaq in history, of Malik in hadith, and of Muqatil in tafsîr."
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. 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." His son Hammad said as he washed his father’s body for burial: "May Allah have mercy on you! You have exhausted whoever tries to catch up with you."
Abu Hanifa was scrupulously pious and refused Ibn Hubayra’s offer of a judgeship even when the latter had him whipped. Like al-Bukhari and al-Shafi`i, he used to make 60 complete recitations (khatma) of Qur’an every Ramadan: one in the day, one in the night, besides his teaching and other duties. Ibrahim ibn Rustum al-Marwazi 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."
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)."
Al-Shafi`i said: "Knowledge revolves around three men: Malik, al-Layth, and Ibn `Uyayna." Al-Dhahabi commented: "Rather, it revolves also around al-Awza`i, al-Thawri, Ma`mar, Abu Hanifa, Shu`ba, and the two Hammads [ibn Zayd and ibn Salama]."
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 God-wariness (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."
An example of Abu Hanifa’s perspicuity in inferring legal rulings from source-texts is his reading of the following hadith:
The Prophet said: "Your life in comparison to the lifetime of past nations is like the period between the time of the mid-afternoon prayer (‘asr) and sunset. Your example and the example of the Jews and Christians is that of a man who employed laborers and said to them: ‘Who will work for me until mid-day for one qirât (a unit of measure, part of a dinar) each?’ The Jews worked until mid-day for one qirât each. Then the man said: ‘Who will work for me from mid-day until the ‘asr prayer for one qirât each?’ The Christians worked from mid-day until the ‘asr prayer for one qirât each. Then the man said: ‘Who will work for me from the `asr prayer until the maghrib prayer for two qirât each?’ And that, in truth, is all of you. In truth, you have double the wages. The Jews and the Christians became angry and said: ‘We did more labor but took less wages.’ But Allah said: ‘Have I wronged you in any of your rights?’ They replied no. Then He said: ‘This is My Blessing which I give to whom I wish.’"
It was deduced from the phrase "We did more labor" that the time of mid-day to `asr must always be longer than that between `asr and maghrib. This is confirmed by authentic reports whereby:
The Prophet hastened to pray zuhr and delayed praying `asr.
The Prophet said: "May Allah have mercy on someone who prays four rak`as before `asr.
`Ali delayed praying `asr until shortly before the sun changed, and he reprimanded the mu’adhdhin who was hurrying him with the words: "He is trying to teach us the Sunna!"
Ibrahim al-Nakha`i said: "Those that came before you used to hasten more than you to pray zuhr and delay more than you in praying `asr." Al-Tahanawi said: "Those that came before you" are the Companions.
Ibn Mas`ud delayed praying `asr.
Sufyan al-Thawri, Abu Hanifa, and his two companions Muhammad ibn a-Hasan and Abu Yusuf therefore considered it better to lengthen the time between zuhr and `asr by delaying the latter prayer as long as the sun did not begin to redden, while the majority of the authorities considered that praying `asr early is better, on the basis of other sound evidence to that effect.
Like every Friend of Allah, Abu Hanifa had his enemies. `Abdan said that he heard Ibn al-Mubarak say: "If you hear them mention Abu Hanifa derogatively then they are mentioning me derogatively. In truth I fear for them Allah’s displeasure." Authentically related from Bishr al-Hafi is the statement: "No-one criticizes Abu Hanifa except an envier or an ignoramus." Hamid ibn Adam al-Marwazi said: I heard Ibn al-Mubarak say: "I never saw anyone more fearful of Allah than Abu Hanifa, even on trial under the whip and through money and property." Abu Mu`awiya al-Darir said: "Love of Abu Hanifa is part of the Sunna."
al-Khatib, Tarikh Baghdad 13:324-356;
al-Dhahabi, Manaqib Abi Hanifa 22-36 and Tabaqat al-Huffaz 1:168;
Ibn Hajar, Tahdhib al-Tahdhib 10:450;
Ibn Kathir, al-Bidaya wa al-Nihaya 10:114;
al-Suyuti, Tabyid al-Sahifa p. 94-95;
al-Haytami, al-Khayrat al-Hisan.
The Life of Imam Abu Hanifah - Nuâman ibn Thabit, 80-150 A.H.
Courtesy of As-Sunnah Foundation
Better known as âImam-e-`Adhamâ (The Greatest Imam), or by his kunyah âAbu Hanifahâ, Nuâman ibn Thabit was born in the city of Kufa (modern day Iraq) in the year 80 A.H (689 A.D). Â Born into a family of tradesmen, the Imamâs 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.
A hadith 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-Jumâa 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 it.
Imam as-Suyuti a Shafiâi alim (rh) remarked: It has been communicated unanimously that this hadith refers to Imam Abu Hanifah.
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 Shaâbi (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 Shaâbi. Âbu Hanifah named the merchant he was going to see. I meant to ask, asked Shaâbi, Who's classes you attend? Nobody's, replied the Imam regretfully. I see signs of intelligence in you, began Shaâbi, 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).Â He himself was blessed with the meeting of the Companions: Anas ibn Malik, Abdullah ibn Afwa and Sahl ibn Saâad (ra), thus gaining him the rank of being a Tabiâi (Successor to the Companions).
Amongst Imam Abu Hanifahâs 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. Shuâba, a leading muhaddith who knew-by-heart two thousand traditions was also a teacher of Imam Abu Hanifah. Shuâba 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.
The Imam's 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 Rabahâs (rh) school. âAta was a famous Tabiâi 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.Â Abdullah ibn âUmar (ra), son of the Caliph âUmar (ra) often used to say: Why do people come to me when âAta ibn Abi Rabah is there for them to go to? Of the other Muhaddithin of Makkah whose classes the Imam attended was âIkrimah. He was the slave and pupil of Abdullah ibn âAbbas, 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 rulings. Imam 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).
Al-Hafiz al-Kabir Abu Bakr Ahmad al-Harizmi wrote in his book Musnad
âSaif al-Aimmaâ reports that when Imam Abu Hanifah derived a matter from the Qurâan 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 Qurâan and Hadith, and with the words of the Sahabah (ra), he would be delighted and say, Al-hamdu liâllah wallahu Akbar,and all those who were present would repeat his words. Then he would tell them to write it down.
Ibn âAbd al-Barr relates in Al-Intiqa:
âAbd Allah ibn Ahmad al-Dawraqi said: Ibn Maâinn 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 Shuâba wrote to him [for narrations], and ordered him to narrate hadith.
Â Ibn Hajar said in Kharija ibn al-Saltâs notice in Tahdhib al-Tahdhib:
Ibn Abi Khaythama said: If al-Shuâbi narrates from someone and names him, that man is trustworthy (thiqa) and his narration is used as proof (yuhtajju bi hadithihi).
Many well-known shuyukh narrated from Imam Abu Hanifah, to name but a few: al-Thawri, ibn al-Mubarak, Hammad ibn Zayd and âAbd al-Razzaq (one of Imam al-Bukhariâs shaykhs.) Al-Mizzi in Tahdhib al-Kamalâ names about one hundred names of those who narrated from Imam Abu Hanifah.
Imam as-Shafiâi (rh) 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.
The Hanafi 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 Ottoman periods.
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 âPeg by some, for his continuous standing in prayer, often reciting the entire Qurâan 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 Qurâan 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. Ameen.