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The Lives of the Four Imams

BY: IDP Research Division

PUBLISHER: Islamic Digital Publishing

islamicdigitalpublishing@gmail.com

Copyright © - 2018 All rights reserved.

No part of this e-book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without prior consent from the Publisher.

Table of Contents

CHAPTER 1: Imam Abu Haneefah

About Imam Abu Haneefah

His Birth, Upbringing and Education

His Teachers

His Lectures and Rulings

His Knowledge

The Compilation of Fiqh

The Hanafi School of Thought

His Character and Personality

Imam Abu Haneefah - A Man of Principles

His Imprisonment and Death

His Students

His Contribution and Islamic Legislation in Present Times

CHAPTER 2: Imam Maalik

About Imam Maalik

Prevailing Conditions before his Birth

His Birth, Upbringing and Education

Start of Religious Lectures

His Reverence for Ahadeeth and Love for the Prophet (S)

Political Conditions of that Time

His Selflessness and Modesty

Imam Maalik – A Man of Principles

His Caution Exercised in Rulings

Main Principles of Maaliki School of Thought

The Muwatta of Imam Maalik

His Character and Personality

His Death

CHAPTER 3: Imam Shaafi'ee

About Imam Shaafi'ee

His Birth, Upbringing and Education

Under Imam Maalik's Tutelage

The Period of Hardship

Under Imam Muhammad's Tutelage

His Stay in Makkah and Widespread Fame

The Basis of Principles of Fiqh

His Disagreement with Imam Maalik

A Balance between Ahlus-Sunnah and Alhlul-Rai

Principles of The Shaafi'ee School of Thought

His Dealings and Morality

His Death

CHAPTER 4: Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal

About Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal

His Birth, Upbringing and Education

His Study Circle

His Trial

Scholar Par Excellence in Hadeeth and Fiqh

Principles of the Hanbali School of Thought

The Impact of the Hanbali School of Thought

The Lifestyle of Imam Ahmad

His Death

CHAPTER 1:

Imam Abu Haneefah

About Imam Abu Haneefah

Abu Haneefah was an Islamic scholar and an expert on Islamic Law. He was the Founder of the Hanafi School of Thought and the First to Organize the Science of Fiqh by Active Consultation. His juristic pronouncements have held sway over the entire Muslim world for almost twelve centuries. His popularity to this day can be gauged by the fact that no other Muslim scholar has as many biographies written of him as Abu Haneefah. He had unusual mental abilities and acumen, which he put to good use. His biggest achievement is collective and consultative Islamic legislation, which had no parallel at his time and was a futuristic effort to find Sharee'ah solutions to everyday problems ahead of time. May Allah give us the ability to learn from his example and dedicate ourselves to the cause of Islam.

His Birth, Upbringing and Education

The family of Abu Haneefah was among the most respectable families of Iran. His grandfather had converted to Islam during the Caliphate of Ali (R) and migrated to Kufa from Iran. In the annals of history, we find an account of his grandfather appearing before 'Ali (R) and of his asking him to pray for his children. His (Abu Haneefah's) father Thabit was an established trader. At the age of forty, Allah blessed him (Thabit) with a son.

According to his grandson Isma'eel, Abu Haneefah was born in 80 AH in Kufa. His name was Nu'man, his kunyah was Abu Haneefah and his title was Imam-e-Azam. This was not his real kunyah because he had no son by the name of Haneefah, but he had chosen this kunyah for himself. In the Qur'an, Islam has been called the Deen-e-Haneef (Religion of the Upright), and hence he kept his kunyah Abu Haneefah.

His father and grandfather were traders by occupation so he followed the family tradition and started manufacturing silk cloth. As he was honest and hard working, he achieved prosperity in his business very soon. So far he had not turned his attention towards the attainment of knowledge, but during the reign of Caliph Sulayman when learning became widespread, Abu Haneefah also became interested in acquiring knowledge. Incidentally an event occurred at this time which strengthened his resolve.

