The Greatest Imam [al-Imam al-Aa’zam]
Abu Hanifa Nau’man Ibn Thabit
Radi Allahu Anhu
Imam al-A’zam Abu Hanifa’s (Alaihir raHma) full name was Nuʿman ibn Thabit ibn Zuta ibn Marzuban. He was born in Kufa in Iraq in 80 A.H. He belonged to the pious period of the Taabi’in (Successors of the Sahaba).
It is stated in a Hadith Shareef which Imam al-Harizmi reported from Sayyiduna Abu Hurayrah (Radi Allahu Anhuma) that Sayyiduna Rasoolullah (SallAllahu Alaihi wa Sallam) said: “Among my Ummah, there will come a man called Abu Hanifa. On the Day of Resurrection, he will be the light of my Ummah.” Another Hadith Shareef states: “In every century, a number of my Ummah will attain to high grades. Abu Hanifa will be the highest of his time.” These two Ahadith are recorded in “Durr al-Mukhtar.”
While still in his youth, he met great Sahaba like Sayyiduna Anas bin Maalik, Sayyiduna Sahl bin Saad and Sayyiduna Abul Tufail Amir bin Wathilah (Radi Allahu Anhum Ajma’een). Imam A’zam Abu Hanifa (Alaihir raHmah) was first brought up as a trader, but soon started taking deep interest in Islamic learning.
He attended the lectures of Sayyiduna Hammad Basri (Radi Allah Anhu) in Fiqh and then began to study the Hadith. He learnt under great scholars in Kufa. In Basrah he studied under two great Taabi’ie scholars who had learnt Hadith under the Sahaba. In Makkatul Mukarammah and Madinatul Munawwarah, he learnt under Sayyiduna Ata bin Abi Rabah and Sayyiduna Ikramah (Radi Allahu Anhuma). In fact, Imam A’zam Abu Hanifa (Alaihir raHmah) had numerous teachers. Some historians say that he learnt Hadith from about 4000 scholars. Some of his famous teachers were:
Sayyiduna Imam Baaqir
Sayyiduna Imam Jafar Saadiq
Sayyiduna Abu Hurayrah
Sayyiduna Abdullah ibn Mas’ud
Sayyiduna Abdullah ibn Umar
Sayyiduna Aqabah bin Umar
Sayyiduna Abu Qatadah and etc. (Radi Allahu Anhum Ajma’een).
AS A TEACHER
When his teacher, Sayyiduna Hammad Basri (Alaihir raHmah) passed away, Imam A’zam Abu Hanifa (Alaihir raHma) was 40 years old and he began teaching. He became very famous and travelled many places. Students from all over the Muslim world came to him to listen to his lectures, interviews and debates. Imam Maalik (Alaihir raHmah) also learnt under him. When he was 56 years old, Caliph Mansur came to power after the Ummayad dynasty was overthrown by the Abbasids in 132 A.H. Since Imam Abu Hanifa (Alaihir raHmah) opposed the Caliph’s ruthless killing of the Ahle Bait, he was arrested. The Caliph offered the Imam the post of a Qaadi (Judge), but he refused. The Caliph Mansur had him beaten with a stick 30 strokes. His feet bled. Caliph Mansur repented and offered Imam A’zam Abu Hanifa (Alaihir raHmah) 30000 pieces of silver. The great Imam refused once more. He was imprisoned again and thrashed 10more strokes every day.
Imam A’zam Abu Hanifa (Alaihir raHmah) passed away while in Salaah. He had been poisoned by the orders of Caliph Mansur. His Janaza Salaah was performed six times and each time 50 000 people took part. People continued to come and pray for him for 20 days after he was buried. He was 70 years old. In 459 A.H. a Mazaar (Tomb) was built for him by the Seljuki ruler Alp Arsalan. He lies buried in a Tomb situated near Baghdad in Iraq.
