The vindication of the Imam from the claim of “Salafis” whereby Abu Hanifa was da’if (weak in Hadith)
[From M. Hisham Kabbani’s book The Refutation of “Salafi” Innovations, Vol. III.]

Shaykh Hasan al-Saqqaf wrote in his book about Albani’s attacks on the great scholars entitled Qamus shata’im al-Albani [Dictionary of Albani’s Insults of the Scholars]:

“He [Albani] says of Imam Abu Hanifa: “The imams have declared him weak for his poor memorization” (in his commentary of Ibn Abi `Asim’s Kitab as-Sunna 1:76) although no such position is reported, see for example Ibn Hajar `Asqalani’s biography of Abu Hanifa in “Tahdhib al-tahdhib”.

A blind follower of Albani replied:

The statement that no such position is reported is a lie, it was the position of Muslim (al-Kunaa wal Asmaa), Nasaa’ee (ad-Du’afaa) ibn Adee (al-Kaamil 2/403), ibn Sa’d (Tabaqaat 6/256), al-Uqailee (ad-Du’afaa p.432), ibn Abee Haatim (al-Jarh wat Tadil), Daaruqutnee (as-Sunan p132), al-Haakim (Ma’rifa Ulum al-Hadeeth), Abdul Haqq al-Ishbelee (al-Ahkaam al-Kubraa q.17/2), adh-Dhahabee (ad-Du’afaa q. 215/1-2), Bukharee (at-Taareekh al-Kabeer), ibn Hibbaan (al-Majrooheen)

Shaykh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani replies: Our reliance is on Allah. Shaykh Albani has shown enmity towards scholars, of a kind that passes all bounds and is unbefitting of a person with knowledge in Islam. As we mentioned in the first volume, Saqqaf has documented in his book an instance where Albani compares Hanafi fiqh to the Gospel in respect to distance from Qur’an and Sunna, and this would be unacceptable coming from a Christian, how then could it be accepted from a Muslim? Albani and his following have pushed even the gentlest of scholars, the late `Abd al-Fattah Abu Ghudda, to take pen to paper to oppose such aberrations in his book Radd `ala abatil wa iftira’at Nasir al-Albani wa sahibihi sabiqan Zuhayr al-Shawish wa mu’azirihima (Refutation of the falsehood and fabrications of Nasir al-Din Albani and his former friend Zuhayr al-Shawish and their supporters). This book received two editions recently.

The claim by Albani’s supporter whereby “The statement that no such position is reported is a lie” is itself a lie. None of the references he adduces contains a single authentic proof for Albani’s claim that “the imams have declared him weak for his poor memorization.” For such a claim to be remotely true it would have to be modified to read: “He was graded weak by some scholars but this grading was rejected by the Imams.” The proof for this is that the positions reported against Abu Hanifa in the references given are all weak and rejected, and often inauthentic in the first place, in the end amounting to nothing: therefore, even though there is criticism reported, it comes to nothing and does not constitute any “declaration of weakness by the Imams” as asserted by Albani!

The example given as proof by Saqqaf, namely Ibn Hajar `Asqalani’s notice on Abu Hanifa in Tahdhib al-tahdhib, confirms that the Imams of hadith never declared Abu Hanifa weak, for Ibn Hajar would have had to report such a weakening if it held true. Rather, he states the reverse, as seen from the translation of Ibn Hajar’s notice excerpted below. This shows that Saqqaf’s statement is correct, since Ibn Hajar undoubtedly represents the opinions of the Imams of hadith criticism and methodology concerning the weakness or poor memorization of any given narrator or scholar. Moreover, Ibn Hajar in Taqrib al-tahdhib (1993 ed. 2:248 #7179) calls Abu Hanifah al-Imam, and al-faqih al-mashhur (the well-known jurisprudent), and Dhahabi includes him among the hadith masters in his Tadhkirat al-huffaz [Memorial of the Hadith Masters]. These titles are not given to anyone who is declared weak in hadith. And Dhahabi before Ibn Hajar, and al-Mizzi before Dhahabi, all concurred that no position purporting Abu Hanifa’s weakness should be retained, as Dhahabi said in Tadhhib al-tahdhib (4:101): “Our shaykh Abu al-Hajjaj [al-Mizzi] did well when he did not cite anything [in Tahdhib al-kamal] whereby he [Abu Hanifa] should be deemed weak as a narrator.”

The remainder of the “Salafi”‘s references are therefore irrelevant and over-ruled, especially in view of Ibn `Abd al-Barr’s statement that “Those who narrated from Abu Hanifa, who declared him trustworthy (waththaquhu), and who praised him, outnumber those who criticized him” as related by Ibn Hajar al-Haytami in his book al-Khayrat al-hisan fi manaqib Abi Hanifa al-Nu`man (p. 74). Nevertheless we shall examine the sources that he brings up to show the extent to which these sources all suffer from various problems, as it is the wont of “Salafis” seen time and again to adduce false or weak evidence to promote their opinion.

Hafiz Ibn Hajar’s Notice of Abu Hanifa in Tahdhib Al-Tahdhib
From Tahdhib al-tahdhib, 1st ed. (Hyderabad: Da’irat al-ma`arif al-nizamiyya, 1327) Vol. 10 p. 449-452 #817 (10:45f. of the later edition)

Al-Nu`man ibn Thabit al-Taymi, Abu Hanifa, al-Kufi, mawla Bani Taym Allah ibn Tha`laba. It is said that he was Persian. He saw Anas. He narrated hadith from `Ata’ ibn Abi Rabah, `Asim ibn Abi al-Nujud, `Alqama ibn Marthad, Hammad ibn Abi Sulayman, al-Hakam ibn `Utayba, Salama ibn Kuhayl, Abu Ja`far Muhammad ibn `Ali, `Ali ibn al-Aqmar, Ziyad ibn `Alaqa, Sa`id ibn Masruq al-Thawri, `Adi ibn Thabit al-Ansari, `Atiyya ibn Sa`id al-`Awfi, Abu Sufyan al-Sa`di, `Abd al-Karim Abu Umayya, Yahya ibn Sa`id al-Ansari, and Hisham Ibn `Urwa among others.

From him narrated: his son Hammad, Ibrahim ibn Tahman, Hamza ibn Habib al-Zayyat, Zafr ibn al-Hadhil, Abu Yusuf al-Qadi, Abu Yahya al-Hamani, `Isa ibn Yunus, Waki` (ibn al-Jarrah al-Kufi),* Yazid ibn Zuray`, Asad ibn `Amr, al-Bajali, Hakkam ibn Ya`la ibn Salm al-Razi, Kharija ibn Mus`ab, `Abd al-Majid ibn Abi Rawad, `Ali ibn Mus-hir, Muhammad ibn Bishr al-`Abdi, `Abd al-Razzaq [one of Bukhari’s shaykhs], Muhammad ibn al-Hasan al-Shaybani, Mus`ib ibn al-Miqdam, Yahya ibn Yaman, Abu `Usma Nuh ibn Abi Maryam, Abu `Abd al-Rahman al-Muqri, Abu Nu`aym, Abu `Asim, and others [such as `Abd Allah Ibn al-Mubarak and Dawud al-Ta’i: see al-Mizzi’s Tahdhib al-kamal 12 and al-Dhahabi in Manaqib Abi Hanifa (p. 20). al-Mizzi’s list is about one hundred strong.]…

[* Dhahabi relates in his Tadhkirat al-huffaz (1:306) in the biography of Waki` that Yahya ibn Ma`in said: “I have not seen better than Waki`, he spends the night praying, fasts without interruption, and gives fatwa according to what Abu Hanifa said, and Yahya al-Qattan also used to give fatwa according to what Abu Hanifa said.” al-Hafiz al-Qurashi in his al-Jawahir al-mudiyya fi manaqib al-hanafiyya (2:208-209) said: “Waki` took the Science from Abu Hanifa and received a great deal from him.”]

Remarks on Abu Hanifa’s national origins and his father’s profession.
Muhammad ibn Sa`d al-`Awfi said: I heard Ibn Ma`in say: “Abu Hanifa was trustworthy (thiqa), and he did not narrate any hadith except what he had memorized, nor did he narrate what he had not memorized.”

Salih ibn Muhammad al-Asadi said on the authority of Ibn Ma`in: “Abu Hanifa was trustworthy (thiqa) in hadith.”

[a) Ibn `Abd al-Barr relates in al-Intiqa’ (p. 127): `Abd Allah ibn Ahmad al-Dawraqi said: Ibn Ma`in was asked about Abu Hanifa as I was listening, so he said: “He is trustworthy (thiqatun), I never heard that anyone had weakened him: No less than Shu`ba wrote to him (for narrations), and ordered him to narrate hadith.” Ibn Hajar said in Kharija ibn al-Salt’s notice in Tahdhib al-tahdhib (3:75-76): “Ibn Abi Khaythama said: If al-Shu`bi narrates from someone and names him, that man is trustworthy (thiqa) and his narration is used as proof (yuhtajju bi hadithihi).”

b) al-Haytami in al-Khayrat al-hisan (p. 74) and al-Qurashi in al-Jawahir al-mudiyya (1:29) relate that Imam `Ali ibn al-Madini said: “From Abu Hanifa narrated: al-Thawri, Ibn al-Mubarak, Hammad ibn Zayd, Hisham, Waki` (ibn al-Jarrah al-Kufi), `Abbad ibn al-`Awwam, and Ja`far ibn `Awn. He [Abu Hanifa] is trustworthy (thiqatun) and reliable (la ba’sa bihi = there is no harm in him). Shu`ba thought well of him.” Ibn Ma`in said: “Our colleagues are exaggerating concerning Abu Hanifa and his colleagues.” He was asked: “Does he lie?” Ibn Ma`in replied: “No! he is nobler than that.”

c) Dhahabi in Tadhkirat al-huffaz (1:168) cites Ibn Ma`in’s statement about Abu Hanifa: la ba’sa bihi (= there is no harm in him, i.e. he is reliable). Ibn Salah in his Muqaddima (p. 134) and Dhahabi in Lisan al-mizan (1:13) have shown that this expression by Ibn Ma`in is the same as declaring someone as thiqa or trustworthy: “Ibn Abi Khaythama said: I said to Ibn Ma`in: You say: “There is no harm in so-and-so” and “so-and-so is weak (da`if)?” He replied: “If I say of someone that there is no harm in him: he is trustworthy (fa thiqatun), and if I say da`if: he is not trustworthy, do not write his hadith.”” Abu Ghudda in his commentary to Lucknawi’s Raf` (p. 222 n. 3) has indicated that the equivalency of saying “There is no harm in him” with the grade of trustworthy (thiqa) is also the case for other early authorities of the third century such as Ibn al-Madini, Imam Ahmad, Duhaym, Abu Zur`a, Abu Hatim al-Razi, Ya`qub ibn Sufyan al-Fasawi, and others. Note that like Abu Hanifa, Imam Shafi`i is declared trustworthy by the early authorities with the expression la ba’sa bihi in Dhahabi’s Tadhkirat al-huffaz (1:362).]

