‘insider’s view’ of the way they thought, learned, and lived.
Learn from the lives of the very people who attained ultimate success –in the Dunya and the Akhirah.
Who were these great people?
They were the men and women who carried the standard of Islam.
Those who sought to enliven the vision of La illaha illa Allah through the power of their words and the beauty of their actions.
Those who refused to rest, in the hope of benefiting others - others, like you and I, who thousands of years after their passing
continue to benefit from the fruits of their labour.
They are the ‘Ulema of Islaam.
“The virtue of the scholar to a worshipper is similar to the virtue of the moon when it is full to the rest of the stars”
1.The sharpest minds.
2. The best manners.
3 The highest degree of Discipline.
Better known as `Imam-e-`Adham' (The Greatest Imam), or by his kunyah `Abu Hanifah', Nu'man ibn Thabit was born in the
city of Kufa (modern day Iraq) in the year 80 A.H (689 A.D). Born into a family of tradesmen, the Imam's family were of Persian
origin as well as descending from the noble Prophet's (saw) Companion Salman al-Farsi (ra). Imam Abu Hanifah's father,
Thabit, had met in Kufa Imam `Ali Ibn Abi Talib (ra) who made dua for him and his progeny, and some say that Abu Hanifahwas a result of this dua.
A Wise Young Muslim Boy........
Many years ago, during the time of the Tâbi'în (the generation of Muslims after the Sahâbah), Baghdâd was a great city of
Islam. In fact, it was the capital of the Islamic Empire and, because of the great number of scholars who lived there, it was the center of Islamic knowledge.
One day, the ruler of Rome at the time sent an envoy to Baghdad with three challenges for the Muslims. When the messenger reached the city, he informed the khalîfah that he had three questions which he challenged the Muslims to answer.
The khalîfah gathered together all the scholars of the city and the Roman messenger climbed upon a high platform and said, "I have come with three questions. If you answer them, then I will leave with you a great amount of wealth which I have brought from the king of Rome." As for the questions, they were: "What was there before Allâh?" "In which direction does Allâh face?"
"What is Allâh engaged in at this moment?"
The great assembly of people were silent. (Can you think of answers to these questions?) In the midst of these brilliant scholars and students of Islam was a man looking on with his young son. "O my dear father! I will answer him and silence him!" said the youth. So the boy sought the permission of the khalîfah to give the answers and he was given the permission to do so.
The Roman addressed the young Muslim and repeated his first question, "What was there before Allâh?"
The boy asked, "Do you know how to count?"
"Yes," said the man.
"Then count down from ten!" So the Roman counted down, "ten, nine, eight, ..." until he reached "one" and he stopped counting
"But what comes before 'one'?" asked the boy.
"There is nothing before one- that is it!" said the man.
"Well then, if there obviously is nothing before the arithmetic 'one', then how do you expect that there should be anything before the 'One' who is Absolute Truth, All-Eternal, Everlasting the First, the Last, the Manifest, the Hidden?"
Now the man was surprised by this direct answer which he could not dispute. So he asked, "Then tell me, in which direction is
"Bring a candle and light it," said the boy, "and tell me in which direction the flame is facing."
"But the flame is just light- it spreads in each of the four directions,
North, South, East and West. It does not face any one direction only," said the man in wonderment.
The boy cried, "Then if this physical light spreads in all four directions such that you cannot tell me which way it faces, then what do you expect of the Nûr-us-Samâwâti-wal-'Ard: Allâh - the Light of the Heavens and the Earth!? Light upon Light, Allâh faces all directions at all times."
The Roman was stupified and astounded that here was a young child answering his challenges in such a way that he could not argue against the proofs. So, he desperately wanted to try his final question. But before doing so, the boy said,
"Wait! You are the one who is asking the questions and I am the one who is giving the answer to these challenges. It is only fair that you should come down to where I am standing and that I should go up where you are right now, in order that the answers may be heard as clearly as the questions."
This seemed reasonable to the Roman, so he came down from where he was standing and the boy ascended the platform.
Then the man repeated his final challenge, "Tell me, what is Allâh doing at this moment?"
The boy proudly answered, "At this moment, when Allâh found upon this high platform a liar and mocker of Islam, He caused
him to descend and brought him low. And as for the one who believed in the Oneness of Allâh, He raised him up and
established the Truth. Every day He exercises (universal) power (Surah 55 ar-Rahmân, Verse 29)."
The Roman had nothing to say except to leave and return back to his country, defeated. Meanwhile, this young boy grew up to become one of the most famous scholars of Islam. Allâh, the Exalted, blessed him with special wisdom and knowledge of the deen. His name was Abu Hanîfah (rahmatullâh 'alayhi- Allâh have mercy on him) and he is known today as Imâm-e-A'dham, the Great Imâm and scholar of Islam.
