Hanafi Texts: The Difference Between Primers and Reference Works in Islamic Law

Hanafi Fiqh

Answered by Ustadh Tabraze Azam

Question: What are the differences between Radd al Muhtar and Mukhtasar al-Quduri? Do you have a preference in using it as a reference if so why?

Answer: Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

I hope you are in the best of health and spirits, insha’Allah.

Yes, Ibn ‘Abidin is known as the final verifier (muhaqqiq) of the Hanafi school. His lasting legacy, Radd al-Muhtar (also known as Hashiyat Ibn ‘Abidin or Shami), is (in most cases) the final word on most legal issues. He did a masterful job in clarifying the relied upon position of the school, and it is regarded as the central reference for fatwa in the Hanafi school.

The Mukhtasar of Imam Quduri and the Relied upon Primers

On the other hand, Imam Quduri’s (d. 428AH) Mukhtasar is an early work whose primary purpose was to transmit the Hanafi school. Therefore, it has for centuries been used as one of the key works in teaching the school to students, and the reason why we find it in many curricula of Islamic seminaries to this day.

Quduri’s Mukhtasar is considered one of the four relied upon primers in the Hanafi school. The others are: Mawsili’s (d. 683AH) Mukhtar, Burhan al-Shari‘a’s (d. 673AH) Wiqaya, and Nasafi’s (d. 710AH) Kanz al-Daqa’iq. Traditionally, these are the works a student of Hanafi Law would study to get a grasp of the relied upon, transmitted positions of the school before specializing, and reading subject specific texts like Shurunbulali’s much later work, Maraqi al-Falah or Nahlawi’s al-Durar al-Mubaha, and so on.

Such later works came about after approximately one thousand years of Hanafi scholarship (after Imam Quduri). Many of these later scholars conditioned the earlier works of the school, added other derived rulings — not necessarily transmitted from the founders of the school — and clarified their positions.

From these later works of the Hanafi school is Haskafi’s al-Durr al-Mukhtar upon which Ibn ‘Abidin wrote his marginal gloss (hashiya).

Ibn ‘Abidin: His Mastery and the Radd al-Muhtar

Ibn ‘Abidin systematically went through the works and positions of the school with depth and preciseness. Regarding the encompassing scope of Ibn ‘Abidin in Hanafi fiqh, the then Mufti of Beirut, Shaykh Muhammad Effendi al-Hulawani said, “I never heard any lesson like that of Ibn ‘Abidin. I would try my hardest to research the next day’s topic as extensively and thoroughly as possible by reading and understanding all the gloss and commentary written on it. I would think that I had comprehended it completely. However, Ibn ‘Abidin would teach us the same lesson the next day and not only cover everything that I had researched but would also provide further clarification and deeper understanding in them, and would add to it many other beneficial points than I had even come across in any of the works nor even thought about.” [Takmila Radd al-Muhtar]

As such, Radd al-Muhtar is considered one of the most comprehensive, encyclopaedic compilations of the Hanafi school, even more extensive than the Fatawa Hindiyya, a slightly earlier work commissioned by the righteous Moghul emperor, Aurangzeb.

A Note on Haskafi’s Durr al-Mukhtar

Ibn ‘Abidin notes in his introduction, “al-Durr al-Mukhtar, the commentary on Tanwir al-Absar, has flown through the lands, and circled the cities, and become more manifest than the sun at mid-day, until people have busied themselves with it, and it has become their recourse. It is most deserving of being sought, and of the school (madhhab) being on it… for it contains more well-verified rulings, and sound details than many a longer work…” [Ibn ‘Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar]

See also:

[1]  Leaving the Position of Abu Hanifa and How to Determine the Relied Upon Position in the Hanafi School

[2] The Rulings Related to a Latecomer: A Note on the Durr al-Mukhtar

[3] Taking Rulings Directly From Imam Muhammad’s Six Books (Kutub Dhahir ar-Riwaya)

And Allah alone gives success.


Tabraze Azam

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani