Narrations of Imam Abu Hanifah from Sharh Mushkil al-Athar

Imam Abu Ja’far al-Tahawi (239 – 321) narrated several hadiths in his masterpiece work, Sharh Mushkil al-Athar, containing Imam Abu Hanifah in its chain. One of them is referenced in an earlier post. I will quote another five below, and another in a later post inshaAllah when discussing Imam al-Nasa’i’s narration from Abu Hanifah. All references are based on Shu’ayb al-Arna’ut’s excellent edition of the work available for download here. The second and fourth narrations in this list are examples of Imam Abu Hanifah’s thuna’iyyat (two-narrator chains).

1. Al-Tahawi narrates: Ibrahim ibn Abi Dawud narrated to us: He said: Muhammad ibn al-Muthanna narrated to us: He said: Ishaq ibn Yusuf al-Azraq narrated to us from Abu Hanifah from ‘Alqamah ibn Marthad from Sulayman ibn Buraydah from his father: He said: the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said: “The inviter to goodness is like its doer.” (no. 1545, vol. 4:204)

The shaykh of Imam al-Tahawi, Ibrahim ibn Abi Dawud, is Ibrahim ibn Sulayman ibn Dawud al-Barallusi al-Suri (d. 270). Al-Tahawi narrated many hadiths from him. Al-Dhahabi described him as a “proficient master” (al-hafiz al-mutqin) and Abu Sa‘id ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Ahmad ibn Yunus (d. 347), the biographer of Egyptian narrators and a student of Imam al-Tahawi, said: “He was one of the memorisers, proficient Qur’an-reciters, trustworthy and firm narrators.” (Siyar A‘lam al-Nubala, al-Arna’ut ed. 12:612-3) The rest of the narrators in the chain are trustworthy hadith transmitters found in all six of the famous collections of hadith.

The narrator from Abu Hanifah, Ishaq ibn Yusuf (117 – 195 H), better known as al-Azraq, was declared thiqah by Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Ibn Ma‘in, al-‘Ijli, Ibn Sa‘d, al-Bazzar and al-Khatib al-Baghdadi (Tahdhib al-Tahdhib 1:257-8). The shaykh of Abu Hanifah in this chain is ‘Alqamah ibn Marthad al-Hadrami (d. 126), a Kufan narrator of hadith. Al-Mizzi lists Abu Hanifah amongst those who narrated from him (Tahdhib al-Kamal 20:310).

This hadith was narrated through the same chain by Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal (d. 241) in his Musnad (no. 23027, vol. 38:132, Shu’ayb al-Arna’ut ed.) from al-Azraq who narrated from Abu Hanifah from ‘Alqamah.

2. Al-Tahawi narrates: Ahmad ibn Dawud narrated to us: He said: Isma’il ibn Salim narrated to us: He said: Muhammad ibn al-Hasan narrated to us: He said: Abu Hanifah narrated to us: He said: ‘Ata’ ibn Abi Rabah narrated to us from Abu Hurayrah (Allah be pleased with him): He said: Allah’s Messenger (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said: “When the star appears, calamity is lifted from the inhabitants of every land.” (no. 2282, vol. 6:53)

The shaykh of Imam al-Tahawi is Ahmad ibn Dawud ibn Musa al-Makki (d. 282), declared thiqah by Ibn Yunus (Misbah al-Arib no. 1593). Isma’il ibn Salim Abu Yahya al-Kufi is a narrator found in the collections of Muslim, Abu Dawud and al-Nasa’i, and was declared thiqah by Ibn Ma’in, Ahmad, Ibn Sa’d and others. Muhammad ibn al-Hasan al-Shaybani (132 – 189 H) is a mujtahid Imam, from the foremost students of Imam Abu Hanifah. Al-Dhahabi said: “[He is] strong in [his narrations from Imam] Malik,” ‘Ali ibn al-Madini said he is “reliable” (saduq), and al-Daraqutni said: “He does not deserve rejection.” (Lisan al-Mizan, Abu Ghuddah ed. 7:60-3) Al-Daraqutni also counted him amongst “the trustworthy masters [of hadith].” (Nasb al-Rayah, Muhammad ‘Awwamah ed. 1:409) His transmission of the Muwatta’ of Imam Malik which includes approximately a thousand narrations was well-received by the ‘ulama which is a strong indication of his strength and credibility in hadith science. The strong criticism of him from some authorities was a result of methodological differences and is of no consequence. ‘Ata ibn Abi Rabah (ca. 27 – 115) was the greatest of Imam Abu Hanifah’s teachers as he himself mentioned (see here), and he has many narrations found in all six of the famous collections of hadith. One of the scholars said: “‘Ata’ was black, blind in one-eye, snub-nosed, lame and limp and then he became blind after this, yet he was trustworthy [in transmitting hadith], a jurist and a scholar possessing many hadiths!” (Tahdhib al-Kamal, 20:76) He met 200 companions of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), and he would issue fatwa in the presence of the companions, such that Ibn ‘Abbas would say to questioners: “O people of Makkah! Do you gather your questions to me, when Ibn Abi Rabah is amongst you?!” (ibid. 20:77)

(For an elucidation of the meaning of this hadith, see Imam al-Tahawi’s commentary that follows after narrating it)

3. Al-Tahawi narrates: Rawh ibn al-Faraj narrated to us: He said: Yusuf ibn ‘Adi narrated to us: He said: ‘Abd al-Rahim ibn Sulayman al-Razi narrated to us from al-Nu’man ibn Thabit Abi Hanifah from Hammad [ibn Abi Sulayman] from Sa’id ibn Jubayr from Ibn ‘Abbas (Allah be pleased with them): He said: “Allah’s Messenger (Allah bless him and grant him peace) dispatched the weak of his family in the night from Muzdalifah, and he said to them: ‘Do not pelt the jamrah until sunrise.'” (no. 3495, vol. 9:120)

Al-Tahawi’s shaykh, Rawh ibn al-Faraj Abu al-Zinba’ (d. 282), was a Maliki jurist and also the one who taught Imam al-Tahawi the science of qira’ah according to his transmission from the founder of one of the seven readings, ‘Asim ibn Bahdalah. He was thiqah as mentioned by al-‘Asqalani in Taqrib al-Tahdhib. Yusuf ibn ‘Adi ibn Zurayq (d. 232) is a narrator found in the collections of al-Bukhari and al-Nasa’i, and he was thiqah (Tahrir al-Taqrib no. 7872). The narrator from Abu Hanifah, ‘Abd al-Rahim ibn Sulayman al-Kinani (d. 187), is a narrator found in all six collections of hadith, and was declared thiqah by a number of authorities. Hammad ibn Abi Sulayman (d. 120) was the primary teacher of Abu Hanifah in fiqh, and he was a mujtahid Imam, the greatest of the students of Ibrahim al-Nakha’i as he himself expressed. Hammad’s narrations are found in all six collections of hadith, although in Sahih al-Bukhari there is only one narration narrated as mu’allaq (i.e. where Imam al-Bukhari does not cite his chain to Hammad). For the scholars’ praise of his knowledge and reliability, see Tahdhib al-Kamal (7:269-79).

4. Al-Tahawi narrates: Yazid narrated to us: Abu Qatan narrated to us: Abu Hanifah narrated to us from ‘Atiyyah from Abu Sa’id [al-Khudri] from Allah’s Messenger (Allah bless him and grant him peace), then he mentioned the equivalent of it [i.e. the words: “Whoever lies upon me deliberately, let him take his seat in the Fire.”] (no. 401, vol. 1:361)

The shaykh of al-Tahawi, Yazid ibn Sinan ibn Yazid al-Qazzaz (178 – 264), is also one of the shaykhs of al-Nasa’i in his Sunan. (Imam al-Tahawi in fact shares some shuyukh with all the collectors of the six books of hadith besides al-Bukhari.) He was declared thiqah by al-Nasa’i, Ibn Yunus and Ibn Abi Hatim (Tahdhib al-Kamal 32:152-5). The narrator from Imam Abu Hanifah Abu Qatan ‘Amr ibn al-Haytham (121 – 198) is a narrator found in all six of the famous collections of hadith besides Sahih al-Bukhari, and was declared thiqah by al-Shafi’i, Yahya ibn Ma’in, ‘Ali ibn al-Madini (Tahdhib al-Kamal 22:280-5). The shaykh of Imam Abu Hanifah is ‘Atiyyah ibn Sa’id ibn Junadah al-‘Awfi (d. 111), a narrator found in the collections of Abu Dawud, al-Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah, and also in al-Bukhari’s al-Adab al-Mufrad. It was reported from Yahya ibn Ma’in that he said he is “acceptable” (salih) and “there is no harm in him,” and Ibn Sa’d said “he is thiqah if Allah wills,” although it is also reported from Ibn Ma’in that he considered him weak and this was reported from a number of other authorities also (Tahdhib al-Kamal 20:145-9). The text of the hadith itself, however, is of unquestionable authority, and is probably the most authentic hadith in existence.

5. Al-Tahawi narrates: Ahmad ibn Dawud narrated to us: He said: Isma’il ibn Salim al-Sa’igh narrated to us : He said: Abu Mu’awiyah narrated to us: al-Nu’man ibn Thabit reported to me from ‘Alqamah ibn Marthad from Ibn Buraydah from his father: He said: “Ma’iz al-Aslami came to Allah’s Messenger (Allah bless him and grant him peace) while he was seated and confessed [that he committed] adultery. He rejected his [confession] four times, and then he ordered his stoning. Thereupon, they stood him up in a place with few stones. When stones struck him, he began to worry, so he came out running until he reached al-Harrah wherein he was stopped by them and they pelted him with its stones until he became silent. Later, they said: ‘O Messenger of Allah! When stones struck Ma’iz he became worried and ran.’ He said: ‘Why did you not let him go?!'” (no. 432 vol. 1:379-80)

The chain is the same as the second narration mentioned above, except for the narrator from Abu Hanifah, Abu Mu’awiyah Muhammad ibn Khazim (113 – 195), whose narrations are found in all six collections of hadith, and he was declared thiqah by the major authorities of narrator-criticism. This hadith is well-known and is found with different chains of transmission in many books of hadith.

