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.

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Examples of the Eminent Disciples of Imam Abu Hanifah from the Salaf

One of the greatest indications that Imam Abu Hanifah’s opinions in fiqh were informed by an immense knowledge of hadiths, and related Islamic sciences, is the companionship with him of some of the most learned scholars of the salaf. In this respect, the following narrations should shed some light:

1. Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi (392 – 463) narrates in Tarikh Baghdad: Al-Khallal informed me: ‘Ali ibn ‘Amr al-Hariri informed me that ‘Ali ibn Muhammad al-Nakha‘i narrated to them: Najih ibn Ibrahim narrated to us: Ibn Karamah narrated to us: We were with Waki‘ [ibn al-Jarrah] (126 – 196) one day and a man said: “Abu Hanifah erred!” Waki‘ said: “How can Abu Hanifah err when with him are the likes of Abu Yusuf (113 – 182) and Zufar (110 – 158) in their logic; and the likes of Yahya ibn Abi Za’idah (120 – 182), Hafs ibn Ghiyath (117 – 194), Hibban (111 – 171) and Mindal (103 – 169) in their memorisation of hadith; and the like of al-Qasim ibn Ma‘n (100 – 175) in his knowledge of language and Arabic; and Dawud al-Ta’i (105 – 162) and Fudayl ibn ‘Iyad (107 – 187) in their asceticism and their scrupulousness? The one whose sitting partners are such, he does not come close to erring, because if he erred they would correct him.” (Tarikh Baghdad 16:365)

All the narrators in this chain are trustworthy (thiqat) with the possible exception of Najih ibn Ibrahim: Al-Hasan ibn Muhammad ibn al-Hasan ibn ‘Ali Abu Muhammad al-Khallal (352 – 439) is thiqah according to al-Khatib (Tarikh Baghdad 8:454); ‘Ali ibn ‘Amr ibn Sahl Abu l-Husayn al-Hariri (292 – 380) is thiqah according to al-‘Atiqi (Tarikh Baghdad 13:470); ‘Ali ibn Muhammad ibn al-Hasan Abu l-Qasim al-Nakha‘i known as “Ibn Kas” (d. 324), is thiqah according to al-Khatib (Tarikh Baghdad 13:540); and Ibn Karamah is Muhammad ibn ‘Uthman ibn Karamah (d. 256), and he is a narrator found in Bukhari’s Sahih, declared thiqah by al-‘Asqalani in al-Taqrib.

The problematic narrator between Ibn Kas and Ibn Karamah, Najih ibn Ibrahim, is mentioned in Ibn Hibban’s al-Thiqat (9:220), which means he is saduq or thiqah according to Ibn Hibban. However, Maslamah ibn al-Qasim (d. 353) believed him to be weak (da‘if) as mentioned by al-‘Asqalani (Lisan al-Mizan 8:254). Maslamah ibn al-Qasim, himself, however, was considered da‘if by al-Dhahabi in Mizan al-I‘tidal (Lisan al-Mizan 8:61), and Abu Ja‘far al-Malaqi (d. 702) said “he is questionable (in his reliability).” Imam al-Dhahabi transmitted some criticism of him in Siyar A‘lam al-Nubala, and no one said he is trustworthy or reliable. A principle of al-Jarh wa l-Ta‘dil states that the criticism of someone who was himself subject to valid criticism is not accepted unless the one criticised is free of any words of praise. Hence, the accreditation (ta‘dil) of Ibn Hibban stands and Maslama’s criticism is rejected. This narration is therefore either hasan or sahih. Moreover, the companionship of those mentioned in this narration is established by other evidence, like those below.

All of the companions mentioned by Waki‘, besides Abu Yusuf and Zufar, are narrators whose hadiths can be found in some of the six famous collections of hadith, and two of them, Yahya and Hafs, have narrations in all six. All of them are also trustworthy narrators (thiqat) of hadith with the possible exceptions of Hibban and Mindal, the sons of ‘Ali al-‘Anbari, regarding whom hadith scholars had mixed opinions.