Abu Wahb Muhammad ibn Muzahim said: I heard Ibn al-Mubarak say: “The most knowledgeable of people in fiqh (afqah al-nas) is Abu Hanifa. I have never seen anyone like him in fiqh.” Ibn al-Mubarak also 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 in Manaqib Abu Hanifa (p. 30) relates it as: “I would have been an innovator.”]

Ibn Abi Khaythama said from Sulayman ibn Abu Shaykh: “Abu Hanifa was extremely scrupulous (wari`) and generous (sakhi).”

Ibn `Isa ibn al-Tabba` said: I heard Rawh ibn `Ubada say: “I was with Ibn Jurayj in the year 150 when the news of Abu Hanifa’s death reached him. He winced and pain seized him; he said: “Verily, knowledge has departed (ay `ilmun dhahab).” Ibn Jurayj died that same year.”

Abu Nu`aym said: “Abu Hanifa dived for the meanings of matters so that he reached the uttermost of them.”

Ahmad ibn `Ali ibn Sa`id al-Qadi said: I heard Yahya ibn Ma`in say: I heard Yahya ibn Sa`id al-Qattan [Ahmad ibn Hanbal’s greatest shaykh] say: “This is no lie on our part, by Allah! We have not heard better than Abu Hanifa’s opinion, and we have followed most of his sayings.” [This is also related by Dhahabi in Manaqib Abi Hanifa (p. 32).]

[About Yahya al-Qattan, Imam Nawawi relates on the authority of Ishaq al-Shahidi:

I would see Yahya al-Qattan — may Allah the Exalted have mercy on him — pray the midafternoon prayer, then sit with his back against the base of the minaret of his mosque. Then `Ali ibn al-Madini, al-Shadhakuni, `Amr ibn `Ali, Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Yahya ibn Ma`in, and others would stand before him and ask him questions about hadith standing on their feet until it was time for the sunset prayer. He would not say to a single one of them: “Sit” nor would they sit, out of awe and reverence.

Related in Nawawi’s al-Tarkhis fi al-ikram bi al-qiyam li dhawi al-fadl wa al-maziyya min ahl al-islam `ala jihat al-birr wa al-tawqir wa al-ihtiram la `ala jihat al-riya’ wa al-i`zam (The Permissibility of Honoring, By Standing Up, Those Who Possess Excellence and Distinction Among the People of Islam: In the Spirit of Piousness, Reverence, and Respect, Not in the Spirit of Display and Aggrandizement) ed. Kilani Muhammad Khalifa (Beirut: Dar al-Basha’ir al-islamiyya, 1409/1988) p. 58.]

al-Rabi` and Harmala said: We heard al-Shafi`i say: “People are children before Abu Hanifa in fiqh.”

It is narrated on the authority of Abu Yusuf that he said: “As I was walking with Abu Hanifa we heard a man saying to another: This is Abu Hanifa, he does not sleep at night. Abu Hanifa said: He does not say something about me which I do not actually do. He would — after this — spend the greatest part of the night awake.”

Isma`il ibn Hammad ibn Abi Hanifa said that his father (Hammad) said: When my father died we asked al-Hasan ibn `Amara to undertake his ritual washing. After he did he said: “May Allah have mercy on you and forgive you (O Abu Hanifa)! You did not eat except at night for thirty years, and your right side did not lay down at night for forty years. You have exhausted whoever comes after you (who tries to catch up with you). You have outshone all the readers of the Islamic sciences.”

`Ali ibn Ma`bad said on the authority of `Ubayd Allah ibn `Amr al-Raqi: Ibn Hubayra told Abu Hanifa to undertake the judgeship of Kufa and he refused, so he had him lashed 110 times, but still he refused. When he saw this he let him go.

Ibn Abi Dawud said on the authority of Nasr ibn `Ali: I heard Ibn Dawud — al-Khuraybi — say: “Among the people concerning Abu Hanifa there are plenty of enviers and ignorant ones.”…

Ahmad ibn `Abda the Qadi of Ray said that his father said: We were with ibn `A’isha when he mentioned a saying of Abu Hanifa then he said: “Verily, if you had seen him you would have wanted him. Verily, his similitude and yours is as in the saying:

Censure them little or much: I will never heed your blame. Try only to fill, if you can, the space that they filled.

al-Saghani said on the authority of Ibn Ma`in: “I heard `Ubayd ibn Abi Qurra say: I heard Yahya ibn al-Daris say: I saw Sufyan [al-Thawri] being asked by a man: “What do you have against Abu Hanifa?” He said: “What is wrong with Abu Hanifa? I heard him say: I take from Allah’s Book and if I don’t find what I am looking for, I take from the Sunna of Allah’s Messenger, and if I don’t find, then from any of the sayings that I like from the Companions, nor do I prefer someone else’s saying over theirs, until the matter ends with Ibrahim (al-Nakh`i), al-Shu`bi, Ibn Sirin, and `Ata’: these are a folk who exerted their reasoning (ijtihad) and I exert mine as they did theirs.” [i.e. Sufyan criticized Abu Hanifa, a junior Tabi`i, for placing his own opinion at the same level as that of the senior Tabi`in.] …

[Mentions of Abu Hanifa’s date of death and of the fact that Tirmidhi and Nisa’i narrated hadith from him.] End of Ibn Hajar’s words.

I. The “Salafi’s” claim that the grading of Abu Hanifa as weak for his poor memorization” was the position of … Daaruqutnee (as-Sunan p132).”