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The Composure of Imam Abu Hanifah

Al-Khatib narrates with his chain to ‘Abd al-Razzaq al-San‘ani (126 – 211 H), the author of the Musannaf:

“I was in the presence of Abu Hanifah at Masjid al-Khayf when a man asked him about something and he replied to him. Thereupon, a man said: ‘Al-Hasan [al-Basri] says such and such.’ Abu Hanifah said: ‘Al-Hasan erred.’ At this, a man whose face was covered with bandages arrived and said: ‘You say al-Hasan erred, Oh son of an adulterous?!’ Then he left. [Imam Abu Hanifah’s] face did not change, nor did it gain colour. Then he said: ‘Yes, by Allah, al-Hasan erred, and Ibn Mas‘ud was right.’” (Tarikh Baghdad 15:481)

Dr Bashshar ‘Awwad Ma‘ruf comments: “The chain of this report is sahih.”

أخبرني عبد الله بن يحيى السكري، أخبرنا إسماعيل بن محمد الصفار، حدثنا أحمد بن منصور الرمادي، حدثنا عبد الرزاق قال: شهدت أبا حنيفة في مسجد الخيف فسأله رجل عن شئ فأجابه فقال رجل: إن الحسن يقول كذا وكذا. قال أبو حنيفة: أخطأ الحسن، قال فجاء رجل مغطى الوجه قد عصب على وجهه فقال: أنت تقول أخطأ الحسن يا ابن الزانية؟ ثم مضى، فما تغير وجهه ولا تلون، ثم قال: إي والله أخطأ الحسن وأصاب ابن مسعود

Imam Abu Hanifah’s Refusal of Judgeship and his Political Activism

Both the Umayyad and Abbasid caliphates demanded Imam Abu Hanifah take the position of Qadi, and upon his refusal to align himself with the state, he was punished both times. In the second time, he was imprisoned and probably poisoned under the caliph al-Mansur which led to his death, making him a shahid. The reason for his imprisonment was not only refusal of judgeship but because he ideologically and financially assisted the anti-Abbasid rebellion of the descendents of ‘Ali, Muhammad ibn ‘Abd Allah ibn Hasan ibn al-Hasan ibn ‘Ali better known as “al-Nafs al-Zakiyyah” (the pure soul) and his brother, Ibrahim ibn ‘Abd Allah. In this respect, I will quote a few authentic narrations from Imam al-Khatib’s Tarikh Baghdad:

Under the Umayyads:

1. Al-Khatib narrates: Qadi Abu al-‘Ala’ Muhammad ibn ‘Ali al-Wasiti narrated to us: He said: Abu al-Hasan Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn Hammad ibn Sufyan narrated to us in Kufa: He said: al-Husayn ibn Muhammad ibn al-Farzadaq al-Fazari narrated to us: He said: Abu ‘Abd Allah ‘Amr ibn Ahmad ibn ‘Amr ibn al-Sarj narrated to us in Egypt: He said: Yahya ibn Sulayman al-Ju‘fi al-Kufi narrated to us: He said: ‘Ali ibn Ma‘bad narrated to us: He said: ‘Ubayd Allah ibn ‘Amr al-Raqqi narrated to us: He said: “Ibn Hubayrah spoke to Abu Hanifah, [demanding him] to accept the role of Qadi of Kufa for him, which he refused. Thereupon, he struck him with a hundred and ten lashes, ten lashes every day. He [persisted] on [his] rejection, and when he saw this, he let him go.” (Tarikh Baghdad 15:448) – Dr. Bashshar ‘Awwad Ma‘ruf comments: “Its isnad is sahih, and the narrations which come after it add strength to it and support it.”

Yazid ibn ‘Umar ibn Hubayrah (d. 132 H) was the last Umayyad governor over Iraq under Marwan (d. 132), the last Umayyad caliph.

2. Al-Khatib narrates: Al-Khallal reported to us: al-Hariri reported to us that al-Nakha‘i narrated to them: He said: Muhammad ibn ‘Ali ibn ‘Affan narrated to us: He said: Yahya ibn ‘Abd al-Hamid narrated to us from his father: He said: “Abu Hanifah would be brought out every day,” or he said, “amongst the days, and he was beaten, to [force him to] accept judgeship but he refused. He wept on some of the days, and when he was freed, he said to me: ‘The grief of my mother was more difficult on me than the beating.’” (Tarikh Baghdad 15:449)

