Knowledge & Wisdom

Imam Abu Hanifa (RadhiAllahu Anhu)

An-Númān ibn Thābit also known as Imam Abu Hanifa RadhiAllahu Anhu (699 - 765) was an important Islamic scholar and jurist and is considered the founder of the Hanafi school of fiqh.

Born in Kufa, Iraq in 699 during the reign of the powerful Umayyad caliph Abdul Malik bin Marwan. His father was a trader from Persia. Imam Abu Hanifa RadhiAllahu Anhu’s early education was achieved through madrassahs and it is here that he learned the Qur'an and Hadith, and he did exceptionally well.

Imam Abu Hanifa RadhiAllahu Anhu joined his father's business, where he showed scrupulous honesty and fairness. His agent in another country once sold some silk cloth on his behalf but forgot to point out a slight defect to the customers. When Imam Abu Hanifa RadhiAllahu Anhu learned this, he was greatly distressed because he had no means of returning the money to the customers. So he immediately ordered the entire proceeds of the sale of the consignment of silk to be distributed to the poor.

Imam Abu Hanifa RadhiAllahu Anhu’s interest in Islamic jurisprudence was sparked perhaps by chance. While running an errand for his mother, he happened to pass the home of Amer al-Sha'bi RadhiAllahu Anhu (d. 722), one of Kufa's most well-known scholars. Sha'bi RadhiAllahu Anhu, mistaking him for a student, asked him whose classes he attended. When Imam Abu Hanifa RadhiAllahu Anhu responded that he did not attend any classes, Sha'bi RadhiAllahu Anhu said, "I see signs of intelligence in you. You should sit in the company of learned men." Taking Sha'bi RadhiAllahu Anhu’s advice, Imam Abu Hanifa RadhiAllahu Anhu embarked on a prolific quest for knowledge that would in due course have a profound impact on the history of Islam.

Islamic law (fiqh) was systematically studied by his students under his guidance. A number of his devoted and highly intelligent students worked under him for thirty years, and it is their labor which produced the Hanafi school of Islamic jurisprudence.

According to mostly Shiite sources, in 763 al-Mansur, the Abbasid Caliph, offered Imam Abu Hanifa RadhiAllahu Anhu the post of Chief Judge of the State, but he declined to accept the offer, choosing to remain independent.

In his reply to al-Mansur, Imam Abu Hanifa RadhiAllahu Anhu excused 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 Imam Abu Hanifa RadhiAllahu Anhu of lying.

"If I am lying," Imam Abu Hanifa RadhiAllahu Anhu 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 Imam Abu Hanifa RadhiAllahu Anhu arrested and locked in prison and tortured.

Even there, the indomitable jurist continued to teach those who were permitted to come to him.

In 765 Imam Abu Hanifa RadhiAllahu Anhu died in prison. It was said that so many people attended his funeral that the funeral service was repeated six times before he was actually buried.