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A Brief Biography on the 4 Imaam (RA)

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    A Brief Biography on the 4 Imaam (RA)

    Source: IslamWay Sisters

    (Islamweb) By: ‘Abd Ar-Rahmaan ‘Abd Al-Khaaliq

    There have been thousands and thousands of great, sincere scholars of Islam, generation after generation, since the time of the pious companions to this day. No time has passed without there being someone who stood to establish the evidence of Allah against the people.

    In spite of this fact, only four scholars have achieved fame. The first of them was born at the end of the first century, and the last died before the middle of third century, i.e., they lived during a span of only one hundred and fifty years. Then what is the reason for the fame of the four A-immah (pl. of Imaam)? Why are most of the people confined to them in matters of Fiqh (Jurisprudence)? What attitude does the Ummah have towards these A-immah (may Allah bless them)?

    1- Imaam abu Haneefah:

    Chronologically, the first of these A-immah is Imaam An Nu’maan abu Haneefah. He was born in 80 A.H, and died in 150 A.H. He grew up in Al-Koofah and became famous in Fiqh and opinion. ‘Umar bin Hubairah, then ruler of ‘Iraq, tried to make him the chief justice but he refused. Then Al-Khaleefa Abu Ja’far Al-Mansoor coaxed him to accept the position but he refused. As a result he was imprisoned until his death.

    He earned his living as a cloth merchant and spent his life teaching in Al-Koofah and Baghdaad. Allah blessed him with a group of devoted students who learned from him and put down what he said. Among them were Abu Yoosuf, Muhammad bin Al-Hassan Ash-Shaybaanee, and Zufar bin Al-Huthayl. Imaam Abu Haneefah achieved such great fame in his use of analogy and opinion and in the establishment of the proof of his opinion to the extent that Imaam Maalik said of him, “I saw a man whom if I asked to prove that this pillar is gold, he will be able to prove it!”

    This incident, of course, showed the power of his reasoning in convincing people. Imaam Ash-Shaafi’ee said, “People are dependent on Abu Haneefah for Fiqh.”

    His method of teaching was as follows: He would gather with his followers in the Masjid and give them a problem. Then everyone would go back to search for a solution, and later they would gather again with their answers.

    In the end the Imaam would analyze, criticize, or reject their opinions and give his own opinion, which would be recorded by his students. He often prohibited his students from writing everything said. Once he said to Abu Yoosuf, “O, Ya’qoob, do not write of me whatever I say, for we are human beings. We say something today and turn back on it the following day, and we say something tomorrow and cancel it the day after.”

    The Imaam depended on opinion to a great extent because he did not have many correct Ahaadeeth (sayings and traditions of the Prophet) at hand, and therefore, his school of Fiqh came to be known as the school of opinion. This school came under heavy fire and criticism from the school of Hadeeth, which started with the advent of Imaam Maalik bin Anas (RA) and achieved popularity with the coming of Imaam Ash-Shaafi’ee (RA). It reached its pinnacle with Imaam Ahmed (RA).

    This happened because Imaam Maalik put together Al-Muwatta, which was agreed upon to be the most correct book in its time, after Al-Qur’an. Then Ash-Shaafi’ee, who read Al-Muwatta and learned from Imaam Maalik, had access to additional correct Ahaadeeth. Later, Imaam Ahmed completed his great book, Al-Musnad, in which he included 40,000 Hadeeth, and this has been the largest reference work of As-Sunnah.

    This collection was influential in putting to an end many of the opinions adopted through Ijtihaad (mental capability to extract rulings) by the school of opinion which unknowingly opposed the authentic Hadeeth.

    2- Imaam Maalik:

    After this commentary on the school of opinion and the school of Hadeeth we now turn to the second of the four A-immah, Imaam Maalik, may Allah have mercy on him. He was born in 93 A.H., and died in 179’ A.H., i.e. twenty nine years after the death of Imaam Abu Haneefah.

    Maalik grew up in Al-Madeenah. He loved knowledge and respected and glorified the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him). He was only 20 years old when the scholars bore witness to his knowledge and proclaimed him capable of Ijtihaad and giving Fatawa.