Answer: Daraqutni did declare Abu Hanifa weak in his Sunan (1:132), without including him in his Kitab al-du`afa’. However, his opinion of Abu Hanifa carries no weight since he is known to have fallen into extremism in his opinion on Abu Hanifa, and because of this, this particular judgment of his is rejected as required by the rules of narrator-criticism. The hadith master al-Badr al-`Ayni, author of `Umdat al-qari, a massive commentary on Sahih al-Bukhari, said in his commentary of al-Marghinani entitled al-Binaya sharh al-hidaya (1:709):

From where does he [Daraqutni] take the right to declare Abu Hanifa weak when he himself deserves to be declared weak! For he has narrated in his Musnad [i.e. his Sunan] narrations that are infirm, defective, denounced, strange, and forged.

This is a serious charge made against Daraqutni as a narrator, and many authorities have stated the same concerning him. Another hadith master, al-Zayla`i, said in Nasb al-raya (1:356, 1:360): “al-Daraqutni’s Sunan is the compendium of defective narrations and the wellspring of strange narrations… It is filled with narrations that are weak, anomalous, defective, and how many of them are not found in other books!” While Muhammad ibn Ja`far al-Kattani said in al-Risala al-mustatrafa (p. 31): “Daraqutni in his Sunan… has multiplied the narrations of reports that are weak and denounced, and indeed forged.”

Ibn `Abd al-Hadi al-Hanbali wrote a large volume still unpublished on merits of Abu Hanifa entitled Tanwir al-sahifa bi manaqib al-imam Abi Hanifa in which he said: “Among those who show fanaticism against Abu Hanifa is al-Daraqutni.” It is quoted in Ibn `Abidin’s Hashiyat radd al-muhtar (1:37). `Abd al-Fattah Abu Ghuddah in his commentary of Abu al-Hasanat al-Lucknawi’s al-Raf` wa al-ta`dil (p. 70 n.1) also said: “al-Daraqutni’s fanaticism against Abu Hanifa is well-known” and he gives several sources listing the scholars who held the same opinion.

One of the reasons for Daraqutni’s attitude is his extreme bias in favor of the school of Imam Shafi`i. This is shown in Muhammad `Abd al-Rashid al-Nu`mani’s commentary on the book Dhabb dhubabat al-dirasat `an al-madhahib al-arba`a al-mutanasibat (2:284-297) by the Indian scholar `Abd al-Latif al-Sindi. al-Lucknawi also referred to this question in his book al-Ajwiba al-fadila `ala li al-as’ila al-`ashra al-kamila (p. 78):

It is related that when Daraqutni went to Egypt some of its people asked him to compile something on the pronounciation of the Basmala, whereupon he compiled a volume. A Maliki came to him and summoned him to declare on oath which were the sound narrations of this book. Daraqutni said: “Everything that was narrated from the Prophet concerning the loud pronounciation of the Basmala is unsound, and as for what is related from the Companions, some of it is sound and some of it weak.”

II. The “Salafi’s” claim that the grading of Abu Hanifa as weak for his poor memorization “was the position of… ibn Adee (al-Kaamil 2/403).”

Answer: Ibn `Adi shows enmity to Abu Hanifa as he reports nothing but criticism, and he relies on weak or inauthentic reports from his [Ibn `Adis’] shaykh, some of them being the strangest ever related about Abu Hanifa (Dar al-Fikr 1985 ed. 7:2472-2479). His narrations are all problematic and none of them is reliable or sound. Imam Kawthari said in the introduction to Nasb al-raya (p. 57) and in his Fiqh ahl al-`Iraq (p. 83): “Among the defects of Ibn `Adi’s Kamil is his relentless criticism of Abu Hanifa — three hundred narrations! — with reports that are all from the narration of Abba’ ibn Ja`far al-Najirami, one of Ibn `Adi’s shaykhs, and the latter tries to stick what al-Najirami has directly to Abu Hanifa, and this is injustice and enmity, as is the rest of his criticism. The way to expose such cases is through the chain of transmission.”

The late Shaykh `Abd al-Fattah Abu Ghudda, Kawthari’s student, said in his annotation of Lucknawi’s Raf` wa al-takmil (p. 341) that Kawthari examined Ibn `Adi’s excesses against Abu Hanifa in three works of his: Ta’nib al-khatib `ala ma saqahu fi tarjimat abi hanifa min al-akadhib (p. 169), al-Imta` bi sirat al-imamayn al-Hasan ibn Ziyad wa sahibihi Muhammad ibn Shuja` (p. 59, 66, 69), and the unpublished monograph Ibda’ wujuh al-ta`addi fi kamil ibn `Adi.

Following are some examples of the strangeness of Ibn `Adi’s reports:

– Ibn `Adi relation of Sufyan al-Thawri’s alleged statement that “he [Abu Hanifa] is neither trustworthy nor trusted” (al-Kamil 7:2472). However, it is established that Sufyan narrated hadith from Abu Hanifa, and so he would be contradicting himself if he said that Abu Hanifa cannot be trusted, since he himself trusted him! `Ali ibn al-Madini said: “From Abu Hanifa narrated: al-Thawri, Ibn al-Mubarak, Hammad ibn Zayd, Hisham, Waki`, `Abbad ibn al-`Awwam, and Ja`far ibn `Awn.” Narrated by al-Haytami in al-Khayrat al-hisan (p. 74) and al-Qurashi in al-Jawahir al-mudiyya (1:29). Furthermore Sufyan praised Abu Hanifa in explicit terms when he said: “We were with Abu Hanifa like small birds in front of the falcon,” and when Abu Hanifa visited Sufyan after the death of the latter’s brother he stood up, went to greet him, embraced him, and bade him sit in his place, saying to those who questioned this act: “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 (jiqh).” Both reports are narrated by Suyuti in Tabyid al-sahifa (p. 32) and al-Tahanawi in his book Inja’ al-watan (1:19-22).

Sufyan’s supposed criticism is qualified by what Ibn `Adi himself narrates further below in his section on Abu Hanifa, namely, the statement of `Abd al-Samad ibn Hassan: “There was something between Sufyan al-Thawri and Abu Hanifa, and Abu Hanifa was the one who restrained his own tongue more.”

If there was any disagreement between Sufyan and Abu Hanifa, the nature of their disagreement was not so fundamental as to impel Sufyan to hold such an exaggerated view as that related by Ibn `Adi, but only pertained to an issue of manners or competition. This can be gathered from Ibn Hajar’s relation in Tahdhib al-tahdhib (10:451) of Sufyan’s disapproval of Abu Hanifa’s words about the senior Tabi`is: “These are a folk who exerted their reasoning (ijtihad) and I exert mine as they did theirs,” whereby he placed himself, a junior Tabi`i, at the same level of ijtihad as the senior Tabi`is such as al-Nakh`i, al-Shu`bi, Ibn Sirin, and `Ata’.

The competition between Sufyan and Abu Hanifa was fostered by Sufyan’s entourage, as shown by the wording of Ibn `Adi’s reports in the following cases:

÷ the dream of an unnamed man who saw the Prophet telling him to take Sufyan’s opinion rather than Abu Hanifa’s (al-Kamil 7:2473). Furthermore, this report contains Ahmad ibn Hafs who is munkar al-hadith — a narrator whose narrations are rejected — according to Ibn al-Jawzi in al-Mawdu`at (2:168, 3:94; see also Tabsir al-mutanabbih 2:733, and al-Mushtabah p. 98, 359); it also contains an unnamed narrator — the man who had the dream — and one whose reliability is not known (majhul), Abu Ghadir al-Filastini.

÷ the contrived style of the narration of Sufyan al-Thawri’s story that “he [Abu Hanifa] is neither trustworthy nor trusted”: Mu’ammal said: I was with Sufyan al-Thawri in his room when a man came and asked him about something and he answered him, then the man said: But Abu Hanifa said such and such, whereupon Sufyan took his sandals and flung them exclaiming: he is neither trustworthy nor trusted!! Furthermore, the narrator of this report from Sufyan, Mu’ammal ibn Isma`il, was declared by Ibn Hibban, al-Sajir, and Ibn Qani` as making mistakes in his narrations, and al-Saji said: “He is not a liar but he makes many mistakes, and he sometimes imagines things” (saduq kathir al-khata’ wa lahu awham).

All the above evidence are some of the reasons why any criticism of Abu Hanifa attributed to Sufyan al-Thawri is rejected out of hand and Ibn `Adi’s reliance on such criticism is not taken into account. al-Taj al-Subki said in Qawa`id fi `ulum al-hadith (p. 195) as well as his Qa`ida fi al-jarh wa al-ta`dil (p. 53-55): “No attention whatsoever is given to al-Thawri’s criticism of Abu Hanifa or that of other than al-Thawri against him.” The same statement is found in Haytami’s al-Khayrat al-hisan (p. 74) and is echoed by `Abd al-Hayy al-Lucknawi’s warning in his al-Raf` wa al-takmil (p. 425): “Beware, beware of paying any attention to what supposedly took place (of enmity) between Abu Hanifa and Sufyan al-Thawri!”

– The story of Imam Malik’s words related by Ibn `Adi (al-Kamil 7:2473): “The consuming ailment is destruction in Religion, and Abu Hanifa is part of the consuming ailment” and “Is Abu Hanifa in your country? Then one ought not to live in your country.” These are extreme statements attributed to Imam Malik by those of his companions who were of the so-called Ahl al-hadith, as for the fuqaha’ among them they reported no such statements from him. This is elaborated by the Maliki authority Ibn `Abd al-Barr in his notice on Abu Hanifa in al-Intiqa’ in which he invalidates the evidence of Malikis against him.

It is remarkable that Ibn `Adi narrates the story of Malik’s statement “The consuming ailment” from Ibn Abi Dawud, while it is established that Ibn Adi Dawud’s own father, Abu Dawud, said: rahimallah malikan kana imaman. rahimallah al-shafi`i kana imama. rahimallah aba hanifa kana imaman and the last part means: “May Allah have mercy on Abu Hanifa, he was an Imam.” It is narrated by Dhahabi in his Tarikh al-Islam (6:136) and, as noted by Muhammad Qasim `Abduh al-Harithi in his book Makanat al-Imam Abi Hanifa bayn al-muhaddithin (p. 201), the strength of Abu Dawud’s remark resides in the nature of his own specialty which is hadith, in function of which he recognized Abu Hanifa’s leadership among Muslims.

Ironically, Ibn Abi Dawud himself said on the authority of Nasr ibn `Ali: I heard Ibn Dawud — al-Khuraybi — say: “Among the people concerning Abu Hanifa there are plenty of enviers and ignorant ones.” Ibn Hajar relates it in his Tahdhib as we mentioned above, while Dhahabi relates it through Bishr al-Hafi in Tarikh al-Islam (6:142) and Manaqib Abi Hanifa (p. 32) with the wording: ma yaqa`u fi abi hanifa illa hasid aw jahil “None whatsoever inveighs against Abu Hanifa except an envier or an ignoramus.”

– Ibn `Adi alleged report of Yahyan ibn Ma`in’s weakening of Abu Hanifa from Ibn Abi Maryam’s saying: I asked Yahya ibn Ma`in about Abu Hanifa and he said: “One must not write his narrations.” (2473) This is assuredly a false ascription to Ibn Ma`in since it is firmly established that Ibn Ma`in considered Abu Hanifa as of reliable and trustworthy narrations:

a) Ibn Hajar in Tahdhib al-tahdhib (10:450) relates from both Muhammad ibn Sa`d al-`Awfi and Salih ibn Muhammad al-Asadi that Ibn Ma`in said: “Abu Hanifa is trustworthy (thiqa) in hadith”; and he relates from Ibn Ma`in’s own shaykh, Ibn al-Qattan, that he relied greatly on Abu Hanifa: Ahmad ibn `Ali ibn Sa`id al-Qadi said: I heard Yahya ibn Ma`in say: I heard Yahya ibn Sa`id al-Qattan say: “This is no lie on our part, by Allah! We have not heard better than Abu Hanifa’s opinion, and we have followed most of his sayings.” This is also related by Dhahabi in Manaqib Abi Hanifa (p. 32).

b) Dhahabi relates in his Tadhkirat al-huffaz (1:306) in the biography of Waki` that Yahya ibn Ma`in said: “I have not seen better than Waki`, he spends the night praying, fasts without interruption, and gives fatwa according to what Abu Hanifa said, and Yahya al-Qattan also used to give fatwa according to what Abu Hanifa said.”

c) Ibn `Abd al-Barr relates in al-Intiqa’ (p. 127): `Abd Allah ibn Ahmad al-Dawraqi said: Ibn Ma`in was asked about Abu Hanifa as I was listening, so he said: “He is trustworthy (thiqatun), I never heard that anyone had weakened him, and Shu`ba ibn al-Hajjaj wrote to him and told him to narrate hadith. He ordered him to do so, and Shu`ba is Shu`ba!”

– Ibn `Adi groundless conclusion: “Most of what he [Abu Hanifa] narrates is wrong.” (7:2479) This is applicable to Ibn `Adi himself. As for Abu Hanifa it is just as Shu`ba and Ibn Ma`in said, respectively: “He was, by Allah! good in his memorization” (Ibn `Abd al-Barr, al-Intiqa’ p. 127), and “Indeed he was more than trustworthy (na`am thiqa thiqa)” (al-Khatib, Tarikh Baghdad 13:449).

III. The “Salafi’s” claim that the grading of Abu Hanifa as weak for his poor memorization “was the position of Muslim (al-Kunaa wal Asmaa) [and] Nasaa’ee (ad-Du’afaa).”

Answer: It is correct that Nasa’i included Abu Hanifa in his book al-Du`afa’ wa al-matrukin (p. 233 #614) where he said: Nu`man ibn Thabit Abu Hanifa, laysa bi al-qawi fi al-hadith, kufi “He is not strong in hadith.” Apart from Nasa’i’s passing bounds in including such as Abu Hanifa in his book, and apart from the truth or merit of the remark “he is not strong,” nevertheless such a remark does not constitute tad`if as if he had said: “He is weak.” It only means that Nasa’i found something objectionable in him to deny him the rank of strength, not that he considered him weak as a narrator since one does not have to be strong in hadith in order to be a reliable narrator. Therefore it cannot be claimed that “the grading of Abu Hanifa as weak was the position of Nasa’i in his Sunan” for such was not his position. If one insists that it was, then Nasa’i would be contradicting it himself since in his Sunan he did narrate hadith from Abu Hanifa, as stated in the latter’s entries in al-Mizzi’ Tahdhib (10:449), Dhahabi’s Tadhkirat al-huffaz and his al-Kashshasf fi ma`rifati man lahu riwayatun fi al-kutub al-sitta (p. 322 #5845), Ibn Hajar’s Taqrib (2:248 #7179), and al-Khazraji’s Khulasat tadhhib tahdhib al-kamal (3:95 #7526)!

Equally false is the claim that Imam Muslim declared Abu Hanifa weak since all he said in his book al-Kuna wa al-asma’ (1:276 #963) is: sahib al-ra’y mudtarib al-hadith laysa lahu kabir hadith sahih. “The scholar of the “school of opinion,” his narrations are not firm in their wording and he has not many sound ones.” He did not say that he was weak.

Furthermore, generally spealing Muslim’s judgment is tainted by the difference in methodology between him and Abu Hanifa. This is evident in the tone he uses since he calls Abu Hanifa sahib al-ra’i, a loaded term of criticism by which the Hanafis are labeled by those who disagree with them. For this reason, neither Nasa’i’s inclusion of Abu Hanifa in his book of weak narrators nor his and Muslim’s remarks about Abu Hanifa are acceptable as a legitimate jarh or criticism of the Imam. The reason is that one of the fundamental rules of narrator-criticism is that if the critic is kown to differ with the narrator in matters of doctrine and methodology — and it is widely known that the so-called “school of hadith” differed with the so-called “school of opinion” (ra’y) — then the critic must state the reason for his jarh, and both Nasa’i and Muslim omitted to state any reason for theirs. Therefore their jarh is not retained until it is explained and can thus meet the criteria of the discipline.

Finally, it is a rule of jarh wa al-ta`dil that if the unexplained jarh (narrator-criticism) contradicts the explained ta`dil (narrator-authentication) by an authority of authentication who is fully aware of the jarh, then the explained ta`dil takes precedence over it without hesitation, as is the case with Nasa’i’s and Muslim’s jarh of Abu Hanifa not being retained after them by Abu Dawud and others, nor by later authorities such as al-Mizzi, Dhahabi, Ibn Hajar, al-Khazraji, al-Suyuti, and others.

IV. The “Salafi’s” claim that the grading of Abu Hanifa as weak for his poor memorization “was the position of… Bukharee (at-Taareekh al-Kabeer).”

Answer: Bukhari’s negative opinion of Abu Hanifa in his Sahih and his Tarikh is a rejected type of jarh and considered unreliable, since it is known that he had fundamental differences with Abu Hanifa on questions of principles, fiqh, and methodology, and his entire Sahih is in many parts an unspoken attempt to refute Abu Hanifa and his school. The Indian scholar Zafar al-Tahanawi showed Bukhari’s fanaticism against Abu Hanifa in the book edited by his student `Abd al-Fattah Abu Ghudda under the title Qawa`id fi `ulum al-hadith (p. 380-384), and other scholars have highlighted this aspect of disagreement between them. Among them is the Hanafi faqih and hadith master al-Zayla`i, who said in Nasb al-raya (1:355-356):

No student of the Science adorned himself with a better garment than fairness and the relinquishment of fanaticism…. Bukhari is very much pursuing an agenda in what he cites from the Sunna against Abu Hanifa, for he will mention a hadith and then insinuate something about him, as follows: “Allah’s Messenger said: such and such, and some people said: such and such.” By “some people” he means Abu Hanifa, so he casts him in the ugliest light possible, as someone who dissents from the hadith of the Prophet!

Bukhari also says in the beginning of his book (Sahih): “Chapter whereby Salat is part of Belief,” then he proceeds with the narrations of that chapter, and his purpose in that is to refute Abu Hanifa’s saying: “Deeds are not part of Belief” although many fuqaha’ do not realize this. And I swear by Allah, and again — by Allah! — that if Bukhari had found one hadith [to the effect that Salat is part of Belief] which met his criterion or came close to it, then his book would certainly not have been devoid of it, nor that of Muslim.

As we just said regarding Nasa’i and Muslim, among the kinds of rejected jarh are those based on differences of school, or `aqida, or methodology. For example, the mere fact that a narrator is Shi`a in `aqida and showing excessive love for `Ali, or if he is Nasibi in `aqida and showing hatred of `Ali, does not automatically mean that he is majruh [defective]. An example of a Shi`i narrator retained by Bukhari is the great muhaddith `Abd al-Razzaq al-San`ani (d. 211), the author of the Musannaf, from whom Bukhari took a quantity of hadiths. Two examples of narrators retained by Bukhari and Muslim although they were accused of being Nasibi are Huswayn ibn Numayr from whom Bukhari narrates the hadiths: “The Communities were shown to me and I saw a great dark mass” and “The Communities were shown to me and there was a Prophet with only one follower, and a Prophet with only two followers”; and Ahmad ibn `Abdah al-Dabbi, from whom Muslim takes one of three chains of the hadith: “I have been ordered to fight people until they say la ilaha ilallah and believe in me.”

Another example is the undue weakening of a scholar of the so-called “school of ra’y” [opinion] at the hands of a scholar of the so-called “school of hadith,” in this case the weakening of a Hanafi by a Hanbali: thus Ahmad’s weakening of Mu`alla ibn Mansur al-Razi (d. 211) is rejected, as shown by Dhahabi in al-Mughni (2:270) and by Abu Dawud before him, who said in his Sunan (book of Tahara): “Yahya ibn Ma`in said that Mu`alla is trustworthy while Ahmad ibn Hanbal would not narrate from him because he followed the methodology of ra’y”; thus Abu Dawud rejects Ahmad’s verdict and narrates from Mu`alla, as did Muslim, Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah, and others.

Bukhari’s narrations, in his Tarikh al-saghir, of reports ostensibly detrimental to Abu Hanifa, just as his narration of Yazid ibn Harun’s outlandish labeling of Abu Hanifa’s student, Muhammad al-Shaybani, as a Jahmi in his Khalq af`al al-`ibad (1990 ed. p. 15), belong to this category of rejected jarh. Such reports are simply dismissed as mistakes for which Bukhari must be forgiven, as he is not ma`sum.

The same is said about Ibn Hibban’s outlandish declaration in his Kitab al-majruhin (3:63-64) that Abu Hanifa is not to be relied upon because “he was a Murji’ and an innovator.” Such a judgment is discarded, as stated by al-Lucknawi in al-Raf` wa al-takmil: “Criticism of Abu Hanifa as a narrator on the claim of his irja’ is not accepted.” The reason is that the so-called Murji’a among the Hanafi Imams all belong to Ahl al-Sunna and are in no wise to be called innovators, such as Abu Hanifa, his shaykh Hammad ibn Abi Sulayman, and his two students Muhammad and Abu Yusuf. al-Dhahabi said in his Tarikh al-Islam (3:358f.): “The disapproved Murji’a are those who accepted Abu Bakr and `Umar but withheld taking a position concerning `Uthman and `Ali.” It is obvious that the Hanafi Imams do not enter into such a definition. Imam Abu Hanifa said in his Fiqh al-akbar (as narrated by `Ali al-Qari in his Sharh, 1984 ed. p. 96-101):

The best of mankind after the Prophets, peace be upon them all, are Abu Bakr al-Siddiq, then `Umar ibn al-Khattab, then `Uthman ibn `Affan dhu al-Nurayn, then `Ali ibn Abi Talib al-Murtada, may Allah be well pleased with all of them: men worshipping their Lord, steadfast upon truth and on the side of truth. We follow all of them (natawallahum jami`an). Nor do we mention any of the Prophet’s Companions except in good terms.

A longer definition of the “Murji’a” is given by Ibn Hajar in Hadi al-Sari (2:179) where he says:

Irja’ has the sense of “delaying” and carries two meanings among the scholars: some mean by it the delaying in declaring one’s position in the case of the two warring factions after `Uthman’s time [i.e. neither following nor rejecting either one]; and some mean by it the delaying in declaring that whoever commits grave sins and abandons obligations enters the Fire, on the basis that in their view belief consists in assertion and conviction and that quitting deeds [i.e. ceasing from obeying commands and prohibitions] does not harm it.”

