Imam Abu Hanifa was a great Imam. He met many of the companions of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). 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. His status is very high. He is known in the Islamic world as great Imam known commonly as Imam -e-Azam.
Imam Abu Hanifa was the great religious leader, jurist, philosopher and political thinker.
Imam Abu Hanifa is the founder of Hanafi Madhhab. He is one of the four Suuni Imams and his school has innumerable and largest followers in comparison to the four schools of Ahl-e-Sunnah.
Here, his every aspect of life would be discussed, his journey from birth to death, from his childhood to youth and old age and his struggle from a student to a great imam. In fact every aspect of his life would be highlighted.
The life and Times of Imam Abu Hanifa.
Name and Status: The full name of Abu Hanifa is Abu Hanifa an Nu’man ibn Thabit ibn Zautha al-Kufi.
Abu Hanifa is his Kunyah. The Imam’s Kunyah which is better known than his name was not a true Kunyah, for he had no son named Hanifa. The Kunyah was not nominal, but epithetical, being an abbreviation of “Abu’l-Millat al Hanifa”, derived from the words “Wattabi’u millata Ibrahima Hanifa” (therefore conform to the millat of Ibrahim who was hanif, i.e. right in his belief), which God has addressed to the Muslims in the Quran.
He was born in 80 A.H and died in Baghdad in 150 A.H.
He was of Ajmi (non Arab) origin. There are different assumptions about his origin and how he came to Arab. The Baghdadi historian Khatib attributes the following statement to the grandson Ismail.
I am Ismail b. Hammad b. Nu’man. We are of Farsi (Persian) origin and have never been slaves. My grandfather, Abu Hanifa was born in 80 A.H.
At the time of Abu Hanifa’s birth ‘Abd al-Malik b. Marwan, the second caliph of the House of Marwan, was on the throne. There were stll many people alive who had the good fortune of seeing the prophet, and some of them lived on till Abu Hanifa’s early youth. Thus Anas b. Malik, the prophet(PBUH) ‘s personal attendant, died in 93 A.H, Suhail b. Sa’d in 91 A.H, and Abu’l Tufail ‘Amir b.Wathilah in 100 A.H.Some writers of our day have disallowed to Abu Hanifa the position of a Tabi’I but Hadith authorities have decided in the favor of Imam. 
Maturity, Occupation, Education and Teachers:
The Imam’s childhood fell in time of troubles. Hajjaj b. Yusuf was then the Governor of Iraq under the Caliph ‘Abd al Malik and oppression was the order of the day. Hajjaj choose people who were leaders in religion and learning as special victims of his cruelties.
Abu Hanifah was a silk cloth merchant. He used to sell silk cloths in Kufa. He was well known for his honesty and truthfulness in transactions. Trade benefited him a lot in gaining knowledge of the transactions and customs of people in trade. That set a practical mark on his legal doctrine (Fiqh) and made him consider the customs to be a rule of legislation on the basis of which many rules were formulated.
As long as Hajjaj and Walid were alive, Abu Hanifa neither felt any incentive nor got an opportunity to acquire education. Content with being a businessmen like his ancestors, he setup a silk weaving factory, which he managed well enough to prosper. But when, during sulaiman’s reign, religious education began to come into its own, he felt an urge to acquire it.
A happy coincidence turned the urge into a resolve. One day, while passing by the house of Shabi, a famous Imam of Kufa, he was called in by Imam who mistook him for a student. “Where are you going young man? Asked the Imam to him. Abu Hanifa named a merchant whom he was going to see. “I meant to ask, said Shabi “Whose classes you attend? And Imam Abu Hanifa replied, No body’s”. Then Shbai said to Imam Abu Hanifa. “I see signs of intellect in you. You ought to sit in the company of learned man. It turned Imam’s life and he started his journey of learning. In those days the educational curriculum consisted of literature, genealogy, history of Arabia, Fiqh, Hadith and Kalam.
Abu Hanifa grew out of his penchant for Kalam with the maturing of his understanding and experience. It is mentioned in Uqud al-Juman that he thought about the Kalam to be the highest of the disciplines because it appeared to him to be the foundation of all faith. But alter on he came to know that companion of prophet (PBUH) avoided getting embroiled in controversies of the kind that are the specialty of Kalam and devoted most of their labors to the question of Fiqh.
