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INTRODUCTION

In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious and the Most Merciful.
Praise be to Allah, for with His blessings, we are able to complete this dissertation as one
of the requirements for the subject, Islamic Revealed Knowledge. We would like to express our
deepest gratitude to our course instructor, Sir Kazzman bin Kamaruzzaman for his guidance and
supervision throughout the process, as well as our family and friends for their love, care and
endless support.
Together, we have decided to choose Imam Abu Hanifa as our topic for this particular
assignment. Imam Abu Hanifa is highly respected as one of the prestigious Mujtahid in Islamic
history. He was the first to undertake the monumental task of codifying Islamic laws into
organized and easily accessible law codes. Today, the Hanafi school of Islamic Jurisprudence is
the largest and most influential among the four schools of Fiqh.
In this assignment, we have briefly put together the biography of this eminent scholar
including his most significant contributions in several fields of study. We did extensive research
in the internet as well as books to obtain information. Let us now embark on our journey to know
Abu Hanifa, the man, his lifelong work and his contribution to Islam.

HIS EARLY LIFE


Imam Abu Hanifa was the greatest of all those who were well versed in Islamic laws
declared the Islamic scholar, Abdullah ibn Mubarrak. True, his wide, thorough knowledge of
Fiqh (Islamic Jurisprudence) was no doubt the reason he was bestowed the title Al Imam Al
Azam ( ) which means Greatest of the Imams.
The son of a successful silk-merchant businessman, Imam Abu Hanifa was given the
name Numan ibn Thabit by his father. He was born in the year 699AC in the Iraqi city of Kufa,
to a family of Persian origin. The young Abu Hanifa focused on his family silk business during
the oppressive rule of the then governor of Iraq, al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf. It was after the death of alHajjaj in 713, that, in his teens, he began to turn his attention towards the pursuit of advancing
his Islamic knowledge from some resident scholars of Kufa, especially during Governor Umar
ibn Abd Azizs rule. ( 717 720 )

EDUCATIONAL BACKGROUND
Imam Al AAzams educational journey commenced in his teenage years, when he started
to be attracted to theological debates in Kufa, the centre of intellectual activity in Iraq. Amongst
Kufas inhabitants were more than one thousand companions of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh),
including twenty four of whom participated in the Battle of Badr. It is of no surprise then that it
grew into a famous centre of hadith. Abu Hanifa was most fortunate as he had the opportunity to
meet between eight to ten companions of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), among them Anas Ibn
Malik, Sahl Ibn Sad, and Jabir Ibn Abdullah. He also travelled to Makkah and Madinah to
acquire knowledge on Islam from numerous teachers including Ata Ibn Abu Rabah and Imam
Ikrama, known as one of the greatest teachers of Hadith in Makkah at that time.
It was said that Abu Hanifas interest in Fiqh ( Islamic Jurisprudence ) was sparked by
chance. He was at first mistaken for a student by Imam Shabee, one of the prominent scholars in
Kufa, while running an errand for his mother. Later, upon discovery of his error, Shabee said, I
see signs of intelligence in you. You should sit in the company of learned men. Abu Hanifa took
Shabees advice and began to devote his time to study. However, he soon became disenchanted
with theological study and turned to law instead. Of his most prominent teacher, is Jafar Sadiq,
who is regarded by many Islamic scholars as the forefather of Islamic jurisprudence, with
massive influence on other schools of thought such as Hambali, Shafie and also Maliki. He
subsequently studied under Imam Hammad ( R.A ), Iraqs most noted jurist, for 18 years.
Hammad was impressed by the intelligence and extraordinarily retentive memory of the new
pupil who soon became his favourite and eventually his successor.
Throughout his life, Abu Hanifa benefited from the tutoring of approximately 4000
Sheikhs and memorized 4 000 hadiths of which 2 000 of it was acquired from Imam Hammad
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alone. He became an expert in the sciences of Fiqh (jurisprudence), Tafsir (exegesis of the
Quran), and Kalam (seeking theological knowledge through debate and reason). He practiced the
concept of debate and logic as one of his methodologies for seeking answers. He had a highly
matured and broad mind due to his extensive travels and exposure to a diversity of cultures in
different societies.