One day Abu Haneefah was going towards the market. He passed by the house of Imam Shu'aybi, who was a famous scholar in Kufa. He mistook Abu Haneefah to be a young student and asked him where he was headed. Abu Haneefah named a merchant that he was going to visit. Imam Shu'aybi told him that he saw great potential in him and that he should spend time in the company of learned people. This incident made an impression on Abu Haneefah's mind and he gave a serious thought to the pursuit of education.

In those days, the educational choices available to students were literature, geneology, history of Arabia, Fiqh, Hadeeth and Ilmul Kalam (philosophy of religion). In the beginning, Abu Haneefah was inclined towards Ilmul Kalam. With his sharp mind and original thinking, Abu Haneefah became an expert in it, so much so that even leading masters of Ilmul Kalam used to avoid debates with him.

He states, "In my youth, I recognized philosophy to be the greatest field of learning because I was convinced that the principles of religion were based on these ideas. Later it occurred to me that the Companions of the Prophet (S) had always remained aloof from these debates and arguments. They devoted their time to the learning and teaching of Fiqh related matters."

For six years, Abu Haneefah participated in these scholarly speeches, discourses and interactive dialogues. One day a woman asked him the correct method of giving divorce according to the Sharee'ah. Abu Haneefah replied that he did not know the answer, so he sent her to attend the lectures of Imam Hammad (a famous scholar in Kufa), who was near that place and requested her to stop by on the way back and tell him the answer as well. After she departed, Abu Haneefah felt disturbed and sorry that he could go into the nitty gritty of an argument on even minor issues but he could not give the answer to an ordinary religious query. He stood up immediately and joined the group of students in the discourse of Hammad. In 102 AH when he was 22 years old, he started attending Fiqh lessons given by Imam Hammad. Initially he sat on the left side which was the section reserved for newcomers. But in a few sessions Imam Hammad gauged the keen memory, acumen and intelligence of this new student, so he asked him to sit in the front row in the class.

His Teachers

His first and foremost teacher Hammad was a famous scholar of Fiqh and an Imam in Kufa at that time. He had heard the narration of Ahadeeth from the Prophet's (S) personal attendant, Anas (R). Besides that, he had also benefited from the association with many prominent Tabi'een. His religious school was the largest and the most widely attended in Kufa. Some of the teachers of Hammad had been the students of 'Abdullah Ibn Mas'ud (R) who was foremost among the Companions of the Prophet (S) in his knowledge of Fiqh. During the Caliphate of 'Umar (R), 'Abdullah Ibn Mas'ud had settled in Kufa.

Some historians claim that Abu Haneefah did not have a profound knowledge of Hadeeth. This view is incorrect because both the Qur'an and Hadeeth are the cornerstones of Fiqh. If a person does not have command over these two sources of Sharee'ah, he cannot become a scholar of Fiqh and give Fataawa (religious decisions). If we take a look at the teachers of Abu Haneefah, we note that they were great scholars of Hadeeth. Kufa itself was a center of learning for the students of Hadeeth. There is no doubt that Imam Abu Haneefah gained the knowledge of Hadeeth from a number of experts. Let us take a look at some of his teachers who were accomplished in the science of Hadeeth.

Imam Shu'aybi: He is the same person who encouraged Abu Haneefah to turn toward religious knowledge. Shu'aybi had met many Companions and heard Ahadeeth from them.

Salamah Ibn Kuheel: A famous relater of Ahadeeth. He was also a Tabi'ee. Ibn Saad called him "Katheer-ul-Hadeeth". In Kufa he was known for his correct narration of Saheeh Hadeeth.

Abu Ishaq Saba'ee: A noted Tabi'ee. He had heard Ahadeeth from 'Abdullah Ibn Abbas (R), Ibn 'Umar (R), Ibn Zubayr (R), Zayd Ibn Arqam (R) and in addition to these, 28 more Companions of the Prophet (S).

Samak Ibn Harb: He was a notable scholar of Ahadeeth, known for his accurate narration of Ahadeeth. He had met with 80 Companions in his lifetime.

Hisham Ibn Urwa: A famous Tabi'ee and relater of Ahadeeth. His students included great scholars of Hadeeth. Imam Maalik was amongst his students.

Qatada: He was a well-known student of Anas Ibn Maalik (R). Allah had gifted him with a wonderful memory, so he was also known as "the greatest memorizer among men". His teachers were very impressed with his power of retention.

Shu'ba: He was a relater of some two thousand Ahadeeth. He was known to be an expert in this body of knowledge. In Iraq, he was the first person to investigate the levels of veracity of Ahadeeth.

The last two teachers mentioned above were residents of Basra. This shows that Abu Haneefah also went to Basra to seek knowledge of Hadeeth. Besides that, he also spent time with scholars at Makkah and Madeenah. In Makkah, Ataa Ibn Abi Rubaa was his teacher, who was reputed to have met with 200 Companions of the Prophet (S). From his class emerged great scholars of Islam. Abu Haneefah also gained the knowledge of Hadeeth from Ikrimah (the slave and student of 'Abdullah Ibn Abbas). In Madeenah his teachers were Imam Baqar and his son Imam Ja'far Sadiq who imparted profound knowledge in the fields of Fiqh and Hadeeth.

It is well known that Abu Haneefah performed Hajj 55 times. In those days the students of religion considered Hajj a very important opportunity. Different scholars of Islam from all over the world would meet at one place, and their discourses would continue for months after Hajj. Abu Haneefah benefited greatly from the company of esteemed scholars and also attended the lectures of Imam Maalik who was younger to him in age. In the beginning, when Abu Haneefah would visit the holy cities of Makkah and Madeenah, he was merely a student. But soon there came a time when the news of his intended visit preceded him, and thousands of people flocked to meet him in every city or village that he passed through.

The point here is that Abu Haneefah spent time in the company of some of the best Islamic scholars in the world who were experts in their field and country. Most of his teachers were Tabi’een and expert relaters of Ahadeeth. How is it possible then to consider Abu Haneefah an ordinary student of Hadeeth when he had such a superb memory and superior intelligence and had benefited from the teachings of some of the masters of Hadeeth? However, it is fair to say that his real field of expertise was Fiqh in which he specialized.

His Lectures and Rulings

When Abu Haneefah began attending the discourses of Imam Hammad, he soon began to show signs of brilliance. In merely two years he felt confident enough to start a class of his own, but what held him back was respect and esteem for his accomplished teacher. Incidentally, around that time, a relative of Hammad's expired in Basra, so he urgently left for Basra leaving Abu Haneefah to fill his place.

While lecturing in Hammad's position, several issues came up which had never cropped up during his sessions in Hammad's class. Hence he solved them using his own judgment and wrote down the decisions on a piece of paper. After two months when Hammad came back, he showed him the rulings he had made. Out of 60 cases, Hammad was satisfied with 40 and made changes in about 20 cases. That day Abu Haneefah promised to himself that as long as Hammad was alive, he would remain his student.

In those days, teachers were very highly revered by their students. Although Abu Haneefah had acquired the status of a Mujtahid during the time of Hammad, he never established a school of his own out of love and respect for his teacher. In 120 AH, Hammad breathed his last. His death was a huge loss to the students of Fiqh in Kufa. His son was made his successor but he was more inclined towards literature and semantics. Then Musa Ibn Katheer, the most experienced student of Hammad's, was appointed as the successor.

When he left to perform Hajj, he requested Abu Haneefah to take his place who was not convinced that this was the right thing to do. He felt that he was not capable of handling the responsiblilities. At the insistence of people, he started a series of lectures and talks. In the beginning, only the students of Hammad attended these sessions, but soon after, he became so famous in Kufa that the scholars in Kufa also came to benefit from his knowledge. Students of Fiqh came from all over the Islamic world to attend his classes.

Abu Haneefah himself mentions his method of reaching conclusions in these words: "To deduce principles, first I turn to the book of Allah. If I don't find the pertaining order there, I turn to the Sunnah of the Prophet (S). If I don’t find the command there, I then refer to the rulings of the Companions of the Prophet (S). I pick and choose from their sayings what suits the occasion and don't turn anywhere else. But when the ruling comes down to the Tabi'een like Ibrahim, Shu'aybi, Ibn Seereen and Ataa who all did Ijtihad (deductions), then I also do my own Ijtihad just like they did."

