Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Imam Abu Hanifa an-Nu'man

Al-Imam Abu Hanifah was born in Kufa in 80 AH. His given name was an-Nu`man ibn Thabit. Some historical accounts say that he was of Turkish origin. His father, a wealthy merchant, had presented himself to Ali ibn Abi Talib (ra), who gave him his blessing and prayed for his offspring.

Abu Hanifa memorized the Qur’an at an early age and taught himself Arabic language and literature, jurisprudence (fiqh), the hadiths, and theology (kalam). He debated people in the region who held heretical views and persuaded most of them. As a result, his reputation began to spread.

Feeling the presence of a large gap in knowledge concerning fiqh, he abandoned commerce and devoted himself to studying jurisprudential matters. At the same time, he continued his study of the Qur’an and the Sunnah and began deriving rulings from them. He also began researching the hadiths and examining those matters over which the Companions disagreed.

During his thirty years in the madrassah, he taught more than 4,000 students, among them such future mujtahids (a scholar who derives legal rulings) as Abu Yusuf, Muhammad ibn al-Hasan, and Hasan ibn Ziyad.

He told his students that their knowledge would be based on solid foundations as long as they adhered to the following basic tenets:

- Attend circles of knowledge and assembly, whenever one is held, and understand its teachings.
- Spend time with people of knowledge and have contact with all of the intellectual movements of the age.
- Stay with the teacher instructing them in important matters.

After spending time with several Islamic scholars, he attached himself to Hammad ibn Abi Sulayman, one of the greatest scholars of that time. Following his death, all eyes turned to Abu Hanifa’s direction.

The Umayyads were not pleased that the number of his followers continued to increase. Thus the governor of Iraq, Yazid ibn Amr, offered him the post of qadi (religious judge) to sever his influence over the public. When Abu Hanifah rejected this proposition, he was tortured for days and then imprisoned. However, he was soon released due to the government’s fear of the public’s reaction.

Abu Hanifah lived for many years in the Hijaz, and returned to Kufa after the Abbasids came to power. However, little changed under Abbasid rule. His response to Caliph al-Mansur’s request that he become qadi of Baghdad was: “If I am threatened with drowning in the River Euphrates in the event that I decline this proposal, then I prefer to drown. There are many around you who stand in need.” At this, al-Mansur had him tortured for several days. This event ruined his health, and he died in Baghdad in 150 AH. Hundreds of thousands of Muslims still visit his tomb every year.

Following al-Imam Abu Hanifa's death, his students produced books by collecting the hadiths he had related and presenting them in a systematic form. Deriving new rulings in the light of their teacher’s views, they spread his ideas throughout the Islamic world. As a result, his teachings gradually became the Hanafi school, which still has many active followers in Turkey, the Balkans, the Caucasus, Siberia, China, Pakistan, Albania, Egypt, Palestine, Syria and Iraq.

Among the four established Sunni schools of legal thought in Islam, the Hanafi school is the oldest, but it is generally regarded as the most liberal and as the one which puts the most emphasis on human reason. The Hanafi school also has the most followers among the four major Sunni schools. (Both the Ottoman Empire and the Moghul Empire were Hanafi so the Hanafi school is still widespread in their former lands). Today, the Hanafi school is predominant among the Sunnis of Central Asia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and the most of the Indian Subcontinent, China, Southeast Asia, as well as in Iraq, Turkey, Albania, the Balkans and the Caucasus.

According to Abdalhaqq Bewley:
"The madhhab of Imam Abu Hanifa (ra) was formulated in Iraq, a very different environment to that of Madina al-Munawwara where the deen had been laid down, and the number of Companions who had settled there had been too few to allow a complete picture of the Sunnah to emerge. For this reason Hanafi methodology involved the logical process of examining the Book and all available knowledge of the Sunnah and then finding an example in them analogous to the particular case under review so that Allah's deen could be properly applied in the new situation. It thus entails the use of reason in the examination of the Book and Sunnah so as to extrapolate the judgements necessary for the implementation of Islam in a new environment. It represents in essence, therefore, within the strict compass of rigorous legal and inductive precepts, the adaptation of the living and powerful deen to a new situation in order to enable it take root and flourish in fresh soil."

Some of Abu Hanifa's works that have come down to the present day are the Kitabul Rad `ala al-Khawarij, Kitab al-Rad `ala al-Qaadiriyah, Al-Fiqh al-Akbar and Al-Fiqh al-Absat.

Some noteworthy extracts from his works are given below:

“Show people as much love as you can. Greet everyone, even the very lowly. If you gather with others in an assembly and discuss various problems, during which someone expresses an idea to which you are opposed, do not oppose them. If they ask you, give your opinion, speak what is in your heart, and say that there are such and such opinions on this subject and the proof is as follows. Thus, they will listen to you and understand the degree of your knowledge.

Show some degree of knowledge to all who approach you and let each one learn something from you. Give them important things, not trivial ones. Be like a friend to them, even make witty remarks by way of jokes, because friendship and sincerity ensures the continuation of knowledge. Treat them gently and be tolerant. Show no boredom or weariness to anyone. Comport yourself as like one of them.

Trust no one’s friendship until it has been proven. Do not be friends with anyone low or vulgar. Be virtuous, generous, and deep of heart. Your clothes should be clean and new. Have a good horse to ride. Use pleasant scents. Be generous when you give people food to eat and satisfy everyone. Whenever you hear of any strife or corruption, hasten to resolve it. Visit those who visit you and those who do not. Always do good, whether others wish you good or ill. Forgive and turn a blind eye to some things. Abandon those things that distress you and try to do what is right. Visit those of your companions who fall ill, and ask after those you do not see. Take an interest in those who do not come to you.” (From Abu Hanifah’s bequest to his student Abu Yusuf.)

“Know that deeds go along with knowledge, just as the limbs move thanks to the vision of the eyes. A few good deeds with knowledge are better than much labor with ignorance. This resembles the following proverb: even if a man has little food with him, he will be saved if he knows the right path. That man is still in a better position than someone who has much food but does not know the way. As Allah (swt) tells us: ‘Are they the same – those who know and those who do not know? It is only people of intelligence who pay heed.’”

“Wish good on other people and give them advice. Go and converse with people when they see and approve of your behavior and wish to talk with you, so that you can discuss knowledge in their circles."

May each student consider him your son. Let labor directed towards [acquiring] knowledge increase every day. Do not chat with those who do not listen to you and people in the markets. Have no fear of speaking the truth to anyone. Perform more, not fewer, religious observances than the masses. Do not sit and talk with deniers and Ahl al-Bid`ah, but invite them to the religion when the circumstances are appropriate. I bequeath these things to you and to everyone. May you follow this path and lead the people to the true path.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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