TRAITS AND ATTRIBUTES


Business was Imam Abu Hanifas primary source of living. He inherited his familys silk
business and was moderately wealthy. His successful and flourishing trade of textile goods was
mainly influenced by his absolute honesty. He was very much trusted by people, even the nonMuslims. He was very strict about earning money or profit through illegal and questionable
means. The prices of commodities kept in his shop were fixed. Once during his absence, one of
his pupils sold some goods at a higher price. When Abu Hanifah found out about it, he was
displeased, crying that the customer had been cheated. The Imam himself then undertook the
journey to Madinah to look for the customer and paid him the difference in price.
Imam Abu Hanifa is also well known for his exceedingly kind heart. Despite his wealth,
he always treated other people with kindness and respect. One day, while in the Masjid, the
Imam heard about a man who had fallen from a roof. In his concern, he promptly departed,
barefooted, to the place of accident to assist the poor man. Not only that, Imam Abu Hanifa paid
daily visits to the man to nurse him until he fully recovered. Masya Allah !
The Imams generosity created a feeling of respect among the masses. He was never
stingy. Once, on seeing Imam Abu Hanifa who was accompanied by Shafiq Balkhi, a passerby
tried to avoid him and quickly changed into another lane, whereupon the Imam called out to him
and asked why he turned to the other side. The man stopped and replied that he could not bear to
face the Imam as he owed him 10 000 dirhams which he could not afford to pay back. The
humbleness of the debtor moved the Imam. He told the man that he need not bother to pay him
back and apologized for causing him so much distress.

The Imam had a close relationship with people around him, and an even closer one with
Allah. He spent almost every single night doing ibadaah to Allah. The Imam was said to be one
of the four religious leaders who completed the recitation of the entire Quran in one rakaah of
salaah alone, as stated by Kharija lbn Musab. He was also a very quiet Imam, he would never
speak unless necessary. It is said that he had completed 55 pilgrimages in his lifetime and
averaged 60 complete recitations of the Quran in the month of Ramadhan.
Apart from all that has been mentioned, Imam Abu Hanifa had many other positive traits.
He had an excellent personality which made him loved by many. His strength of character,
kindness and generosity are things that Muslims today should strive to emulate.

CONTRIBUTIONS
Imam Abu Hanifa has the distinction of being the greatest jurist of Islam and also a major
legal philosopher. He was considered among the minor Taabioon (students of
the Companions) because he had met a few of the Companions and had
related some hadiths from them. The Imam had contributed so much in
various fields of sacred knowledge. These are some of his contributions to
the development of Muslims theology :
His School of Fiqh
The School of Hanafi was Imam Abu Hanifas greatest contribution. It is
one of the four orthodox sunni Islamic schools of jurisprudence. It is
considered the most open school to modern ideas. Its liberal idealism
eventually led the school to have the largest number of followers of Sunni
Muslims. Today, the school is prevalent in the following regions Turkey,
Balkans in Europe, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, parts of Iraq, Caucasus,
parts

of

Russia,

Turkmenistan,

Kazakhstan,

Kyrgyzstan,

Tajikistan,

Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, parts of India and China, and Bangladesh.

Figure 1 Hanafi School of Fiqh conquers the largest region in the Islamic countries

The Imam is a firm believer that a code of law may not be permanently applicable, as it
may no longer meet the needs of the people. Thus, by analogous deductions he endeavored to
make the simple Quranic verses applicable to a variety of circumstances. Imam Abu Hanifa was
regarded as the first to formally adopt and exercise analogical deductions as part of Islamic law.
He usually used debate as a major aspect of his methodology to derive rulings. He would
pose a legal issue to a group of his students, roughly 40 of them, and challenge them to come up
with a ruling based on Islamic sources. The students would at first attempt to find the solution in
the Quran. If it is not clearly answered, they would turn to Al Hadeeth containing the words,
actions and customs of Prophet Muhammad ( pbuh ). If it is not there either, they would exercise
Ijma (consensus of the companions), then Qiyas ( analogical reasoning ), then Istihsan
(juristic preference) and finally local Urf (local custom of people). Imam Abu
Hanifa would tell them to record the solution whenever they arrived at a
unified position. They would also debate on hypothetical problems and work
out solutions, based on the principle of preparing for a problem before its

occurrence. The Hanafites became known as the What-iffers or Ahl ar-Rai


(the opinion people).