His Knowledge

Abu Haneefah had unusual mental abilities and acumen. His grasp over matters was extraordinary. However complicated the problem, he was able to find a solution in no time. His mind used to work at such an amazing speed that his contemporaries would be surprised. Quite often, people would be pondering over an issue and Abu Haneefah would arrive at a satisfactory conclusion. His students disclosed that he was a quiet person by nature but when a situation was presented before him to comment on, he would burst forth like a gush of water. Very soon, the entire Islamic world became aware of him and people from far and wide came to obtain rulings for their queries. We know through various accounts that he had reserved the period after Fajr or 'Asr for these kinds of issues.

The method employed by Abu Haneefah was based on common sense. He would explain the matter so well to the supplicant that the issue would be impressed upon his mind. He had command over religious issues as well as worldly dilemmas. Abu Haneefah also used to give advice regarding regular affairs of business and trade. A scholar of Fiqh cannot be good unless he has expertise in both religious aspects and worldly affairs. Plus, he should know how to frame rules as well as enforce them in a society. Because Abu Haneefah satisfied these criteria he came to be known as Imam-e-Azam (The Greatest Scholar). The following examples highlight the incredible intellect that Abu Haneefah possessed.

Rabee, a courtier of Caliph Mansur, had a prejudice against Abu Haneefah. Once in the presence of Abu Haneefah he told Caliph Mansur, "Abu Haneefah opposes the word of your ancestor 'Abdullah Ibn Abbas (R) and says that if we add the word Inshaallah to an oath, it becomes a part of the oath, but if we say Inshaallah a day later, the oath becomes meaningless." Abu Haneefah instantly retorted, "O Leader of the Believers! Rabee considers his oath of allegiance to you meaningless."

When Mansur asked how, he explained that Rabee assumed that the people who take the oath of loyalty in the court and go home and say Insha Allah render the oath ineffective. Then there is no religious accountability for their actions. Caliph Mansur started laughing and told Rabee to leave Abu Haneefah alone because he was too smart for him.

One day a crowd of people came up to Abu Haneefah to ask if the people praying behind the Imam should recite the Qur'an or not. Abu Haneefah replied that it was difficult for him to argue with so many people at the same time; hence the group should select one leader to represent them.

When the gathering agreed, he said, "When you agreed to my proposal the argument ended. You all gave one person the power to represent the crowd; similarly, the Imam leading the prayers is enough to represent the followers in recitation."

It was not that Abu Haneefah settled a question of Sharee'ah by mere logical reasoning. This method of reasoning was adopted by him for the better understanding of the people; otherwise the basis of his judgment was the Hadeeth of the Prophet (S) in which he declared that the recitation of the Imam is equal to the recitation of the followers.

The Imam had a knack of explaining the most difficult problem in a commonsense manner so that his audience understood it easily. One day, a famous Kharajite leader by the name of Dahhak pointed his sword to the Imam and asked him to repent. When Abu Haneefah asked what the matter was, he was told to repent for holding the belief that 'Ali (R) had agreed to settle his dispute with Ameer Mu'aawiyah (R) by arbitration. The Kharajites were extremists who revered 'Ali (R).

The Imam replied, "If it is your wish to put me to death, I have nothing to say; but if you wish to find out the truth, then permit me to reason with you on this issue. But if we are not able to reach any conclusion what shall we do?"

The Kharajite leader proposed that they would select a mediator to decide between them. The Imam stated that this was exactly what 'Ali (R) had done. Outwitted, the man left quietly.

Abu Layla, an eminent jurist of Kufa for 33 years had strained relations with Abu Haneefah because the latter would point out mistakes in the former's decisions. The Judge used to hold court in a Musjid. Once, on his way home, he came across a woman arguing with a man on the street. As the matter proceeded, she called the man the son of an adulteress. The Judge ordered that she should be arrested, went back to his courtroom and gave her a punishment of two rounds of whipping.

