Imam Azam Abu Hanifa Biography
Imam Azam Abu Hanifa Biography
Compiled from the Book ‘Imam Azam Abu Hanifa’ By Mujaahid-e-Ahl-e-Sunnat, Hazrat Allama Sayed Shah Turab-ul-Haq Qaadiri Razvi Noori
Fiqh, which refers to Islamic Jurisprudence, is the explanation of the Shariah based on the Qur’an and Sunnah. There are four well-known schools of Jurisprudence, namely Hanafi, Shafi’i, Hambali, and Maliki. Fiqh plays a vital role in the life of every Muslim. Learned jurists (Fuqaha) derive important rulings of Shariah based on the commands of the Qur’an and Sunnah. The importance of Fiqh and excellence in understanding the Deen (religion) have been clearly mentioned in the Holy Qur’an and the Hadith.
Fiqh in the Light of the Qur’an
Intellect, acumen, and understanding are great blessings from Allah. It is necessary for a Muslim to be blessed with these qualities in order to comprehend the Holy Qur’an, the Hadith, and the secrets and laws mentioned therein. Almighty Allah says, “Verily, in it are signs for those who understand” (Surah 30, Verse 24). In another verse, Allah states, “Verily, in it are signs for those who deliberate” (Surah 30, Verse 21).
Allah presents examples and signs in the Qur’an for people to contemplate (Surah 59, Verse 21). Allah has explained the signs in detail for those who understand (Surah 6, Verse 98). These verses emphasize the importance of intellect and the capability to understand in order to attain proper understanding and appreciation of the Deen.
Those who have been blessed with a knowledge of the Deen, especially in the field of Fiqh, are bestowed with special blessings from Allah. The Holy Qur’an clarifies that those with knowledge and those who are unaware are not equal. Allah says, “(O Beloved) Say: Are those who know and those who know not equal? Surely, it is the wise alone that recognize the guidance” (Surah 39, Verse 9). Allah further states, “And he who has been blessed with wisdom has surely been blessed with great virtue” (Surah 2, Verse 269).
The commentators of the Qur’an, Mufasireen, have mentioned that whenever wisdom is mentioned in the Qur’an, it refers to the knowledge of Fiqh. This highlights the importance of Fiqh, which is the understanding of the Deen. The Qur’an also emphasizes the significance of attaining knowledge and understanding. Allah says, “And it is not possible for all the believers to go out (at once); then why should a delegation not come forth from every grouping, so that they may attain the understanding of Religion, thereafter returning to their people, warning them, in the hope that they may remain guarded” (Surah 9, Verse 122).
Explaining this verse, Sadrul Afaadil Allama Sayyid Na’eemud’deen Muradabadi states that it is not necessary for every person to become a scholar or jurist (Faqih). However, every individual must acquire sufficient knowledge to differentiate between what is lawful and unlawful, to know the obligations (Fard) and recommended actions (Waajib). Acquiring this amount of knowledge is an individual obligation (Fard-e-Ain) for every Muslim, and acquiring further knowledge is a collective obligation (Fard-e-Kifaayah). It is mentioned in the Hadith that it is an obligation upon every Muslim to seek knowledge (of the Deen) (Tafseer Khaza’inul Irfaan).
The Excellence of a Faqih in the Light of Hadith
Up until this point, we have discussed the importance of Fiqh based on the teachings of the Holy Qur’an. This importance is further emphasized and clarified in the Hadith Shareef.
Hazrat Ameer Mu’awiyah reported that the Beloved Rasool (Prophet Muhammad) said, “If Allah wills to bestow someone with special virtue, He makes him a Faqih of the Religion” (Bukhari, Muslim, Mishkaat).
Hazrat Abu Hurairah reported that Rasoolullah said, “Those who were good in the days of ignorance are also good in Islam if they have an understanding of the Deen” (Bukhari, Muslim, Mishkaat).
In this Hadith, Rasoolullah mentioned that people are bestowed with superiority based on Fiqh, meaning their understanding of the Deen. This proves that according to Rasoolullah, one of the best qualities a person can possess is knowledge of Fiqh. Once the Holy Prophet made the following supplication for Hazrat Abdullah ibn Abbas: “O Allah! Make him a Faqih of the Religion” (Bukhari).