The chain is sound: the narrators al-Khallal, al-Hariri and al-Nakha‘i are trustworthy narrators (thiqat) as detailed in earlier posts; Muhammad ibn ‘Ali ibn ‘Affan (d. 277) was declared thiqah by al-Daraqutni (Misbah al-Arib 3:195); although some imams held negative opinions of Yahya ibn ‘Abd al-Hamid (d. 228), he was declared thiqah by Mutayyan, Yahya ibn Ma‘in, Ibn Numayr and Muhammad ibn Ibrahim al-Bushanji (204-290) [a great hadith-scholar whose narrations are found in Sahih al-Bukhari], and Ibn ‘Adi said: “I did not find in his Musnad or his hadiths anything objectionable (munkar), and I hope there is no harm in him” (Tahdhib al-Tahdhib 11:243-9); Abu Yahya ‘Abd al-Hamid al-Himmani (d. 202) is a narrator found in the Sahihs of al-Bukhari and Muslim, and declared thiqah by Ibn Ma‘in, al-Nasa’i, Ibn Qani‘ and others, although some invalid criticism was levelled at him because of irja’. (Tahrir al-Taqrib 2:300-1)

This narration shows even as he endured severe physical punishment, it was the effect that this would have on others that concerned him. This illustrates his strength and patience in the path of truth, and his selfless concern for others, particularly his close family.

Under the Abbasids:

3. Al-Khatib narrates: Abu ‘Umar al-Hasan ibn ‘Uthman al-Wa‘iz reported to us: He said: Ja‘far ibn Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn Ahmad ibn al-Hakam al-Wasiti reported to us [here, al-Khatib includes a second chain which I have omitted]: Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn Ya‘qub narrated to us: He said: My grandfather narrated to us: He said: Bishr ibn al-Walid al-Kindi narrated to us: He said: “Abu Ja‘far [al-Mansur] the commander of the faithful, sent for Abu Hanifah. He wanted him to accept the role of judge but he refused. Thereupon he made an oath he will do [this], and Abu Hanifah made an oath he will not do [so]. Then al-Mansur [again] made an oath he will do [this], and Abu Hanifah made an oath he will not do [so]. Al-Rabi‘ al-Hajib said: ‘Do you not see that the Commander of the Believers is making an oath?!’ Abu Hanifah said: ‘The Commander of the Believers is more capable of compensating for his [broken] oaths than I am of compensating for my [broken] oaths.’ And he refused to take the position [of Qadi]. Immediately al-Mansur ordered him to be imprisoned.”

The chain is authentic: al-Khatib said about Abu ‘Umar al-Wa‘iz (347 – 426) “there is no harm in him” (Tarikh Baghdad, 8:348); Ja‘far ibn Muhammad al-Wasiti (d. 353) is thiqah according to al-Khatib and Ibn Abi al-Fawaris (Tarikh Baghdad, 8:152-3); Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn Ya‘qub ibn Shaybah (254 – 331) is thiqah according to al-Khatib (Tarikh Baghdad, 2:248); he heard from his grandfather, the famous trustworthy hafiz Ya‘qub ibn Shaybah (180 – 262), as a child; Bishr ibn al-Walid al-Kindi (d. 238 H) is thiqah according to al-Daraqutni and others (Misbah al-‘Arib, 1:247).

Abu Ja‘far al-Mansur (95 – 158) was the second Abbasid caliph, and the reason he wanted Abu Hanifah to represent his government as judge was not only because of the Imam’s great standing amongst the scholars and the people in general, but because al-Mansur gained intelligence of Abu Hanifah’s role in anti-Abbasid efforts, so he wished to force him to align himself with the regime.

4. Al-Khatib narrates: Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn Rizq reported to us: He said: Isma‘il ibn ‘Ali al-Khutabi reported to us: He said: Muhammad ibn ‘Uthman narrated to us: He said: Nasr ibn ‘Abd al-Rahman narrated to us: He said: al-Fadl ibn Dukayn narrated to us: He said: Zufar ibn al-Hudhayl narrated to me: He said: “Abu Hanifah would speak openly and harshly in the days of Ibrahim (ibn ‘Abd Allah ibn Hasan ibn al-Hasan ibn ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib) [in support of his resistance against the Abbasids]. So I said to him: ‘By Allah! You will not stop until ropes are strung around our necks!’ It wasn’t long before the letter of al-Mansur came to ‘Isa ibn Musa (the governor of Kufa) to deport Abu Hanifah. When I came to him in the morning, it was as though his face was wiped off. He deported him to Baghdad and he lived for 15 days, and then they gave him a drink, whereupon he died. That was in the year 150. And Abu Hanifah died when he was seventy years old.”

The chain is authentic: Abu al-Hasan Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Ahmad Ibn Rizq (325 – 412) is trustworthy according to al-Khatib and al-Barqani (Tarikh Baghdad, 2:211-3); Ismail ibn ‘Ali ibn Isma‘il ibn Yahya Abu Muhammad al-Khutabi (269 – 350) is thiqah according to Daraqutni and Ibn al-Fawaris (Tarikh Baghdad, 7:304-6); Muhammad ibn ‘Uthman ibn Abi Shaybah (210 – 297) was declared thiqah by Salih Jazarah, Ibn ‘Adi said he did not find any of his hadith objectionable (munkar), ‘Abdan said “there is no harm in him,” Ibn Hibban mentioned him in al-Thiqat, and Maslamah ibn Qasim said “there is no harm in him, the people wrote from him, and I do not know anybody who abandoned him.” (Lisan al-Mizan, 7:340-2) [although there was some criticism of him, most of it comes through Ibn ‘Uqdah whose reports from the scholars regarding narrator-criticism are not accepted]; Nasr ibn ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Kufi (d. 248), is thiqah (Tahrir al-Taqrib, 4:13); al-Fadl ibn Dukayn (130-219) is a narrator found in the six collections of hadith; and Zufar ibn al-Hudhayl al-‘Anbari (110-158), a major student of Imam Abu Hanifah, was declared thiqah by Ibn Ma‘in, al-Fadl ibn Dukayn and Ibn Hibban (Lisan al-Mizan, 3:501-3).