When Abu Haneefah found out about this case, he commented, "The Judge has made many errors in his judgment. Firstly, he held court irregularly after calling it a day. Secondly, he had the punishment executed in the Musjid, which was forbidden by the Prophet (S). Thirdly, the woman was whipped in a standing position, which is not allowed. Fourthly, only one punishment is allowed for one offence, while the Judge ordered two rounds of whipping. Fifthly, the two rounds cannot be carried out simultaneously; there has to be an interval for the offender's wounds to heal. Last, there was no case because the man abused had not protested or complained against the woman."

On hearing this list of faults in his judgment, Abu Layla was furious and complained against Abu Haneefah to the governor of Kufa. The governor asked the Imam to stop issuing Fataawa (religious decrees). Abu Haneefah, obeyed this order without hesitation because the giving of Fataawa is a collective duty, and if some are performing it, the rest need not. He did not restrain himself because he was afraid of disobeying the official. In fact, he was one of the bravest men of his time, and often had the courage to speak out against the government when no one else could (as we shall explain later).

The people of Kufa were by nature not simple. They used to present new problems before Abu Haneefah and get involved in strange circumstances. One day a situation cropped up wherein a man swore that if he performed mandatory bathing (done after intercourse) that day then his wife stood divorced. In a little while he swore again that he would divorce his wife if he missed any of his prayers that day. Then he again swore that his wife stood divorced if he did not have intercourse with her that day. The man was obviously upset with himself for taking these silly oaths. He came to Abu Haneefah for a way out of this dilemma. The Imam had a solution to this impossible situation. He told him to pray 'Asr, have intercourse with his wife, take mandatory bath after sunset and then pray the Maghrib prayers (remember that the day changes after sunset according to the lunar calendar). In this case, all his conditions were fulfilled and his wife escaped being divorced.

This was an issue concerning Fiqh. People used to approach the Imam with personal matters which had nothing to do with Fiqh. They trusted him in all matters. Abu Haneefah would provide solutions to their problems instead of getting upset at their irrelevant questions like other typical religious scholars.

Once a man appeared before him and revealed that he had forgotten the place where he had kept some money safely. The Imam was surprised at his request and asked how he could help him. When the man insisted, the Imam told him to pray throughout the night. The man had just started praying when he remembered the hiding place. He came running to Abu Haneefah with the good news.

The Imam replied, "The devil does not want that you should spend the whole night in prayer, so he quickly reminded you of the place where you had kept the money. Now you should stay awake this night out of gratitude to Allah and keep praying."

In a similar incident, another man came to Abu Haneefah with the same request. He had buried some treasure in some place in his house but had forgotten where. The Imam went to his house with his students and asked them where they would hide valuables if this were their house. The students all pointed to different places. When these were dug up, one of them contained the valuables.

The Compilation of Fiqh

After the death of the Prophet (S), the era of the Rightly Guided Caliphs saw a lot of territorial expansion and cultural development. It became necessary to have specific laws instead of broad principles present earlier to meet the needs of the swiftly changing Islamic world.

Abu Haneefah was born at a time when the religion of Islam had spread its branches in a large part of the known world. Many revolutions had taken place. Information on Islam was being filtered out to all the conquered areas with fervour. Changes were taking place in the civilized world. The amalgamation of the cultures of the Arab and non-Arab world was creating new issues and new problems. On top of this, the hypocrites and the enemies of Islam were trying to destroy the basic belief system of the Muslims by diverting their attention towards controversial issues. They even indulged in the fabrication of Ahadeeth.

These happenings forced Abu Haneefah to ponder on the situation. He realized the need for a coherent system of Islamic Law based on the Qur'an, the Sunnah and the decisions made by the Companions of the Prophet (S) in order to address human needs at that point in time. Also, even as a student he had believed that Islamic Law should be prepared to address future needs. He knew that when the situation arose and an immediate solution was required, it would not be possible to evaluate all aspects of the problem and find clear orders pertaining to it, so there was a chance of going wrong. This kind of law is called Fardhi Fiqh (Futuristic Law).

Till the time of Abu Haneefah, the issues of Fiqh were present only in an oral form and they were not properly organized. They had not been systematized into a regular discipline. Arguments, law differentials, classification of Ahadeeth and the rules pertaining to Qiyas (reasoning by analogy); these were not organized systematically even in the minds of scholars. There were no methods of reasoning, no rules for the derivation of orders, no grading of traditions and no principles of analogical deduction. In short, Fiqh was just a congruence of uncoordinated rulings that would require extensive work before it could become a system.

Allah had blessed Abu Haneefah with rare originality of mind and thought, and he had an extraordinary flair for legal matters. Being a busy trader by profession, he was acquainted with the legal requirements of the society. He realized that there was a tremendous need for a proper system of jurisprudence. He received hundreds of queries daily from all parts of the Islamic world. Many of the issues were not resolved satisfactorily by the then present judicial system.

In 120 AH, when Abu Haneefah occupied the seat of learning, he resolved to organize the details of Fiqh into a system of laws and science. He knew that this was no easy task but he was prepared to undertake such an astronomical venture. Despite his phenomenal expertise in religious verdicts and vast knowledge, Abu Haneefah was not inclined towards imposing his opinions on others or relying entirely on his personal judgment, so he formed an academy and nominated some eminent scholars from amongst his prize pupils as members. This body not only included experts on Qur'an, Hadeeth and Fiqh, but also contained specialists from all fields of life. For example, the experts on Astronomy were included to give their opinions on issues concerning the sighting of the moon in Ramadan. Traders, lexicon experts, weathermen and others were engaged for matters pertaining to their areas of expertise. The permanent members of this academy were about forty. Some of these were his eminent students like Imam Zufur, Imam Abu Yusuf and Imam Muhammad.

This assembly worked on the principle of free discussion which was also an interesting process. Issues were presented one by one; the opinions, arguments and ideas of the members were heard in detail, then Abu Haneefah himself would inform the people about his opinion and line of reasoning. Sometimes the process of discussion and argument would continue for over a month, until a satisfactory conclusion would emerge. After summing up the matter, Imam Abu Haneefah would conclude it and his opinion was generally so balanced that it would be accepted by all present. If all the members of the board agreed on an issue, the decision was recorded there and then. The members of the academy had complete freedom of speech. They even had the freedom to challenge the Imam without hesitation. The new onlookers would be surprised at the attitude displayed towards the Imam.

Imam Jarjani relates that once a student criticized the Imam openly and told him point-blank that he had erred in his judgment. Jarjani says that he addressed the people present commenting that it was astonishing that they did not defend their Sheikh (teacher). Imam Jarjani had hardly finished this sentence when Abu Haneefah stopped him and informed him that he had permitted his students and those present to adopt a casual and open style of communication.

It is an established fact that group consultation can only be meaningful if all individuals are allowed to speak their mind, without any pressure. There should be no restriction of undue reverence and formality in order for the formation of laws to be flawless. For a broader perspective, every issue was not only presented before the body of students and experts of various fields, but also sent to other educational committees in Kufa to be discussed and debated upon so that if they had any authentic Ahadeeth on the subject they could be presented.

Imam Abu Haneefah compiled judgements on 83,000 to 500,000 issues (according to different traditions). This mammoth project took him a period of no less than 30 years. This was a difficult, gigantic and dangerous task and there was no prior example of this kind of undertaking. Allah's special mercy and blessing made it possible for the Imam to accomplish this huge task. The credit of founding the principles of Fiqh also goes to Abu Haneefah. His compilation of issues on various aspects of Islam and their Fiqhi solutions were brought together so beautifully that this piece of work received great acclaim throughout the Islamic world during his lifetime. As soon as its various parts were completed in succession, they were published throughout the Islamic world.

The Hanafi School of Thought

Like other schools of thought in Islamic jurisprudence, the basis of the Hanafi Fiqh is also the Qur'an and Sunnah. Like other theologians, Imam Abu Haneefah would give preference to a Saheeh Hadeeth (the most authentic Hadeeth) over his own opinion or anybody else's. According to him, he never made it a condition that the Hadeeth should be Mutawatir (heard by innumerable persons) or Mashhur (well-known), or a single narrator of Hadeeth should be someone well versed in Fiqh, or that the statement should be based on Qiyas (reasoning by analogy) as well. The Imam very clearly stated that the sayings of the Prophet (S) were whole-heartedly acceptable to him unconditionally. He further stated that he did not pass judgements on his own opinions but he passed judgements based on Ahadeeth. But where there are contradictory Ahadeeth, then one is preferred over the others based on the authenticity and power of retention of the narrator. But Qiyas can never be preferred over a Hadeeth.