He joined Hammad’s school to get his early education of Fiqh. He also learned Hadith knowledge from him for two years. For learning Fiqh, Imam Abu Hanifa considered Hammad’s lecture enough but for Hadith learning he did not found it sufficient.
Abu’l-Mahasin Shafi’I giving a list f abu Hanifa’s Hadith teachers, say that 93 of them belonged to Kufa. Although, usually enough, the Tahdhib al Tahdhid, the Tahdhib al-Asma, the Tadhkirat al-Huffaz, etc, donot lists the Imam’s teachers, yet indications are available in these books that he learned traditions from a large number of teachers and 29 of them were residents of Kufa and most of them were Tabi’i. of his kufan teachers Shabi, Salmah b. Kuhail, Muharib b. Dithar, Abu Ishaq Sabi, Aun b. Abd-Allah, Samak b. Harb, Amr b. Murrah, Mansur b. al-Mamar, A’mash, Ibrahim b.Muhammad, Adi b. Thabit al-ansari, Ata b.al-Sa’ib, Musa b. Abi Aishah and Alqamah b. Murthid were particularly great authorities of Hadith, sand and riwayat.
Abu Hanifa went to Makkah as a student at a time when that city was a busy center of education. The biggest most respective of these was Ata’ b. Abi Rabah’s school.
When Abu Hanifa presented himself to Ata’ b.Abi Rabbah for enrolement, the later questioned him about his beliefs. The Imam Replied: “I donot speak ill of people of the earlier generations (Aslaf), donot call sinners Kafir and believe in Qada and Qader. Ata thereupon permitted him to attend his lectures.
Abu Hanifa set for a long time at Imam Bakir’s feet and acquired from him much valuable knowledge of fiqh and Hadith. Abu Hanifa derived much of his learning from Bakir. He learned a great deal from Imam Bakir’s son Imam Jaffar Sadiq.
Lectures, Rulings and later life:
Although Imam Abu Hanifa has acquired the status of a Mujtahid during Hammad’s lifetime at a comparatively early age, he was around forty years old at the time of Hammad’s death. Yet his sincere reward for his teacher did not permit him to establish a school of his own while the teacher was still alive. In his youth Abu Hanifa had often longed for the professional chair, but now that was at last offered to him he declined it, feeling unequal to its responsibilities. However, the people’s insistence prevailed and he accepted the chair—not without misgiving, though. His territory as a teacher was conterminous with the territory of the Caliphs.
Gradually he acquired so much political influence in
that he began to be suspected of complicity in every revolution in that country. Shah Abd al-Aziz says in his Tuhfah that the Imam took part in the revolt led by Zaid b. Ali against the Umayyad but there is no solid proofs that Abu Hanifa was hostile to the Caliph. His family had a special devotion for the Ahl-i-Bait. He himself sat at the feet of Imam Baqir for a long time. Iraq
In 146 A.H, Mansur sends Imam Abu Hanifa to prison (in 146 H.), Mansur has no piece of mind in regard to him. Abu Hanifa, whose fame has spread far and wide, was Baghdad’s most prominent figure. His imprisonment, far from reducing his influence and popularity, enhanced them a great deal, especially with the scholarly community, which had an importance all its own in Baghdad.
Mansur had to bow before these facts and refrain from doing anything overt which might show disrespect towards Abu Hanifa. He, therefore, permitted Abu Hanifa to carry on with his teachings in prison, and it was there that Muhammad b. al-Hassan, one of the stalwarts of Hanafi fiqh, received his education from its originator. As abu Hanifa constituted no less a danger to the Abbasid government in prison then he had done outside, Mansur decided to do away with him and had him poisoned. When abu hanifa felt the effects of poison, he bent down in prayer and died(Rajab 150) in that posture.
The Imam, while dying, had expressed the wish to be buried in the graveyard at Khaizran, because the ground of that graveyard had not, in his opinion, been seized by force. Accordingly, his tomb was built in the eastern part of the graveyard. Khatib says that for full twenty days people went on performing funeral prayers for him and it’s the proof of Imam’s great popularity.