Hazrat Ibn Abbas narrates that Rasoolullah said, “One Faqih is more superior over shaitan (Satan) than a thousand worshippers” (Tirmizi, Ibn Majah, Mishkaat).
From this Hadith, it is evident that a single Faqih (Jurist) holds more power over Satan than a thousand devout worshippers. This is because, due to the knowledge bestowed upon them by Allah and their understanding of the Deen, they are able to recognize and avoid the traps and deception of Satan. In reality, they become the ones who assist others in protecting themselves from Satan’s trickery. In the field of Hadith, two fundamental aspects are considered: the authenticity of the chain of transmission and its narration, and the understanding and interpretation of its meaning. The Muhaditheen (scholars of Hadith) memorized and preserved the words and chain of transmission of the Hadith, while the distinguished Fuqaha (jurists) carried the responsibility of understanding its true meaning and wisdom. It should be noted that these distinguished Fuqaha also have complete expertise and proficiency in the subject of Hadith.
An incident highlighting the importance and excellence of the Fuqaha is as follows: Khateeb Baghdadi mentions that a group of Muhaditheen were present when a woman who used to bathe deceased females came forward and asked a question: “Can a female who is menstruating give Ghusl (ritual bathing) to a deceased female or not?”
Imam Yahya bin Mu’een, Abu Hatheema, Zuhair bin Harb, and Khalf bin Saalim, among other distinguished Muhaditheen, were present. Each of them looked at the other, unable to provide an immediate answer. At that moment, Imam Abu Thaur, who was not only a Muhadith but also a Mujtahid (one who exercises independent judgment) and a Faqih, passed by. The woman approached him and asked the same question. He replied, “Yes, a female who is menstruating is permitted to give Ghusl to a deceased female.” His reasoning was that Rasoolullah had said to Hazrat A’isha, “Your menstruation is not in your hand.” It is also mentioned in the Hadith that Hazrat A’isha, while in the state of Haidh (menstruation), used to sprinkle water in the Prophet’s hair and comb a path through his hair. Therefore, if water can be poured onto the head of a living person in such a condition, why can’t a deceased person be given Ghusl? Upon hearing Imam Abu Thaur’s Fatwa (legal opinion), the distinguished Muhaditheen began to discuss the chain of transmission of the Hadith he mentioned, identifying its narrators and how it was narrated. When the woman heard this, she remarked, “Where were you all this while?” In other words, she implied that if they knew the answer, why did they not provide it earlier? (Tareekh-e-Baghdad Volume 6 Page 67).
Imam Azam Abu Hanifa
All the information mentioned so far emphasizes the importance of Fiqh and the elevated status of the Fuqaha (jurists). Among the Four Great Imams of Fiqh, Imam Abu Hanifa holds the most superior and blessed position. This is evident from the fact that even the greatest Imams in history have referred to him as Imam-e-Azam.
Imam Ash Shafi’i, the Imam of the Shafi’i Madhab, states, “All the scholars and jurists among the people are the descendants of Imam Abu Hanifa in the field of Fiqh, and Imam Abu Hanifa is their distant ancestor. Without studying his books, one cannot become a great scholar or a jurist.”
Imam Abu Hanifa, whose full name is Nu’man bin Thabit, was born in Kufa. There is a difference of opinion among scholars regarding the year of his birth. Some say it was in 70 Hijri, while others mention 80 Hijri. Mufti Muhammad Shariful Haq Amjadi, in his commentary on Bukhari, mentions that many people prefer the year 80 Hijri, but many researchers have given preference to 70 Hijri. According to Mufti Shariful Haq, 70 Hijri is the correct date.
Imam Abu Hanifa’s title, “Abu Hanifa,” was derived from his name. Regarding his excellence, Shaykh Abdul Haq Muhadith Delhwi writes, “Some scholars have mentioned that Imam Abu Hanifa is mentioned in the Torah. There is a narration from Hazrat Ka’ab bin Ahbar that in the Torah, which was revealed to Hazrat Musa (Moses), Almighty Allah says, ‘There will be a Noor (light) in the Ummah of Muhammad, and its title will be Abu Hanifa.’ This is supported by the title ‘Siraajul Ummah’ (the lamp of the Ummah) attributed to Imam Abu Hanifa.”