Abu Haneefah himself states, "By Allah! The person who says that we prefer Qiyas to Nas (explicit directive of Qur'an or Hadeeth) is a liar and is making an accusation against us. Is Qiyas needed in the presence of a Nas? We never resort to Qiyas except in dire need."

On certain occasions, it seems that Abu Haneefah has preferred a different ruling despite there being a Hadeeth on the subject. The reason for this could be that the compilation of Ahadeeth had not been done in an organized manner during the time of Abu Haneefah. It is possible that certain Ahadeeth did not reach him; which is why he adopted a particular stance. Later on, the six main books of Ahadeeth were accepted as authentic and were looked upon for guidance by the Muslim Ummah.

The later scholars felt that on certain occasions, the Hanafi sect did not pay due reverence to a Hadeeth and assumed a different position. A special mention deserves to be made of the vastness of the Hanafi school of thought. Unlike the other Fiqhs, it not only focuses on obvious rules and regulations in Islam but also takes into account psychological issues. Here, the definition on Fiqh includes matters related to belief. Besides encompassing matters of worship and everyday issues, it also spreads out into politics and international relations.

The Hanafi School of Thought chalks out Islamic rulings based on rationale, meaning that no order in the Sharee'ah is free from underlying logic. This is why the Hanafi sect is based on reasoning like no other sect.

The principles of the Hanafi system are based on the premise that the Muslim Ummah should be saved from extremism and inconvenience. Exactness and regularity are the two demands of Sharee'ah as far as Haraam (prohibited) and Fardh (mandatory) are concerned. Imam Abu Haneefah has put strict limitations in the definitions of Fardh and Haraam, which reduces their sphere and quantity.

The Hanafi system ensures protection of rights. To the extent that the murder of a Muslim has been equated to the murder of a Zimmi (Non-Muslim living in a Muslim state). In matters of trade, lawsuits, religious traditions, great leverage has been accorded to them.

The Hanafi system encourages individual freedom and freedom of thought. According to Abu Haneefah, a sane adult man or woman can marry without the need of a Wali. Freedom of thought and expression has been declared necessary for the scholars. Accepting gifts or endowments from the ruling Caliph is considered disdainful (as it might influence freedom of speech).

Abu Haneefah also accepted good social practices (Ma'ruf) as part of the law. This protected and promoted right attitudes and thoughts. Unlike Imam Maalik, Abu Haneefah did not consider the good social practices of Madeenah only as important enough to be included in the system, but other regions as well. Dignity of mankind is the cornerstone of the Hanafi Fiqh and decisions were taken on the basis of this principle. For example, the dowry of a free woman cannot be reduced or waived off without an exceptional reason. Similarly, it is considered against human dignity to cut off the hands of a person if he has committed a minor theft.

The Hanafi School of Thought achieved a lot of fame in a short period. Caliph Harun Rashid himself sent his son Ma'mun to study it in detail. Later the Abbasid Caliphs chose the Hanafi system for their law departments. The students of Imam Abu Haneefah, Imam Abu Yusuf and Imam Muhammad, played an important role in the spread and the compilation of the Hanafi system. Later on it became the school of thought for the Usmani kingdom.

The countries under the control of the Usmani kingdom – Turkey, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Tunis, Albania, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India to this day follow the Hanafi School of Thought. Approximately two-thirds of the Muslim Ummah today follows this system.

His Character and Personality

Imam Abu Haneefah was not just an ordinary Fiqh scholar that passed judgements, but he was equally prominent for his piety. He had been blessed with the best of humane qualities and manners. He had an amazing amount of patience. Many a times, people would talk to him in a rude manner. In spite of his reputation and status, he did not get offended and forgave all who spoke harshly to him.


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