According to this report, Abu Hanifah was a martyr as he was poisoned to death. This is one of the great merits of Imam Abu Hanifah, and distinguishes him from the other three Imams of fiqh. Imam al-Dhahabi also recognised this where he said under the biography of Abu Hanifah in Siyar A’lam al-Nubala’ “He died as a poisoned martyr in the year 150 when he was 70 years old.” (Siyar A’lam al-Nubala’ 6:403) He supported the rebellion of Muhammad ibn ‘Abd Allah ibn Hasan ibn al-Hasan ibn ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib al-Nafs al-Zakiyyah (d. 145 H) against al-Mansur; and then his brother, Ibrahim. Imam Malik also supported this rebellion (Al-Suyuti, Tarikh al-Khulafa p. 208); and Imam Abu Hanifah even expressed a desire to participate with Ibrahim in battle, as shown in the following narration:

5. Al-Khatib narrates: Ibn al-Fadl reported to us: He said: Ibn Darastuwayh reported to us: He said: Ya‘qub narrated to us: He said: Safwan ibn Salih al-Dimashqi narrated to me: He said: ‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al-Wahid al-Sulami narrated to me: He said: I heard Ibrahim ibn Muhammad al-Fazari narrate to al-Awza‘i, he said: “My brother was killed with Ibrahim al-Fatimi [the brother of al-Nafs al-Zakiyyah], so I rode to check his inheritance. I met Abu Hanifah and he said to me: ‘From where did you come and where are you heading?’ I told him that I came from al-Massisah and I am heading to a brother of mine killed with Ibrahim.’ He said: ‘If you were killed with your brother, it would have been better for you than the place you have come from!’ I said: ‘What prevented you from that?’ He said: ‘Were it not for the possessions and belongings of people that are with me, I would not have delayed [doing] that!’” (Tarikh Baghdad 15:529-30) – Dr. Bashshar ‘Awwad Ma‘ruf comments: “Its isnad is sahih.”

6. Hafiz Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr narrated with his chain to Ahmad Ibn Abi ‘Imran (d. 280, thiqah) from Bishr ibn al-Walid (d. 238, thiqah) from Imam Abu Yusuf: “Al-Mansur’s anger with Abu Hanifah, despite his recognition of his excellence, was only because when Ibrahim ibn ‘Abd Allah ibn Hasan seceded in Basra, it was mentioned to him that Abu Hanifah and al-A‘mash conspired with him in Kufa. Al-Mansur wrote [i.e. forged] two letters on his tongue, one [addressed] to al-A‘mash and another to Abu Hanifah from Ibrahim ibn ‘Abd Allah ibn Hasan, and he sent them with one he trusted. When the letter reached al-A‘mash, he took it from the man and read it, and then he stood up and fed it to a goat while the man watched, so he said to him: ‘What do you mean by this?’ He said: ‘Say to him: You are a man from Banu Hashim, and you are all loved by him, and peace [be on you].’ As for Abu Hanifah, he accepted the letter and replied to it. This remained in the heart of Abu Ja‘far until he did with him what he did.” (al-Intiqa’ fi Fada’il al-A’immat al-Thalathat al-Fuqaha, pp. 323-4)

The Scholarly Acceptance of Imam Abu Hanifah’s Pronouncements on al-Jarh wa al-Ta’dil

‘Allamah Zafar Ahmad al-‘Uthmani wrote in his Abu Hanifah wa Ashabuhu al-Muhaddithun: “Know that the opinions of Imam Abu Hanifah in al-Jarh wa al-Ta’dil (narrator-criticism) and the principles of hadith were accepted and received from him by the ‘ulama of this field. They quoted him in their books as proof or for consideration, just as they took from Imam Ahmad, al-Bukhari, Ibn Ma’in, Ibn al-Madini, and other scholars of this field. This shows you his great standing in [the science of] hadith and his expansive knowledge and mastery.” (Abu Hanifah wa Ashabuhu al-Muhaddithun, Idarat al-Qur’an wa al-‘Ulum al-Islamiyyah, p. 45)

I will quote below a few examples of the scholarly acceptance of Imam Abu Hanifah’s pronouncements in this important field:

1. Al-Saymari narrates in his published book Akhbar Abi Hanifah wa Ashabih: Muhammad ibn ‘Imran ibn Musa al-Marzubani reported to us: Muhammad ibn Makhlad al-‘Attar narrated to us: Abu Musa Qays al-Mu’addib narrated to us: Suwayd ibn Sa‘id narrated to us: Sufyan ibn ‘Uyaynah narrated to us: “The first to sit me down to narrate hadith was Abu Hanifah.” I [Suwayd] said: “How was this so?” He said: “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.” (Akhbar Abi Hanifah wa Ashabih, p. 82)