Allama Maufiq bin Ahmed Makki reports that it is narrated on the authority of Hazrat Abu Hurairah that Rasoolullah said, “A man will be born in my Ummah (community) who will be known as Abu Hanifa. He will be the lamp of my Ummah on the Day of Qiyaamah (Resurrection).”
Hazrat Anas reports that Rasoolullah said, “A person will be born in my Ummah who will be named Nu’man, and his title will be Abu Hanifa. He will revive the Deen (religion) of Allah and my Sunnah (teachings).”
(Note: The provided text is a rewrite of the original text in an attempt to improve the English quality and clarity. Some sentences have been rephrased and modified for better readability.)
Imam Abu Hanifa is a Tabi’ee.
A Tabi’ee is someone who had the privilege of seeing a Companion of the Holy Prophet with the eyes of faith. This is considered a higher level of excellence after the status of the Companions themselves. Imam Abu Hanifa was honored with the status of being a Tabi’ee. Allama Ibn Hajar Makki states that it is reported from Imam Zahabi and proven through an authentic narration that Imam Abu Hanifa, as a child, had the blessed opportunity to see Hazrat Anas bin Malik. Hazrat Anas used to apply a reddish dye. Most of the Muhaditheen (scholars of Hadith) agree that a Tabi’ee is someone who saw any Sahabi (Companion).
There are narrations mentioning that Hazrat Anas bin Malik passed away in either 90 Hijri or 93 Hijri. In both cases, it is correct to accept that Imam Abu Hanifa had the opportunity to meet him. When Hafiz Ibn Hajar Shafi’i was asked about Imam Abu Hanifa being a Tabi’ee, he responded by saying, “Imam Abu Hanifa was blessed with seeing a group of blessed Companions. According to one narration, he was born in 80 Hijri in Kufa. At that time, among the Companions present in Kufa was Hazrat Abdullah ibn Abu Ufa, who passed away in 88 Hijri or shortly after. At the same time, Hazrat Anas bin Malik was in Basra, and he passed away in 90 Hijri or shortly after. Ibn Sa’ad has mentioned with great authenticity that Imam Abu Hanifa saw Hazrat Anas bin Malik. Besides these Companions, numerous other Companions were present in various cities at that time and lived after that. Imam Suyuti states that Imam Abu Ma’shar Tabri Shafi’i mentioned Hadith in his books, which Imam Azam narrated from the Companions.”
Imam Azam Abu Hanifa met seven Companions of Rasoolullah according to this narration:
- Sayyiduna Anas bin Malik
- Sayyiduna Abdullah bin Haarith bin Jaza’
- Sayyiduna Jaabir bin Abdullah
- Sayyiduna Mu’qil bin Yasaar
- Sayyiduna Waathila ibn al-Asqa’
- Sayyiduna Abdullah bin Unais
- Sayyidatuna A’isha bint Ajrad
Imam Azam reported three Hadiths from Hazrat Anas, two from Sayyiduna Waathila, and one Hadith each from Sayyiduna Abdullah bin Unais, Sayyidatuna A’isha bint Ajrad, and Sayyiduna Abdullah bin Jaza’. These Hadiths are also reported through other chains of transmission.