A hadith given by al-Bukhari and Muslim states that Abu Hurairah (ra) narrated Allah's Messenger (saw) as saying:"If the Religion were at the Pleiades, even then a person from Persia would have taken hold of it, or one amongst the Persian descent would surely have found it." Abu Hurairah (ra) also narrates:"We were sitting in the company of Allah's Apostle (saw) when
Surat al-Jum`a was revealed to him and when he recited amongst them, (those who were sitting there) said `Allah's Messenger?' but Allah's Apostle (saw) made no reply, until he was questioned once, twice or thrice, and there was amongst us Salman the Persian. Allah's Apostle (saw) placed his hand on Salman and then said:"Even if faith were near the Pleiades, a
man from amongst these would surely find it."
Imam as-Suyuti a Shafi'i alim (rh) remarked:"It has been communicated unanimously that this hadith refers to Imam Abu Hanifah."
Kufa at the time of the Imam's birth was a great center of knowledge and learning, with many of the noble Prophet's (saw)
Companions (ra) having taken residence there. Due to the presence of these venerable people who had engendered so much
interest in hadith and riwayat that practically every house in Kufa had become a center of these disciples and their disciplines.
At first, Imam Abu Hanifah was not a student of knowledge. However, by coincidence, while one day passing by the house of Sha'bi (an acclaimed "Great Scholar among the Successors (rh)"), Abu Hanifah was called in by the shaykh who mistook him for a student. "Where are you going young man?" asked Sha'bi. Abu Hanifah named the merchant he was going to see. "I meant to ask," asked Sha'bi, "Whose classes you attend?" "Nobody's," replied the Imam regretfully. "I see signs of intelligence in you," began Sha'bi,"you should sit in the company of learned men."
It was after this encounter that the young Imam began his quest for knowledge. Imam Abu Hanifah acquired knowledge from over four thousand people. His teachers included many prestigious men of the time whose sanad went back to a number of Companions (ra). He himself was blessed with the meeting of the Companions: Anas ibn Malik, Abdullah ibn Afwa and Sahl ibn Sa'ad (ra), thus gaining him the rank of being a Tabi'i (Successor to the Companions).
Amongst Imam Abu Hanifah's shayukh was Hammad ibn Sulayman, he joined his circle at the age of 22, having already become a well-known debater and studied with this shaykh until the latter's death, whereupon he took over his majlis (circle) at the age of forty. Shu'ba, a leading muhaddith who knew-by-heart two thousand traditions was also a teacher of Imam Abu
Hanifah. Shu'ba was greatly attached to Imam Abu Hanifah saying: "Just as I know that the sun is bright, I know that learning and Abu Hanifah are doubles of each other."
The Imam's quest for knowledge inevitably took him to the Holy Sanctuaries, at a time when Makkah was a busy center for learning. A number of acknowledged masters of hadith, who had had access to the Prophet's (saw) Companions (ra) had
established their own schools there. Of these was `Ata bin Rabah's (rh) school. `Ata was a famous Tabi'i who had associated with most of the Companions (ra) and acquired from this association a status of authority. He himself claimed to have met two hundred men who had associated with the Noble Prophet (saw). The leading Companions (ra) all acknowledged his learning.
Abdullah ibn `Umar (ra), son of the Caliph `Umar (ra) often used to say:"Why do people come to me when `Ata ibn Abi Rabah is there for them to go to?" Of the other Muhaddithin of Makkah whose classes the Imam attended was `Ikrimah. He was the slave and pupil of Abdullah ibn `Abbas, who educated him with great care and attention, making him so proficient that he,
during his own lifetime gave Imam Abu Hanifah the authority to exercise personal judgement and rulings. "Imam Abu Hanifah was the first to analyze Islamic jurisprudence, divide it into subjects, distinguish its issues and determine the range and criteria
for analytical reasoning (qiyas)."
Al-Hafiz al-Kabir Abu Bakr Ahmad al-Harizmi wrote in his book"Musnad":
`Saif al-Aimma' reports that when Imam Abu Hanifah derived a matter from the Qur'an and Hadith, he would not give the answer to the inquirer unless all of them [his students] confirmed it. One thousand of Abu Hanifah's disciples attended all his classes when he taught in the Mosque of Kufa City. Forty of them were mujtahids. When he would find an answer for a matter, he
would suggest to his students who would study it together, and when they reached an agreement of it being consistent with the Qur'an and Hadith, and with the words of the Sahabah (ra), he would be delighted and say, "Al-hamdu li'llah wallahu Akbar," and all those who were present would repeat his words. Then he would tell them to write it down.
Ibn `Abd al-Barr relates in"Al-Intiqa'":
`Abd Allah ibn Ahmad al-Dawraqi said:"Ibn Ma'inn was asked about Abu Hanifah as I was listening, so he said"He is trustworthy (thiqatun), I never heard that anyone had weakened him." No less than Shu'ba wrote to him [for narrations], and ordered him to narrate hadith.'
..Ibn Hajar said in Kharija ibn al-Salt's notice in"Tahdhib al-Tahdhib":
Ibn Abi Khaythama said:"If al-Shu'bi narrates from someone and names him, that man is trustworthy (thiqa) and his narration is used as proof (yuhtajju bi hadithihi)".
Many well-known shuyukh narrated from Imam Abu Hanifah, to name but a few: al-Thawri, ibn al-Mubarak, Hammad ibn Zayd and `Abd al-Razzaq (one of Imam al-Bukhari's shaykhs.) Al-Mizzi in"Tahdhib al-Kamal" names about one hundred names of those who narrated from Imam Abu Hanifah.
Imam as-Shafi'i (rh) is recorded to have stated:"All men of fiqh are Abu Hanifah's children" and"I would not have acquired
anything of knowledge had it not been for my teacher. All men of knowledge are children of the ulema of Iraq, who were the disciples of the ulema of Kufa, and they were the disciples of Abu Hanifah."
The Hanafi madhhab, entitled after the Imam, spread far-and-wide during the time of the Ottoman Empire. Today, more than half of the Muslims on the earth perform their `ibabadah according to the Hanafi madhhab. The Hanafi school has decided court cases in the majority of Islamic lands for the greater part of Islamic history, including the `Abbasid and Ottoman periods.
Not only was Imam Abu Hanifah's extraordinary mind and knowledge something to be admired, but so too was his exemplary
character and piety. Al-Dhahabi writes:"Accounts of his piety and devotion have reached a degree of tawatur (i.e., an unbroken chain of uncontradicted narrations)."
He was given the title of"The `Peg'" by some, for his continuous standing in prayer, often reciting the entire Qur'an in his nightly rakahs. He performed the Fajr prayer with the ablution made for the Isha prayers for forty years (due to him praying the whole night through). It is reported that he had recited the whole Qur'an seven thousand times in the place where he died.
He earned his living through trade (sending goods to other places), and with the earnings he made, he met the needs of his students. He gave much to charity and every Friday he would distribute twenty gold coins to the poor for his parents' souls.
In the year 146 A.H, Abu Hanifah was sent to prison by Mansur, the leader at the time, after the Imam's refusal to state that Mansur was the rightful khalifa, as well as refusing the position of presidency of the Supreme Court in recompense. While in prison, Imam Abu Hanifah was thrashed with a stick. Mansur repented and sent the Imam money, only to be refused again. By
now, Imam Abu Hanifah had become well-known and thousands flocked to meet and seek his opinion wherever he went. His imprisonment far from reduced his popularity, and Mansur realized that he would have to treat the Imam carefully, thus he allowed him to teach while still in prison. Mansur finally decided to do away with the great Imam and had him poisoned. Abu
Hanifah, feeling the effects of the poison, bent down in prayer and died in the month of Rajab. News of the Imam's death reached far-and-wide, and thousands gathered at the prison.The city Qadi washed his body, and kept repeating:"By God, you were the greatest faqih and the most pious man of our time ..."
By the time the bathing was finished, so many people had assembled that the funeral prayer was performed attended by fifty thousand people.
The Great Imam died in Baghdad in 150 A.H at the age of seventy. May Allah (swt) be pleased with him. Ameen
Al-Nu`man ibn Thabit al-Taymi, al-Imam Abu Hanifa (d. 150), called "The Imam" by Abu Dawud, and "The Imam, one of those
who have reached the sky" by Ibn Hajar, he is known in the Islamic world as "The Greatest Imam" (al-imâm al-a`zam) and his school has the largest number of followers among the four schools of Ahl al-Sunna. He is the first of the four mujtahid imams and the only Successor (tâbi`i) among them, having seen the Companions Anas ibn Malik, `Abd Allah ibn Abi Awfa, Sahl ibn
Sa`d al-Sa`idi, Abu al-Tufayl, and `Amir ibn Wathila.