This chain is hasan: Abu ‘Abd Allah al-Husayn ibn ‘Ali ibn Muhammad Al-Saymari (351 – 436) is a Hanafi faqih and muhaddith who narrated from al-Daraqutni and Ibn Shahin, and is saduq according to al-Khatib (Tarikh Baghdad 8:634-5); Abu ‘Ubayd Allah Muhammad ibn ‘Imran ibn Musa al-Marzubani (296 – 384) is thiqah according to al-‘Atiqi. (Tarikh Baghdad 4:227-9); Muhammad ibn Makhlad al-‘Attar (d. 331) is thiqah according to al-Daraqutni (Tarikh Baghdad 4:501); Abu Musa Qays ibn Ibrahim ibn Qays al-Tawabiqi al-Mu’addib (d. 284), al-Daraqutni said he is acceptable (salih) (Tarikh Baghdad 14:478-9); Suwayd ibn Sa‘id ibn Sahl al-Harawi (140 – 240) is thiqah according to Ahmad ibn Hanbal, and a narrator of Muslim (Tahdhib al-Kamal)

The same narration was also narrated by Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr through a different chain:

Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr said: [Abu Ya‘qub Yusuf ibn al-Dakhil narrated in his book Fada’il Abi Hanifah wa Akhbaruhu]: Abu l-‘Abbas al-Farid narrated to us: Muhammad ibn Isma‘il [al-Sa’igh] narrated to us: Suwayd ibn Sa‘id al-Anbari narrated to us: I heard Sufyan ibn ‘Uyaynah say: “The first to sit me down to narrate hadith in Kufa was Abu Hanifah. He sat me down in the mosque and said: ‘This is the strongest of people regarding the hadith of ‘Amr ibn Dinar,’ then I narrated to them.” (al-Intiqa fi Fada’il al-A’immat al-Thalathah, p. 199)

Ibn al-Dakhil (d. 388) is described as the “muhaddith of Makkah” by al-Dhahabi in Siyar A‘lam al-Nubala, but besides this there is no other criticism or praise of him, although his biography is known. Abu al-‘Abbas Muhammad ibn al-Husayn al-Farid, his reliability is unknown. Muhammad ibn Isma‘il al-Sa’igh (d. 276) is thiqah according to Abu Dawud and al-Dhahabi. Hence, although the chain is weak because of the unknown narrator in the chain, it is not “very weak” (da‘if jiddan) that it cannot be used as a supporting narration. This narration therefore strengthens the previous one.

The narration also corresponds with the information known about Sufyan ibn ‘Uyaynah (107 – 198) from the books of Rijal. As mentioned in Taqrib, he “was the strongest narrator from ‘Amr ibn Dinar (45 – 126).” Ibn ‘Uyaynah himself referred to ‘Amr ibn Dinar as “thiqah thiqah thiqah” – the repetition is for emphasis. And it is known some major Kufan narrators like Waki‘ ibn al-Jarrah and Yahya ibn Zakariyyah ibn Abi Za’idah narrated from him as mentioned in Tahdhib al-Tahdhib (4:118). Waki‘, as mentioned in an earlier post, would issue fatwas according to the opinions of Abu Hanifah, and Yahya ibn Zakariyya ibn Abi Za’idah, who was the strongest and greatest narrator in Kufa after Sufyan al-Thawri, is known to have been a “student of Abu Hanifah” as mentioned in al-Dhahabi’s Tadhkirat al-Huffaz.

After mentioning the abovementioned narration, ‘Allamah Zafar Ahmad al-‘Uthmani says: “Sufyan ibn ‘Uyaynah is one of the outstanding imams, chief of the muhaddithin and shaykh of Islam, yet he says: ‘The first to sit me down to narrate hadith was Abu Hanifah.’ In this is a great proof of the greatness of Abu Hanifah in the science of hadith, and people’s reliance on his opinion with respect to the reliability of narrators. Thus, he (Allah be pleased with him) was not only a muhaddith, but he was from those who made men muhaddithin!” (Abu Hanifah wa Ashabuhu al-Muhaddithun, p. 17)

2. Imam al-Tirmidhi narrates in his Kitab al-‘Ilal: Mahmud ibn Ghaylan narrated to us: He said: Abu Yahya al-Himmani narrated to us: He said: I heard Abu Hanifah say: “I have not seen anyone a greater liar than Jabir al-Ju‘fi (d. 128), nor anyone more virtuous that ‘Ata’ ibn Abi Rabah (27 – 115).” (Al-Jami‘ al-Kabir, Dr. Bashshar ‘Awwad Ma‘ruf ed., 6:233)

