Short Statements of Creed from Imam Abu Hanifah

In a number of reports found in the biographies of al-Khatib al-Baghdadi and Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr, Imam Abu Hanifah succintly defines the beliefs of the Ahl al-Sunnah wa l-Jama’ah in the context of the different heresies of the time. I will mention five of these narrations below without any analyses of the chains as the multiple corresponding transmissions corroborate one another so there is no need to assess individual chains. Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr’s reports come from his transmission of a book on the virtues of Imam Abu Hanifah collected by Yusuf ibn Ahmad ibn Yusuf ibn al-Dakhil al-Saydalani Abu Ya‘qub al-Makki (d. 388), known as “Ibn al-Dakhil,” who was referred to as “the muhaddith of Makkah” and the “transmitter of of Makkah” by al-Dhahabi.

1. Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr transmitted from Ibn al-Dakhil with the chain: Ahmad ibn al-Hasan al-Hafiz – Muhammad ibn al-Fadl ibn al-‘Abbas – Muhammad ibn Salamah – ‘Ali ibn Habib – Abu ‘Ismah Nuh ibn Abi Maryam: “I asked Abu Hanifah: ‘Who are the Ahl al-Sunnah wa l-Jama’ah?’ He said: ‘The one who does not ponder about [the nature of the essence and attributes of] Allah (Great and Glorious), and he does not anathematise anybody because of a sin, and he gives precedence to Abu Bakr and ‘Umar [over all the Sahabah], and he maintains allegiance with ‘Ali and ‘Uthman, and he does not forbid bottled nabidh, and he wipes over leather socks.’ (al-Intiqa’, p. 314)

2. Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr transmitted from Ibn al-Dakhil with the chain: Abu ‘Ali Ahmad ibn ‘Uthman al-Asbahani – Abu Muhammad ibn Abi ‘Abd Allah – Dawud ibn Abi l-‘Awwam – Abu al-‘Awwam – Yahya ibn Nasr: “Abu Hanifah would favour Abu Bakr and ‘Umar, and he would love ‘Ali and ‘Uthman, and he believed in predestination, the good of it and the bad of it, and he did not speak regarding [the nature of the essence and attributes of] Allah (Great and Glorious) at all, and he would wipe his leather socks, and he was from the most knowledgeable of his people in jurisprudence and the most pious of them.” Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi also narrated it with his chain.

3. Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr narrates from Ibn al-Dakhil with the chain: Muhammad ibn ‘Ali al-Simnani – Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn al-Harawi – ‘Ali ibn Khashram – ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn al-Muthanna: “Abu Hanifah would prefer Abu Bakr and ‘Umar, and then he would say: ‘Ali and ‘Uthman, and then after this he would say: whoever was earlier and more pious he is superior.”

4. Muhammad ibn Hafs al-Marwazi – ‘Abd al-‘Aziz ibn Hatim – Khalaf ibn Yahya – Hammad ibn Abi Hanifah: I heard Abu Hanifah say: “The congregation (jama’ah) is that you prefer Abu Bakr and ‘Umar and ‘Ali and ‘Uthman, and you do not demean any of the companions of Allah’s Messenger (Allah bless him and grant him peace), and you pray [janazah] over one who says “there is no deity but Allah” and behind one who says “there is no deity but Allah” and you wipe the two leather socks and you consign authority to Allah and you leave discussion about [the nature of the essence and attributes of] Allah (Glorious is His Magnificence).” (Intiqa p. 315)

5. Al-Khatib narrates with the chain: Hafiz Abu Nu’aym al-Asbahani – Abu Bakr ‘Abd Allah ibn Yahya al-Talhi – ‘Uthman ibn ‘Ubayd Allah al-Talhi – Isma’il ibn Muhammad al-Talhi – Sa’id ibn Salim al-Basri: I heard Abu Hanifah say: “I met ‘Ata’ in Makkah and I asked him about something. He asked: ‘Where are you from?’ I said: ‘From the people of Kufa.’ He said: ‘You are from the people of the village who split the religion into sects?’ I said: ‘Yes.’ He said: ‘Then from which of the groups are you?’ I said: ‘From those who do not insult the predecessors and believe in predestination and do not anathematise anybody because of a sin.’ So ‘Ata’ said to me: ‘You have recognised [the truth] so stay firm [on it].'” (Tarikh Baghdad 15:454)

The doctrinal opinions found in these statements are further corroborated by Imam al-Tahawi’s transmission of the beliefs of Imam Abu Hanifah in his famous creedal formula famously known as al-‘Aqidat al-Tahawiyyah, and by al-Fiqh al-Akbar which is either the work of Imam Abu Hanifah himself or at least accurately represents his views on beliefs based on an early account from him. As shown in earlier posts, Imam Abu Hanifah had probably excelled in a primitive form of proto-Kalam, and he made very specific and nuanced conclusions regarding the heretical beliefs of the Jahmiyyah on the one hand and the Mushabbihah led by Muqatil ibn Sulayman on the other. It is no wonder therefore that he is believed to not only be the founder of a law school but also a school of doctrinal theology. May Allah bless the Imam for this tremendous service and bestow on him abundant rewards on behalf of the ummah who are in his debt. آمين يا رب العلمين

Sufyan ibn ‘Uyaynah’s Respect for Imam Abu Hanifah

Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi narrates:

Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn Rizq reported to us: He said: Muhammad ibn ‘Umar al-Ji‘abi narrated to us: Abu Bakr Ibrahim ibn Muhammad ibn Dawud ibn Sulayman al-Qattan narrated to me: He said: Ihsaq ibn al-Buhlul narrated to us: He said: I heard Ibn ‘Uyaynah say: “My eyes have not seen the like of Abu Hanifah.” (Tarikh Baghdad 15:460)

Dr Bashshar ‘Awwad Ma‘ruf comments: “Its isnad is sahih.”

