Criticism levelled against Imam Abu Hanifah
Imam Abu Hanifa was a very great Imam. He met many of the Sahaba (may Allah be pleased with them) and out of the four Imams he has the most followers. Thus his status is very high. Imam Zuhra Misri and Shaykh Makki said in their books that Imam Abu Hanifa debated with many misled sects (especially the Khawarij and Mu’tazlites) and defeated them. Those sects then became his enemies and started placing false accusations against him. Some later scholars unfortunately recorded these false accusations in their books. However, many have presented these false claims to me, blindly believing their validity and it is my fervent desire in this chapter to clarify all such allegations.
Hafiz adh-Dhahabi and Ibn Kathir write:
“Imam Abu Hanifa was born in 80A.H, living in the time when there were still some Sahaba living.He saw the famous Companion, Anas ibn Malik (may Allah be pleased with him) and six other Companions too.He learnt ahadith from a group of Tabi’un, and spent much of his time in worship.
” ‘Abdullah ibn Mubarak said:’He was the greatest of all those who was well versed in Islamic laws.’ Imam ash-Shafi’i said:’All those who study Fiqh[Islamic law] are children of Imam Abu Hanifa.’ Imam Yahya ibn Mu’in said:’There are no accusations on Imam Abu Hanifa, and he is clean from all lies.’
Whoever wants to learn Fiqh, he is dependent upon Imam Abu Hanifa. The people should pray for Imam Abu Hanifa after their prayers.He was the one of the greatest scholars on the earth.When he used to recite the Qur’an at night, he used to cry so much that his neighbours used to pity him. Imam Abu Hanifa read the Qur’an 70, 000 times at the place where he died.He died on the 15 Rajab, 150 A.H.At his funeral there were so many people that the salat of Janazahad to be read six times.May Allah grant him peace and blessings
[adh-Dhahabi, Tadhkira al-Huffaz; Ibn Kathir, Ta’rikh Ibn Kathir, al-‘Asqalani, Tahzib at-Tahzib, Biography of Imam Abu Hanifa]
Hafiz Ibn Taymiyya writes:
“There is no doubt regarding Imam Abu Hanifa’s knowledge. People later attributed many lies to Imam Abu Hanifa, which were all untrue. The aim of such writings was to taint Imam Abu Hanifa”
[Ibn Taymiyya, Minhaj as-Sunna An-Nabawiyya, vol.1, page 259]
Hafiz Ibn al-Qayyim says:
“Imam Abu Hanifa would not do qiyas, even if he found a weak hadith.There are two types of qiyas:
1) Which is against the Qur’an and the Sunna – this is not permissible
2) One that is in the light of Qur’an or Sunna – this is permissible as our Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) also gave permisiion to Mu’adh ibn Jabal to do qiyas”
[Alam al-Muwaqqieen, chapter on ‘Qiyas’]
Why is it then today, after such great scholars like Hafiz adh-Dhahabi and Hafiz Ibn Kathir who have corrected such erroneous lies against Imam Abu Hanifa, that people still propagate such vile accusations?
A review of Islamic history reveals that when Allah Most High bestows any extraordinary scholar with His blessings, you can be sure that they would not have respite from distortions, slander and lies that are leveled against them. Imam Abu Hanifa was one of those great scholars of Islam against which such attempts were made.It is apparent from the history books that Imam Abu Hanifa (like the three other orthodox Sunni mujtahid Imams: Imam Malik, Imam ash-Shafi’i, and Imam Ahmed) had many enemies.
Why did they have enemies, one may ask?Many of those who argued against and attacked them were from misled sects, such as the Khawarij.There were also those from amongst the court of the khalif who, for one reason or another, had opened their hearts to jealousy, but as such, had the support of the court and their stances were often enough not questioned.
With such ferocity, and by the number of accusations leveled against Imam Abu Hanifa, it is unfortunate to say that some of these accusations did have an effect on a few simple minded Muslims.It should be said that they cannot be entirely at fault, since even with the case of ‘A’isha (may Allah be pleased with her) we recall that even some of the Companions were convinced of these false accusations. However, this incident was no small matter.It resulted in Allah Most High sending revelation as a warning to those Companions who believed the accusation. Allah Most High questioned them that upon hearing the accusations, why did they not reject such slander?
