Because some of the students of the companions of Imam Abu Hanifah supported and propogated the Mu’tazili doctrine of the createdness of the Qur’an, and campaigned for it during the infamous mihnah which began under the rein of caliph Abu al-‘Abbas al-Ma’mun (170 – 218), some began to suspect that this was the opinion of Imam Abu Hanifah himself. In fact, in Orientalist circles, this view is still current, that Abu Hanifah originated the doctrine of the createdness of the Qur’an! But, Imam Abu Hanifah, is innocent of this heresy. In examining a few narrations from al-Khatib al-Baghdadi’s biography of the Imam, I will show that the preponderant view amongst the companions of Abu Hanifah was that of the uncreatedness of the Qur’an, and this is in fact traced authentically to the Imam himself, while a few followers of his school strayed and adopted the Mu’tazili and Jahmi doctrine.
1. Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi narrated with his chain to al-Hakam ibn Bashir that he said: “I heard Sufyan ibn Sa‘id al-Thawri and al-Nu‘man ibn Thabit say: ‘The Qur’an is the uncreated speech of Allah.’” (al-Qur’an kalam Allah ghayr makhluq) (Tarikh Baghdad 15:517) Dr. Bashshar ‘Awwad Ma‘ruf comments: “Its isnad is hasan.”
This is, therefore, an authentic report establishing that Imam Abu Hanifah believed in the uncreatedness of the Qur’an in accordance with the position of the Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jama’ah. This is further corroborated by Imam al-Tahawi’s transmission of the beliefs of Imam Abu Hanifah in his famous creedal formula known as al-‘Aqidat al-Tahawiyyah, and by al-Fiqh al-Akbar which is either the work of Imam Abu Hanifah himself or at least accurately represents his views based on an early account from him – both of which state that the Qur’an is the uncreated speech of Allah.
2. Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi narrated with a chain of trustworthy narrators, besides one narrator who is unknown, that Ibn al-Mubarak came to Abu Hanifah and Abu Hanifah said to him: “What is this thing that has crept amongst you [i.e. the people of Khurasan]?” He said to him: “A man called Jahm.” He said: “What does he say?” He said: “He says the Qur’an is created.” Thereupon, Abu Hanifah said [quoting the Qur’an]: “Grave is the word that comes out of their mouths! (Qur’an 18:5).” (Tarikh Baghdad 15:517)
Although there is some question over the authenticity of this report due to the unidentifiable narrator in the chain, it is known that Abu Hanifah opposed Jahm on the issue of the attributes of Allah and he also declared him a disbeliever as established elsewhere, so it is probable he addressed this false belief of Jahm also.
3. Al-Khatib narrated with his chain to Abu Bakr al-Marrudhi that he said: “I heard Abu ‘Abd Allah Ahmad ibn Hanbal say: ‘It is not authentic according to us that Abu Hanifah would say the Qur’an is created.'” (Tarikh Baghdad 15:517) Dr. Bashshar ‘Awwad Ma‘ruf comments: “Its isnad is sahih.”
Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal was the champion of the Ahl al-Sunnah during the period of the mihnah, and his major enemies besides the ruling elite were some scholars of the Hanafi school, in particular the judge Ahmad ibn Abi Dawud; and even as the charge that Abu Hanifah supported the state doctrine was being propogated, Imam Ahmad did not buy into this false propaganda and defended the Imam.
4. Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi narrated with his chain to al-Nakha‘i that he said: Muhammad ibn Shadhan al-Jawhari narrated to us: He said: I heard Sulayman al-Juzjani and Mu‘lla ibn Mansur al-Razi say: “Abu Hanifah did not speak about [the createdness of] the Qur’an, nor Abu Yusuf, nor Zufar, nor Muhammad, nor any of their companions. Only Bishr al-Marisi and Ibn Abi Dawud spoke about [the createdness of] the Qur’an, so they tarnished [the good beliefs of] the companions of Abu Hanifah.” (Tarikh Baghdad 15:518). Dr Bashshar says: “Its isnad is sahih.”
The scholars who are quoted in this report, Abu Sulayman al-Juzjani and Mu‘alla ibn Mansur, were major scholars of Hanafi jurisprudence, as known to muftis of the Hanafi school. They were authors of some Nawadir literature, and fatawa. They were also amongst the few scholars who openly opposed the view of the createdness of the Qur’an, although this was before al-Ma’mun’s inquisition.
