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.

Imam Abu Yusuf’s Supplication for Imam Abu Hanifah after the Obligatory Salah

The foremost student of Imam Abu Hanifah, the mujtahid Imam, Abu Yusuf Ya’qub ibn Ibrahim, the first to be given the post of Qadi al-Qudat (Chief Judge) in Islam, would supplicate for his teacher after the obligatory Salahs, a time in which du’as are “most heard” according to a hadith recorded by al-Tirmidhi.

Hafiz Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr narrates:

‘Abd al-Warith ibn Sufyan narrated to us: He said: Qasim ibn Asbagh narrated to us: He said: Ahmad ibn Zuhayr narrated to us: He said: Sulayman ibn Abi Shaykh narrated to us: He said: Abu Sufyan al-Himyari narrated to us from ‘Ali ibn Harmalah: He said: Abu Yusuf al-Qadi used to say after his Salah: “O Allah! Forgive me, and my parents and Abu Hanifah.” (al-Intiqa’ fi Fada’il al-A’immat al-Thalathat al-Fuqaha p. 258)

The chain up to Sulayman ibn Abi Shaykh was shown to be authentic in earlier posts. Abu Sufyan al-Himyari (112 – 202), or Sa’id ibn Yahya al-Wasiti, has some narrations in Sahih al-Bukhari and Jami‘ al-Tirmidhi, and was considered reliable (saduq) by Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani in al-Taqrib, and trustworthy (thiqah) by Abu Dawud as mentioned in Tahdhib al-Kamal (11:109). ‘Ali ibn Harmalah, a Qadi of Kufa, was a contemporary of Imam Abu Yusuf, and is mentioned in Kitab al-Thiqat of Ibn Hibban. The chain is therefore sound.

This practice may have been inherited from Imam Abu Hanifah himself. Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi narrates with his chain that Abu Hanifah said: “I have not prayed a single Salah since Hammad [ibn Abi Sulayman] died but I sought forgiveness for him with my parents, and indeed I seek forgiveness for those from whom I acquired knowledge or [those to] whom I imparted knowledge.” (Tarikh Baghdad 15:457) The chain contains one unknown narrator, while the rest of the narrators are reliable except for Ibrahim ibn Sama’ah, the narrator from Imam Abu Hanifah, who was described as a “Shi’i” (Lisan al-Mizan 1:295).

Imam Abu Hanifah’s Description of his Close Attachment to Hammad ibn Abi Sulayman

The following report from al-Khatib’s Tarikh illustrates the importance of the close apprenticeship to a master teacher in order to develop the ability of ijtihad and fiqh. Just as ‘Alqamah and Aswad closely accompanied Ibn Mas’ud and as a consequence acquired his adeptness at fatwa, and Ibrahim al-Nakha’i likewise earned this quality from his close companionship of them, and then Hammad as is clear from the biographical notices on him was the closest and most adept student of Ibrahim, Abu Hanifah gained the quality of faqahah by a close attachment to his shaykh. And, consequently, the group of fuqaha in this chain were the greatest jurists of their times as stated by Imam al-Dhahabi in his Siyar A’lam al-Nubala‘.

Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi narrates:

Al-Khallal informed us: al-Hariri reported to us that al-Nakha‘i narrated to them: Ja‘far ibn Muhammad ibn Hazim narrated to me: al-Walid ibn Hammad narrated to us from al-Hasan ibn Ziyad from Zufar ibn al-Hudhayl: He said: I heard Abu Hanifah say:

“I would examine dialectical theology (kalam) until I reached therein a degree in which I could be pointed to with the fingers. We would sit close to the circle of Hammad ibn Abi Sulayman (d. 120 H) and a woman came to me one day and said to me: ‘A man has a slave-girl as a wife whom he wishes to divorce by the Sunnah method. How many times does he pronounce divorce on her?’  I did not know what to say so I instructed her to ask Hammad and then return and inform me. She asked Hammad and he said: ‘He issues one divorce to her when she is pure from menstruation and [in a period in which there was no] intercourse, and then leaves her until she experiences two periods of menstruation. When she bathes, she is lawful for [potential] husbands.’ Then she returned and informed me. Thereupon, I realised I have no need for dialectical theology.

“I took my shoes and sat next to Hammad and I would listen to his juristic opinions and memorise his speech. Then he repeated it the next day and I had it memorised, while his [other] companions erred. So he said: ‘None is to sit at the head of the circle next to me besides Abu Hanifah.’ Thereafter, I accompanied him for ten years. Then my soul incited me to seek leadership, so I wished to separate from him and sit in my own circle. I left one day in the evening with resolve to do this and then when I went to the mosque and saw him, my soul did not find it pleasing to separate from him so I came and sat with him. There came to him that night the news of the death of a relative of his who died in Basra who left behind some wealth and had no heir besides him. He ordered me to sit in his place. As soon as he left, questions came to me [the answers to] which I had not heard from him, so I would answer and write my answers. He was away for two months. When he returned, I showed him the answers and they were around sixty verdicts. He agreed with me in forty and disagreed with me in twenty. Then I insisted to my soul that I will not part from him until he dies, so I did not part from him until he died.” (Tarikh Baghdad 15:456-7)

A Brief Look at the Chain

Al-Khallal, al-Hariri and al-Nakha‘i are all trustworthy narrators. Al-Walid ibn Hammad is mentioned in Ibn Hibban’s Thiqat (9:226), indicating he is either saduq or thiqah according to him, and al-‘Asqalani mentions him in Lisan al-Mizan and refutes the claim that he is unknown (Lisan al-Mizan 8:382). Al-Hasan ibn Ziyad, a major disciple of Imam Abu Hanifah, was criticised by most muhaddithun although Maslamah ibn al-Qasim said he is thiqah and he is included in Abu ‘Awanah’s Mustakhraj, indicating he is thiqah or saduq according to him. Moreover, his narrations from Abu Hanifah in fiqh were accepted by the Hanafi jurists, which is an assessment from them of his reliability. Zufar ibn al-Hudhayl is thiqah according to Ibn Ma‘in, al-Fadl ibn Dukayn and Ibn Hibban. The narrator in the middle, Ja‘far ibn Muhammad ibn Hazim, is majhul al-hal (unknown in reliability), though not majhul al-‘ayn (unknown in identity), as at least two people have narrated from him [which removes jahalat al-‘ayn], Ibn Kas and Ibn ‘Uqdah.

This narration therefore contains some degree of weakness, but is not very weak. In the narration of history and biography, the scholars of hadith were more relaxed than they were in narrating hadiths related to law and creed, so long as the narration is not very weak or fabricated. Later biographers and historians, like al-Mizzi and al-Dhahabi, included this narration in their notices on Imam Abu Hanifah.

In Siyar A’lam al-Nubala, after quoting this narration, al-Dhahabi says: “Allah knows best its authenticity!” (Siyar A’lam al-Nubala’ 6:398) Also in relation to this report, al-Dhahabi expressed his skepticism of the existence of the science of Kalam in this early period. However, Imam Abu Hanifah’s familiarity with the heresies of his day, of the Jahmiyyah, Mushabbihah, Rafidah and Mu’tazilah, and his nuanced criticism of them, indicates he probably did engage in some form of proto-Kalam, which he in his later life referred to as “Kalam.” Both al-Khatib and Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr have sections in their early biographies of the Imam on his views related to creed


Hafiz ibn ‘Abd al-Barr narrated with an authentic chain to the trustworthy narrator, Sulayman ibn Abi Shaykh, that he said: “One of the Kufans informed me: Abu Hanifah was told that there is a circle in the mosque examining fiqh. He asked: “Do they have a head?” They said: “No.” He said: “These people will never attain fiqh!”” (al-Intiqa’ p. 257)