T H E    F O U R    I M A M S

Al-Imam al-A’zam Abu Hanifah (rahmatullahi ta’ala ‘alaih)

(80 - 150 A.H),(628 - 698 A.D)

Al-Imam al-azam Abu Hanifa's name was Numan. His father's name was Thabit. His grandfather's name was Numan, too. He was the first of the four great imams of the Ahl as-Sunnat. 'Imam' means 'profoundly learned scholar.' He was one of the main pillars of the brilliant religion of Muhammad ('alaihi 's-salam). He was a descendant of a Persian notable. His grandfather had embraced Islam. He was born in Kufa in 80 (698 A.D.). He was born early enough to see Anas ibn Malik, 'Abdullah ibn Abi Awfa, Sahl ibn Sad as-Sa'idi and Abu al-Fadl Amir ibn Wasila, four Sahabis (radi-Allahu ta'ala anhum). He learned 'ilm al-fiqh from Hammad ibn Abi Sulaiman. Hammad, who was one of the greatest Imams of the time, owned the biggest school in Kufa. Abu Hanifa joined his school. Hammad was impressed by the intelligence. He enjoyed the companionship of many notables of the Tabiin, and of Imam Jafar as-Sadiq (rahmat-Allahi ta'ala 'alaih). He memorized innumerable hadiths. He was brought up so as to become a great judge, but he became an imam al-madhhab. He had a superior, and amazingly keen intellect. In 'ilm al-fiqh, he attained an unequalled grade in a short time. His name and fame became world-wide.

Yazid ibn 'Amr, Governor of Iraq during the time of Marwan ibn Muhammad, the fourteenth and last Umayyad Khalifa, who was a grandson of Marwan ibn Hakam (rahmat-Allahi ta'ala 'alaih) and was killed five years after assuming the caliphate in Egypt in 132 (750 A.D.), proposed to Abu Hanifa (rahmat-Allahi ta'ala 'alaih) to become a judge for the law-court of Kufa. But, since he had as much zuhd, taqwa and wara' as he had knowledge and intellect, he refused it. He was afraid of not being able to safeguard human rights because of human weaknesses. With a command from Yazid, he was given a whipping, hundred and ten blows to the head. His blessed face and head swelled. The next day, Yazid took the Imam out and oppressed him by repeating his offer. The Imam said, "Let me consult," and obtained permission to leave. He went to the blessed city of Mecca and stayed there for five or six years.

The 'Abbasid Khalifa Abu Jafar Mansur (rahmat-Allahi ta'ala 'alaih) commanded him to be the chief of the Supreme Court of Appeal in 150 A.H. [767 A.D.]. He refused it and was put into jail. He was subjected to whipping, ten blows more every following day. When the number of whipping reached one hundred, he attained martyrdom. Abu Sad Muhammad ibn Mansur al-Harizmi (rahmat-Allahi ta'ala 'alaih), one of the viziers of Malikshah (447-485 A.H., the third Saljuqi Sultan and the son of Sultan Alparslan), had a wonderful dome built over his grave. Afterwards, Ottoman emperors embellished and had his tomb restored several times.

Abu Hanifa (rahmat-Allahi ta'ala 'alaih) was the first who compiled and classified 'ilm al-fiqh, and he gathered information for each branch of knowledge. He wrote the books Fara'id and Shurut. There are innumerable books describing his extensive knowledge on fiqh; his extraordinary ability in qiyas; and his dumbfounding superiority in zuhd, taqwa, mildness and righteousness. He had many disciples, some of whom became great mujtahids.

The Hanafi Madhhab spread far and wide during the time of the Ottoman Empire. It almost became the official Madhhab of the State. Today, more than half of the Muslims on the earth and most of the Ahl as-Sunnat perform their 'ibada according to the Hanafi Madhhab. Citation from the book Kamus-ul alam ends here.

The book Mir'at al-ka'inat states:

The ancestors of al-Imam al-azam (rahmat-Allahi ta'ala 'alaih) come from the province of Faris, Iran. His father, Thabit, had met Imam 'Ali (radi-Allahu 'anh) in Kufa and Hadrat 'Ali had pronounced a benediction over him and his descendants. Al-Imam al-azam was one of the greatest among the Tabiin and saw Anas ibn Malik (radi-Allahu 'anh) and three or seven more of the as-Sahabat al-kiram. He learned hadith-i sharifs from them.