To some extent, we can also say that similarly to the erroneous accusations that were leveled against ‘A’isha, Imam Abu Hanifa also faced such accusations that have been mentioned by various pious people of later generations in their books.
We should thus learn from the incident involving ‘A’isha (may Allah be pleased with her) that we should not accept accusations from the enemies of Imam Abu Hanifa, such as the Khawarij and the Mu’tazilites. Whenever people utter words of malice and indulge themselves in accusations against Imam Abu Hanifa they never mention that the majority of them are found to stem from two particular misled sects – namely, the Khawarij and the Mu’tazilites. Rather, people end up mentioning two particular people: they are Imam al-Bukhari and Khatib al-Baghdadi.
1) Imam al-Bukhari has stated:
“Imam Abu Hanifa was a Murji’i”
[Al-Ta’rikh al-Kabir, under the ‘Biography of Numan ibn Thabit’]
Imam al-Bukhari also writes:
“When Sufyan ath-Thawri [a great scholar of Islam] heard news about the death of Imam Abu Hanifa, he said: ‘Praise beto Allah that such a man had died as he was gradually destroying Islam. There could not be a worse person born in Islam’ “
[Ta’rikh Saghir, Biography of Imam Abu Hanifa]
Imam al-Bukhari also writes:
“On two occasions Imam Abu Hanifa was ordered to repent from making blasphemous statements”
[al-Bukhari, Kitab ad-Daufa Walmat Rukin; Ibn ‘Abdi’l-Barr, Al-Intiqa]
Imam al-Bukhari informs us that he had taken these statements from his tutor Na’im ibn Hamad [Ta’rikh as-Saghir]
Imam al-Bukhari was so convinced by his tutor, that he never mentioned or used Imam Abu Hanifa as a reference for his book Sahih al-Bukhari, although whenever he did mention Imam Abu Hanifa he referred to him as ‘Kufi’ (nicknamed from his homeland – Kufa).
Before we proceed any further, it is important to refer to one particular accusation against Imam Abu Hanifa – the accusation that he belonged to a deviant sect called the Murji’ites.To answer this, we first need to see what character Imam Abu Hanifa possessed. It is important in responding to this accusation to find out who gave Imam al-Bukhari information regarding Imam Abu Hanifa. Insha’llah, we will demonstrate that he was not a Murji’i and pinpoint from where this false accusation came from.
I have mentioned that Na’im ibn Hammad conveyed this information to Imam al-Bukhari but before proceeding any further, let us take note of what Hafiz adh-Dhahabi, Hafiz al-‘Asqalani and Katib al-Baghdadi have written in connection to Na’im ibn Hammad:
” Na’im ibn Hammad was a famous scholar from a region called Marau. He had sight in one eye only. During the later part of his life he went to live in Egypt.At first, he belonged to a sect called the Jahmites, and was an active member. He then later left this sect and wrote a book, which was the first book to use the science of Musnad. These were a compilation of narrations by the Sahaba, which were placed in an alphabetical order, according to whom they had narrated the hadith. During this particular period, the Umma used to question
whether the Holy Qur’an was makhluq (created). When this question was put forward to Na’im ibn Hammad he did not give an explanation. He was then sent to prison along side Yaqub Faqia. He died in 228 AH. It was noted that no janaza [funeral prayer] was prayed over him and he was buried without a kaffan [shroud]”
[al-Baghdadi, Tadhkirat al-Huffaz; adh-Dhahabi, Tahzib al-Tahzib; al-‘Asqalani and al-Baghdadi, Biography of Na’im ibn Hammad]
This is a brief overview of his life and now we shall examine as to what status he held as a scholar.We shall do this by looking at what Hafiz adh-Dhahabi and Hafiz al-‘Asqalani have written, since they compiled together all the works by previous scholars who had written concerning Na’im ibn Hammad. What follows are their accounts:
Imam Abu Dawud said:
“Na’im ibn Hammad had attributed twenty ahadith to the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) which he in fact had never said, thus being fabricated sayings.