Details of the imam’ children are not known, but what is certain is that he has survived only by a son named Hammad, who was a great scholar and whose early education the Imam has taken great care. He was honest and was a worthy son of his father not only in learning, but also in unworldliness and piety. He died in Dhi-Qa’dah 176, survived by four sons, Omar, Ismail, Abu Hayyan and Uthamn.
Character and Habits:
The writers of the Tadhkirahs (biographical memories) in which Imam Abu Hanifa’s character and habits are described, are filled with palpable exaggeration. The surprising thing is that our historians regard impossible things of this kind as real evidence of the Imam’s spiritual attainments, although these have not been historically established and, in any case, are no proof of spiritual and moral excellence.
An accurate, though sketchy, portrait of Imam’s personality is to be found in the description that Qadi Abu Yusuf gave of him to Harun al-Rashid at the latter’s request.
As far as “I Know”, said the Qadi, Abu Hanifa was extremely pious, avoided forbidden things, remained silent and absorbed in his thoughts most of the time, and answers the question only if he knew the answer. He was very generous and self respecting, never asked a favor of any body, and shunned the company of the worldly minded and held worldly power and position in contempt. He avoided slander and only talked well of people. He was a man of profound learning and as generous with his knowledge as with his money”.
On hearing this account, Harun al-Rashid observed, “You have described a great and good man”.
To superficial observers the qualities described by Qadi Abu Yusuf may not appear to be of much significance, but theses are difficult to follow and as praiseworthy as it is difficult.
Anecdotes about Abu Hanifa’s Wit and Wisdom:
Abu Hanifa did not escape this common fate of famous men. Some authors have narrated incidents intended to demonstrate his great intelligence and intellectual reach, but which, if believed, would rather go to show that he was merely crafty, good at repartee and glib-tongued.
There is no doubt that Abu Hanifa took part in more Polemic encounters and debating duels then any of the other Imams of Fiqh. His refinement of the legal sciences, which was beyond the comprehension of the common minds, had bought into existence a group of people hostile to him, which included a number of pious simpletons.
The author of Uyun wa’l-Hada’iq, mention in his biographical note on the Imam Abu Hanifa, that he held debate with Sha’bi, Tawus and Ata. These three were the Imam’s chief teachers, and he had much respect for them.
One day a number of people came together to the imam to discuss with him the question of recitation after the imam (the prayer leader). The imam said “how can I discuss the question with so many people at one and the same time? The only way for me to discuss it with you all is that you appoint one of yourselves as your spokesman”. The people agreed to this. As soon as they did so, the imam said, “There is no need for discussion: the issue is decided. Just as one of you has authorized to represent all of you, the leader at the prayer is authorized to recite passages from the Quran on behalf of the whole assembly.
Wise sayings of Imam Abu Hanifa:
Some of the imam’s wise sayings are worth recording here.
Ø If the Ulama are not God’s friends, then God has no friends in the world.
Ø Whoever hankers after royal power, before he is ripe for it, meets with humiliation.
Ø Knowledge never sinks into the mind of a person who acquires it for worldly purposes.
Ø Faith is the highest worship and faithlessness the greatest sin. One who adheres to the highest worship and avoids the greatest sin can hope for salvation.
The great mujadid ahmed Sirhindi wrote in his monograph on the greatness of imam Abu Hanifa:
How can I write about the lofty stature of Imam Abu Hanifa? He was the greatest of the great ones! The supreme Imam (imam al Azam).the leader of the perfect ones, be it in knowledge, be it in abstenism or be it in Godwarriness, he was greatest then all the mujtahid imams.
Imam Shafi’i said:
The fuqaha, all of them are family members of Abu Hanifa who depend on him for their living”.
Abu Hanifah’s writings:
There are three books attributed to Imam Abu Hanifah, namely, Fqh Akbar, al Alim wa’l-Muta’allim and Musnad.
The Fiqh Akbar is a brief treatise on dogmatic, dealing with the same questions and more or less in the same order as the Aqa’id of Nasafi and other writings on the subject. It has been published and available everywhere. Many commentaries have been written on it. The most popular one is by Mulla Ali al Qari and the Fiqh Akbar itself by Ibrahim b. Hisan, popularly known as Sharifi.
Al Alim wa’l-Muta’allim is a small treatise in a form of question and answer.