His Books
Imam Abu Hanifa wrote a book entitled Kitab al-Athaar which was
compiled from a total of 70 000 hadiths. It was narrated by his student,
Imam Muhammad ibn Hassan al-Shaybani. The Kitab al-Athaar was the first
book writte in Islam after the generation of the Companions. It comprises of
hadiths that connect directly back to the Messenger of Allah, Prophet
Muhammad (pbuh) (marfu'), those which stop short at a Companion or one
of the Followers (mawquf) and those which are attributed to the Messenger
SAW directly by one of the Followers or Followers of the Followers without
attribution to a Companion (mursal). His other works include Fiqh-i-Akbar,
Al Alim Wal Mutaam, Musnad, Fara'id and Shurut.

A Mathematician
Abu Hanifa was a mathematician of the first magnitude. He had a thorough
knowledge about the concepts of specific density and specific volume and
implemented them in practice. He was also an excellent city planner. The
Imam was responsible of planning the city of Baghdad when it was founded
by the Caliph Al Mansur during the Abbasids in 765 CE.

Codification of Islamic Laws


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Imam Abu Hanifa was the founder of a body of intellectuals, of which he was
the president. The bodys purpose was to counsel on the codification of
Islamic doctrines and to transform the Islamic Sharia in the form of legal
laws. The number of sections of Islamic law framed by him is more than 83
000 of which 38 000 are related to religious matters and 45 000 dealing with
worldly affairs., as stated by Al Khawarizim.

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HIS DEATH
During the Caliphate of Marwan II, Yazid Ibn Umar tried to persuade Imam Abu Hanifa
to accept some respectable job in the administration but he refused. For that reason, he was put
behind bars and was flogged everyday under the orders of the governor. After a few days, he was
released. He then left Kufa and migrated to Hijaz for about two and a half years until the
takeover of the Abbasids.
Imam Abu Hanifa then returned to his native town Kufa with a brighter hope under the Abbasids.
In 763, Al Mansur, the Abbasid monarch, offered him the post of Grand Qazi ( Chief Justice of
The State ), but it was declined by him as he chose to remain independent. Abu Yusuf, one of his
students was appointed instead. Unable to accept Imam Abu Hanifas refusal to accept his offer,
Al Mansur lost his temper and accused him of lying. If I am lying, then my statement is doubly
correct. How can you appoint a liar to the exalted post of a Chief Qadi? the Imam retorted.
Incensed by the Imams bold reply, Al Mansur had Abu Hanifa confined in a dark prison. He was
tortured, never fed nor cared for. Even there, he still taught anyone who was permitted to come to
him.
Al Mansur again urged the Imam to reconsider his offer. However, Imam Abu Hanifa remained
firm and swore by the name of Allah to never accept the offer. As a result, he continued to be
imprisoned and was lashed, shirtless, 30 times for the following 15 days before he was forced to
drink poison. He died a matyr, in the state of prostration, at the age of 70. That day in Rejab,
150 A.H. was indeed a sad day for Islam.
The news of his death soon spread throughout Baghdad. Six funeral prayers were offered to cater
for the large number of people who came to pay their last homage to their greatest Imam,

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estimated to be more than 50 000 of them. His only son, Hammad, led the last Janazah prayer.
On the authority of the historian, Al Khatib, it was said that for twenty days people went on
performing funeral prayers for him. A few years later, the Abu Hanifa mosque was built in the
Adhamiyah neighborhood of Baghdad in memory of this great man.

Figure 2 Abu Hanifa Mosque, Baghdad, Iraq

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