Imam A’zam Abu Hanifa (Alaihir raHmah) left behind about 980 students. The most famous among them being:
a. Sayyiduna Qadi Abu Yusuf (Alaihir raHmah)
b. Sayyiduna Imam Muhammed (Alaihir raHmah)
c. Sayyiduna Imam Zufur (Alaihir raHmah)
Imam A’zam Abu Hanifa (Alaihir raHmah) earned his living by trading. Every Friday, he distributed 20 gold coins to the poor for his parents soul. For 40 years Imam A’zam Abu Hanifa (Alaihir raHmah) performed the Fajr Salaah with the Wudu that he made for the Esha Salaah (ie. he did not sleep after the night prayer). He performed Hajj 55 times. He used to recite the entire Holy Quran once every day and once every night. Imam A’zam Abu Hanifa (Alaihir raHma) had so much of Taqwa (Piety) that for 30 years he fasted every day (except for the 5 forbidden days). He often read the Holy Quran in one rakaah or two. He did not accept any presents from anyone. He wore clothes like those of the poor. Imam A’zam Abu Hanifa (Alaihir raHma) once said: “I laughed once in my life and I regret it.” He talked little and thought much. It is said that at the place where his soul was taken, he read theHoly Quran 7000 times.
GREATNESS OF IMAM ABU HANIFA
Yahya ibn Sa`id al-Qattan said:
“We have not heard better than Abu Hanifa’s opinion and we have followed most of his positions.”
Yahya ibn Ma`in, he said of Abu Hanifa that
“He is not only thiqa (trustworthy) but thiqa thiqa. Al- Dhahabi even calls Ibn Ma`in a fanatic Hanafi.”
Al-Fadl ibn Dukayn, one of the major authorities of Ahl al-Hadith. He said:
“Muslims should make du`a to Allah on behalf of Abu Hanifa in their prayers, because the Sunan and the fiqh were preserved for them through him.”
Waki` ibn al-Jarrah, he replied to some of them:
“You barred us from Abu Hanifa, are you going to bar us from Zufar??” (Zufar took over the teaching of Hanafi Fiqh in Kufa and Basra after the Imam.)
Abu Mu`awiya al-Darir, he said:
“Love of Abu Hanifa is part of the Sunnah”.
‘Abdullah Ibn Dawud al-Khuraybi:
“Among the people there are plenty of enviers and ignorant ones concerning Abu Hanifa. Anyone who desires to free himself of the humiliation of ignorance and desires to learn jurisprudence should study the books of Abu Hanifa”
Bishr al-Hafi, he said:
“None criticizes Abu Hanifa except an envier or an ignoramus”.
Ibn al-Mubarak. When al-Awza`i criticized Abu Hanifa, Ibn al-Mubarak copied a compilation of Abu Hanifa’s fiqh under the name al-Nu`man. Al- Awza`i read it without interruption except for Salat al-Fard. Then he said:
“This Nu`man is a grand master (hadha nabilun min al-ashyakh). Go to him and take as much as you can from him!” Ibn al-Mubarak said: “This is the Abu Hanifa you had forbidden me to see.” (Tarikh al-Baghdad)
Ibn al-Mubarak considered one’s hatred of Abu Hanifa a mark of Divine wrath.
He also said:
“If Allah had not rescued me with Abu Hanifa and Sufyan [al-Thawri] I would have been like the rest of the common people.” Al-Dhahabi relates it as: “I would have been an innovator.”
Ibn `A’isha mentioned a fatwa of Abu Hanifa then said:
“Truly, if you had seen him you would have wanted him ! Truly, his similitude and yours is as in the saying:
Curse them much or not, I care little to blame you;
But fill – if you can! – the space they left vacant.”
Imam Malik (May Allah shower His mercy on him) says:
“In Islam, there are 60,000 utterances of Abu Hanifa, meaning that so many rulings of Jurisprudence are from him.”
After relating this Tradition, Imam Muwwaffaq (May Allah shower His mercy on him) relates the Tradition of a reliable narrator that
“Imam Azam Abu Hanifa (May Allah be well pleased with him) has written 83,000 rulings of which 38,000 are about worship and 45,000 are about affairs and dealings.”
It is also related that Imam Shafa’ee said that
The person who doesn’t study the books of Abu Hanifa cannot gain erudition in Jurisprudence (Fiqh).
Abu Ishaq says that
I pity those people who didn’t gain anything from the knowledge of Abu Hanifa. These are the people who are bereft of Jurisprudence.