Of the Musnad there were several versions, which were collected in a single volume by Abu’l-Mu’yid Muhammad b. Mahmud al-Khwarazimi. Here is an extract from his preface.
“I have a number of ignoramuses in
say that Abu Hanifah was not well versed in the Hadith, which, according to them, explained why there was no book by him on the subject. This was challenge to my sense of loyalty, in answer to which I decided to compile together all the Musnads which have been composed by different ‘Ulama’ on the basis of Traditions narrated by Abu Hanifah. These are as follows. Syria
1. The Musnad of Abd-Allah al-Ustad;
2. The Musnad of Imam Abul-Qasim Talhah b. Muhammad b. Ja’far al-Shahid;
3. The Musnad of Hafiz Abul-Hasan Muhammad b. al-Muzaffar b. Musa b. ‘Isa;
4. The Musnad of Hafiz Abu Nu’aim al Isbahani;
5. The Musnad of Imam Abu Yusaf Qadi;
6. The Musnad of Imam Muhammad;
There are other Musnads besides those listed. Commentaries were also written on these Musnads. People who consider writings as an essential ingredient of the Imam’s greatness cite the above mentioned works. The truth, however, is that it is extremely difficult to establish the Imam’s authorship of them. It is true that a system of Fiqh based upon his teachings was compiled during his lifetime, reference of which are to be met with in the ‘Uqud al-Juman and the other books, but what is most probable is that, that compilation was lost. Even the great books of Hadith and Fiqh known to have been written by the Imams, no longer exists, even no books of Abu Hanifa has survived. Khwarazimi’s Musnad can be called Imam’s only derivatively.
The Fiqh Akbar has been ascribed to the Imam by Fakhr al-Islam Bazdawi and by those who have written commentaries on it. Nevertheless, it is difficult to accept this. The style I which the book is written had not yet come into existence at the time it is said to have been written. So much of the point of view textual criticism. Even from the point of view of historical criticism it is not established that Abu Hanifa was the author of Fiqh Akbar. What seems too probable is that a treatise written by Abu Muti’Balkhi and embodying his own ideas on question of belief in course of time to be attributed to the Imams. The present text and composition of Fiqh Akbar belong to the period much later than that of Abu Muti. Nor is this something unparalleled. On the other hand, the text of Fiqh Akbar from its style appears to belong to a latter period.
Founder of Hanifa Fiqh
In the start of 2nd century, Islamic fiqh was established. This work is start by Imam Abu Hanifa (150 A.H).After the work of Imam Abu Hanifa, Imam Malik (179A.H) also starts work on law matter in the light of Quran and Sunnah. After sometime the other eminent scholars like Imam Shafi (204 A.H) also start work on Fiqh matter followed the principles of Imam Hanifa and Imam Malik then the Sunni four schools of thought established. There were also other schools of thoughts but with time they abolished.
The principles of the Hanafi school of Law:
Abu Hanifa explained the principles which he followed in his ijtihad and to which he bound himself in derivation of rules. He said, “I follow Allah’s Book when I find a rule in it. When I do not find a rule in it, I follow the Sunnah of Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) and sound traditions from him which has been transmitted by the reliable persons. When I do not find a rule in Allah’s Book nor in the Sunnah of Allah’s Messenger, I follow the opinion of way of the Companions I wish, and leave the opinion of anyone wish. Then I do not go beyond their opinions to follow the opinion of others. When the matter comes to Ibrahim, al-Sha’bi, al-Hassan ibn Sirin, Sa’id ibn al-Musayyab, and he mentioned the names of some men who exercised ijtihad, I have the right to exercised ijtihad, as they did.
The principles of ijtihad, according to Abu Hanifa, are the Qur’an and the Sunnah which he consults in his ijtihad and to which he binds himself in deriving the rules. The text of the Qur’an or of the Sunnah sometimes indicate the rule by its words; and sometimes it signifies it by its reason and its idea; so it is said that the rule has been deduced by means of analogy. We shall see the course of study that the Abu Hanifa’s Istihsan (juristic preference) does not go beyond reasoning by a text vis-à-vis analogy, or giving analogy precedence over another analogy. Therefore Abu Hanifa did not mention analogy and Istihsan among the principles which he follows in his ijtihad, because he talks of the traditional principles, and both analogy and Istihsan are method of reasoning by these principles.
Abu Hanifa states that he reports to the opinions of the Companions only when he does not find a text in the Qur’an and Sunnah which indicated the rules of confronting situation. If he finds a text like this, he does not prefer the opinion of any one. He selects from the opinions of Companions what he considers to be nearer to the truth, and he does not go beyond their opinion to follow the opinions of other. When there was no opinion of the Companions about a confronting incident and the matter got to the Successors, he did not adhere to their opinions, but exercised ijtihad as they did.
Abu Hanifa’s strictness in acceptance of traditions moved him to follow much latitude in interpreting that which was proved genuine in his opinion and exercising analogy frequently to face the increasing novel situations arising in Iraq, its multiple problems and legal cases that were not known to the jurists among the Companions and Successors before. Although adherences to analogy are a value common to all Imams, he does not go beyond arguing by the reason of a text of the Shari’ah. The text of the Shari’ah indicates the rule of the original case by its words, and indicates the rule of the parallel or new case by its reason. When the Prophet (PBUH) said: “No judge must give judgment when he is angry”, this text indicates prohibitions of giving judgment in anger by its words, that is, by its outward meaning, and it indicated prohibition of giving judgment in a state of severe hunger or fear by its reason, because the meaning understood from this text is prohibition of giving judgment in a state which disturbs the peace of mind of the judge and prevents him from comparing the proofs and applying the rule of the Shari’ah. The Lawgiver does not prohibit giving judgment in anger because it is anger, but because he disturbs the peace of mind and prevents the judge to realize justice in a perfect manner.
It is well known of Abu Hanifa that he used to set aside analogy in case of necessity or for a tradition, or prefer a general rule or a weightier analogy to it, and he named it Istihsan, as reported by his followers from him. Muhammad ibn al-Hasan says: “Abu Hanifa used to discuss the question of analogy with his associates. They would demand justice of him and oppose him until when he said, “I exercise Istihsan”, no one pursued the matter.
Istihsan in its earlier sense is nothing more than the text of the Shari’ah nor outside it, because it is either reasoning by a text of the Qur’an or the Sunnah compared with a general rule or a regular analogy in a situation where the text is not available and it is already known that the text is more entitled to be given priority than analogy, the general rule is that the exercise of analogy is not valid in the presence of the text, or it is to give an analogy precedence over another analogy. All the Imams prefer one proof to another among the conflicting proofs. The distinctive feature of Abu Hanifa’s doctrine is that he frequently used analogy and Istihsan.
Abu Hanifa belongs to the class of people who suppose hypothetical legal questions and search for their rules before they arise and when they arise, the people know their rule. The hypothetical law had a great impact on the growth of Islamic Law and increase of formal legal opinion and rules by which this law is formed.
Abu Hanifa had followers who were satisfied with his principles of derivation of rules and followed his method of research although they differed from their Imam on the legal opinions and points of detail. The most renowned of these followers were Abu Yousaf, Muhammad ibn al-Hasan al-Shaybani, Zufar ibn al-Hudhayl, and al-Hasan ibn Ziyad al-Lulu’i. The disciples of Abu Hanifah did not follow him in points of detail, but they exercised ijtihad in deriving rules about these points of detail by the principles on which Abu Hanifah depended. For reaching the rank of ijtihad in points of detail these disciples of Abu Hanifah were mujtihids, and since they followed Abu Hanifa in respect of the principles of deduction of rules and method o ijtihad, their ijtihad was not absolutely independent. So they were, as the scholars of Usul al-Fiqh state, the affiliated mujtahids. Thanks to the efforts of these disciples, the legal school of Abu Hanifa came in to being and he did not compile his Fiqh himself, but only his disciples after him carried out this compilation. It is Muhammad ibn al-Hasan who recorded the six authoritative legal books (Kutub Zahir al-riwayah al-sittah, the magnum opus of Hanafi Fiqh) which comprehended the Fiqh of Abu Hanifa and his disciples, and they have become an authority in the school of Abu Hanifa and to him go the credit of spreading his legal doctrines. He devoted his life to its support and defense so much so that the matter took him to the extent that after holding the office of chief Justice during the Abbasid period he used to appoint a Hanafi judge. So the people turned to this school for this high position.