A hadith ash-Sharif, which al-Imam al-Harizmi reported from Abu Huraira (radi-Allahu 'anh) through isnad muttasil (an uninterrupted chain of reporters), states: "Among my Umma, there will come a man called Abu Hanifa. On the Day of Resurrection, he will be the light of my Umma." Another hadith ash-Sharif states: "A man named Numan ibn Thabit and called Abu Hanifa will appear and will revive Allahu ta'ala's Religion and my Sunnat." And another one states: "In every century, a number of my Umma will attain to high grades. Abu Hanifa will be the highest of his time." These three hadiths are written in the book Mawduat al-'Ulum and in Durr al-mukhtar. This hadith ash-Sharif is also well-known: "Among my Umma, a man called Abu Hanifa will appear. There is a beauty-spot between his two shoulder blades. Allahu ta'ala will revive His Religion through his hand."

[Preface to Durr al-mukhtar writes: "A hadith ash-Sharif states: 'As Adam ('alaihi 's-salam) was proud of me so I am proud of a man of my Umma named Numan and called Abu Hanifa. He is the light of my Umma.' " Another hadith ash-Sharif states: "Prophets ('alaihimu 's-salam) are proud of me. And I am proud of Abu Hanifa. He who loves him will have loved me. He who feels hostility towards him will have felt hostility towards me."

An alim dreamt of Rasulullah (sall-Allahu 'alaihi wa sallam) and asked him, 'What would you say about Abu Hanifa's knowledge?' He answered, 'Everybody needs his knowledge.' Another alim asked in his dream, 'O Rasul-Allah! What would you say about the knowledge Numan ibn Thabit has, who lives in Kufa?' He answered, "Learn from him and do as he says. He is a very good person." Imam 'Ali (radi-Allahu 'anh) said, "Let me inform you of a person called Abu Hanifa, who will live in Kufa. His heart will be full of knowledge and hikma (wisdom). Towards the end of the world, many people will perish because of not appreciating him, just as the Shiites will perish because of not having appreciated Abu Bakr and 'Umar (radi-Allahu 'anhuma)." Imam Muhammad al-Baqir ibn Zain al-'Abidin 'Ali ibn Husain (rahmat-Allahi 'alaihim, b. 57 A.H. in Medina and d. 113, buried in the shrine of Hadrat 'Abbas [radi-Allahu 'anh] in Medina) looked at Abu Hanifa and said, "When those who destroy the religion of my ancestors increase in number, you will revive it. You will be the savior of those who fear and the shelter of those who are confused! You will lead the heretics to the right way! Allahu ta'ala will help you!" When he was young, al-Imam al-azam (rahmat-Allahi ta'ala 'alaih) studied 'ilm al-kalam and marifa and became very skillful. Then after serving Imam Hammad for twenty-eight years, he attained maturity. When Hammad passed away, he took his place as a mujtahid and Mufti. His knowledge and superiority became known far and wide. His virtue, intelligence, sagacity, zuhd, taqwa, trustworthiness, readiness of wit, devotion to Islam, righteousness and his perfection in every respect as a human being were above those of all others of his time. All the mujtahids and those who succeeded him and noble people -even Christians- praised him. Al-Imam ash-Shafi'i (rahmat-Allahi ta'ala 'alaih) said, "All men of fiqh are Abu Hanifa's children." He said once, "I get blessings (tabarruk) from Abu Hanifa['s soul]. I visit his tomb every day. When I am in difficulty, I go to his tomb and perform two rak'as of salat. I invoke Allahu ta'ala, and He gives me what I wish." Al-Imam al-azam Abu Hanifa's two leading disciples were al-Imam Muhammad bin Mubarak al-Shaybani and Al-Imam Abu Yusuf al-Ansari (rahmat-Allahi ta'ala 'alaihim). , "Allahu ta'ala bestowed knowledge upon me through two persons. I learned the Hadith ash-Sharif from Sufyan ibn 'Uyayna and fiqh from Muhammad ash-Shaibani."

Al-Imam al-azam acquired knowledge from four thousand people.

In the Hanafi Madhhab, five hundred thousand religious problems were solved and all of them were answered.

He earned his living in a halal way by trading. He sent goods to other places and with his earnings he met the needs of his disciples. He spent much for his household and gave an equal amount as alms to the poor. Moreover, every Friday he distributed twenty gold coins to the poor for his parents' souls. He did not stretch his legs towards his teacher Hammad's (rahmat-Allahi ta'ala 'alaih) house, though he lived at a distance of seven streets away. After brigands had raided the villages of Kufa and had stolen sheep, he, thinking that these stolen sheep might be slaughtered and sold in the town, did not eat mutton for seven years, for he knew that a sheep lived seven years at the longest. He abstained from the haram to that degree. He observed Islam in his every action.

For forty years al-Imam al-azam (rahmat-Allahi ta'ala 'alaih) performed the morning prayer with the ablution he had made for the night prayer [that is, he did not sleep after the night prayer.] He performed hajj fifty-five times. During the last one, he went into the Kaba, performed a prayer of two rak'as and recited the whole Qur'an al-karim during the prayer. Then, weeping, he invoked, "O my Allahu ta'ala! I have not been able to worship Thee in a manner worthy of Thee. Yet I have understood very well that Thou cannot be comprehended through intelligence. For this understanding of mine, please forgive the defects in my service! At that moment a voice was heard, "O Abu Hanifa! You have acknowledged Me very well and have served Me beautifully. I have forgiven you and those who will be in your Madhhab and follow you until the end of the world." He read Qur'an al-karim from the beginning to the end once every day and once every night.

(Crying out of love for Allah ta'ala in salat does not break the salat in the Hanafi Madhhab).

Al-Imam al-azam had so much taqwa that for thirty years he fasted every day [except the five days of a year on which it is haram to fast]. He often read the whole Qur'an al-karim in one rak'a or two.He used to make 60 complete recitations (khatma) of Qur’an every Ramadan: one in the day, one in the night, besides his teaching and other duties. Ibrahim ibn Rustum al-Marwazi said: "Four are the Imams that recited the entire Qur’an in a single rak`a: `Uthman ibn `Affan, Tamim al-Dari, Sa`id ibn Jubayr, and Abu Hanifa." Ibn al-Mubarak said: "Abu Hanifa for a long time would pray all five prayers with a single ablution. He wore clothes like those of the poor. Yet at times, in order to exhibit the blessings of Allahu ta'ala, he wore very valuable clothes. He stayed in Mecca for several years. Only at the place where his soul was taken, he had read the whole Qur'an al-karim seven thousand times. He said, "I laughed once in my life, and I regret it." He talked little and thought much.

The Khalifa Mansur revered the Imam very much. He presented him ten thousand aqchas and a jariya. The Imam did not accept them. At that time one aqcha was worth one dirham of silver. In 145 A.H., Ibrahim ibn 'Abdullah ibn Hasan ibn 'Ali was recruiting men in order to help his brother Muhammad (rahmat-Allahi ta'ala 'alaihim ajmain), who had proclaimed himself the Khalifa in al-Madinat al-munawwara. When he came to Kufa, it was rumored that Abu Hanifa was helping him. Mansur heard this and had the Imam taken from Kufa to Baghdad. He told him to tell everybody that Mansur was rightfully the Khalifa. He offered him the presidency of the Supreme Court of Appeal as a recompense. He imposed on him very much. The Imam did not accept it. Mansur imprisoned him and had him thrashed with a stick thirty strokes. His blessed feet bled. Mansur repented and sent him thirty thousand aqchas, only to be refused again. He was imprisoned again and thrashed ten strokes more every day. [According to some report] on the eleventh day, for fear that the people might rebel, he was forced to lie down on his back and poisonous drink (sherbet a sweet fruit drink) was poured into his mouth. As he was about to die, he prostrated (sajda). Some fifty thousand people performed janaza salat for him. Because of the enormous crowd, it was performed with difficulty and finished not before the late afternoon prayer. For twenty days many people came to his tomb and performed janaza salat for him near his tomb.

He had seven hundred and thirty disciples. Each of them was famed for his virtue and pious deeds. Many of them became Qadis or Muftis. His son Hammad (rahmat-Allahi ta'ala alaih) was one of his notable disciples. Passages from the book Mirat-ul-kainat ends here.

They have been leaders guiding the ahl-i din, rahmat-Allahi 'alaihim ajmain.

There were some disagreements between al-Imam al-azam and his disciples on the information that was to be deduced through ijtihad. The following hadith ash-Sharif declares that these disagreements were useful: "Disagreement (on the 'amal, practices) among my Umma is [Allahu ta'ala's] compassion." He feared Allahu ta'ala very much and was very careful in following Qur'an al-karim. He said to his disciples, "If you come across a document (sanad) inconsistent with my words on a subject, ignore my words and follow that document." All his disciples swore, "Even our words inconsistent with his words surely depend on a proof (dalil, sanad) we had heard from him."

The Great Imam died in Baghdad in 150 A.H at the age of seventy.( May Allah be pleased with him ) Ameen.