Abū Ḥanīfa

Abū Ḥanīfa
Islamic scholar
Imām Abū Ḥanīfah (إمام أبو حنيفة)
Title Imam of the Abode of Emigration
Born September 5, 699 (80 Hijri)
Kufa, Iraq
Died June 14, 767(767-06-14) (aged 67) (150 Hijri)
Baghdad, Iraq
Region Muslim World
Maddhab Sunnah
Main interests Fiqh
Notable ideas Hanafi madhhab
  • Kitabul-Athar
  • Fiqh al-Akbar

Nuʿmān ibn Thābit ibn Zūṭā ibn Marzubān[1] (Persian/Arabic:نعمان بن ثابت بن زوطا بن مرزبان), better known as Imām Abū Ḥanīfah, (699 — 767 CE / 80 — 148 AH) was the founder of the Sunni Hanafi school of fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence).

Imām Abū Ḥanīfah is regarded by some as a one of the Tabi‘un, the generation after the Sahaba, who were the companions of the Islamic prophet Muḥammad because he saw the Sahabi Anas ibn Malik. There are some reports that he even transmitted hadiths from him and other Sahaba.[2] However, it should also be noted that there are views that Imām Abū Ḥanīfah (only) saw around half a dozen companions (possibly in young age), in other words, did not directly narrate ahadith from them. Nevertheless, it is widely acknowledged that he learnt ahadith from fellow Tabi'een including Ibrahim al Nakha'i.[3]


Name, birth and ancestry

Imām Abū Ḥanīfah was born in Kufa, Iraq during the reign of the powerful Umayyad caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan. Acclaimed as Al-Imām al-A'zam, or Al-A'dham (the Great Imam), Nu’man bin Thabit bin Zuta bin Mah was better known by his kunya Abū Ḥanīfah. 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(today in modern Afghanistan), was 40 years old at the time of Abū Ḥanīfah's birth. Some called Abū Ḥanīfah, al-Taymi. The origin of this name is that Abū Ḥanīfah's grandfather Zuta was a slave and a member of the tribe of Taym purchased his freedom.

His ancestry is generally accepted as being of non-Arab origin as suggested by the etymology of the names of his grandfather (Zuta) and great-grandfather (Mah). The historian, Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi, records a statement from Imām Abū Ḥanīfah's grandson, Ismail bin Hammad, who gave Abū Ḥanīfah's lineage as Thabit bin Numan bin Marzban and claiming to be of Persian origin[citation needed]. The discrepancy in the names, as given by Ismail of Abū Ḥanīfah's grandfather and great-grandfather are thought to be due to Zuta's adoption of the Arabic name (Numan) upon his acceptance of Islam and that Mah and Marzban were titles or official designations in Persia, with the later meaning a margrave refers to the noble ancestry of Abū Ḥanīfah's family as the Sasanian margraves of Kabul. Those stories maintain for his ancestors having been slaves purchased by some Arab benefactor are, therefore, untenable and seemingly fabricated. The widely accepted opinion, however, is that he was of Persian ancestry.[4][5]

Dr. Muzaffar Hassan Malik in his book "Nasliat-e-Pakistan" (Pakistani Races, page 311) mentions that Imam Abu Hanifa belonged to a Jat_people tribe that had settles across Iran and Iraq. He quotes that in Arabic the Jat are known as Zitt or Zutt, and that his father use Zutti as his family name. The book is published by Muqtadira or the National Language Authority, Islamabad, Pakistan.

Status as a Tabi‘i

Imām Abū Ḥanīfah was born 67 years after the death of the Islamic prophet, Muhammad, but during the time of the Sahaba of Muhammad, some of whom lived on until Abū Ḥanīfah's youth. Anas bin Malik, Muhammad's personal attendant, died in 93 AH and another companion, Abul Tufail Amir bin Wathilah, died in 100 AH, when Abū Ḥanīfah was 20 years old.

However the author of al-Khairat al-Hisan collected information from books of biographies and cited the names of the Sahaba whom it is reported that the Imam has transmitted ahadith from. He counted them as sixteen of the Sahaba. They are: Anas ibn Malik, Abdullah ibn Anis al-Juhani, Abdullah ibn al-Harith ibn Juz’ al-Zabidi, Jabir ibn Abdullah, Abdullah ibn Abi Awfa, Wa’ila ibn al-Asqa`, Ma`qal ibn Yasar, Abu Tufail `Amir ibn Wa’ila, `A’isha bint Hajrad, Sahl ibn Sa`d, al-Tha’ib ibn Khallad ibn Suwaid, al-Tha’ib ibn Yazid ibn Sa`id, Abdullah ibn Samra, Mahmud ibn al-Rabi`, Abdullah ibn Ja`far, and Abu Umama. Hadith Reported by Abū Ḥanīfah upon the authority of Anas ibn Malik "Seeking of knowledge is an obligation on each and every Muslim." [6]

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.[citation needed]

Early life and education

Abū Ḥanīfah grew up in a period of oppression during the caliphates of Abdul Malik bin Marwan and his son Al-Walid I (Al-Walid ibn Abd al-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, Abū Ḥanīfah 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 father as a silk merchant.

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 madrasa. Abū Ḥanīfah 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 Abū Ḥanīfah 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, Abū Ḥanīfah 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 madāris 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.

The Imam went to Medina in 102 A.H. in pursuit of Knowledge and attended the lessons of seven top theologians. The celebrated Imam Musa Kazim and his illustrious father Imam Jafar Sadiq the descendants of the House of the Prophet (sws), were the greatest authorities in Islamic learning of their times and Imām Abū Ḥanīfah took full advantage of their society in Medina. He was highly impressed with the erudition of Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq whom he acknowledged as the most learned man in the world of Islam. Imām Abū Ḥanīfah also attended the classes of Imam Malik who was thirteen years younger than he. It was his good fortune that Umar bin Abdul Aziz had organised the study and recording of Hadiths on a sounder footing. Before the Caliphate of Umar bin Abdul Aziz, the record of Hadiths was confined to the memory of the people. In a letter addressed to the learned men of Medina in 101 A.H., he requested them to preserve in writing the record of Hadiths. Imam Zuhri furnished the first collection of Hadiths. The teaching of Hadiths, too, had undergone a revolutionary change. From his pulpit, the learned teacher discoursed on the subject and the pupils assembled round him with pen and paper and carefully took down the notes. Imām Abū Ḥanīfah had learnt Hadiths from more than four thousand persons.

It redounds to the credit of Imām Abū Ḥanīfah that he left behind the greatest number of pupils in the world of Islam, including Qadi Abu Yusuf, Imam Muhammad, Hafiz Abdur Razzaq, Abdullal Bin Al Mubarak, Abu Naeem Faza, and Abu Asim who acquired great fame in their days. Qadi Abu Yusuf rose to be the Grand Qadi of the Abbasid Caliphate during the time of Harun al-Rashid.

Adulthood and death

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, Abū Ḥanīfah recused 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 Abū Ḥanīfah of lying.

"If I am lying," Abū Ḥanīfah 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 Abū Ḥanīfah arrested, locked in prison and tortured. He was never fed nor cared for.[7] Even there, the indomitable jurist continued to teach those who were permitted to come to him.

In 767, Abū Ḥanīfah died in prison. The reason of his death is not clear, as some say that Abū Ḥanīfah issued a legal opinion for bearing arms against Al-mansoor, and the latter had him poisoned to death.[8] 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. Later, after many years, a mosque, the Abū Ḥanīfah Mosque was built in the Adhamiyah neighborhood of Baghdad.

The tomb of Imām Abū Ḥanīfah and other Sunni sites including tomb of Abdul Qadir Gilani were destroyed by Shah Ismail of Safavi empire in 1508.[9] In 1533, Ottomans reconquered Iraq and rebuilt the tomb of Imām Abū Ḥanīfah and other Sunni sites.[10]


  • Kitaab-ul-Aathaar narrated by Imaam Muhammad al-Shaybani – compiled from a total of 70,000 ahadith
  • Kitabul Aathaar narrated by Imaam Abu Yusuf
  • Aalim wa'l-muta‘allim
  • Fiqh al-Akbar
  • Musnad Imaam ul A'zam
  • Kitaabul Rad alal Qaadiriyah


  • Nu'mani, Shibli (1998). Imām Abū Ḥanīfah — Life and Works. Translated by M. Hadi Hussain. Islamic Book Service, New Delhi. ISBN 81-85738-59-9. 
  1. ^ ABŪ ḤANĪFA, Encyclopedia Iranica
  2. ^ Imām-ul-A’zam Abū Ḥanīfah, The Theologian
  3. ^ http://www.islamicinformationcentre.co.uk/alsunna7.htm last accessed 8 June 2011
  4. ^ S. H. Nasr(1975), "The religious sciences", in R.N.Frye, the Cambridge History of Iran, Volume 4, Cambridge University Press. pg 474: "Abū Ḥanīfah, who is often called the "grand imam"(al-Imam al-'Azam) was Persian
  5. ^ Cyril Glasse, "The New Encyclopedia of Islam", Published by Rowman & Littlefield, 2008. pg 23: "Abu Hanifah, a Persian, was one of the great jurists of Islam and one of the historic Sunni Mujtahids"
  6. ^ "Imam-ul-A’zam Abū Ḥanīfah, The Theologian". Masud.co.uk. http://www.masud.co.uk/ISLAM/misc/abu_hanifa.htm. Retrieved 2010-02-07. 
  7. ^ Ya'qubi, vol.lll, p.86; Muruj al-dhahab, vol.lll, p.268-270.
  8. ^ Najeebabadi, Akbar S. (2001). The History of Islam. vol, 2. Darussalam Press. pp. 287. ISBN 9960-892-88-3.
  9. ^ Encyclopedia of the Ottoman Empire
  10. ^ History of the Ottoman Empire and modern Turkey

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

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  • Abū Hanīfa — Abū Ḥanīfa (arabisch ‏أبو حنيفة‎, „Vater des Rechtgläubigen“; * 699 in Kufa; † 767) war ein Gelehrter der islamischen Rechtswissenschaft Fiqh. Nach ihm ist die Rechtsschule (madhhab) der Hanafiten benannt. Mit eigentlichem Namen hieß er Muḥammad… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Abū Ḥanīfa — (arabisch ‏أبو حنيفة‎; * 699 in Kufa; † 767) war ein Gelehrter der islamischen Rechtswissenschaft Fiqh. Nach ihm ist die Rechtsschule (madhhab) der Hanafiten benannt. Mit eigentlichem Namen hieß er an Nuʿmān ibn Thābit ibn Zūṭā ibn Marzubān… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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  • Abu Hanifa — /ah booh ha nee feuh/ A.D. 699 767, Islamic scholar and founder of one of the schools of Islamic law. * * * …   Universalium

  • ABU HANIFA — (699 767)    is regarded by MUSLIMS as the founder of the anaf School of Muslim Law. He was a theologian and religious lawyer who insisted on the use of REASON and employed ANALOGY and personal judgment to great effect. Although he did not write… …   Concise dictionary of Religion

  • Abu Hanifa — A•bu Ha•ni•fa [[t]ɑˌbu hæˈni fə[/t]] n. ear big a.d. 699–767, Islamic scholar: founder of one of the four schools of Islamic law …   From formal English to slang