It has been documented in earlier posts that it is authentically reported from Sufyan ibn ‘Uyaynah that he said about Abu Hanifah: “Allah have mercy on Abu Hanifah. He was from the worshippers (musallin), that is, he was one of many Salahs.” (source)

And: “Abu Hanifah was an honourable person, and he would perform [much] Salah from early in his life.”  (source)

And: “The first to sit me down to narrate hadith was Abu Hanifah…When I entered Kufa, Abu Hanifah said to them [i.e. the Kufans]: ‘This is the most learned of them regarding [the hadiths of] ‘Amr ibn Dinar.’ Then the scholars (mashayikh) gathered around me, asking me about the hadiths of ‘Amr ibn Dinar.” (source)

‘Abd Allah ibn al-Mubarak’s Respect for Imam Abu Hanifah

Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi narrates:

Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn Ya’qub reported to us: He said: Muhammad ibn Nu’aym al-Dabbi reported to us: He said: I heard Abu l-Fadl Muhammad ibn al-Husayn the Qadi of Naysabur say: I heard Hammad ibn Ahmad al-Qadi al-Marwazi say: I heard Ibrahim ibn ‘Abd Allah al-Khallal say:

I heard Ibn al-Mubarak say: “Abu Hanifah was a sign (ayah)!” A speaker said to him: “In evil O Abu ‘Abd al-Rahman or in goodness?” He said: “Keep quiet, O So-and-So! Because it is said: ‘peak (ghayah) of evil’ and ‘sign of goodness’ and then he recited: ‘We made the son of Maryam and his mother a sign.’ (Qur’an 23:50)” (Tarikh Baghdad 15:461) Dr. Bashshar ‘Awwad Ma’ruf commented: “Its isnad is hasan.”

It has already been documented on this blog that it is authentically reported from Ibn al-Mubarak that he said: “as for the best faqih of people, [he is] Abu Hanifah” and: “I have not seen the like of him in fiqh” and: “If anyone has the right to issue [a legal verdict] using his opinion, Abu Hanifah has the right to issue [a legal verdict] using his opinion” and “When [the opinions] of these two, meaning al-Thawri and Abu Hanifah, converge on something, that is strong.” (see here) It has also been documented in earlier posts that ‘Abd Allah ibn al-Mubarak would narrate hadiths from Abu Hanifah.

Sufyan al-Thawri’s Respect for Imam Abu Hanifah

Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi reported in his Tarikh Baghdad:

Al-Saymari informed us: He said: We read onto al-Husayn ibn Harun from Ibn Sa‘id: He said: ‘Abd Allah ibn Ibrahim ibn Qutaybah narrated to us: he said: Ibn Numayr narrated to us: He said: Ibrahim ibn al-Basir narrated to me from Isma‘il ibn Hammad from Abu Bakr ibn ‘Ayyash: He said:

“‘Umar ibn Sa‘id, the brother of Sufyan [al-Thawri] died, so we came to him to console him, when it so happened that the gathering was full of his family, and amongst them was ‘Abd Allah ibn Idris. Thereupon, Abu Hanifah approached amidst a group with him. When Sufyan saw him, he moved from his seat, and stood up and embraced him, and seated him in his place and sat in front of him.”

Abu Bakr continued: “I became angry at him, and Ibn Idris said [to me]: ‘Woe to you! Don’t you see [that there are people present]?’ Then we waited until the people dispersed, so I said to ‘Abd Allah ibn Idris: ‘Don’t get up until we know what is with him in [behaving] this way.’ Then I said: ‘O Abu ‘Abd Allah! I saw you today doing something that I disapproved, and our companions disapproved of it.’ He said: ‘What was that?’ I said: ‘Abu Hanifah came to you, and you stood up for him and seated him in your seat and you behaved in an exaggerated manner, and this is blameworthy according to our companions.’ He said: ‘Why do you disapprove of this? This is a man who has reached a [high] degree of knowledge, so if I did not stand for his knowledge, I stood for his age, and if I did not stand for his age I stood for his jurisprudence, and if I did not stand for his jurisprudence I stood for his scrupulousness.’ This caused me to withdraw as I had no answer.” (Tarikh Baghdad 15:467-8)

A Brief Look at the Chain

Abu ‘Abd Allah al-Husayn ibn ‘Ali ibn Muhammad al-Saymari (351 – 436) is saduq according to al-Khatib al-Baghdadi (Tarikh Baghdad 8:634-5). Al-Barqani said al-Husayn ibn Harun al-Dabbi (320 – 398) is a hujjah which is equivalent to thiqah (Tarikh Baghdad 8:729-30)

Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Sa‘id al-Kufi is the famous Hafiz Ibn ‘Uqdah (248-332). Abu ‘Ali al-Hafiz al-Naysaburi said he was an imam and hafiz and a transmitter of such calibre that his reliability should not even be inquired about (Lisan al-Mizan 1:605); however, he was accused of holding mild Shiite beliefs. ‘Abd Allah ibn Ibrahim ibn Qutaybah al-Ansari al-Kufi was a recognised authority in the field of Qur’an reading (Rijal al-Daraqutni p. 23) Muhammad ibn ‘Abd Allah ibn Numayr (160 – 234) is a narrator found in all six collections of hadith and of undisputable reliability.

Ibrahim ibn Isma‘il ibn Bashir al-Basir has a notice in Ibn Abi Hatim’s Kitab al-Jarh wa al-Ta‘dil, and Abu Zur‘ah said: “If there is anyone reliable in the hadith of Ja‘far ibn ‘Awn from al-Mu‘alla ibn ‘Irfan from Abu Wa’il…, it is him [i.e. Ibrahim ibn Isma‘il ibn Bashir].” (Lisan al-Mizan)

Isma‘il ibn Hammad (d. 212) is the grandson of Imam Abu Hanifah and he studied under Abu Hanifah’s direct students like Abu Yusuf. He was Qadi of Baghdad and Basra. Muhammad ibn ‘Abd Allah al-Ansari (118 – 215), a trustworthy (thiqah) narrator of hadith found in all six of the famous collections of hadith, who studied fiqh under Zufar and Abu Yusuf, said: “No one took charge of judgeship from the time of ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab to this day more learned than Isma‘il ibn Hammad ibn Abi Hanifah.” Abu Bakr al-Jubbi said to him: “O Abu ‘Abd Allah! Not even al-Hasan ibn Abi l-Hasan (i.e. al-Basri)?!” He said: “No, not even al-Hasan.” (Lisan al-Mizan 2:114) Sibt ibn al-Jawzi (d. 654), the grandson of the famous Ibn al-Jawzi, said in his Mir’at al-Zaman, Isma‘il ibn Hammad is “trustworthy and reliable” (thiqah saduq). Although Ibn ‘Adi said he is “weak,” his criticism was moved by bias against the Hanafi Imams as he said the same regarding Imam Abu Hanifah in the very same sentence. Salih Jazarah also said “he is not thiqah,” but this was probably motivated by Isma‘il’s reputation for supporting the doctrine of “the creation of the Qur’an,” but as Sibt ibn al-Jawzi mentioned, his support for this Mu‘tazili doctrine was for reasons of self-preservation, and this was the practice of a number of scholars at that time. Abu Bakr ibn ‘Ayyash is a famous hadith-scholar found in the collections of al-Bukhari and the four Sunan.

Hence, although this narration contains some degree of weakness because of the unknown reliability of ‘Abd Allah ibn Ibrahim and the possible unreliability of Isma‘il, the weakness is slight and can be overlooked in such reports which describe the virtues of Imam Abu Hanifah, as in the context of virtues, the scholars of hadith were not as stringent as they were in laws and beliefs.

Sufyan al-Thawri was known to have some opposition to Imam Abu Hanifah, yet it is authentically established that he regarded him as “the greatest faqih of the time” (see here) and he would often accept his opinions in fiqh (see here). The event described in this report which probably occurred towards the end of Imam Abu Hanifah’s life, as indicated by the death of his brother and by the mention of Abu Hanifah’s old age, would seem to suggest Sufyan’s feelings towards the Imam changed later in his later life when he held a positive opinion of him.

Golden Advice of Imam Abu Hanifah for Ramadan

Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi narrates:

Al-Jawhari reported to us: He said: Muhammad ibn ‘Abd Allah ibn al-Abhari reported to us: He said: Abu ‘Arubah al-Harrani narrated to us: He said: Sulayman ibn Sayf narrated to us: He said: I heard Abu ‘Asim al-Nabil say:

“A man said to Abu Hanifah: ‘When is eating prohibited for a fasting person?’ He said: ‘When dawn comes.’ Then the questioner said to him: ‘And if the middle of the night comes?’ Thereupon, Abu Hanifah said to him: ‘Stand up [in prayer] O lame one!’” (Tarikh Baghdad 15:481-2)

Dr. Bashshar ‘Awwad Ma‘ruf comments: “Its isnad is sahih.”

Tahajjud (the night-prayer) is a highly recommended Salah, particularly in the month of Ramadan. It is described as “the way of the righteous” in hadith and as an expiation for sins and a safeguard against wrongdoing. Since Muslims should generally be awake for the pre-dawn meal (suhur), there should be no difficulty in praying a minimum of two rak’ahs of Tahajjud Salah during the nights of Ramadan. We should all, insha Allah, make a resolve to act on this golden advice of Imam Abu Hanifah for the coming Ramadan, and ask Allah to make it easy for us.