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.”


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.

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