    Maalik compiled Al-Muwatta on Al-Mansoor’s incentive, who then wanted to make it law for all the people. Maalik, however, refused to allow his book to be made into law and told him that knowledge was dispersed in different provinces and that he had compiled what had reached him and what he had found correct. Maalik did not escape problems with the rulers. Complaints were made against him to Abu Ja’far by the uncle of Al-Mansoor, Abu Ja’far, then, he was flogged until his shoulders were dislodged.

    Maalik liked to give dictation in his lessons and did not like interruptions. This is in full contrast to the method employed by Imaam Abu Haneefah. In spite of the fact that Maalik learned Fiqh from his teacher Rabee’ah bin Abdul Rahmaan, who opined to a great degree and thus came to be known as “Rabee’ah of the opinion.” he despised opinion and said, “I wish I were given a lash for every opinion I gave so that I may be free of guilt on the Day of Judgement.”

    Maalik’s reputation spread, and delegations of students and scholars from as far as Al-Maghrib and Al-Andalus came to him with questions, seeking his knowledge, and his Fiqh was recorded by devoted students.

    3- Imaam Ash-Shaafi’ee:

    Of the greatest legacies that Imaam Maalik left was his student Ash-Shaafi’ee (150 – 204 A.H.), the diligent student who memorized Al-Muwatta and read it to Maalik. Ash Shaafi’ee started giving people Fatwa when he was only 15 years old. Muslim bin Khaalid bore witness to this and said, “Give Fatwa, Abu Abdullah, by Allah you have reached the position where you can give Fatwa.”

    Ash-Shaafi’ee shuttled between Makkah and Al-Madeenah and surprised people with his knowledge of Al-Qur’an, his outstanding Fiqh, his expertise in As-Sunnah, and his sweet, perfect language. A mistake was never found in his language. A person like Ahmed bin Hanbal sat in his lessons; and when Mahfooth bin Abu Tawbah Al-Baghdaadee asked him, “O, Abu Abdullah, there is Sufyaan bin ‘Uyaynah lecturing in the corner of the Masjid?” Ahmed replied, “That I can miss, but not this!”

    Imaam Ash-Shaafi’ee toured the Islamic provinces, and he travelled to Iraq and debated with Imaam Abu Haneefah’s students, scholars such as Muhammad bin Al-Hasan Ash-Shaybaane and Zufar. They said that they renounced one third of the opinions of Imaam Abu Haneefah and followed the Ijtihaad and opinion of Imaam Ash-Shaafi’ee. This exemplifies that the A-immah and their students were searching for the truth and not following blindly.

    Ahmad bin Hanbal had a great love for his contemporary and teacher Imaam Ash-Shaafi’ee although they did have differences on some matters of Fiqh. They disagreed, for example, about the ruling regarding the Muslim who does not pray and the one who takes back a present he gave, and they debated on many other matters. Imaam Ash-Shaafi’ee benefitted from many authentic Ahaadeeth during his time with Ahmed bin Hanbal. Ash-Shaafi’ee used to say to Ahmed, “You know the Hadeeth better than I do, so what you find correct, let us know in order that we may act accordingly.”

    Imaam Ash-Shaafi’ee then travelled to Egypt and remained there. His journey was a blessing for the Egyptians who surrounded him and learned from him. He died in 204 A.H. When the news of his death reached Imaam Ahmed bin Hanbal, he was deeply grieved; and he cried incessantly until his son Abdullah, seeing his state of grief, asked him, “Father! Who was this man Ash-Shaafi’ee?”

    He said, “O my son! Ash-Shaafi’ee was as the sun is to this world and as the health is to the body. Can you find a replacement for these two things?” This is the height of loyalty and sincerity.

    4- Imaam Ahmad bin Hanbal:

    The fourth Imaam in chronological order is Imaam Ahmad bin Hanbal Ash-Shaybaanee. He was born in 164 A.H., and died in Baghdaad on a Friday in 241 A.H.