2. With the same chain up to al-Nakha‘i, al-Khatib narrates: Al-Nakha‘i said: I heard Muhammad ibn Ishaq al-Bakka’i say: I heard Isma‘il ibn Hammad ibn Abi Hanifah say: “The [foremost] companions of Abu Hanifah were ten: Abu Yusuf, Zufar, Asad ibn ‘Amr al-Bajali (d. 190), ‘Afiyah al-Awdi (d. 160), Dawud al-Ta’i, al-Qasim ibn Ma‘n al-Mas‘udi, ‘Ali ibn Mushir (d. 189), Yahya ibn Zakariyya ibn Abi Za’idah, Hibban and Mindal the sons of ‘Ali al-‘Anbari, and there was not amongst them the like of Abu Yusuf and Zufar.” (Tarikh Baghdad 16:363)

This narration is sound: Muhammad ibn Ishaq al-Bakka’i is Muhammad ibn Ishaq ibn ‘Awn al-‘Amiri, Abu Bakr al-Kufi (d. 264), mentioned in Ibn Hibban’s al-Thiqat (Tahdhib al-Tahdhib 9:37) and al-‘Asqalani said he is “saduq” (Taqrib al-Tahdhib). 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 because of 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.

3. In al-Jawahir al-Mudiyyah (no. 307, biography of Asad ibn ‘Amr), al-Qarashi quotes from a book by Imam al-Tahawi the following:

Ibn Abi Thawr wrote to me, narrating to me from Sulayman ibn ‘Imran: Asad ibn al-Furat narrated to me: “The companions of Abu Hanifah who would compile books were 40 men. From the ten foremost of them were: Abu Yusuf, Zufar, Dawud al-Ta’i, Asad ibn ‘Amr, Yusuf ibn Khalid al-Samti (122 – 189), Yahya ibn Zakariyya ibn Abi Za’idah, and he was the one who would write for them (i.e. the companions of Abu Hanifah) for thirty years.”

Ibn Abi Thawr is better known as Ibn ‘Abdun, and his full name is Muhammad ibn ‘Abd Allah ibn Abi Thawr (d. 299). He was a faqih in the Hanafi madhhab, and he was Qadi of Qayrawan (Amani al-Ahbar 1:41). Sulayman ibn ‘Imran narrated from the hafiz Hafs ibn Ghiyath, but according to Ibn Abi Hatim “his hadiths indicate he is unreliable (laysa bi saduq)” (Lisan al-Mizan 4:162). Asad ibn al-Furat (144 – 213) wrote from Yahya ibn Abi Za’idah, Abu Yusuf, Muhammad ibn al-Hasan and Imam Malik. He was one of the reasons for the codification and spread of the Maliki madhhab. This chain is therefore weak but not very weak, so may be used as supporting evidence. Moreover, all of the individuals mentioned in the narration are recognised and known as companions of Abu Hanifah.

The individuals mentioned in these lists of the prominent students and companions of Abu Hanifah were major scholars from the salaf. I will elaborate on the hadith-knowledge of some of these aforementioned companions of Abu Hanifah:

‘Ali ibn Mushir (120 – 189)

His narrations are found in all six of the famous collections of hadith. Al-‘Ijli said: “He was of those who combined hadith and fiqh. Trustworthy (thiqah).” Al-‘Ijli also said about him, “A champion of the sunnah (sahib sunnah), trustworthy in hadith.” Ibn Sa‘d said, “He was trustworthy, and [possessed] many hadiths.” (Tahdhib al-Tahdhib 7:383 – 4)

It is clear from al-‘Ijli’s comment that ‘Ali ibn Mushir was not only known for his knowledge of hadiths and the sunnah, but was also known for his mastery in fiqh. His fiqh was acquired through his companionship with Imam Abu Hanifah. It has authentically been reported that ‘Ali ibn Mushir was also the means by which Sufyan al-Thawri learnt of Imam Abu Hanifah’s opinions in fiqh which he would often follow. This explains why the opinions of Sufyan and Abu Hanifah concur in many controversial matters of fiqh, and ‘Abd Allah Ibn al-Mubarak said, “When the opinion of Abu Hanifah and Sufyan concur on something, that is strong.” (Narrated by al-Khatib with a sahih chain in Tarikh Baghdad 15:471, and Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr with a different sahih chain in al-Intiqa p. 206)

Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr (d. 463) mentioned that Abu Ya‘qub Yusuf ibn al-Dakhil (d. 388), a major muhaddith of Makkah who transmitted al-‘Uqayli’s book on weak narrators, narrated in his book on the merits of Abu Hanifah: Abu Ishaq Ibrahim ibn Ahmad ibn Firas narrated to us: Musa ibn Harun narrated to us: Yahya ibn ‘Abd al-Hamid al-Himmani narrated to us: from ‘Ali ibn Mushir: He said: I was with Sufyan al-Thawri when a man asked him about a man who did wudu with water from which another [person] performed wudu. He said: “Yes, he is pure.” I said to him: “Abu Hanifah says it shouldn’t be used for wudu.” He said to me: “Why did he say this?” I said to him: “It is used water (ma’ musta‘mal).” Later, I was with him several days after this when a man came to him asking him about doing wudu from water which had been used by another and he said: “It should not be used for wudu because it is used water,” so he retracted in this [issue] to the opinion of Abu Hanifah. (al-Intiqa fi Fada’il al-A’immat al-Thalathah, p. 269)

The chain is hasan: Abu Ishaq Ibrahim ibn Ahmad ibn Firas (d. 344) is trustworthy (thiqah) according to al-Dhahabi (Misbah al-Arib 1:18); Musa ibn Harun (d. 294) is trustworthy (thiqah) according to al-‘Asqalani in al-Taqrib; Yahya ibn ‘Abd al-Hamid al-Himmani (150 – 228) is trustworthy according to Yahya ibn Ma‘in and al-Ramadi (d. 265) who said he is more trustworthy than even Ibn Abi Shaybah, and Ibn ‘Adi said “I hope there is no harm in him.” However Ibn al-Madini and others criticised him, bringing the hadith down to the level of hasan.

Abu ‘Abd Allah al-Husayn ibn ‘Ali ibn Muhammad al-Saymari (351 – 436), who is saduq according to al-Khatib al-Baghdadi (Tarikh Baghdad 8:634-5), narrated similar narrations in his Akhbar Abi Hanifah wa Ashabih (p. 73) and he said regarding ‘Ali ibn Mushir: “He is the one from whom Sufyan took the knowledge of Abu Hanifah.” (Akhbar Abi Hanifa, 158)

‘Ali ibn Mushir, despite his greatness in hadith, was not only a companion and follower of Imam Abu Hanifah, but a propagator of his madhhab, such that the likes of Sufyan al-Thawri gained the knowledge of Abu Hanifah’s opinions through him.

Yahya ibn Zakariyya ibn Abi Za’idah (120 – 182)

Imam al-Dhahabi introduces Yahya ibn Zakariyya ibn Abi Za’idah as “The firm and proficient hafiz, the faqih, Abu Sa‘id al-Hamdani al-Wadi‘i, their freed-slave, the companion of Abu Hanifah.” (Tadhkirat al-Huffaz 1:267) This is clear proof that Imam al-Dhahabi, an undisputed authority in the field of Rijal, regarded Yahya, based on the above reports and others, as being from the companions of Abu Hanifah.

‘Ali ibn al-Madini said, “There was not in Kufa after Sufyan al-Thawri [anyone] stronger [in hadith] than him.” (ibid p. 268) Al-‘Ijli said, “He was from those who combined fiqh and hadith, and he was judge over al-Mada’in, and is counted amongst the huffaz of the Kufans.”

Again, there is an indication that Yahya gained his reputation as a faqih due to his companionship with Abu Hanifah. Al-Saymari reported: Ahmad ibn Muhammad al-Sayrafi informed us: ‘Ali ibn ‘Amr al-Hariri reported to us: Ibn Kas al-Nakha‘i narrated to us from his father: Salih ibn Suhayl narrated to me: “Yahya ibn Zakariyya ibn Abi Za’idah had memorised the most hadiths from the people of his time and [he had] the most fiqh from them, along with constant companionship with Abu Hanifah and Ibn Abi Layla, and [along with] piety and scrupulousness.” (Akhbar Abi Hanifah, 156)

The shaykh of al-Saymari, Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn ‘Ali Abu ‘Abd Allah al-Sayrafi (d. 394) is better known as Ibn al-Abnusi. Hamzah ibn Muhammad ibn Tahir al-Daqqaq said “he would not lie” and “he loved to collect books” (Tarikh Baghdad 6:231-2). The remaining narrators are all thiqat except Ibn Kas’s father who is unknown. The narration is therefore weak but not very weak, so can be used as supporting evidence.

Asad ibn ‘Amr al-Bajali (d. 190)

Ahmad ibn Hanbal said regarding him, “saduq.” Yahya ibn Ma‘in said, “There is no harm in him,” which for him is equivalent to “thiqah.” Ibn ‘Adi said, “There is no harm in his hadiths and narrations, and there is not amongst the champions of opinion [one] with more hadiths than him after Abu Hanifah.” Ibn Sa‘d said, “He has many hadiths (hadith kathir) and he is trustworthy (thiqah) if Allah wills,” and Abu Dawud said, “there is no harm in him.” (Lisan al-Mizan 2:90-2) Although some scholars of Rijal criticised him, this was probably due to methodological differences, and not over hadith narration. Otherwise, Imam Ahmad’s, Ibn Ma‘in’s and Abu Dawud’s testimony is enough. Ibn ‘Adi and Ibn Sa‘d both said he possessed “many hadiths.” The books of Rijal that contain his biography all agree he was a close student and companion of Abu Hanifah.

Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr narrates with an authentic chain in al-Intiqa (262 – 3) that Abu Yusuf said, Asad ibn ‘Amr “was the most exemplary of Abu Hanifah’s companions.” The men in the chain after Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr are as follows: ‘Abd al-Warith ibn Sufyan al-Qurtubi (d. 395) who is thiqah according to al-Dhahabi in Siyar (Misbah al-Arib 2:297); al-Qasim ibn Asbagh al-Qurtubi (247 – 340), called “the great hafiz” and “the muhaddith of Cordoba” by al-‘Asqalani, is saduq (Lisan al-Mizan); Ahmad ibn Zuhayr ibn Harb (d. 299) is thiqah according to al-Daraqutni and al-Khatib; and Mus‘ab ibn ‘Abd Allah al-Zubayri (d. 236), is thiqah according to Ahmad, Ibn Ma‘in and others, and a narrator of al-Nasa’i and Ibn Majah.

Hafs ibn Ghiyath (117 – 194)

Yahya ibn Sa‘id al-Qattan said: “Hafs is the most trustworthy (awthaq) of the companions of al-A‘mash,” and this is why al-Bukhari would rely on his narrations from al-A‘mash. He is a narrator found in all six of the famous collections of hadith. Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi said: “Hafs would narrate many hadiths, and he was a hafiz of hadith and strong therein. He was even ahead of the mashayikh from whom he heard hadith.” (Tarikh Baghdad 9:75) Al-‘Ijli said: “Hafs ibn Ghiyath is trustworthy and reliable, a faqih, and he was judge over Kufa. Waki‘ would often be asked about something and he would say: ‘Go to our Qadi and ask him’” (al-Thiqat).

And as mentioned in Waki’s statement above, he was from Abu Hanifah’s companions. However, it is also reported about Hafs ibn Ghiyath that he left the circle of Imam Abu Hanifah (Tarikh Baghdad 15:554).

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There were many other major scholars of the salaf that narrated from Imam Abu Hanifah and admired his opinions, including Waki‘ ibn al-Jarrah, Yahya ibn Sa‘id al-Qattan, al-Fadl ibn Dukayn, Abu ‘Asim al-Nabil, Makki ibn Ibrahim, ‘Abd Allah ibn Yazid al-Muqri’ and others.

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As is clear from the brief biographies of the aforementioned companions of Abu Hanifah, they all combined between memorisation of a large quantity of hadiths and an insight into fiqh which they acquired from the company of Imam Abu Hanifah. This is a great proof that Abu Hanifah did not formulate his opinions while ignorant of hadiths, rather he was aware of all or most of the hadiths that were directly or implicitly related to the issues on which he passed judgement. This is why such great muhaddithin as Yahya ibn Zakariyya ibn Abi Za’idah and ‘Ali ibn Mushir saw no contradiction in their memorisation of a large number of hadiths and the fiqh of Abu Hanifah, and why such masters and huffaz of hadith like Yahya ibn Sa‘id al-Qattan and Sufyan al-Thawri would frequently adopt his positions in fiqh.

The Methodology of Imam Abu Hanifah in Fiqh

One indication to Imam Abu Hanifah’s vast knowledge of the sources of the Shari’ah is his methodology in deriving rulings from the Shari’ah, since one of his primary sources is the authentic sunnah and the opinions of the Sahabah, as he himself explicitly stated:

Hafiz Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr narrates: ‘Abd al-Warith narrated to us: Qasim narrated to us: Ahmad ibn Zuhayr narrated to us: Yahya ibn Ma‘in narrated to us: ‘Ubayd ibn Abi Qurrah narrated to us from Yahya ibn Durays, he said: I was present with Sufyan al-Thawri when a man of great knowledge and piety came to him, and he said: “O Abu ‘Abd Allah! What do you have against Abu Hanifah?” He said: “And what does he have?” He said: “I heard him [i.e. Abu Hanifah] say a statement in which there is balance and proof: ‘Indeed I take [legal opinions] from the Book of Allah when I find it. That which I do not find therein, I take from the Sunnah of Allah’s Messenger and the authentic narrations from him which have spread between the hands of trustworthy people from trustworthy people. If I do not find it in the Book of Allah, nor the Sunnah of Allah’s Messenger, I take the opinion of his companions, [adopting the opinion of] whoever [of them] I wish, and I leave the opinion of whoever [of them] I wish. Moreover, I do not leave their opinion for another’s opinion. If the [legal] issue reaches [only] to Ibrahim, al-Sha‘bi, al-Hasan, ‘Ata, Ibn Sirin, Sa‘id ibn al-Musayyab – and he enumerated [other] men – then, [they are] a people who performed ijtihad, so I may perform ijtihad just as they performed ijtihad.’” Thereupon, Sufyan remained silent for a long period, and then he said some words of which there remained none in the gathering but he wrote them: “We hear harshness in speech and we fear it. We hear softness and we desire it. We do not judge the living; nor do we judge the dead. We accept what we hear. And we entrust what we do not know to its knower, and we put our opinion in doubt in favour of their opinion.” (Al-Intiqa’ fi Fada’il al-A’immati l-Thalathat al-Fuqaha’, pp. 264-5)

This sanad is authentic: ‘Abd al-Warith ibn Sufyan al-Qurtubi (d. 395) is thiqah according to al-Dhahabi in Siyar A’lam al-Nubala (Misbah al-Arib 2:297); al-Qasim ibn Asbagh al-Qurtubi (247 – 340) was called “the great hafiz” and “the muhaddith of Cordoba” by al-‘Asqalani and is saduq (Lisan al-Mizan (6:367-8); Ahmad ibn Zuhayr ibn Harb (d. 299) is thiqah according to al-Daraqutni and Khatib; ‘Ubayd ibn Abi Qurrah is a shaykh of Ahmad ibn Hanbal and is thiqah according to Ya‘qub ibn Shaybah and Yahya ibn Ma‘in (Tarikh Baghdad 12:386-9); Yahya ibn al-Durays (d. 203) is a narrator of Muslim, and is thiqah according to Ibn Ma‘in (Tahrir al-Taqrib 4:89).

Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi transmitted the same narration with a different chain leading up to Yahya ibn Ma‘in after which the chain is the same, and Dr. Bashshar ‘Awwad Ma‘ruf commented on it, “This is a report with a sahih isnad, and its narrators are trustworthy and well-known.” (Tarikh Baghdad 15:504)

Several other narrations with similar wordings from Imam Abu Hanifah about his methodology have been reported in al-Intiqa’ by Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr (pp. 266-7). These narrations from Imam Abu Hanifah regarding his methodology in deriving laws reveal the baselessness of the allegation that in most of his opinions he relied on analogy and parted from the transmitted sources of the Shari’ah. In fact, the Qur’an, well-known sunnah and narrations from the Sahabah were the primary foundations of his madhhab.

Statements of the Salaf on the Knowledge of Imam Abu Hanifah

The following are a selection of some of the sayings of the scholars of the salaf regarding the expansive knowledge of Imam Abu Hanifah:

1. Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi narrates: Al-Khallal reported to us: Al-Hariri reported to us that al-Nakha‘i narrated to them: Isma‘il ibn Muhammad al-Farisi narrated to us: I heard Makki ibn Ibrahim mention Abu Hanifah and say: “He was the most learned of the people of his time.” (kana a’lama ahli zamanihi) (Tarikh Baghdad 15:473)

The narrators are all trustworthy: Al-Hasan ibn Muhammad ibn al-Hasan ibn ‘Ali Abu Muhammad al-Khallal (352 – 439) is thiqah according to al-Khatib (Tarikh Baghdad 8:454); ‘Ali ibn ‘Amr ibn Sahl Abu l-Husayn al-Hariri (292 – 380) is thiqah according to al-‘Atiqi (Tarikh Baghdad 13:470); ‘Ali ibn Muhammad ibn al-Husayn Abu l-Qasim al-Nakha‘i known as “Ibn Kas” (d. 324), a Hanafi, and a shaykh of al-Daraqutni and Ibn Shahin, is thiqah according to al-Khatib (Tarikh Baghdad 13:540); Isma‘il ibn Muhammad ibn Abi Kathir, Abu Ya‘qub al-Farisi (d. 282) is “trustworthy and reliable (thiqah saduq)” according to al-Daraqutni (Tarikh Baghdad 7:271-2).

Makki ibn Ibrahim ibn Bashir al-Tamimi (126 – 215 H) is a narrator of hadith found in all six collections of hadith, blessed with a long life such that he interacted and narrated from Abu Hanifah (some of his narrations from him are found in the Masanid reported from Abu Hanifah) and taught hadith to al-Bukhari. Most of al-Bukhari’s thulathiyyat (three-narrator chains) – which are his shortest chains – go through him. Al-Daraqutni, Ibn Sa’d, al-‘Ijli, Maslama, al-Khalili and Ahmad ibn Hanbal said he is thiqah. (Tahdhib al-Tahdhib 10:293-5)

2. ‘Abd al-Malik ibn ‘Abd al-Aziz ibn Jurayj al-Umawi (80-150 H), known simply as “Ibn Jurayj” was a shaykh of Makki ibn Ibrahim and is also a narrator of the Six. He was an exact contemporary of Imam Abu Hanifah and died shortly after him. He was one of the most important teachers of ‘Abd al-Razzaq the author of the Musannaf, and he was one of the first to write books on hadith. (Tahdhib al-Tahdhib 6:402-6)

Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi narrates: Al-Suri narrated to me: Al-Khasib ibn ‘Abd Allah the judge of Egypt informed us: Ahmad ibn Ja‘far ibn Hamdan al-Tarasawsi narrated to us: ‘Abd Allah ibn Jabir al-Bazzaz narrated to us: I heard Ja‘far ibn Muhammad ibn ‘Isa ibn Nuh say: I heard Muhammad ibn ‘Isa al-Tabba‘ say: I heard Rawh ibn ‘Ubadah say: I was with Ibn Jurayj in the year 150 and the [news] of Abu Hanifah’s death came to him, so he did istirja‘ [i.e. he said “inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji‘un“] and expressed sorrow, saying “What knowledge has gone!?” Ibn Jurayj died in this very year. (Tarikh Baghdad 15:463) Dr Bashshar ‘Awwad Ma‘ruf comments, “Its isnad is sahih, and its narrators are trustworthy.”

3. Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi narrates: Qadi Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn ‘Umar al-Dawudi informed us: ‘Ubayd Allah ibn Ahmad ibn Ya‘qub al-Muqri’ informed us: Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Sulayman al-Baghandi narrated to us: Shu‘ayb ibn Ayyub narrated to me: Abu Yahya al-Himmani narrated to me: I heard Abu Hanifah say: “I saw a dream which frightened me. I saw myself excavating the grave of the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) so I instructed a man to ask Muhammad ibn Sirin [about the interpretation of the dream]. So he asked him, and he said: ‘This is a man who will excavate the reports of Allah’s Messenger (Allah bless him and grant him peace).’” (Tarikh Baghdad 15:458-9) Dr. Bashshar ‘Awwad Ma‘ruf comments, “Its isnad is hasan.”

4. Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi narrates: Al-Jawhari informed us: Muhammad ibn ‘Imran al-Marzubani informed us: ‘Abd al-Wahid ibn Muhammad al-Khasibi narrated to us: Abu Muslim al-Kajji Ibrahim ibn ‘Abd Allah narrated to me: Muhammad ibn Sa‘id Abu ‘Abd Allah al-Katib narrated to me: I heard ‘Abd Allah ibn Dawud al-Khuraybi say: “It is necessary for the adherents of Islam to supplicate to Allah for Abu Hanifah in their prayers.” He [Muhammad ibn Sa‘id Abu ‘Abd Allah al-Katib] said: “He [al-Khuraybi] recollected his [Abu Hanifah’s] preservation for them of the sunnah and fiqh.” (Tarikh Baghdad 15:472) Dr. Bashshar comments that all the narrators are trustworthy besides Abu ‘Abd Allah al-Katib whose reliability is unknown, but according to one opinion amongst hadith scholars, particularly that of Ibn Hibban, if the narrator before and after the narrator whose reliability is unknown are trustworthy (thiqah), which is the case here, the narration will be authentic. So, this narration may be regarded as authentic depending on the principles used.

Al-Khuraybi (126 – 213) is a narrator of the six famous collections of hadith besides Muslim. He was one of the greatest narrators of hadith. He was declared thiqah by Ibn Ma‘in, al-Daraqtuni, al-Nasa’i, Abu Zur‘ah, Ibn Sa‘d and others. However, Abu Hatim degraded him to “saduq” apparently because, as he said “he had an affinity with [the people of] juristic opinion”! – which in this case is Imam Abu Hanifah. Al-Khuraybi in appreciating Imam Abu Hanifah’s “preservation of the sunnah” is probably referring to his contribution as the earliest compiler of hadith according to the conventional chapters of fiqh in his Kitab al-Athar via the transmissions of his students – this is discussed in some depth in ‘Allamah ‘Abd al-Rashid al-Nu’mani’s al-Imam Ibn Majah wa Kitabuhu al-Sunan (see: pp. 50-60)

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When Makki ibn Ibrahim and Ibn Jurayj mention the vastness of Imam Abu Hanifah’s knowledge, they mean knowledge of Qur’an and hadiths and athar. Imam al-Dhahabi said, “Logic, dialectics and the philosophy of the ancients were not, by Allah, from the sciences of the Sahabah, nor the Tabi‘in, nor al-Awza‘i, al-Thawri, Malik and Abu Hanifah. Rather, their sciences were the Qur’an and hadith.” (Tadhkirat al-Huffaz, 1:192) Hence, it is established major scholars from the salaf confessed Imam Abu Hanifah’s expansive knowledge of hadith.

Imam Abu Hanifah’s vast knowledge of hadiths and athar is further proven by the great number of juristic rulings (masa’il) he issued and dictated to his students, numbering in the tens of thousands, many of which concur excplicitly or implicitly with hadiths and athar, and Imam Abu Hanifah related them as fatwas as opposed to narrations. However, the narrations which he related by chain through transmission are also not very few in number (see Qawa’id fi ‘Ulum al-Hadith pp. 316-17). Like Imam al-Shafi’i, however, his main objective was the extraction of rulings, which is why both he and al-Shafi’i did not narrate many hadiths in the form of hadith-narration.

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)