Imam al-Tirmidhi narrated this in the context of determining the provenance of the science of al-Jarh wa al-Ta’dil. The narrators in al-Tirmidhi’s chain are reliable: Mahmud ibn Ghaylan (d. 239) is a narrator found in the Sahihs of al-Bukhari and Muslim, and declared thiqah by Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani in al-Taqrib (Tahrir al-Taqrib 3:353). Abu Yahya ‘Abd al-Hamid al-Himmani (d. 202) is also a narrator found in the Sahihs of al-Bukhari and Muslim, and declared thiqah by Ibn Ma‘in, al-Nasa’i, Ibn Qani‘ and others, although some invalid criticism was levelled at him because of irja’. (Tahrir al-Taqrib 2:300-1)

This narration has also been quoted in the books of Rijal under the biographies of Jabir al-Ju’fi and ‘Ata’ ibn Abi Rabah (e.g. Tahdhib al-Tahdhib 2:48), illustrating the acceptance of Imam Abu Hanifah’s view amongst the later experts of this science.

3. In an earlier post, I also quoted Imam Abu Hanifah’s authentic criticism of deviant groups:

Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi narrates: al-Khallal reported to us: al-Hariri reported to us that ‘Ali ibn Muhammad al-Nakha‘i narrated to them: Muhammad ibn al-Hasan ibn Mukram narrated to us: Bishr ibn al-Walid narrated to us: I heard Abu Yusuf say: Abu Hanifah said: “Two groups of the worst of people are from Khurasan: the Jahmiyyah and the Mushabbihah (antropomorphists),” and he probably said “Muqatiliyyah (followers of Muqatil ibn Sulayman (d. 150 H)).” (Tarikh Baghdad 15:514-15) Dr. Bashshar ‘Awwad Ma‘ruf said: “Its isnad is sahih, its narrators are trustworthy (thiqat).”

With the same chain, al-Khatib narrates: al-Nakha‘i said: Muhammad ibn ‘Ali ibn ‘Affan narrated to us: Yahya ibn ‘Abd al-Hamid ibn ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Himmani narrated to us from his father: I heard Abu Hanifah say: “Jahm ibn Safwan is a kafir.” (Tarikh Baghdad 15:515) Dr. Bashshar ‘Awwad Ma‘ruf said: “Its isnad is hasan.”

Imam Abu Hanifah’s opinion on Jahm is in fact quoted in the books of Rijal. Al-’Asqalani said in Tahdhib al-Tahdhib (vol 10:281): “Muhammad ibn Sima’ah (who is thiqah according al-Saymari and saduq according to al-’Asqalani in al-Taqrib) narrated from Abu Yusuf from Abu Hanifah that he said: ‘Jahm went overboard in negation until he said: He [i.e. Allah] is nothing, and Muqatil went overboard in affirmation until He deemed Allah to be like His creation.’Al-’Asqalani also quotes him saying: “Two disgusting opinions came to us from the east: Jahm the negator [of Allah’s attributes] and Muqatil the anthropomorphist.”

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For more examples of the recorded statements of Imam Abu Hanifah on al-Jarh wa al-Ta‘dil from Tahdhib al-Tahdhib, see Abu Hanifah wa Ashabuhu al-Muhaddithun, pp. 45-7.

Narrations on the Piety of Imam Abu Hanifah

Imam Abu Hanifah, despite his mastery in the Islamic sciences, was recognised for his piety (taqwa), scrupulousness (wara’) and worship (‘ibadah). In the following I will quote a few excerpts from Imam al-Khatib al-Baghdadi’s biographical dictionary Tarikh Baghdad, omitting the chains and relaying the editor’s, Dr Bashshar ‘Awwad Ma’ruf’s, gradings of the chains, as he graciously included his expert analysis on most of the narrations from Abu Hanifah’s biography in the footnotes.

1. Yazid ibn Harun (118 – 206) said: “I comprehended the people and I have not seen anyone more intelligent, nor more virtuous, nor more scrupulous than Abu Hanifah.” (Tarikh Baghdad 15:498) Dr. Bashshar ‘Awwad Ma‘ruf comments, “Its isnad is sahih.”

Yazid ibn Harun is a narrator of hadith found in the six famous collections, and is one of the greatest huffaz of hadith, said to have memorised over twenty thousand hadiths. He was one of the most reliable transmitters of hadith, and was also recognised for his devotion and piety. (Tahdhib al-Tahdhib 11:366-9)

2. Sulayman ibn Abi Shaykh (151 – 246) said: “Abu Hanifah was scrupulous and generous.” (Tarikh Baghdad 15:462-3) Dr. Bashshar ‘Awwad Ma‘ruf comments on this narration, “Its narrators are trustworthy (thiqat).”

3. Yahya ibn Ma‘in said: I heard Yahya al-Qattan say: “We have sat in the company of Abu Hanifah, by Allah, and we heard from him. By Allah, when I would look at him, I recognised in his face that he feared Allah!” (Tarikh Baghdad 15:482) Dr. Bashshar ‘Awwad Ma‘ruf comments: “Its isnad is hasan.”

Yahya ibn Sa’id al-Qattan (120 – 198) was also a follower of the opinions of Abu Hanifah in fiqh, as shown in an earlier post. His standing in hadith was unmatched. (see: Tahdhib al-Tahdhib 216-20)

4. Muhammad ibn Ishaq al-Balkhi narrated to us: I heard al-Hasan ibn Muhammad al-Laythi say: “I came to Kufa and inquired about the most devout (a’bad) of its inhabitants and I was directed to Abu Hanifah. Then I came when I was an old man and inquired about the best faqih amongst its inhabitants and I was directed to Abu Hanifah.” (Tarikh Baghdad 15:482) Dr. Bashshar ‘Awwad Ma‘ruf comments, “Its isnad is good (jayyid).”

Al-Hasan ibn Muhammad al-Laythi was the Qadi of Marw and ‘Abd Allah ibn al-Mubarak was favourably disposed to him. (Ibn Hibban, Kitab al-Thiqat 8:168) This narration, therefore, shows Abu Hanifah from an early period was known to the people of Kufa as the one who performed the most worship amongst them. Kufa was at that time a large city containing many learned and pious inhabitants.

5. Sufyan ibn ‘Uyaynah (107 – 98) said: “Allah have mercy on Abu Hanifah. He was from the worshippers (musallin), that is, he was one of many Salahs.” (Tarikh Baghdad 15:482) Dr. Bashshar ‘Awwad Ma‘ruf comments, “A sahih report.”

‘Ali ibn al-Madini narrated: I heard Sufyan ibn ‘Uyaynah say: “Abu Hanifah was an honourable person, and he would perform [much] Salah from early in his life.” (Tarikh Baghdad 15:483) Dr. Bashshar ‘Awwad Ma‘ruf comments, “Its isnad is good.”

Sufyan ibn ‘Uyaynah is the most prominent hadith-teacher of Imam al-Shafi’i, and is a prolific narrator found in the six famous collections of hadith.

6. Abu Muti‘ said: “I was at Makkah, and I did not enter into Tawaf in a moment from the moments of the night except I saw Abu Hanifah and Sufyan (al-Thawri) in Tawaf.” (Tarikh Baghdad 15:483) Dr. Bashshar ‘Awwad Ma‘ruf comments, “Its isnad is hasan.”

7. Yahya ibn Ayyub al-Zahid (d. 168) said: “Abu Hanifah would not sleep at night [i.e. he would stay awake in worship].” (Tarikh Baghdad 15:483) Dr. Bashshar ‘Awwad Ma‘ruf comments, “Its isnad is hasan.”

Yahya ibn Ayyub al-Ghafiqi is also a narrator of hadith found in the six famous collections.

8. Abu ‘Asim al-Nabil (122-214) said: “Abu Hanifah would be called ‘the peg’ (al-watad) because of the abundance of his Salah.” (Tarikh Baghdad 15:484) Dr. Bashshar ‘Awwad Ma‘ruf comments, “Its isnad is sahih. Its narrators are trustworthy.”

Abu ‘Asim al-Dahhak ibn Makhlad is a narrator of the six famous collections of hadith, and he is the greatest and eldest of al-Bukhari’s shaykhs. Some of al-Bukhari’s thulathiyyat (three-narrator chains) which are the shortest of al-Bukhari’s chains go through him. (Tahdhib al-Tahdhib 4:450-3)

9. It is narrated from Imam Abu Yusuf: “While I was walking with Abu Hanifah, I heard a man say to another man: ‘This is Abu Hanifah, he does not sleep at night.’ Abu Hanifah said: ‘By Allah: It is not said of me what I do not do.’ He would revive the night in prayer, supplication and devotion.” (Tarikh Baghdad 485-6) Dr Bashshar comments that its chain is acceptable (salih).

10. It is narrated from Mis’ar ibn Kidam (d. 155): “One night I entered the masjid and I saw a man praying, and I found his recitation pleasing. He recited a seventh (of the Qur’an) and I thought he would bow down. Then he recited a third and then half and he continued to recite until he completed it all in one rak‘ah. I looked, and behold, it was Abu Hanifah.” (Tarikh Baghdad 487-8) Dr Bashshar comments that it has a hasan chain with all the narrators being trustworthy (thiqah) except Hafs ibn Abd al-Rahman who is reliable (saduq).

Mis’ar ibn Kidam was a contemporary of Abu Hanifah, and he is a narrator found in the six famous collections of hadith, and was known for his worship and piety.

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Imam al-Dhahabi wrote in a volume dedicated to the merits of Imam Abu Hanifah and his two companions: “Abu Hanifah’s standing in the night in prayer, his night-vigilance, and his devotion have been mass-transmitted (tawatarat).” (Manaqib al-Imam Abu Hanifah, al-Dhahabi, Lajnatu Ihya’ al-Ma’arif al-Nu’maniyyah, pp. 20-1)

Many pious men of the generation of the Atba’ al-Tabi’in kept the company of Imam Abu Hanifah, such as Dawud al-Ta’i, Fudayl ibn ‘Iyad and Shaqiq al-Balkhi, whose virtues are endless and can be read in the biographical literature. This is also a great testament to the profound spiritual station reached by Imam Abu Hanifah.