It is further mentioned in Durr-e-Mukhtar that Imam Abu Hanifa met twenty Companions of Rasoolullah, and in Khulaasa Akmaal fi Asma’ir Rijaal, it is stated that he saw 26 Sahaba. If we accept that Imam Azam Abu Hanifa was born in 80 Hijri, it is important to note that the following Companions were still alive during that time in various cities:
- Hazrat Abdur Rahman bin Abdul Qari (81 Hijri)
- Hazrat Taariq bin Shihaab Kufi (82 Hijri)
- Hazrat Umar bin Abu Salma (83 Hijri)
- Hazrat Waathil ibn al-Asqa (83, 85, or 86 Hijri)
- Hazrat Abdullah bin Jaza’ (85 Hijri)
- Hazrat Amr bin Hareeth (85 Hijri)
- Hazrat Abu Umama Baahili (86 Hijri)
- Hazrat Qabisah bin Zuwaib (86 Hijri)
- Hazrat Abdullah bin Abu Ufa (87 or 88 Hijri)
- Hazrat Utbah bin Abdus Salma (87 Hijri)
- Hazrat Miqdam bin Ma’di Kurb (87 Hijri)
- Hazrat Sahl bin Sa’ad (88 or 91 Hijri)
- Hazrat Abdullah bin Basr (88 or 96 Hijri)
- Hazrat Abdullah bin Tha’lba (89 Hijri)
- Hazrat Saa’ib bin Khilad (91 Hijri)
- Hazrat Saa’ib bin Yazid (91, 92, or 94 Hijri)
- Hazrat Mahmood bin Rabi’ (91 or 99 Hijri)
- Hazrat Malik bin Aus (92 Hijri)
- Hazrat Anas bin Malik (92, 93, or 95 Hijri)
- Hazrat Malik ibn al-Hawareeth (94 Hijri)
- Hazrat Mahmood bin Lubaid (96 Hijri)
- Hazrat Abu Umama Ansari (100 Hijri)
- Hazrat Abu Tufail Aamir bin Waathila (102 or 110 Hijri)
- Hazrat Abul Badah (117 Hijri)
Imam Abu Hanifa possessed exemplary character and moral values. According to Abu Nu’aim, Imam Abu Hanifa had a pleasant face and was well-dressed and fragrant. His gatherings were virtuous, and he demonstrated care, kindness, and affection towards his companions. Umar bin Ham’mad further attests to his handsome appearance and well-groomed attire, noting that the scent of his fragrance would precede his arrival.
Hazrat Abdullah ibn-e-Mubaarak reported to Hazrat Sufyan Thauri that Imam Abu Hanifa was far from engaging in backbiting. He had never heard him speak ill of any opponents. Sufyan acknowledged Imam Abu Hanifa’s intelligence and his conscious effort not to undermine his virtuous deeds with negative actions.
An incident exemplifying Imam Abu Hanifa’s integrity is recounted involving a woman who intended to sell silk fabric to him. He inquired about the price, and when she mentioned a price of 100, he expressed that it was too low considering the fabric’s value. She then increased the price to 200, but he objected, deeming it still too cheap. This continued until the price reached 400, at which point he remarked that it was worth even more. Perplexed, the woman asked if he was mocking her. In response, he gave her 500 and purchased the fabric. This anecdote highlights Imam Abu Hanifa’s piety and truthfulness, which not only preserved his virtuous character but also benefited him in his business dealings.
Indeed, reflecting on Imam Abu Hanifa’s character and his approach to business is a testament to his exemplary conduct and the values he upheld.
His Fear of Allah and Piety
Hafiz Ibn Hajar, while discussing the piety and fear of Allah in Imam Abu Hanifa, writes the following in Al Khairatul Hasaan: “Asad bin Amr attests that during the night, the sound of Imam Azam Abu Hanifa’s weeping could be heard, to the extent that his neighbors would feel sorrow for him. Waqi’ adds that he was faithful and trustworthy, with a deep sense of Allah’s grandeur and magnificence embedded in his heart. He prioritized seeking the pleasure of Allah above all else, to the extent that he would not abandon it even if he had to endure being cut into pieces by a sword. His Lord was so pleased with him, just as He is pleased with the righteous (Abraar). Imam Azam Abu Hanifa was indeed counted among the righteous.” [Al Khairatul Hasaan page 12]
Hazrat Abdullah ibn Mubaarak states, “I have never seen a person more pious than Imam Azam Abu Hanifa. What can be said about someone who is presented with heaps of wealth but doesn’t even raise his eyes to look at it? He was even lashed for this, yet he remained patient. What can be said about a person who, for the sake of Allah’s pleasure, endured hardships and did not accept worldly wealth or desire it like others usually do? People make countless excuses and exert great efforts to attain wealth, but he was different from those scholars who sought followers in this world. He used to distance himself from it.” [Manaaqib lil Maufiq]
After presenting a detailed discussion on Imam Abu Hanifa, Imam Ibn Hajar Shafi’i concludes, “When he would perform his night prayers (Namaaz), the sound of his tears falling on the grass mat could be heard, resembling the sound of raindrops falling. The signs of his fasting were visible in his eyes and on his face. All I can say is, may Allah have mercy on him and be pleased with him.” [Al Khairatul Hasaan]
His abstention from the company of the Rulers
Imam Abu Hanifa abstained from the company of rulers and displayed remarkable principles of detachment. Once, the Abbasid Caliph sent him 200 Dinars, but he promptly returned it, saying, “I have no right over it.” On another occasion, the ruler of the time sent a beautiful servant to him, but he declined, stating, “I handle all my chores myself, so I have no need for a slave-girl (maid).”
