Adherence to the Opinions of Imam Abu Hanifah and their Prevalence amongst the Salaf

Affiliation to the madhhab of Imam Abu Hanifah (80 H – 150 H), a Tabi’i who saw at least one Sahabi, started in the generation of the Atba’ al-Tabi’in (third generation of Muslims, those who saw the Tabi’in), which distinguishes it from all other madhhabs which began to be followed as established madhhabs only after the first three generations of Muslims. This is established as a general trend in the third generation of Muslims and with specific examples. The first three generations of Muslims (Sahabah, Tabi’in and Atba’ al-Tabi’in) were declared as the best of generations by the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam) in an authentic hadith in which he said: “The best of people are my generation, then those who follow them and then those who follow them.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi narrates: Ibrahim ibn Makhlad al-Mu‘addal informed me: Qadi Abu Bakr Ahmad ibn Kamil narrated to us by dication: Muhammad ibn Isma‘il al-Sulami narrated to us: ‘Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr al-Humaydi narrated to us: Sufyan ibn ‘Uyaynah (107 – 198) said: “Two things I did not believe would go beyond the arch bridge of Kufa, and they have reached the furthest regions: the recitation of Hamzah (d. 156 H) and the opinions of Abu Hanifah.” (Tarikh Baghdad 15:475) Its editor, Dr. Bashshar ‘Awwad Ma’ruf comments: “Its isnad is sahih.” Sufyan ibn ‘Uyaynah is a narrator of the six famous collections of hadith (Bukhari, Muslim, Tirmidhi, Nasa’i, Ibn Majah and Abu Dawud) and one of the greatest narrators of hadith. His statement compares the canonical mutawatir recitation of Hamzah (who is amongst the seven qurra’) and its prevalence with the general acceptance of the madhhab of Abu Hanifah at that time, which was the era of the Atba’ al-Tabi’in.

Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi narrates: ‘Abd al-Baqi ibn ‘Abd al-Karim reported to me: He said: ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn ‘Umar reported to us: He said: Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn Ya‘qub narrated to us: He said: My grandfather narrated to us: He said: I heard ‘Ali ibn al-Madini say: Yazid ibn Zuray‘ would say when remembering Abu Hanifah: “How far have the grey mules flown with his fatwas!” (Tarikh Baghdad 15:475) Dr. Bashshar ‘Awwad Ma’ruf comments: “Its isnad is sahih.” Yazid ibn Zuray‘ (101-182) is also a narrator found in the six collections of hadith, and was a highly reputable transmitter of hadith from the Atba’ al-Tabi’in, regarded by many as the most reliable hadith-narrator from Basra (Tahdhib al-Tahdhib 11:325-8). His statement shows his surprise at the widespread acceptance of Imam Abu Hanifah’s fatwas at this early time.

Abu Bakr ibn Abi Shaybah (159-235 H), the author of the Musannaf, dedicated a whole “Book” in his Musannaf to refuting Imam Abu Hanifah’s opinions in about 120 issues of fiqh. Ibn Abi Shaybah did not dedicate any other chapter or book to refuting the opinions in fiqh of any other imam despite the fact many other scholars shared these opinions with Abu Hanifah. Shaykh Muhammad ‘Awwamah, the editor of the Musannaf of Ibn Abi Shaybah, attributes this fact to the prevalence of the madhhab of Abu Hanifah and its wide acceptance in the time of Ibn Abi Shaybah (al-Musannaf li Bni Abi Shaybah 20:7). He lived amongst the fourth generation of Muslims (those who saw the Atba’ al-Tabi’in). Shaykh Muhammad ‘Awwamah lists six authors who wrote answers to Ibn Abi Shaybah’s refutation (ibid. 20:9-12), from them Imam Qasim ibn Qutlubugha and ‘Allamah Zahid al-Kawthari.

As for specific examples:

1. Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi narrates: Al-‘Atiqi informed us: ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn ‘Umar ibn Nasr ibn ‘Umar al-Dimashqi narrated to us from his father: Ahmad ibn ‘Ali ibn Sa‘id al-Qadi said: I heard Yahya ibn Ma‘in say: I heard Yahya ibn Sa‘id al-Qattan (120 H – 198 H) say: “We do not lie by Allah. We have not heard [opinions] more beautiful than Abu Hanifah’s opinions and we have adopted most of his opinions.” Yahya ibn Ma‘in said: “And Yahya ibn Sa‘id took (yadhhabu) the opinions of the Kufans in fatwa and he selected his opinions from their opinions and he followed his opinions amongst his companions.” (Tarikh Baghdad 15:474) Dr. Bashshar ‘Awwad Ma’ruf comments: “Its isnad is sahih.” Yahya ibn Sa‘id al-Qattan is also a narrator of the six famous collections of hadith and he was from the Atba’ al-Tabi’in. He was the first to write on the science of al-Jarh wa l-Ta’dil, and in the field of hadith he is an undisputed and recognised authority.

2. Shu‘ayb ibn Ishaq ibn ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Umawi al-Dimashqi (118 H – 189 H) is a narrator of the Six besides al-Tirmidhi. Al-‘Asqalani says in his biography in Tahdhib al-Tahdhib (4:347-8): “He narrated from his father and Abu Hanifah and he adopted his madhhab (tamadhhaba lahu)…” He goes on to mention that Ahmad, Ibn Ma‘in, Abu Dawud, Nasa’i, Abu Hatim and others said he is trustworthy (thiqah). Shu’ayb ibn Ishaq was from the Atba’ al-Tabi’in.

3. Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr narrated: Hakam ibn al-Mundhir ibn Sa‘id narrated to us: Yusuf ibn Ahmad [ibn al-Dakhil] narrated to us in Makkah: Abu Sa‘id ibn al-A‘ rabi narrated to us: ‘Abbas al-Duri narrated to us: I heard Yahya ibn Ma‘in say: “I have not seen the like of Waki‘ [ibn al-Jarrah] (127 H – 196 H) and he would give fatwa according to the opinions of Abu Hanifah.” (Al-Intiqa’ fi Fada’il al-A’immati l-Thalathat al-Fuqahap. 211) This narration was mentioned by many of the later scholars of Rijal like al-Dhahabi and al-‘Asqalani, indicating it is authentic. Waki’ ibn al-Jarrah was also from the narrators of the Six and one of the greatest narrators from the Atba’ al-Tabi’in.

The report is further strengthened by the narration of al-Khatib al-Baghdadi: Ibrahim ibn Makhlad permitted us [to narrate]: He said: Mukram ibn Ahmad al-Qadi reported to us; then: al-Saymari reported to us, in reading: He said: ‘Umar ibn Ibrahim al-Muqri’ reported to us: Mukram narrated to us: ‘Ali ibn al-Husayn ibn Hibban reported to us from his father, he said: I heard Yahya ibn Ma‘in say: “I have not seen [anybody] superior to Waki‘ ibn al-Jarrah!” It was said to him, “Not even Ibn al-Mubarak?” He said, “Ibn al-Mubarak indeed had excellence, but I have not seen [anybody] more virtuous than Waki‘. He would face the qiblah and memorise his hadiths. He would stand [in prayer] in the night and fast continuously. He would give fatwa according to the opinion of Abu Hanifah, and he had heard many hadiths from him.” Yahya ibn Ma‘in said: “And Yahya ibn Sa‘id al-Qattan would give fatwa according to the opinion of Abu Hanifah also.” (Tarikh Baghdad15:653) Both Ibrahim ibn Makhlad (325 – 410) and al-Saymari (351 – 436) are saduqaccording to al-Khatib. Abu Hafs ‘Umar ibn Ibrahim al-Muqri (300-390) is thiqah according to al-Khatib (13:138-9), and Mukram ibn Ahmad is also thiqah according to al-Khatib. ‘Ali ibn al-Husayn ibn Hibban ibn ‘Ammar Abu l-Hasan (d. 305) is thiqah according to al-Khatib (13:333-4). His father is al-Husayn ibn Hibban ibn ‘Ammar (d. 232), somebody known to have accompanied Yahya ibn Ma‘in and written a “very valuable book” from him narrated by his son, and he is “from the people of virtue and superiority in knowledge.” (Tarikh Baghdad 8:564) The only defect in this chain is that ‘Ali ibn al-Husayn did not hear from his father but narrated from him from his writings having discovered his book (wijadatan). However, this weakness can be overlooked due to the supporting narration mentioned above.

Moreover, there are some fatwas that Waki’ narrated from Abu Hanifah recorded in the Musannaf of Ibn Abi Shaybah, which will inshaAllah be dicussed in a later post. This proves Waki’ did in fact issue fatwas according to the Imam’s opinions. Some of Waki”s narrations of hadith from Imam Abu Hanifah are also available in the Musannaf of Ibn Abi Shaybah.

4. Another follower of Imam Abu Hanifah was al-Qasim ibn Ma’n ibn ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn ‘Abd Allah ibn Mas’ud (after 100 – 175 H), the great-grandson of the eminent Sahabi, ‘Abd Allah ibn Mas’ud. He was the Qadi of Kufa, for which he took no wages. He is a narrator of hadith found in Abu Dawud and al-Nasa’i, and was declared thiqah by Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Abu Dawud and Abu Hatim. He was known for his mastery in language and fiqh. (Tahdhib al-Tahdhib 8:338-9)

Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi narrates: ‘Ali ibn al-Qasim al-Shahid informed us in Basrah: ‘Ali ibn Ishaq al-Madara’ini narrated to us: Ahmad ibn Zuhayr informed us with ijazah: Sulayman ibn Abi Shaykh informed me. [A second chain:] Abu Bishr al-Wakil and Abu l-Fath al-Dabbi informed me [i.e. al-Baghdadi]: ‘Umar ibn Ahmad narrated to us: al-Husayn ibn Ahmad ibn Sadaqah al-Fara’idi narrated to us, and this is the wording of his narration: Ahmad ibn Abi Khaythamah narrated to us: Sulayman ibn Abi Shaykh narrated to us: Hujr ibn ‘Abd al-Jabbar narrated to me: It was said to al-Qasim ibn Ma‘n ibn ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn ‘Abd Allah ibn Mas‘ud: “You are the decscendant of ‘Abd Allah ibn Mas’ud. Are you satisfied with being from the followers [literally: children] of Abu Hanifah?” He said: “Men have not sat with anyone more beneficial than the company of Abu Hanifah.” Al-Qasim said to him: “Come with me to him,” so he came and when he sat with him, he stayed with him, and he said: “I have not seen the like of such [person].” Al-Fara’idi added: Sulayman said: “And 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).”

This early affiliation to the madhhab of Imam Abu Hanifah is a great testament to his standing in fiqh, since these Imams of the sunnah recognise the convergence between their knowledge of the transmitted sources of the Shari’ah and Imam Abu Hanifah’s rulings extracted from them. Ibn Khaldun, the historian, said, “That Abu Hanifah is from the greatest of the mujtahids in the science of hadith is proved by the reliance of his madhhab amongst them, and dependence on it, and consideration of it for rejection and approval.” (Quoted in Qawa’id fi ‘Ulum al-Hadith, p. 314)


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