    Imaam Ahmed started learning the knowledge of Hadeeth at a tender age. He listened to his teachers in Baghdaad and then traveled to Al-Hijaaz and to Al-Yemen to acquire Hadeeth. He performed Hajj on foot several times. He started compiling what he heard until he had collected a great number of Ahaadeeth.

    He became famous among people by his piety and goodness, his lack of concern for worldly things and his personal cleanliness to the extent that he became the example for these attributes. He used to base his Fatwa on Hadeeth, and he rarely gave a mere opinion. Actually, he disliked giving opinions and said, “To me a weak Hadeeth is better than opinion.”

    Al-Khallaal, Ahmed’s student, said of him, “Ahmed had written books of opinion and memorized them, but later he would not turn to them.”

    However, Imaam Ash-Shaafi’ee impressed Ahmed not because of his opinions but for his understanding of the principles and his inference from them. This vast study of Hadeeth not only enabled Imaam Ahmed to become knowledgeable about the laws of Islam but also enabled him to surpass others in his understanding of the creeds of Islam and issues of Eemaan (Faith).

    He successfully challenged all deviation in belief or action that occurred during his time. He criticized the Soofee (sufi) pioneers of his time for initiating the discussion about matters of devil’s whispering and reflections. He refuted the atheists. Similarly he fought Al-Jahmiyah group, who did not believe in the attributes of Allah. He also stood strong and firm against Al-Mu’tazilah, who said that Al-Qur’an was created (not uttered by Allah) and then wanted people to follow them after they had misled Al-Khaleefah Al-Ma-moon.

    In this last tribulation, the tribulation claiming that Al-Qur’an was created, Imaam Ahmad and a few of his companions bore with patience imprisonment, beating and punishment.

    Imaam Ahmed debated with Ibn Abu Du’aad, the leader of Al-Mu’tazilah, in front of Al-Khaleefah Al-Waathiq Billah, and Allah made clear the truth through Imaam Ahmed. The evil of Al-Mu’tazilah was forever gone after that defeat.

    In short, Imaam Ahmed became the leader without rival of Ahl As-Sunnah in his time and was the teacher of those who came after him and a pillar of the knowledge of Hadeeth. Al-Bukhaaree, Muslim and Abu Daawood were his students. Thus Imaam Ahmed was by himself a whole Ummah, a master for Ahl Al-Hadeeth, and a teacher for Ahl As-Sunnah.

    The day he died was a remarkable day. All of Baghdaad, men and women, came out to give farewell respect to him – not the Muslims only but also the Jews and Christians. It is said that more than twenty thousand of these embraced Islam on that day! No one was left but he cried for him.

    This was a brief review of the four A-immah’s biographies. May Allah bless and be pleased with all of them. It became clear to us that all of them were brethren in this Deen (Religion) and adhered to the truth in preaching and in practice. They acquired knowledge from each other and they debated each other. No one of them was fanatic to his own opinion. No one of them called the people to blindly follow him. Rather, all of them forbade their students from blind imitation and commanded them to follow the truth and the evidence.

    This way, the four A-immah left for us a wonderful heritage of knowledge, Fiqh, inference, and Hadeeth. Their contribution in pushing the wheel of understanding in this Deen was magnificent.

    [Translated By: Haaroon ‘Ateeq Baabry]

    "I put my trust in Allah, my Lord and your Lord! There is not a moving creature, but He has a grasp of its forelock. Verily, my Lord is on the straight path. (The truth)"

    Jazakallah, sister Saadia


      Let us also look at the virtues of Imam Jafer al Sadiq (as), who was the teacher of Imam Hanafi and Imam Maliki, and from the pure progeny of the holy prophet (pbuh).

      Imam Jafar al Sadiq's profound knowledge of religion and other sciences was famed throughout the entire Islamic world. People came from distant regions to learn from him.

      The number of his students reached over Four Thousand. Among them were scholars of Jurisprudence, Tafsir, Haidth such as Imam Noman bin Thabit Abu Hanifa and Imam Mali Ibn Anas. Heads of other religions also came there to discuss with the Imams students many matters of dispute and on many occasions returned home embracing Islam. Sometimes he himself argued with the opponents especially atheists.

      Apart from religious sciences, he used to teach to some students mathematics, chemistry, medicine and astronomy. Jabir Ibn Hayyan, the famous pioneer of physics, chemistry and mathematics, was his disciple who wrote about four hundred treatises based on his mentor’s instructions. The jurists who learnt from him and wrote several volumes of books on jurisprudence can be counted by the hundreds.


        Perhaps the most interesting of all of Imam Jafar al Sadiq's pupils was Abu Hanifa who gave public lectures at Kufa that attracted much attention. In giving decisions, he claimed the right to exercise the privilege of deduction (Qiyas) and of using his own judgement (Ra’y) to supplement the traditions and for this departure he was severely criticised by the scholars in Makka and Madina. His decisions were on the point of law of Islam, however he steadfastly refused to enter the service of the Government as judge. Thus it was as a literary or academic jurist that he was able to carry on his work in Kufa under both the Ummayads and the Abbasids. It is probable that he strongly sympathized with the Alids and resented the way in which they had been set aside. Masudi mentions in his history that once he had sent 10,000 Dinars to Zaid Ibn Ali to help him against the Ummayads.

        One is surprised to observe that these two contemporary scholars were able to carry on teaching in their respective cities, Abu Hanifa in Kufa and Imam Ja’afar Sadiq (AS) in Madina. The two men were on friendly terms with each other and often Abu Hanifa accepted the advice of his teacher Imam Ja’afar Sadiq (AS)

        Ibn Khalikan relates a story about an anecdote that the Imam Ja’afar Sadiq (AS) had with his contemporary jurist of Kufa. The Imam asked, “ What would you say is the proper fine for one who breaks the front molars (Rubaiyat) of a deer”? Abu Hanifa answered, O’son of the Apostle of God I do not know the answer. To this the Imam replied, “ Can you then pretend to learning and scholarship when you do not know that a deer has no front molars, but only the incisors" (Thanaya).

        On another occasion, Abu Hanifa remarked that if the Imam did not teach three things he would be able to accept him.

        1. Good is from God and evil is from the deeds of men, “ whereas I say that men have no choice but both good and evil are from God.

        2. In the final judgement the devil suffers in the fire,” whereas I say that the fire will not burn him, in so much as the same material will not injure itself (the Devil being from fire) “

        3. it is impossible to see God in this world or the next, whereas I say that anyone who has existence may be seen, if not in this world, then in the next”. At this point Shaikh Buhlul who was one of Imam’s companions, but pretended to be a simple minded person, picked up a clod of earth and hit Abu Hanifa on the head, declaring as he made the hasty exit, that all three points are refuted. Abu Hanifa made a complaint about him to the caliph who called Buhlul before him and asked him, why did you throw the clod of earth at Abu Hanifa. He answered, “I did not throw it”. Abu Hanifa protested, “you did throw it” . But Buhlul replied, “ you yourself have maintained that evil is from God that men have no choice, so why do you blame me? And you have also said that the same material will not injure itself. The devil is from fire and fire of hell would not hurt him. Accordingly you are from dust of the earth, tell me how it could injure you? You have also claimed that you can see God as a proof of his existence. Show me the pain you are complaining about that exists in your head ?"

        Abu Hanifa had no answer to that and he eventually agreed to what Imam Ja’afar Sadiq (AS) taught about these things.

        Nevertheless Abu Hanifa was highly respected by those friends of Ahlulbayt for they heartily endorsed a remark made by Abu Hanifa concerning Mansur and all such oppressors whether of the Banu Umayya or Banu Abbas. Abu Hanifa eloquently declared that if such men would build a Masjid and command him to the simple task of counting the bricks, he would not do it, “for they are dissolute (Fasiq) and the dissolute are not worthy of the authority of leadership (Majlisi,Tarikhul Aiemma). Ultimately Mansur heard this remark and cast Abu Hanifa into prison where he remained until his death. Abu Hanifa’s remarks were based on the Verse in the Qur'an (Surah II,V 118) where God said to Abraham,” I am about to make thee an Imam to mankind”, and Abraham asked, “of my offspring also”, but God answered, “My covenant embraceth not the idolaters”.

        On the question of the freedom of will (Irada) which was much under discussion at the time, the Imam taught, “that God has decreed some things for us and He has likewise decreed some things through our agency, What He decreed for us or on our behalf He has concealed from us, but what He has decreed through our agency He has revealed to us. We are not concerned, therefore, so much with what he has decreed for us, as we are with what he has decreed through our agency.”

        As to the question of the power (Qadr) of directing one’s own actions, the Imam took a middle position, which is neither compulsion (Jabr) nor committing (Tafviz) the choice to ourselves. He was accustomed to say in prayer,”O’ God, thine is the praise that I give thee, and to thee is the excuse if I sin against thee. There is no work of merit on my own behalf, or on behalf of another, and in evil there is no excuse for me or for another”.

        Yakubi in his Tarikh remarks in regard to Imam Ja’afar Sadiq (AS) that , “it was customary for scholars who related anything from him to say 'the learned one informed us'.” When we recall that Malik ibn Anas (94-179) the author of Mawatta was a contemporary of the Imam Ja’afar Sadiq (AS), at least a century before the time of Bukhari and Muslim, it is significant to find that it is the Imam Ja’afar Sadiq(AS) who is credited with stating what came to be regarded as the most significant and important principle to observe in judging traditions: “What is in agreement with the Book of God, accept it, and whatever is contrary, reject it”.

        Yakubi also relates another saying of the Imam as follows;

        "There are two friends, and whoever follows them will enter paradise”, Some one asked, “ Who are they?” He said, “The acceptance of that which you dislike when God likes it, and the rejection of that which you like when God dislikes it.”

        Masudi, the famous historian, wrote one of the most important sayings of Imam Sadiq (AS) ascribed through Imam Ali (AS) who is said to have related that when God wished to establish the creation, the atoms of creatures and the beginning of all created things, He first made what he created in the form of small particles. This was before the earth and the heavens were created. God existed alone in His authority and power. So He cast forth a ray of light, a flame from His splendour and it was radiant. He scattered this light in the midst of invisible atoms, which He then united in the form of our Prophet. God most high then declared unto him,“you are the first of those who shall speak, the one with power of choice and the one chosen. To you I have trusted my light and the treasure of my guidance. For your sake I will form spacious channels, give free course to the waters, and raise the heavens. For your sake I will give rewards and punishments, and assign men to Paradise or to the Fire.I will appoint the people of your household (Ahlulbayt) for guidance. I will bestow upon them the secrets of my knowledge. No truth will be hidden from them and no mystery concealed. I will designate them as my proof to mankind, as those who shall admonish men of my power and remind them of my Unity (Tawheed)”. “ The light descended,” the Imam Ja’afar continued, “upon our most noble men, and shown through our Imams, so that we are in fact the light of Heaven and of Earth. To us is salvation committed, and from us are the secrets of science derived, for we are the destination that all must strive to reach. Our Mehdi will be the final proof, the seal of the Imams, the Deliverer of the Imamat, the Apex of the Light, and the Source of all good work. Those who follow us will have our support in the hereafter.”

        Imam died in the 10th year of the reign of Caliph Mansur, 148 Hijiri(765 AD). He had worn a signet ring with the inscription,“ God is my master and my defence from His creation.” He lived to be 65 years old. It is mentioned by historians that on Caliph’s orders he was given poison in grapes which caused his death.

        Imam Ja’afar Sadiq (AS) was buried in the cemetery of Baqee in Madina by the side of his father Imam Muhammad Baqir (AS). Before the destruction of the Baqee cemetery by the Wahabis, the inscription on the tomb said, “Here is the Tomb of Imam Ja’afar Ibn Muhammad al Sadiq.”


          Since you have tried to give the thread a shia touch, as usual, I will add that Imam Ja'ffer was an excelent scholar and was not a shia.

          Rabbeshrah lee sadree; wa yassirlee amree; yafqahoo qaulee.


            The Greatest Imam Abu Hanifa
            By Dr. G.F. Haddad

            Better known as âImam-e-`Adhamâ (The Greatest Imam), or by his kunyah âAbu Hanifahâ, Nuâman 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 Imamâs 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 Hanifah was a result of this dua.