Here are two examples of such fabrications:
1) Abu Hurayra reported that:
“The Prophet of Islam (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) had said:’A time will come, when if you adhere to ten percent of Allah’s commands you will succeed, and if you leave this ten percent you will die [spiritually, not physically].”
The Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) had never uttered such words – this is a munkar narration (narrated by a weak reporter that goes against another authentic hadith).
2) Abu Hurayra narrates:
“The Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) had said: ‘A time will come when my Umma will be split into more than 70 sects.The worst will be those who indulge in qiyas [analogical deduction] in matters of uncertainty’.”
Abu Zur’a said: “I asked Imam Yayha ibn Mu’in, ‘Where did Na’im ibn Hammad get this hadith?’He answered that it has no origins and that this is not a hadith but has been invented.”Whatever Na’im ibn Hammad had said about Imam Abu Hanifa were all lies and had no substance.Abu Zur’a said that whenever Nu’aym ibn Hammad would narrate a hadith of the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace), he would add in his own words in the hadith. Whenever he would narrate a fabricated hadith he would attribute it to the “great Imam of Hadith.”
Daraqutni said that whenever Nu’aym used to mention a fabricated hadith, he would do so to support the Sunna. He had a lot of munkar narrations, which other Imams did not have [adh-Dhahabi, Mizan al-I’tidal and Tahzib al-Tahzib; al-‘Asqalani, Biography of Nu’aym ibn Hammad]
Imam al-Bukhari took his narrations from Nu’aym ibn Hammad for his book, Sahih al-Bukhari andTa’rikh.Since Nu’aym ibn Hammad received criticism from amongst the Muhaddithin likewise, Imam al-Bukhari also received criticism for his book of Hadith from the scholars of Hadith.
This overview concerning the character of Nu’aym ibn Hammad will allow us to understand that he was not a reliable Hadith expert in the eyes of the Scholars of Hadith.Now we shall elaborate upon the statements made by Imam al-Bukhari about Imam Abu Hanifa by noting what the scholars of Hadith had to say concerning him.
From this we can demonstrate that Imam al-Bukhari’s Ta’rikh is in no way free from error, nor did it remain uncriticised from Hadith scholars.As a result, it would be unfair to “blindly” accept everything that has been written in it as the absolute Truth.
By now, it should have been made obvious that the person that gave Imam Bukhari information regarding Imam Abu Hanifa (i.e. Nu’aym ibn Hammad) was unreliable.The Muhaddithin tell us that he used to make up fabricated hadith of the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace), and he also made false stories about Imam Abu Hanifa. As we are told not to believe in his narrations, similarly, we should not accept those statements regarding Imam Abu Hanifa, since they are all lies, according to Hafiz adh-Dhahabi and Hafiz al-‘Asqalni.
Anyone who has read the the history of Islamic scholarship accepts and understands that criticisms were not only made against Imam Abu Hanifa but were also made against many of the Muhaddithin.The simple principle is that when accusations are made against any of the great scholars of Islam, who have the respect from the majority of the Umma, those accusations are rejected.We shall provide you with some examples:
Hafiz Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani stated:
“Imam al-Bukhari was accused of saying that the Qur’an was makhluq (created) but in reality he was saying the words that we are reciting are makhluq (created).In one meeting a question was posed to Imam al-Bukhari, as to whether the Qur’an is makhluq or not?He replied, ‘Whatever we do is our doing, and our doing is makhluq.’When the ‘ulema heard about this everyone ceased to communicate to him, except for Imam Muslim and Ahmad Salma.However, Imam Muslim stopped taking any narrations from Imam al-Bukhari. Imam Muhammad ibn Yahya (who was the teacher of both Imam Muslim and Imam al-Bukhari) was also against Imam al-Bukhari on this issue.He then wrote many letters to various scholars informing them about Imam Bukhari’s belief of the Qur’an.The result of this was that wherever Imam al-Bukhari travelled the people would always harass him.Imam al-Bukhari prayed to Allah that He would take his soul into the next life.As a result from the fear of the scholars, Imam al-Bukhari never clarified his stance to the scholars of Khurasan as to whether the Qur’an was makhluq or not”
[al-‘Asqalani, Tahzib al-Tahzib]
From this incident, you can see that Imam al-Bukhari implied onething, but what people understood it to be was something else. It went so far that Imam al-Bukhari made du’a for himself,”O Allah, take me away from this world” – and Allah accepted his du’a and he passed away. Both Hafiz al-‘Asqalani and Hafiz Ibn Kathir have mentioned this in their books. The same happened to Imam Abu Hanifa: he used to say one thing and the Khawarij and Mutazilites interpreted it as a completely different thing.