Mu‘alla ibn Mansur al-Razi, Abu Ya‘la (150 – 211), is a narrator of hadith found in all the six famous collections of hadith. He narrated from the famous hadith-scholar Hammad ibn Zayd (98-179) as found in Sahih al-Bukhari, and he also narrated from ‘Abd Allah ibn al-Mubarak, Malik ibn Anas, al-Layth ibn Sa‘d, and from the students of Imam Abu Hanifah, Yahya ibn Zakariyya ibn Abi Za’idah, Qadi Abu Yusuf, ‘Ali ibn Mushir and Muhammad ibn al-Hasan al-Shaybani. Abu Zur‘ah al-Razi said: “Al-Mu‘alla was the best of the group – meaning, the champions of juristic opinion (ashab al-ra’y) – according to the people of knowledge. That was because he was ardent in his search for knowledge and he travelled and gave attention [to it]…al-Mu‘alla is reliable.” Yahya ibn Ma‘in said he is trustworthy. Yahya ibn Ma‘in narrated: “Al-Mu‘alla ibn Mansur al-Razi was one day praying, when his head was stung by a wasp, and he did not move until he completed his salah. When they looked, his head had become extremely swollen.” Al-‘Ijli said: “Trustworthy, a champion of sunnah. He was noble. They asked him to take the position of judge and he refused multiple times.” Ya‘qub ibn Shaybah said: “Trustworthy…proficeint, reliable, a jurist.” Ibn Sa‘d said: “He resided in Baghdad, sought hadith, and he was reliable, a master of hadith, opinion and jurisprudence.” Abu Hatim al-Razi said: “He was reliable in hadith and a champion of juristic opinion.” Ahmad ibn Kamil al-Qadi said: “Mu‘alla ibn Mansur was from the senior companions of Abu Yusuf and Muhammad, and from their trustworthy ones in transmission and narration.” Abu Ahmad ibn ‘Adi said: “I hope there is no harm in him because I did not find any objectionable hadith from him.” It was narrated from him that he said: “Whoever says the Qur’an is created is according to me a disbeliever.” Al-Khatib said: “He was a jurist from the champions of opinion. He took from Qadi Abu Yusuf and he was trustworthy.” (Tahdhib al-Kamal 28:291-7) Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani wrote in al-Taqrib, “Mu’alla ibn Mansur al-Razi, Abu Ya’la, a resident of Baghdad, a trustworthy Sunni jurist, he was asked to become judge and he refused, those who claimed Ahmad accused him of lying erred.”
Regarding Abu Sulayman al-Juzjani, al-Dhahabi says: “‘Allamah Imam Abu Sulayman Musa ibn Sulayman al-Juzajani al-Hanafi, the companion of Abu Yusuf and Muhammad. He narrated from them and from Ibn al-Mubarak. Qadi Ahmad ibn Muhammad al-Birti, Bishr ibn Musa, Abu Hatim al-Razi and others narrated from him. He was reliable (saduq) and dear to the scholars of hadith. Ibn Abi Hatim said: “He would anathematise those who held the Qur’an was created.” (al-Jarh wa al-Ta‘dil 8:145) It was said that al-Ma’mun offered him the position of judge and he refused, and he gave the excuse that he is not qualified for it so he excused him. He became noble in the eyes of the people due to his refusal. He authored books.” (Siyar A’lam al-Nubala 10:194 )
Al-Khatib described him as: “Musa ibn Sulayman, Abu Sulayman al-Juzjani. He heard ‘Abd Allah ibn al-Mubarak, ‘Amr ibn Jumay‘ and Abu Yusuf and Muhammad ibn al-Hasan, the two companions of Abu Hanifah. He was a faqih with insight into juristic opinion. He adopted the methodology of the Sunnah regarding the Qur’an [i.e. that it is uncreated]. He lived in Baghdad and narrated therein. ‘Abd Allah ibn al-Hasan al-Hashimi, Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn ‘Isa al-Birti and Bishr ibn Musa al-Asadi narrated from him. Ibn Abi Hatim said: ‘My father wrote from him and he said he was reliable.'” (Tarikh Baghdad 15:26-7)
Abu Sulayman al-Juzjani and Mu’alla ibn Mansur were of course more aware of the views of their teachers and their grand-teacher than others.
Therefore, although Bishr ibn Ghiyath al-Marisi (140 – 218) and Ahmad ibn Abi Dawud (full name: Ahmad ibn Faraj ibn Hariz) (160 – 240) stood as proponents of the Mu’tazili doctrine while claiming to belong to the Hanafi school, true followers of the madhhab opposed them, and clarified the position of their teachers and the teacher of their teachers. “Bishr” in Arabic means “joy” and “Ahmad” means “the most praised.” Based on this, Imam al-Dhahabi wrote under the biography of Bishr al-Marisi: “He was the bishr (joy) of evil while Bishr [ibn al-Harith] al-Hafi [the famous ascetic] (152 – 227) was the bishr of goodness, just as Ahmad ibn Hanbal was the ahmad (the most praised one) in the Sunnah and Ahmad ibn Abi Dawud was the ahmad in bid’ah.” (Siyar A’lam al-Nubala 10:202)