Abu Hanifah

Abu Hanifa an-Nu‘man

Al-Imam al-A'zam (الامام الاعظم) "The Greatest Imam" Nu’man bin Thabit bin Zuta bin Mahan (النعمان بن ثابت‎), better known by his kunya as Abū Ḥanīfah, (أبو حنيفة‎) (699 — 767 CE / 80 — 148 AH) was the founder of the Sunni Hanafi school of Islamic jurisprudence.

Abu Hanifa was also one of the Tabi'een, the generation after the Sahaba, because he saw the Sahabi Anas ibn Malik, and transmitted hadiths from him and other Sahaba.

Name, Birth and Ancestry

Abu Hanifa (699 — 767 CE / 80 — 148 AH) was born in Kufa, Iraq during the reign of the powerful Umayyad caliph Abdul Malik bin Marwan. Acclaimed as Al-Imam al-A'zam, or Al-A'dham (the Great Imam), Nu’man bin Thabit bin Zuta bin Mah was better known by his kunya Abu Hanifa. It was not a true kunya, as he did not have a son called Hanifa, but an epithetical one meaning pure in monotheistic belief. His father, Thabit bin Zuta, a trader from Kabul, part of Khorasan in Persia (the capital of modern day Afghanistan), was 40 years old at the time of Abu Hanifa's birth.

His ancestry is generally accepted as being of non-Arab origin as suggested by the etymology of then names of his grandfather (Zuta) and great-grandfather (Mah). The historian, Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi, records a statement from Abu Hanifa's grandson, Ismail bin Hammad, who gave Abu Hanifa's lineage as Thabit bin Numan bin Marzban and claiming to be of Persian origin. The discrepancy in the names, as given by Ismail of Abu Hanifa's grandfather and great-grandfather are thought to be due to Zuta's adoption of a muslim name (Numan) upon his acceptance of Islam and that Mah and Marzban were titles or official designations in Persia. Further differences of opinion exist on his ancestry. Abu Muti, for example, describes Abu Hanifa as an Arab citing his ancestry as Numan bin Thabit bin Zuta bin Yahya bin Zaid bin Asad. The widely accepted opinion, however, is that he was of Persian ancestry.

Status as a Tabi'i

Abu Hanifa was born 67 years after the death of the Islamic prophet, Muhammad, but during the time of the companions of Muhammad, some of whom lived on until Abu Hanifa's youth. Anas bin Malik, Muhammad's personal attendant, died in 93AH and another companion, Abul Tufail Amir bin Wathilah, died in 100 AH, when Abu Hanifa was 20 years old. No evidence exists, however, to indicate Abu Hanifa had narrated any hadith from the companions although there is no doubt that he was a "tabi'i" (one who had met a companion of Muhammad) and had met Anas bin Malik.

It is perceived this is due to the strict age requirements for learning the discipline of hadith that existed at the time in Kufa where no one below the age of 20 was admitted to a hadith school. The scholars of the time felt anyone below this age would not have attained the maturity required to be able to understand the meaning of the narrations.

Another research of present time, taking all sources of Sunni and Shia, Abu Hanifa had narrated 12 ahadith from the companions. Ref Al Minhaj Us Sawwee by Dr Tahir Ul Qadri, an eminent Scholar of present time in Hanafi School of thought. This published research is verified by all known scholars of Al-Azhar University.

According to Imam Bukhari, 3 year of age is accepted to be valid for listening Hadith and narrated after unless the person is not authority in Hadith afterwards.

Early Life and Education

Abu Hanifa grew up in a period of oppression during the caliphates of Abdul Malik bin Marwan and his son Walid bin Abdul Malik. The governorship of Iraq was under the control of Al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf, a loyal follower of Abdul Malik. During his governorship leaders in religion and learning were especially targeted by Hajjaj as they were proving to be an obstacle to Abdul Malik's establishment of his rule across Arabia and Iraq. Consequently, Abu Hanifa had no interest nor the opportunity to acquire any education in his early childhood. He was simply content with following in the footsteps of his ancestors as a businessman.

He set up a silk weaving business where he showed scrupulous honesty and fairness. Once his agent in another country, sold some silk cloth on his behalf but forgot to point out a slight defect to the purchasers. When Abu Hanifa learned this, he was greatly distressed as he had no means of refunding their money. He immediately ordered the entire proceeds of the sale of the consignment of silk to be distributed to the poor.

Following the deaths of Hajjaj in 95 AH and Walid in 96 AH, justice and good administration began to make a comeback with the caliphates of Sulaiman bin Abdul Malik and thereafter Umar bin Abdul Aziz. Umar encouraged education to such an extent that every home became a madrassah. Abu Hanifa also began to take an interest in education which was heightened further by the unexpected advice of as-Sha'bi (d. 722), one of Kufa's most well-known scholars.

While running an errand for his mother, he happened to pass the home of as-Sha'bi. Sha'bi, mistaking him for a student, asked him whose classes he attended. When Abu Hanifa responded that he did not attend any classes, Sha'bi said, "I see signs of intelligence in you. You should sit in the company of learned men." Taking Sha'bi's advice, Abu Hanifa embarked on a prolific quest for knowledge that would in due course have a profound impact on the history of Islam. His early education was achieved through madrassahs and it is here that he learned the Qur'an and Hadith, doing exceptionally well in his studies. He spent a great deal of time in the tutelage of Hammad ibn Abi Sulayman, a great jurist of Kufah.


In 763, al-Mansur, the Abbasid monarch offered Abu Hanifa the post of Chief Judge of the State, but he declined to accept the offer, choosing to remain independent. His student Abu Yusuf was appointed Qadi Al-Qadat (Chief Judge of the State) of al-Mansur regime instead of himself.

In his reply to al-Mansur, Abu Hanifa excused himself by saying that he did not regard himself fit for the post. Al-Mansur, who had his own ideas and reasons for offering the post, lost his temper and accused Abu Hanifa of lying.

"If I am lying," Abu Hanifa said, "then my statement is doubly correct. How can you appoint a liar to the exalted post of a Chief Qadi (Judge)?"

Incensed by this reply, the ruler had Abu Hanifa arrested and locked in prison and tortured. Even there, the indomitable jurist continued to teach those who were permitted to come to him.

In 767, Abu Hanifa died in prison. It was said that so many people attended his funeral that the funeral service was repeated six times for more than 50,000 people who had amassed before he was actually buried.

Some of Abu Hanifa's Literary Works

  • Kitaab-ul-Aathar - compiled from a total of 70,000 ahadith
  • Kitabul Assar
  • Aalim wa'l-muta‘allim
  • Fiqh al-Akbar
  • Jaami’ul Masaneed
  • Kitaabul Rad alal Qaadiriyah

See also


External links and References

Search another word or see Abu Hanifahon Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2015 Dictionary.com, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature