The Hanafi Way: Reach and Scholarship

This is the eighth article in a series based on the On Demand Course: The Hanafi Way: Lessons from Kawthari’s Fiqh Ahl al Iraq. It lays out the great defense of the Hanafi school in the 20th century by Imam Kawthari.

Knowledge by land and sea, in the East and the West, in distant lands and close lands, emerged as a result of Abu Hanifa’s recording of it. He did not record it himself but laid down the method for knowledge to be recorded. It is his student’s writings that structured fiqh into the chapters that we find it in. Through the Hanafi structuring of the chapters of fiqh the Hadith scholars structured the books of Hadith. 

Iraq was sophisticated in its knowledge, complexity and the nuance of civilization, social, economic, political challenges there. The schools that prevailed there was one that had the methodological sophistication to suit.

Response to Criticism

The Hadith Imam Abu Hanifa transmitted are gathered in the various chains of transmission. Many of these are narrated by the early scholars. The Hadith transmissions of Abu Hanifa were even with the Muhaddithin. 

It is absurd to believe that the Hanafis made up chains of transmission to try to prove that Abu Hanifa transmitted a lot of Hadiths. As well as to claim that the Hanafis, generation after generation, transmit these books and they are all making a pretense. 

Scholars of Fiqh not known to the muhaddithin narrated the Musnad Abu Hanifa. They transmitted these works to scholars of Fiqh. The muhaddithin focus on those who are in the circle of Hadith transmission. The masanid of Abu Hanifa were transmitted by people who were not scholars of hadith. A lot of them do not have biographies in the books of men compiled by the latter. 

Secondly, a lot of them were in the far eastern lands. Often, we don’t have a lot of biographies of great Imams of the school. There are, however, many other tests of the consistency of those Hadiths. 

You find the hadiths related by Abu Hanifa, by the wording in those books, in the writings of Muhammad Ibn al-Hasan. They are in the writings of Imam al-Tahawi and Imam Jassas. In the writings of Imam Quduri you find them with chains of transmission. And in the writings of al-Dabusi, al-Karkhi, al-Sarakhsi and so many of the early scholars. They are transmitting with chains of transmission.

The Arabic Language 

Amongst the greatest Imams of the Arabic language were Abu Ali al-Farisi, al-Sayrafi, and Ibn Jinni. Each of them wrote treatises on the opinions of Abu Hanifa in the subtleties of the Arabic language. 

That is very clear in the Hanafi books of Usul al-Fiqh. One can appreciate Abu Hanifa’s standing based on how he approached the usages of the particles in the Arabic language and the deduction of rulings from that. 

Hadith Scholars

Many of Abu Hanifa’s closest students were Hadith masters. Imam Zufar (d.158H) was a great Imam of Hadith. Ibn Hibban, a great Imam of Hadith. Praised both for his memory and his precision in Hadith. Layth ibn Sa‘d was a great Hadith master. Shaykh al-Islam Zakariyya al-Ansari deemed al-Layth ibn Sa‘d to be Hanafi. 

Abdullah ibn al-Mubarak was also a great Imam from the early generations who took from Abu Hanifa. He has a number of great books of Hadith such as Kitab al-Zuhd. He was a very close student of Imam Abu Hanifa. 

Imam Abu Yusuf’s knowledge of Hadith was highly praised. Imam Muhammad al-Hasan (d.189AH) is one of the narrators of the Muwatta of Imam Malik. About a third of it, or thereabouts, are his own narrations, where he disagrees with Imam Malik.

Very notable, of those who took from Abu Hanifa was Waqi‘ ibn al-Jarrah (d.197AH). Yahya ibn Ma‘in, the great Hadith master, said, “I saw no one better than Waqi‘ ibn al-Jarrah.” Waqi‘ used to issue legal verdicts according to the fiqh of Abu Hanifa.

Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal said about Waqi‘:

“Benefit from the writings of Waqi‘ because I have never seen anyone who encompassed knowledge more and had greater memory than Waqi‘.” 

Waqi‘ was also one of the teachers of Imam Shafi‘i.  Imam Shafi‘i said, “I complained to Waqi‘ of the weakness of my memory. So he guided me to leave off sin. He told me that knowledge is a light. And the light of Allah is not given to a sinner.”

Yahya ibn Ma‘in (d.233AH) the great Imam of the science of criticism of narrators studied directly under Muhammad ibn al-Hasan. And he took Hadith from Abu Yusuf. He was also Hanafi.