Another accusation is reported by Hafiz al-‘Asqalani, who writes:
“Imam al-Bukhari also had another teacher whose name was Ibn al-Madini.Imam al-Bukhari used to attend his classes [Kitab al-Ilal] from which Ibn al-Madini used to teach from a book.This book was very precious to him and he would not allow anyone to come near it.One day Ibn al-Madini went to visit some of his property and Imam al-Bukhari saw this as an opportunity to obtain the book.He went to Ibn al-Madini’s son and persuaded him with some money to part with the book for a short while.Once Imam al-Bukhari received the book he took it to be copied hastily. By the time Ibn al-Madini had returned, Imam al-Bukhari had returned the book.When classes resumed and Ibn al-Madini began to read from the book, he asked a question to his students.Before he finished the question, Imam al-Bukhari had already produced the correct answer [which was from his book]. Ibn al- Madini then realized that Imam al-Bukhari had seen the contents of his book.The shock of this behavior from Imam al-Bukhari sent Ibn al-Madini into a state of illness, from which he later died.”
After writing this account Hafiz Ibn Al al-‘Asqalani said that he did not believe it and then he gave the reason.He said that this was against the status of Imam al-Bukhari
[al-‘Asqalani, Tahzib al-Tahzib, under “Life History of Imam al-Bukhari”]
Imam Muslim writes:
“Hazrat ‘Abbas and Hazrat ‘Ali (may Allah be pleased with them) had a dispute between each other, so thay went to the Khalifa of the time, Hazrat ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) to settle their dispute. Hazrat ‘Abbas said, concerning Hazrat ‘Ali, “O Amir sl-Mu’minin, judge between me and this liar, sinner, disloyal person and betrayer.” Hazrat ‘Umar (may Allah be p
leased with him) then made his judgement in their affair”
[Sahih Muslim, Bab al-Fay]
Hafiz Ibn Taymiyya writes:
“Hazrat Ibn Mas’ud, and Hazrat ‘Uthman (may Allah be pleased with them) used to verbally abuse each other. Hazrat
Ammar ibn Yasir once told ‘Uthman, ‘You have become a kafir.’
Hazrat ‘Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) once asked Ammar (may Allah be pleased with him), ‘Do you not deny the God who ‘Uthman worshipped?’
Once, Husayd ibn Huzayr said to Sa’d ibn Ubayda, ‘You have become a munafiq and you support the munafiqin!’
In this way other Sahaba used to do this to each other but we know that when one pious person accuses another pious person it has no effect on the latter’s status”
[Ibn Taymiyya, Minhaj as-Sunna, chapter on ‘Ikhtilaf as-Sahaba’]
Sayyid Mawdudi writes:
“The scholars of Hadith criticized each other throughout history, but they were human and so have made mistakes. The reason for this was because sometimes a scholar may not like another scholar for a personal reason. This is why we see in history that scholars have criticized each other in strange ways. An example is of Ibn ‘Abdi’l-Barr who wrote, in his book Jami’ al-Bayan, “Imam Hummad had once said that the scholars of Hijaz have no knowledge.” He also said that our children know more than them. He also said that Imams Ata ibn Rab’a, Tawus, and Mujahid had no knowledge.
“Imam Zuhri said, whilst commenting on the scholars of Makka, that he had never seen anyone break the walls (i.e the rules) of Islam more than the scholars of Makka. He said this despite the fact that great Sahaba and Tabi’un were resident in Makka.
“We know that Shabi and Ibrahim an-Nakha’i were great scholars but they used to attack each other. Shabi said, ‘Look at Ibrahim an-Nakha’i! He asks me masa’il by night and preaches to the people in the morning as though it is his own research!’ Ibrahim an-Nakha’i said: ‘Look at Shabi! He is a liar, and narrates hadith from Masruk, but he has never met him!’
“Imam Dahaq once boasted that he knew more than the Companions.
“Imam Sayyid ibn Zubair once said that Shabi was a liar. He also said about Imam ‘Ikrimah that he is the student of ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas and he attributes false ahadith to Ibn ‘Abbas.
“Imam Malik said about Muhammad ibn Ishaq that he is was one of the Dajjal. Imam Malik also said about the scholars of Iraq: ‘They have become like the People of the Book, so don’t say that they are speaking the truth or that they are lying.’
“Imam ‘Abdullah ibn Mubarak once said, ‘I don’t consider Imam Malik to be a scholar.’
“Imam Abu Hanifa said about Imam ‘Amash that he has never kept the fast of Ramadan nor taken the bath for major ritual impurity.
“Imam Yahya ibn Mu’in has criticised the high-ranking scholars of Hadith. He has even said that Imam Shafi’i is weak in Hadith.
“This is the situation of the scholars of Hadith but the strangest thing is that human weaknesses even overcame the Sahaba. For this reason the Sahabah used to critisize each other. An example is ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar who, when told that Abu Hurayra believed the witr salat not to be compulsory, said that Abu Hurayra was a liar. Similarly, Hazrat ‘A’isha (may Allah be pleased with her) once said that Anas ibn Malik and Abu Sa’id Khudri (may Allah be pleased with them) do not know anything about hadith as they were children at the time of the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace). Once Hasan ibn ‘Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) interpreted a verse of the Qur’an and someone said that Ibn ‘Umar and ‘Abdullah ibn Zubayr have given another interpretation. Hasan then said that they are both liars. Hazrat ‘Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) once said that al-Mughira ibn Shu’ba is a liar. Ubayda ibn Thabit said that Mas’ud ibn Aws Ansari is a liar, even though he fought in the Battle of Badr.
“If one wants to investigate this matter further one can read the history of jarh wa ta’dil. These books have critisised other scholars. The reason for this is that they were human and had human weaknesses and so sometimes they would call a weak scholar a good scholar, and vice versa. It is necessary to refer to these books carefully before making any presumptions about a particular scholar”
[Mawdudi, S., Tafhimat, chapter on ‘Maslak-e-I’tidal’]
It is proved, from the above, that if a scholar claims something about another scholar then we cannot say that his claim is always correct. The only thing that we can conclude is that the claim is only the scholar’s personal view. If we say that the claim is always correct then we would have to accept every scholar’s word, which is impossible. An example is that of Hazrat ‘Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) claiming that ‘Ali ((may Allah be pleased with him)) was a liar, sinner and betrayer. We cannot accept that Hazrat ‘Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) was actually that which ‘Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) said. This is because we know about the greatness of Hazrat ‘Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) who was neither a liar nor betrayer. He was one of the ten who was given glad tidings of Paradise in their lifetime and the fourth Khalifa of Islam. We know also that Imam Malik was a great scholar so no-one can accept ‘Abdullah ibn Mubarak’s claim that Imam Malik was not a scholar. We also do not accept Imam Yahya ibn Mu’in’s claim that Imam Shafi’i was weak in Hadith.
In the same way, no-one can accept the claims made against Imam Abu Hanifa by following what some scholars say about him. In short, we have to see what the majority of scholars have said about a particular scholar and then accept or reject their opinions.
Now let us look into the second person who is often used to justify attacks against Imam Abu Hanifa:
2) Khatib Baghdadi:
His correct name was Ahmad ibn ‘Ali ibn Thabit, Abu Bakr al-Khatib al-Baghdadi, and he passed away in 463 AH.Khatib Baghdadi was a great scholar of Hadith and wrote many books on Usul al-Hadith (Principles of Hadith) but his most popular book is Ta’rikh Baghdad (written in fourteen volumes). The copy that I am using was issued in Al-Maktaba Salfia Al-Madina Al-Munawwara. If we look at volume thirteen, under the life history of al-Nu’man ibn Thabit (name of Imam Abu Hanifa) there are two chapters on Imam Abu Hanifa.
In the first chapter he writes how the other scholars have praised Imam Abu Hanifa and in the second chapter he talks about what the enemies of Imam Abu Hanifa said about him. Khatib Baghdadi himself said, “I personally recognized the greatness and knowledge of Imam Abu Hanifa. It is my right that where I have mentioned his excellence I can also bring forward the opinions of the people who were against him.” The enemies of Imam Abu Hanifa do not mention those narrations which are in praise of Imam Abu Hanifa. They only mention Khatib’s narrations, which are against him and imply that Khatib was also against the Imam.
Before we go further, at this point it can be concluded that whatever has been said against Imam Abu Hanifa cannot be accepted as the truth:
Our Shaykh, Shah Abu al-Hasan Zayd Faruqi Naqshbandi said: “In 1931 I was in Egypt. In that period an article was published in the popular newspaper Al-Ahraam that Khatib’s Ta’rikh has been published and will be available soon.In his Ta’rikh there is one chapter against Imam Abu Hanifa. Al- Azhar decided that it was upon them selves to respond to this chapter written by Khatib Baghdadi. This response was then printed in the footnote of the book Ta’rikh Baghdad.Upon reading the above book and its footnote it is clearly understood that the said chapter is totally untrue.”
Furthermore, it is noted that whosoever reported Khatib’s accusations against Imam Abu Hanifa, we see that in the same book he also says that these narrators are not trustworthy. Moreover Muhaddith Al-Athar Allama Zahid al-Kauthari wro
te a book called Tanib al-Khatib in which he clarifies that truly these accusations are false and notes that all the evidences used were from the same book Ta’rikh Baghdad.
Now let us see what Khatib says about Imam Abu Hanifa (may Allah be pleased with him) in Ta’rikh Baghdad under the biography of Imam Abu Hanifa (may Allah be pleased with him). A number of examples are taken;
1. Khatib says Imam Abu Hanifa was from the Murji’i.
2. He says that Imam Abu Hanifa confirmed that riba (interest) is halal (permissible)
3. In Imam Abu Hanifa’s halaqas (meetings) there was no salutation
(salat/blessings) bestowed on the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace)
3. Imam Abu Hanifa and his students were like Christians (astaghfiru’llah) [as it was claimed that they changed the Qur’an and Sunna like the Christians]
4. Imam Abu Hanifa’s followers said that his knowledge was greater than that of the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace). (astaghfiru’llah)
5. Imam Abu Hanifa used to say that had the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) been present at his time he would have taken his opinion (i.e. he would have learnt many things from me – astaghfiru’llah)
6. When a hadith would be presented he would reject and say, ‘Scrap this with the pig’s tale’
[al-Baghdadi, K.,Ta’rikh Baghdad, al-Nu’man ibn Thabit]
We do not need to go any further as you will have already realised that this is not acceptable by any Muslim.From the above accusations let us clarify that the other accusations are very similar.
Imam Abu Hanifa actually said that ‘If ‘Uthman Bathi al-Basri was present in my time he would have taken many of my opinions’ but the above narrator, Khatib al-Baghdadi, removed ‘Uthman’s name and replaced it with the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) [Ta’rikh Baghdad, chapter on ‘Abu Hanifa’, footnote]
Khatib took this information from Yusuf ibn Sabat, Abi Nasr, Azdi and al-Wass Wassy. In the same book, Khatib also wrote about these narrators:
“One of them was who used to make fabricated hadiths. One of them was weak in Hadith, the other was a person who did not even believe in ahadith. One of them was Qadri (sect), one of them used to make up fabricated stories.” He wrote this in order to prove that Imam Abu Hanifa (may Allah be pleased with him) was a kafir. From the writings of Khatib, we are led to believe that Imam Abu Hanifa was an atheist, Jew and innovator; we seek shelter in Allah from this!
Now we shall review the accusations that were made against Imam Abu Hanifa..Who said that he was a Murji’i? Who were the Murji’ites?
Allama Shahar Sitaani, in his famous book al-Milal writes:
“In the early days the Shi’as began to propagate stories against Abu Bakr and ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with them).during a period where there were differences amongst the Companions, the Shi’as also made strange stories concerning their differences. It was also the time when the Khawarij declared the majority of Muslims as kafir, they believed that whoever committed a major sin was a kafir. At this time the Murji’i sect became famous. They said that differences that the Companions of the Prophet (may Allah belss him and grant him peace) should go without anything said about them – we should remain silent and the matter will be dealt with Allah. They also believed that those Muslims who commit a great sin [kabira] are not kafirs. Some of the Murji’i believed that iman [faith] is embedded in the heart, so that if someone utters blasphemous remarks or worships statues or has a belief like a Jew or a Christian,or worships whatever he likes, he still is beloved to Allah and is a perfect Muslim. They thus believed that if a kafir was to perform a good act he/she would receive no benefit from it, and similarly, if a Muslim was to indulge himself in blasphemous remarks os commits any major sin, it would have no effect on his/her iman. In this way they left all good actions out and they openly indulged themselves in bad actions.
“Imam Abu Hanifa also said that those who commit a major sin were not kafirs. The enemies of Imam Abu Hanifa picked upon this point to argue that he was a Murji’i. Imam Abu Hanifa openly conducted good acts and never said not to do good actions. He also never encouraged people that worship what you like. The Mu’tazilite called every one who did not agree with them concerning their belief as Murji’i. The Khawarij, on the other hand, argued that the one who performs a major sin is a kafir. In this way, the Khawarij and Mutazilite gave Imam Abu Hanifa the title of Murji’i. These two sects not only called Imam Abu Hanifa a Murji’i, but also many other great scholars of Islam, such as: Hasan ibn Muhammad, Sa’id Ibn Zubayr, Talaq ibn Habib, ‘Umar ibn Murar, Maharib ibn Wasar, Maqatil ibn Sulayman and Hamad ibn Abi Sulayman”
[Sitani, A.S.,al-Milal, Madhab al-Islamiyya; Misri, A.Z., Hayaat, Imam Abu Hanifa]
If Imam Abu Hanifa was a Murji’i, it would have become apparent in all the Hanafi books that it is permissible to worship the cross, idols or you can be a Christian, Jew etc. Why is it then that in the Hanafi books it is clearly stated that to worship idols, the cross etc., is kufr? (See the books of Hanafi Fiqh).
Why is it also, that there is a special book which explains what punishments are expected for those who perform bad acts?If you take any book concerning Hanafi fiqh, you will see two chapters dedicated to explaining what things can make you a kafir. The other chapters will deal with the punishments that those people will receive who indulge themselves in acts of adultery, stealing and other evil acts.This is a clear proof that those who claim that Imam Abu Hanifa is a Murji’i, are merely repeating those accusations made by the Khawarij and the Mu’tazilite, and are wrong.
There is another accusation made by people that Imam Abu Hanifa knew only seventeen ahadith.Let us examine what little truth this bears but before we go further we must examine the sources from which Imam Abu Hanifa extracted his information.
Hafiz Ibn al-Qayyim states:
“Allah sent the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) to teach Islam. During that early period those that learnt became known as Companions, who were over 100s of 1000s, out of which 130 gave more fatawa than the rest. There were seven amongst the Companions that gave the highest number of fatawa. Those seven were ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab, ‘Ali ibn Abu Talib, ‘Abdullah ibn Mas’ud, Umm al-Mu’minin ‘A’isha, Zayd ibn Thabit, ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas, ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with them). ‘Umar sent ‘Abdullah ibn Mas’ud to reside at Kufa. This was because ‘Abdullah ibn Mas’ud had great knowledge. The Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said in a statement that he was great scholar.
“Once, two groups of people came from Syria and Kufa to visit ‘Umar. ‘Umar gave gifts to both groups and the group from Kufa asked ‘Umar, ‘Why is it that we have received less than the Syrians?’ ‘Umar replied: ‘Did I not give you ‘Abdullah ibn Mas’ud which is the greatest of all gifts?”Abdullah ibn Mas’ud often said: ‘I know about every Sura in the Qur’an and further,r who and what it was revealed for. If I know a person that knows more than me I must go to him and learn from him.’ Ibn ‘Umar used to say, ‘Ibn Mas’ud is filled with knowledge.’Imam Ibn Jarir says that there is no other Companion whose students wrote all his fatawa and his Fiqh, except ‘Abdullah ibn Mas’ud. After a short while hundreds of other Companions also went to Kufa to reside there. Later when ‘Ali became khalifa he also moved to Kufa and that is how Kufa became the capital of the Islamic State. This then influenced further Companions to move to Kufa. Kufa became one of the center points of knowledge of the Companions.At that time the most popular school was of
‘Ali and ‘Abdullah ibn Mas’ud.
“Later on some people started to attribute fabricated narrations linked to ‘Ali. This is why the only acceptable narrations of ‘Ali are those which are through his generation and through students of ‘Abdullah ibn Masud. ‘Ali and ‘Abdullah ibn Mas’ud had many popular students like ‘Umar ibn Sharjil, Masruq, al-Qamma and others. And then Ibrahim and Hammad ibn Sulayman became their students and Imam Abu Hanifa became their student”
[Ibn al-Qayyim, Alam al-Muwaqqaiy-in, chapter on ‘Qiyas’]
Imam ibn Sa’d says:
“One large group of Companions started to reside in Kufa. There were more than 500 Companions residing in Kufa.That is why ‘Umar said that ‘Kufa is the center of the treasure [faith].’Kufa was the center of knowledge at that time”
[Tabaqat ibn Sa’d, vol. 6, chapter on ‘Kufa’]
In the very same Kufa, Imam Abu Hanifa was born.In the same place, he acquired his knowledge, he saw and learnt from the Companions and learnt from the Tabi’un. To learn more knowledge he often travelled to Makka, Madina, Syria, Yemen and Basra.How can it be said that he only knew seventeen ahadith?It is like saying to a Hafiz of the Qur’an that he knows Sura Fatiha only!
Hafiz ibn Taymiyya writes:
“Amongst the scholars there were those who are scholars of Hadith, and some that were scholars of Fiqh. The scholars who are knowledgeable of both Hadith/Fiqh are Imam Shafi’i, Imam Ahmad, Imam Ishaq, Imam Abu Yusuf, Imam Abu Hanifa. They also had a very high status which was suitable for all of them”
[Ibn Taymiyya, Kitab al-Istegatha, p13]
When Hafiz ibn Taymiyya writes and accepts that Imam Abu Hanifa was a scholar in Hadith, and Fiqh, then how can his followers discredit Imam Abu Hanifa, and say that he only knew seventeen ahadith?
Ibn Khaldun has touched upon the accusation that Imam Abu Hanifa knew only seventeen ahadith. He has written about it in his book al-Muqaddima. He writes that this accusation is completely false as Imam Abu Hanifa’s students Imam Abu Yusuf and Imam Muhammad narrated a great number of ahadith from Imam Abu Hanifa which they have written in their books. Also, they have written two books where they have accumulated all the ahadith that they narrate from Imam Abu Hanifa (the name of the books are Kitab al-Athar by Imam Abu Yusuf and Kitab al-Athar by Imam Muhammad). More-over all the narrations of ahadith are accumulated in one book, which is called Jami’ al-Masaneed by Imam Abu Hanifa the famous scholar of Hadith/Fiqh.Imam Abu Hanifa is one of the first people who has dictated books on Hadith/Fiqh.The ahadith which Imam Abu Hanifa has narrated, he heard them directly from the Companions or the Tabi’un (student of the Companions). He was the first Imam in Hadith/Fiqh; Imam al-Bukhari, Imam Muslim, Imam an-Nasa’i, Imam at-Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah, etc. all came a very long time after him. This is why his status should be the highest of all of them.From the famous scholars of Hadith/Fiqh he is the only one who is a Tabi’i (who have seen the Companions). This privilege was awarded to Imam Abu Hanifa and not to Imam Malik, Imam Shafi’i, Imam Ahmad, Imam al-Bukhari, Imam Muslim, Imam Abu Dawud, Imam at-Tirmidhi, etc.. He was unique in this privilege.
Lastly I make du’a’ that Allah Most High grant all the scholars the best possible place in Paradise.They worked hard for Islam and spent their lives gathering information and passing it on to us, especially Imam Abu Hanifa, may Allah Most High fill his grave with nur (light).