            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-Jumâa 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 Shafiâi 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 Shaâbi (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 Shaâbi. Âbu Hanifah named the merchant he was going to see. I meant to ask, asked Shaâbi, Who's classes you attend? Nobody's, replied the Imam regretfully. I see signs of intelligence in you, began Shaâbi, 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 Saâad (ra), thus gaining him the rank of being a Tabiâi (Successor to the Companions).

            Amongst Imam Abu Hanifahâs 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. Shuâba, a leading muhaddith who knew-by-heart two thousand traditions was also a teacher of Imam Abu Hanifah. Shuâba 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 Prophetâs (saw) Companions (ra) had established their own schools there. Of these was Ata bin Rabahâs (rh) school. âAta was a famous Tabiâi 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 âUmar (ra), son of the Caliph âUmar (ra) often used to say: Why do people come to me when âAta ibn Abi Rabah is there for them to go to? Of the other Muhaddithin of Makkah whose classes the Imam attended was âIkrimah. He was the slave and pupil of Abdullah ibn âAbbas, 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

            âSaif al-Aimmaâ reports that when Imam Abu Hanifah derived a matter from the Qurâan 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 Qurâan and Hadith, and with the words of the Sahabah (ra), he would be delighted and say, Al-hamdu liâllah wallahu Akbar, and all those who were present would repeat his words. Then he would tell them to write it down.

            Ibn âAbd al-Barr relates in Al-Intiqa:

            âAbd Allah ibn Ahmad al-Dawraqi said: Ibn Maâinn 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 Shuâba wrote to him [for narrations], and ordered him to narrate hadith.

            Â Ibn Hajar said in Kharija ibn al-Saltâs notice in Tahdhib al-Tahdhib:

            Ibn Abi Khaythama said: If al-Shuâbi 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 âAbd al-Razzaq (one of Imam al-Bukhariâs shaykhs.) Al-Mizzi in Tahdhib al-Kamalâ names about one hundred names of those who narrated from Imam Abu Hanifah.

            Imam as-Shafiâi (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 âPeg by some, for his continuous standing in prayer, often reciting the entire Qurâan 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 Qurâan 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 of Abu 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-Suyuti relates in Tabyid al-Sahifa that a certain visitor came to observe Abu Hanifa and saw him all day long in the mosque, teaching relentlessly, answering every question from both the scholars and the common people, not stopping except to pray, then standing at home in prayer when people were asleep, hardly ever eating or sleeping, and yet the most handsome and gracious of people, always alert and never tired, day after day for a long time, so that in the end the visitor said: "I became convinced that this was not an ordinary matter, but wilâya (Friendship with Allah)."

            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.’"

            It was deduced from the phrase "We did more labor" that the time of mid-day to `asr must always be longer than that between `asr and maghrib. This is confirmed by authentic reports whereby:

            The Prophet hastened to pray zuhr and delayed praying `asr.

            The Prophet said: "May Allah have mercy on someone who prays four rak`as before `asr.

            `Ali delayed praying `asr until shortly before the sun changed, and he reprimanded the mu’adhdhin who was hurrying him with the words: "He is trying to teach us the Sunna!"

            Ibrahim al-Nakha`i said: "Those that came before you used to hasten more than you to pray zuhr and delay more than you in praying `asr." Al-Tahanawi said: "Those that came before you" are the Companions.

            Ibn Mas`ud delayed praying `asr.

            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." Abu Mu`awiya al-Darir said: "Love of Abu Hanifa is part of the Sunna."

            Main sources:
            al-Khatib, Tarikh Baghdad 13:324-356;
            al-Dhahabi, Manaqib Abi Hanifa 22-36 and Tabaqat al-Huffaz 1:168;
            Ibn Hajar, Tahdhib al-Tahdhib 10:450;
            Ibn Kathir, al-Bidaya wa al-Nihaya 10:114;
            al-Suyuti, Tabyid al-Sahifa p. 94-95;
            al-Haytami, al-Khayrat al-Hisan.