Abu Hanifa is the first in Islam to organize the writing of fiqh under sub-headings embracing the whole of the Law, beginning with purity (tahara) followed by prayer (sala), an order which was retained by all subsequent scholars such as Malik, Shafi`i,
Abu Dawud, Bukhari, Muslim, Tirmidhi, and others. All these and their followers are indebted to him and give him a share of their reward because he was the first to open that road for them, according to the hadith of the Prophet: "He who starts something good in Islam has its reward and the reward of those who practice it until the Day of Judgement, without lessening in the least the reward of those who practice it. The one who starts something bad in Islam will incur its punishment and the punishment of all those who practice it until the Day of Judgement without lessening their punishment in the least." Al-Shafi`i referred to this when he said: "People are all the children of Abu Hanifa in fiqh, of Ibn Ishaq in history, of Malik in hadith, and of Muqatil in tafsîr."
Al-Khatib narrated from Abu Hanifa’s student Abu Nu`aym that the latter said: "Muslims should make du`a to Allah on behalf ofAbu Hanifa in their prayers, because the Sunan and the fiqh were preserved for them through him. Al-Dhahabi wrote one volume on the life of each of the other three great Imams and said: "The account of Abu Hanifa’s life requires two volumes." His son Hammad said as he washed his father’s body for burial: "May Allah have mercy on you! You have exhausted whoever tries to catch up with you."
Abu Hanifa was scrupulously pious and refused Ibn Hubayra’s offer of a judgeship even when the latter had him whipped. Like al-Bukhari and al-Shafi`i, 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."
Al-Shafi`i said: "Knowledge revolves around three men: Malik, al-Layth, and Ibn `Uyayna." Al-Dhahabi commented: "Rather, it revolves also around al-Awza`i, al-Thawri, Ma`mar, Abu Hanifa, Shu`ba, and the two Hammads [ibn Zayd and ibn Salama]."
Sufyan al-Thawri praised Abu Hanifa when he said: "We were in front of Abu Hanifa like small birds in front of the falcon," and Sufyan stood up for him when Abu Hanifa visited him after his brother’s death, and he said: "This man holds a high rank in knowledge, and if I did not stand up for his science I would stand up for his age, and if not for his age then for his Godwariness
(wara`), and if not for his Godwariness then for his jurisprudence (fiqh)." Ibn al-Mubarak praised Abu Hanifa and called him a sign of Allah. Both Ibn al-Mubarak and Sufyan al-Thawri said: "Abu Hanifa was in his time the most knowledgeable of all people on earth." Ibn Hajar also related that Ibn al-Mubarak said: "If Allah had not rescued me with Abu Hanifa and Sufyan [al-Thawri] I would have been like the rest of the common people." Dhahabi relates it as: "I would have been an innovator."
An example of Abu Hanifa’s perspicuity in inferring legal rulings from source-texts is his reading of the following hadith:
The Prophet said: "Your life in comparison to the lifetime of past nations is like the period between the time of the mid-afternoon prayer (‘asr) and sunset. Your example and the example of the Jews and Christians is that of a man who employed laborers and said to them: ‘Who will work for me until mid-day for one qirât (a unit of measure, part of a dinar) each?’
The Jews worked until mid-day for one qirât each. Then the man said: ‘Who will work for me from mid-day until the ‘asr prayer for one qirât each?’ The Christians worked from mid-day until the ‘asr prayer for one qirât each. Then the man said: ‘Who will work for me from the `asr prayer until the maghrib prayer for two qirât each?’ And that, in truth, is all of you. In truth, you have double the wages. The Jews and the Christians became angry and said: ‘We did more labor but took less wages.’ But Allah said: ‘Have I wronged you in any of your rights?’ They replied no. Then He said: ‘This is My Blessing which I give to whom I wish.’".
One great advantage that accrued to him from his being attached to nobody was that he could express his true opinions without fear or favour. However independent-minded and frank a man may be, he cannot help being influenced by those from whom he accepts favours. Abu Hanifah never accepted a favour from anybody throughout his life, and so he retained his independence. He sometimes used to mention this fact too.
Ibn Hubairah, governor of Kufah and a man of renown, once said to Abu Hanifah, "I would consider it a favour if you could come and see me occasionally." "What is the point in my visiting you?" replied the Imam. "If you treated me kindly, I might fall into your trap. If, on the other hand, you received me rudely, I would consider it a disgrace. I do not need anything from your treasury, and whatever I have nobody can snatch away from me." A similar conversation is said to have taken place between him and 'Isa b. Musa.