Cautiousness about the collection of Ahadith:
Imam Hanifa was so much cautious about the collection of Hadth.He takes only those Hadith from people which was authentic in his memory(Thaqqa) ,that is why the critics says he has only recorded 17 Ahadith but this is not right.
But it is also said by scholars that in his book “Masnad Abi Hanifa” he has Quoted forty thousand Ahadith. His students compile his collection of Ahadith in a bookish form having fifteen volumes. It is also unanimously agreed the Imam Bukhari‘s Teacher Maki bin Abrahim taken Hadith from him because in many Hadith the narration is mention of both. The Narrator of Sahie Sita Masar bin Kidam (155A.H) says about him that “We both were student of Hadith and class fellows but Imam Bukhari was Dominant to me. We both taken the knowledge of fiqh but he was excellent in gaining knowledge which is not hidden from anyone.
Imam Hanifa not compiles any of his Books but later his students had done this. He was present at the end of Umayyad dynasty and the start of Abbasid period, both offered him the seat of Chief Justice but he did not accept it. Due to the refusing of the seat of Chief Justice, he was punished for this and confined him in jail where he died at 150 A.H
Imam Hanifa principles regarding Ijtihad:
The rule related to Ijtihad is first compiled by imam Hanifa and he acted upon ijtihad that time where there were no other scholars. He works on these principles so vastly where other scholars came but there was no need to work on it further. He himself said that,
“Regarding any issue I concern to the Book of Allah (Holy Quran), if I did not find there then I go to Hadith of Holy Prophet (PBUH) if these both have no material then I Search out the Companions Quotes if there is anything regards to issue I take it otherwise also leaves that as well. And I did not go Out of these three regarding any issue. If the matter come from the companions and reached to Abrahim ’Ibn Sereen,A’ata and Saeed bin Mua’ab so this is clear to all they had done Ijtihad and I also follow the same”
Certainly he also done Qiayas it was mostly base to the people habits and acts then he derived Law. But he did rarely only Qiayas if there was no solution of any issue in the
Decision, laws and the Quotations of the Companions of Holy Prophet:
If any time he found Hadith of a common companion and the same Hadith he also found from the pious Caliphs the he takes the Hadith of Caliph and had much important from the Hadith of common Companion .After Quran and Sunnah, he gives importance to the Quotes of four Caliphs.
Ijma was also adopted by Imam Hanifa and was acceptable .but he had fix grades for Ijma which was three. After his death his teachers spread in the whole world and then establish this group in the form of school of thought which is the 1st largest school of thought in the whole world.
Flexibility of Hanafi School:
Theft of an article less than an ashrafi68of value
Theft of an article less than ¼ of an ashrafi of value
Ø Theft committed jointly
Hanbal teaches each participant must pay with his hand
Theft by a minor
Malik holds a minor must pay with loss of hand
Theft of shroud not punishable by loss of hand
Other imams teach that it is
Theft of a spouse’s or father’s goods
Theft of the goods of a near relative
Other imams disagree
Theft by failure to return collateral
Other imams disagree
When thief obtains title to stolen goods through post-theft gift or purchase
Other imams disagree
Theft of perishable goods
Other imams disagree
 Hussain.A (2005), The Islamic Law of Succession (K.S.A, Dar-us-salam publishers,) pg 32
 Shalaby,B.A. (2003). The Characteristics of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). (Egypt, Dar-ul-Manrah publishers) pg 28
 Meri,Josef W.(2006) medieval Islamic civilization an encyclopedia (London, Rutledge publishers) p. 5-6
 Hussain, m Hadi(2000). Imam abu hanifa, life and works(Pakistan, Dar-ul-ishaat) pgg 1 to 84
 Alam.Irshad(2010), Faith, practice piety(Bangladesh, sufi peace misson) pgg201-202.
 3-Siddiq,M(2003) fiqh-e-hanfi wa fiqh-e-maliki(Islamabad, shariah academy) pg 14.
 Dr. Hassan. H. H, (1997), An introduction to the study of Islamic Law(Pakistan, International Islamic University Islamabad) P. 90-96
 Imam Abu Hanifa, life and works pg 81