The Hanafi Way: Scholars of Hadith

This is the ninth 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.

The closest companions of Abu Hanifa were all of great standing in Hadith. One of the great Imams of the third century who died in the year 321AH was Imam Abu Ja‘far al-Tahawi. He was a great Imam in the science of Hadith and a great Hanafi jurist at the level of ijtihad in the Hanafi school. 

Late in the fourth Islamic century was Imam Abu Bakr Ahmad ibn Ali al-Razi al-Jassa (d.370AH). He was the author of arguably the greatest tafsir of the verses of legislation. He was a great Hadith master. 

Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi, who was deeply biased against the Hanafis, respected Imam Quduri’s knowledge of Hadith tremendously. He praised him effusively.

The Masanid

Into the sixth Islamic century there was the emergence of a number of works of the Masanid. There was Abu Abd Allah ibn Khusru al-Balkhi (d.522AH). Being from Balkh however, many of those chains of transmission were outside the scope of the scholars of Hadith. 

Into the 7th century you have the great Imam al-Saghani (d.650AH). One of the first Hadith masters of the Indian subcontinent. He authored a combination of Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim

There was also the great Hanafi jurist Imam Abu Muhammad Ali ibn Zakariyya al-Manbaji (d.698AH). He wrote a neglected work called, Al-Lubab fi al-Jam‘i bayna al-Sunnati wa al-Kitab. In it he presented hadith evidence of the Hanafi position and he wrote a number of other works in Hadith as well.

The Commentators

Then in the age of the commentators of the Hidaya, a number of them were great Hadith masters. Amongst them, Shams al-Din al-Saruji.

There was a great resurgence of Hanafi Hadith scholarship, particularly in Cairo in the 8th and 9th Islamic centuries. Among those who emerged in the 8th Islamic century was Imam Jamal al-Din Abd Allah ibn Yusuf al-Zayla‘i (d.762AH). There are others also.

In the 9th Islamic century, one of the notables was Imam al-Hafiz Badr al-Din al-Ayni (d.855AH). His name is Mahmud ibn Ahmad. He is one of the two great commentators on Sahih al-Bukhari and he wrote other important works in the science of Hadith commentary and in the other Hadith sciences as well. 

In that 9th century you also see Imam Kamal al-Din ibn al-Humam (d.861AH). He authored Fath al-Qadir, the greatest commentary on the Hidaya. This commentary manifests his brilliance, depth of knowledge and expertise in the science of Hadith. Contrary to what some would baselessly argue. There are others like Imam Taqi al-Din al-Shumuni (d.872AH).

Kanz al-Ummal

Of the closest students of Ibn al-Humam was the great Sudanese Hafiz Allama Qasim ibn Qutlubugha (d.879AH). His brilliance in the science of Hadith is manifest in many of his works.

Also late in the 9th century is the great Abd al-Latif ibn Abd al-Aziz, known as Ibn Malak (d.885AH). His son was also a great Hadith master. 

In the 10th century there was the great Indian Hadith master, the student of Imam Suyuti, Imam Ali al-Muttaqi al-Hindi, who wrote Kanz al-Ummal

In the 11th century there was the great Afghani Hadith master Ali ibn Sultan Muhammad al-Qari – famous as Mullah Ali al-Qari (d.1014AH). He wrote the great commentary on Mishkat al-Masabih and many other great books. 

Mishkat al-Masabih

There was also the emergence of great Hadith Imams in the 11th century of the Indian subcontinent. The great Hadith scholar of India Shah Abdul-Haq al-Dehlawi (d.1052) wrote one of the great commentaries on Mishkat al-Masabih and many other important works. He was one of the great revivers of Hadith teaching in the Indian lands.

Also Imam Abdul-Ghani ibn Ismail  (d.1143AH) has many important works in the science of Hadith. Likewise, in the Ottoman lands there was Shaykh Abdullah al-Amasi who wrote possibly the largest commentary ever on Sahih al-Bukhari

In the beginning of the 13th Islamic century there was a marvel of Islamic history, the great scholar from India originally, Sayyid Muhammad Murtada al-Zabidi. He wrote many important works in the science of Hadith. 

Great Commentaries

Later in the 13th century there was the great Imam, Muhammad Abid al-Sindi (d.1257AH). He wrote a large commentary on the Musnad of Imam Abu Hanifa.  

At the beginning of the 14th Islamic century there was Imam Muhammad Abd al-Hayy al-Laknawi (d.1304). He wrote great works in Hanafi fiqh, Hadith commentary and in the science of Hadith. He died at the age of 39, having authored over 125 books. 

In the 14th Islamic century, there was also the teacher of the teachers of Imam al-Kawthari, Imam Ahmad Dia al-Din al-Kumushkhanawi. He wrote a beautiful collection of 10,000 hadith called Ramuz al-Hadith and he commented upon it.

There was a great Hadith revival in India, partly as a result of the attacks on the Hanafis, from the 19th century. 

From the time of Abu Hanifa, till our time, every generation of Hanafis has had great scholars of Hadith. Their contributions in the science of Hadith are recognized across the Umma. 

After all the above, any claim that suggests Hanafis were disconnected from Hadith is evidently baseless. 

A Critical Minority

Most of the hadith scholars were fair with respect to the Hanafi narrators of hadith and to the Hanafi school. There was a small minority of hadith scholars who were critical and unfair. This is an exception. 

Some of it arose due to pathological differences. Some Hanafi narrators were deemed weak because they narrate different types of mursal narration. That is a difference of opinion. 

Others saw the Hanafi narrators applying Hanafi principles when it came to accepting and rejecting narrators. That difference led to those narrators themselves being questioned because of how they were narrating. 

Some Hanafis were excluded from being mentioned among the Hadith narrators particularly because they were in distant lands.

In general, there are not many biographies of them. Partly due to the fall of the central Asian lands, but also because they were outside the sphere of the scholars of Hadith.