Cii Radio | 26 Shawaal 1436/12 August 2015

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).He was born into a family of tradesmen, who were of Persian origin as well as descending from the companion Salman al-Farsi (radiallahu anhu). 

Imam Abu Hanifah (rahmatullahi alayh) was not only a knowledgeable person who knew how to explain things and knew how to clarify things. He also knew how to get himself out of situations but he was also a man, first and foremost, of great faith. His student was asked, “How was your teacher Abu Hanifah in character?” The student said, “He was extremely pious. He avoided forbidden things all the time and he remained silent and absorbed in his thoughts all the time so he didn’t speak unless he had to. He answered questions only if he knew the answer to them. He was very generous and self respectful. He never asked a favour from anybody in his life. He shunned the company of the worldly minded people (that is, he didn’t like sitting around people who spoke about money and property) and people who held worldly power didn’t like sitting with him. He didn’t like having a position or status. He avoided gossip and slander and he only spoke the good things about people even if there was bad to talk about, even against his enemy. He only spoke well or he was silent. Unlike us today, if we hate someone we use every bad word to describe them. Imam Hanifah, had nothing to say but good even about his enemies who imprisoned him and whipped him. Or he was silent. This was the test of his life. He had profound learning abilities. He was generous with his knowledge as well as with his wealth. This was Imam Abu Hanifah.

He was endued with intelligence beyond measure. When he looked at something he was full of reason, a very rational person. He looked at things with common sense and from all perspectives, in every way. He was one full of reasoning. The Romans sent an envoy, a man to try to trick them, to try and put doubt about their religion. He said to the gathered people, “I have come with three questions.” He stood up and asked, “My first question is who was there before God? The second question, in which direction is Allah facing right now and the third, what is Allah doing right now?”

Imam Abu Hanifah was only about 10 or 12 years old. No one could answer so he said to his father, “Let me answer.”  He walked up to the man and said to him, “As for who is before Allah, count from 10 backwards.” The man counted until he reached zero. Imam Hanifah asked the man, “What’s before 1” and the man said, “Zero – nothing”. Minus one and minus two are just numbers. Zero is the end. Imam Abu Hanifah told the man, “The Lord of the Worlds, the Glorious Creator, how can he not be the Beginner of everything.” When in actual common sense and logic if you count backwards and end up with one and there’s nothing before that. The man then asked him, “In which direction is God facing now?” He replied, “If you light up a candle, what do you see?” He said, “Light”. “I which direction is the candle light facing?” He said, “It’s not facing any particular direction, light is facing everywhere.” Imam Abu Hanifah said, “What can you say about Allah who is the Light of Lights (Nuru ‘ala Nur). As for the third answer, Imam Hanifah told the man, “To answer your third question, you have to come down here and I go up there because the people want to hear the answer and it is only fair to let the people hear my answer as you made your question in front of the people.”

The man got up and said, “What is Allah doing right now?” Imam Abu Hanifah said, “Right now Allah is making the one who is on falsehood come down from the pulpit and the one full of success to climb up the pulpit to answer and prove you wrong. This is what Allah is doing right now. Every action that happens in life is from Allah. Right now Allah is doing this. If it was not for Allah we would be non-existent, we don’t keep ourselves alive, Allah keeps everything alive and Allah keeps everything in motion. Nothing keeps itself in motion, it comes to an end.” This illustrates how intelligent Imam Abu Hanifah was from a very young age before he even reached Islamic 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 (radiallahu anhum). He himself was blessed with the meeting of the Companions: Anas ibn Malik, Abdullah ibn Afwa and Sahl ibn Sa’ad (radiallahu anhum), 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 knewby-heart two thousand traditions, was also a teacher of Imam Abu Hanifah. Shu’ba was greatly attached to him saying: “Just as I know that the sun is bright, I know that learning and Abu Hanifah are doubles of each other.”

Imam as-Shafi’i (rahmatullahi alyh) 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, called such after the Imam, spread far-and-wide during the time of the Ottoman Empire. Today, more than half of the world’s Muslims perform their `ibadah according to the Hanafi madhhab. 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 unchallenged narrations).”

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 Allah, 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.

Imam Hanifah passed away in Baghdad in 150 AH. He was 70 years old. May Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala be pleased with him. Ameen.

Compiled from various sources