Similarly, when a governor requested him to visit him regularly for mutual benefit, he fearlessly replied, “What will I gain from meeting with you? If you treat me kindly, I will become dependent on you, and if you become displeased with me and distance yourself after granting me proximity, it will only bring embarrassment. Therefore, I have no need for the wealth you possess, and no one can deprive me of the wealth (knowledge) I possess.”
Love for His Parents
Imam Abu Hanifa’s love and respect for his parents were evident despite his immense knowledge and excellence. He showered them with the honor they deserved. His mother would often express sympathy for the hardships he faced in his pursuit of truth. Imam Abu Hanifa himself narrates, “When I would be lashed (for speaking the truth), my mother would say to me, ‘Abu Hanifa! It is the knowledge that has brought you to endure such difficulties. Leave this knowledge behind and lead the life of an ordinary person in this world.’ I replied, ‘My beloved mother if I were to abandon knowledge, how then will I attain the pleasure of Allah?’
Imam Abu Hanifa further states, ‘Every Friday, I donate 20 Dirhams as an act of charity for the betterment of my parents, and I have made a vow for this purpose. I give 10 Dirhams for my father and 10 Dirhams for my mother.’ Apart from this, he also distributed other forms of charity (Sadqa) on behalf of his parents. [Al Khairatul Hasaan 196]
Imam Azam’s Intelligence and Insight
Imam Azam Abu Hanifa possessed exceptional intelligence and wisdom, which greatly complemented his personality. Imam Ali bin Aasim narrates, “If the intelligence of Imam Azam Abu Hanifa were to be compared to the intelligence of half the people in the world, Imam Abu Hanifa’s intelligence would surpass them all.” Several incidents highlighting his intelligence and insight are presented below.
First Incident: A man had an argument with his wife, and in the heat of the moment, he made statements that unintentionally pronounced three divorces (Talaaqs) upon her. Realizing his mistake afterward, he sought the counsel of learned scholars, but none could find a solution to retract the divorces. Finally, he approached Imam Azam Abu Hanifa and explained his case. Imam Abu Hanifa suggested, “Place a cloth in the cup and absorb the water into it. By doing so, you fulfill your condition, and your wife will be saved from the consequences of the divorce.”
Second Incident: In the city where Imam Abu Hanifa resided, there was a wealthy Shia man who would host gatherings and openly claim that Hazrat Uthman-e-Ghani (may Allah be pleased with him) was a Jew, may Allah forbid.
Imam Abu Hanifa visited his home and engaged in conversation. Knowing Imam Abu Hanifa’s knowledge and stature, the Shia man showed respect. During their discussion, Imam Abu Hanifa mentioned, “I have a proposal of marriage for your daughter.
The suitor is the son of a Sayed, wealthy, has memorized the Qur’an, and engages in nightly prayers, completing the recitation of the entire Qur’an. He is deeply conscious of Allah.” Upon hearing this, the Shia man eagerly expressed his desire for the marriage and urged for a swift arrangement, stating that he had been searching for a son-in-law of such character.
However, when Imam Abu Hanifa disclosed that the suitor was Jewish, the man objected, considering it inappropriate to marry his daughter to a Jew. Imam Abu Hanifa responded, “If you, as a knowledgeable person, are not willing to marry your daughter to a reputable and wealthy Jew, would the Messenger of Allah have given his daughters in marriage to someone if he were a Jew?” Upon hearing this, the Shia man immediately repented and changed his opinion regarding Hazrat Uthman (may Allah be pleased with him).
These incidents and the contents of this discussion demonstrate the intelligence and wisdom of Imam Azam Abu Hanifa. Undoubtedly, he is Imam Azam. Imam Abu Hanifa passed away in 150 Hijri.
We pray that Almighty Allah showers His mercy upon his blessed grave and blesses us through his blessings and knowledge.