Yahya bin Atham says:
I heard from Wahb bin Jareer that he would say: My father Jareer bin A’azim would exhort me to study the books of Abu Hanifa and he was among those who sat in the study circle of the Imam.
Muhammad bin Dawood says:
I once went to ‘Isa bin Younus and saw that books of Abu Hanifa are placed before him and he is reading them. I asked him: Do you narrate on his authority? He said: I was pleased with him in his life. Will I be displeased with him after his death?
Ma’aroof bin ‘Abdullah says:
Once, I was with ‘Ali bin A’asim. He told his students: You people acquire knowledge and jurisprudence. We said: That which we learn from you is not knowledge? He said: Knowledge is the knowledge of Abu Hanifa.
Muhammad bin Sa’adaan says:
I, Yahya bin Ma’een, ‘Ali bin Al Madeeni, Ahmed bin Hambal and Zuhair bin Harb, etc. (all of whom are experts in Hadith) were sitting with Yazid bin Haroon. A person asked him a question. He said: Go to the people of knowledge. ‘Ali bin Al Madeeni said: Shouldn’t he come to you? Meaning he himself was also a man of knowledge. Yazid bin Haroon said: The men of knowledge are the associates of Abu Hanifa and all of you are musk-sellers.
‘Abdur Rahman bin Mahdi (May Allah shower His mercy on him) says:
Abu Hanifa is the Chief Justice among the scholars.
‘Abdur Rahman is that person whom Imam Dhahabi writes as “Hafidh Ul Kabeer” and “Alim Ush Shaheer”
Yahya bin Adam says that
When the incidents and rulings of Abu Hanifa were related before Hasan bin Sabah bin Hayy Al Hamadani, he would praise them. Hasan bin Sabah was so meticulous in matters of religion that because of the irreligiousness of the rulers, he considered even the Friday Salaat as inappropriate.
Abu Numayla says:
Muhammad bin Talha told me: When you hear a saying of Abu Hanifa from a reliable person, rely on it, as his opinion is very firmly based on evidence. These books of Jurisprudence in our hands are all those firm opinions of the Imam which have reached us through reliable people.
‘Abdullah bin Mubarak once told his students:
Accept Hadith after checking them and understanding them as they are your religion… Then he said: When a reliable person relates the opinion of Abu Hanifa to you, accept it.
Abu Muslim asked Yazid bin Haroon:
What do you say about the books of Abu Hanifa? He said: If you want to gain jurisprudential acumen and understanding of religion, then study the books of Abu Hanifa. I haven’t seen any Jurisprudent (Faqeeh) who considers it undesirable to study the books of Abu Hanifa.
One person said before Wak’ee bin Al Jarrah that Abu Hanifa made a mistake. Wak’ee scolded him and said:
The person who says anything like this is like an animal and even worse than them. Jurisprudents like Abu Yusuf and Muhammad were with him. There were many Imams of Hadith, Arabic language and Imams of piety like Fudhail and Dawood Taai. The one whose associates are like these can never make any mistake and even if he does make a mistake then these people will turn him towards the truth.
The names of the Imams mentioned here are only as an indication. Otherwise, there always used to be a huge gathering there.
GOLDEN WORDS OF WISDOM:
Knowledge without deeds is like a body without a soul. As long as knowledge does not embrace the existence of action it will not be enough not agreeable nor sincere.
Difficulties are the result of sin. The sinful therefore does not have the right to lament when difficulties befall him.
To reduce the connection of the World means that a person takes that which is essential from the World and leaves that which is non essential.
That person who seeks knowledge to attain the World finds that knowledge has no place in his heart.
That person whose knowledge does not prevent him from committing sin and transgressions then who is that person who has suffered or incurred a greater loss than him.
For the attainment of knowledge satisfaction is useful and satisfaction is not gained by increasing information but by decreasing it.
Mawlid an-Nabawi Sharif Celebrations at the Mosque of Imam al-Aa’dham Abu Hanifa
Nau’man Ibn Thabit Radi Allahu Ta’ala Anhu in Aa’dhamiya, Baghdad Sharif, Iraq
The Greatest Imam [al-Imam al-Aa’zam]