A dispute having arisen between the Caliph Mansur and his wife Harrah over an accusation made by the latter that the former was not a just ruler, Abu Hanifah was called in to arbitrate between them. The queen sat behind a veil in order to hear the Imam's verdict with her own ears. Mansur began by asking how many wives a Muslim was permitted to have at a time according to the Shari'ah. The Imam replied, "Four." "Do you hear?" shouted Mansur to the queen. "Yes, I've heard it," replied the queen. At that point the Imam addressed himself to the Caliph and added, "But this permission is for a man who is capable of doing justice. No other man can have more than one wife. God Himself says: 'If you doubt your ability to do justice (between your wives), have only one wife.' " Mansur remained silent. A little while after the Imam returned home, a servant came to him with a gift of fifty thousand dinars. "The queen," he said, "sends you her respectful salutations and says that she is grateful to you for your truthful verdict." The Imam returned the money with a message for the queen that he had expressed the opinion he had expressed not in the expectation of a reward but because it was his duty as an arbitrator to express it.
Sufyan al-Thawri, Abu Hanifa, and his two companions Muhammad ibn a-Hasan and Abu Yusuf therefore considered it better to lengthen the time between zuhr and `asr by delaying the latter prayer as long as the sun did not begin to redden, while the majority of the authorities considered that praying `asr early is better, on the basis of other sound evidence to that effect.
Like every Friend of Allah, Abu Hanifa had his enemies. `Abdan said that he heard Ibn al-Mubarak say: "If you hear them mention Abu Hanifa derogatively then they are mentioning me derogatively. In truth I fear for them Allah’s displeasure."
Authentically related from Bishr al-Hafi is the statement: "No-one criticizes Abu Hanifa except an envier or an ignoramus."
Hamid ibn Adam al-Marwazi said: I heard Ibn al-Mubarak say: "I never saw anyone more fearful of Allah than Abu Hanifa, even on trial under the whip and through money and property." .
.........Difference of Opinion................
The four Imaams had the ability and necessary knowledge to practice ijtihaad.
The differences between the Imaams are based on the different narrations or the difference of interpretation. However, all the Imaams have their proofs from the Qur'an and Sunnah. Thus it is the duty of every person, while strictly following his Imaam, to respect and honour the other Imaams and their followers.
At this point somebody may ask: "If all the Imaams deduced the laws directly from the Qur'an and Hadith, how is it possible for them to differ on various aspects?" In order to understand the reality of these differences, we will have to go back in history right upto the time of the Sahaaba (radhiallahu anhum).
Once Rasulullah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) had just returned from a battle when he ordered the Sahaaba (radhiallahu anhum) to immediately proceed to the place of Banu Quraizah — a clan of Jews who lived on the outskirts of Madina Munawwarah. The purpose was to lay a siege upon them for having broken the pact that they had made with the Muslims. In order to impress the urgency of the matter upon the Sahaaba (R.A.), Rasulullah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) said to them: "None of you should perform your salaah al-Asr except in Banu Quraizah." While the Sahaaba (R.A.) were still en-route, the time of Asr arrived. Some Sahaaba (radhiallahu anhum) felt that they should perform their Asr immediately. They regarded the instruction of Rasulullah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) as actually being a command to proceed very swiftly to their destination. It did not imply that the Asr salaah could not be performed en-route. They thus performed their salaah there. Another group of Sahaaba (radhiallahu anhum.) viewed the instruction literally. They therefore continued and only performed their Asr salaah after having reached Banu Quraizah. Later when Rasulullah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) was informed about this, he did not rebuke either group. [Sahih Bukhaari]
Thus we find that the difference arose from a point of interpretation. However, this difference of interpretation is only entertained when it comes from a person who has in-depth knowledge of Deen and has attained a mastery in the Qur'an and Hadith and the other related aspects. At times a difference of opinion occurs due to the different narrations that are found with regards to a particular aspect. One Imaam gives preference to one narration on the basis of various criteria while the other Imaam, in the light of his knowledge, prefers the other narration. This is basically the manner in which these differences occur. However, just as Rasulullah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) did not rebuke either of the two groups in the incident mentioned above, similarly since the Imaams have attained the status of a mujtahid (one who is capable of deriving the laws directly from the Qur'an and Hadith), they will not be blame worthy even if they have erred. Rasulullah (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) is reported to have said: "When a haakim (ruler) passes judgement, and after having exerted his utmost effort he arrives at the correct solution, he gets a double reward. And if he errs after having exerted his utmost ability, he gets one reward." (Bukhari vol. 2 pg. 1092). Ibn al-Munzir (R.A.) while commenting on this Hadith writes that a ruler will only get this reward if he has thorough knowledge and in the light of his knowledge he passed judgement. (see footnotes of Sahih Bukhari; ibid). The four Imaams had the ability and necessary knowledge to practice ijtihaad. Thus they fall under the ambit of this Hadith.
Allah Ta’ala Knows Best