The Sunni so-called “Murji’a” belong to the latter category but with one important provision: they do not hold that quitting deeds does not harm belief in the sense of threatening to destroy it: on the contrary, they hold that quitting deeds does harm the quitter. As `Ali al-Qari said in the title of one of his chapters in Sharh al-fiqh al-akbar (p. 67, 103), “Acts of disobedience harm their author, contrary to the belief of certain factions.” al-Mizzi relates in his Tahdhib al-kamal from Abu al-Salt al-Harawi this clarification overlooked by Ibn Hajar, whereby the Sunni “Murji’a” is thus called not because he considers that “quitting deeds does not harm belief” but only because he professes hope (yarju) of salvation for great sinners, as opposed to the Khawarij who declare sinners disbelievers, and the Mu`tazila who disbelieve in the Prophet’s intercession for great sinners. In this sense Abu Hanifa and the Maturidi school of doctrine hold what all other schools of Ahl al-Sunna hold. As for the Murji’a who rely on faith alone exclusively of deeds, they belong to the heretical sects, and the attribution of Abu Hanifa to such a belief is iftira’ and fabrication.

The difference with the Imam which Bukhari and Ibn Hibban were picking upon resides in among others in Abu Hanifa’s view that iman — belief — stands for one’s Islam and vice-versa and therefore neither increases or decreases once acquired. It is a fundamental tenet of the Maturidi school with which Bukhari differed and which is illustrated by the latter’s chapter-titles like “Salat is part of belief,” “Belief increases and decreases” etc. in his Sahih as al-Zayla`i pointed out in the excerpt we already quoted from him. The vast majority of Hanafis and the entire Maturidi school of doctrine hold the opposite view, as illustrated by `Ali al-Qari’s naming two chapter-titles of his Sharh al-fiqh al-akbar: “Belief neither increases nor decreases” (p. 126, 202), and another chapter is entitled: “The believers are equal in belief but differ in deeds” (p. 128) and another: “The grave sin [such as not performing salat] does not expel one from belief” (p. 102). All the above is also the sound doctrine of Ahl al-Sunna, as opposed to some present-day extremists who declare anyone who commits a major sin to be a disbeliever in need of repeating his shahada or be killed — and the latter contradicts the view of Imam Ahmad, who insisted that no Muslim should be called a disbeliever for any sin, as shown by Ibn Abi Ya`la in Tabaqat al-hanabila (1:329).

After these preliminaries we may now turn to show why Bukhari’s aspersions on Abu Hanifa in his Tarikh al-saghir are not retained by the scholars, even if today’s “Salafis” attempt to rely on them to justify Albani’s position against the Imam!

1st relation Bukhari said in his Tarikh al-saghir (p. 158): I heard al-Humaydi say: Abu Hanifa said: “I came to Mecca and took from the cupper three Sunan when I sat in front of him: He said to me to face the Ka`ba, he began with the right side of my head [shaving], and he reached the two bones.” al-Humaydi said: “A man who does not have Sunan from the Prophet nor from his Companions concerning the rituals of Pilgrimage or other things, how can he be imitated in questions of inheritance, obligations, charity, prayer, and the questions of Islam?!”

This relation is defective from several perspectives:

÷ `Abd al-Fattah Abu Ghudda said in his annotations to al-Lucknawi’s Raf` wa al-takmil (p. 395-397) that his shaykh al-Tahanawi said in his book Inja’ al-watan (1:23): “al-Humaydi wished to demean Abu Hanifa with his comments, but in fact he praised him without realizing. For Abu Hanifa was gracious and generous, and he would show gratefulness to whomever showed him kindness or taught him something, even a single letter. He was not one who kept hidden other people’s goodness towards him, or their favors. When he obtained something related to matters of religion from a simple cupper, he told of the cupper’s kindness and he showed him up as his teacher, fulfilling the right he held over him. And what a strange thing indeed to hear from al-Humaydi, when his own shaykh, al-Shafi`i, said: I carried from Muhammad ibn al-Hasan al-Shaybani knowledge equivalent to a full camel-load, and he would say: Allah has helped me with hadith through Ibn `Uyayna, and He helped me with fiqh through Muhammad ibn al-Hasan. And it is well-known that the well-spring of Muhammad ibn al-Hasan’s sciences are Abu Hanifa. Imam Shafi`i also said: Whoever seeks fiqh, let him frequent Abu Hanifa and his two companions; and he also said: Anyone that seeks fiqh is a dependent of Abu Hanifa. And yet, with all this, al-Humaydi does not show gratefulness for the Imam who is his Shaykh’s Shaykh, nor for the favor he represents for him.”

÷ al-Tahanawi also mentioned that Abu Hanifa went to pilgrimage with his father as a young man, and that the incident may well have taken place at that time, since what is learnt in a young age is hardly ever forgotten.

÷ al-Tahanawi also pointed out that in the time of Abu Hanifa in Mecca knowledge was distributed everywhere among the people, and it is not a far-fetched possibility that the humble cupper was one of the Tabi`in who had heard or seen what he knew from the Companions themselves. He asks: “From where does Humaydi know that that cupper was not one of the knowledgeable Tabi`is, and that he either narrated these three Sunan with their chain back to the Prophet, or suspended back to one of the great Companions?!”

÷ al-Tahanawi concluded: “As for Humaydi’s saying: how can Abu Hanifa be imitated, then we know that a greater one than Humaydi did imitate him, such as Imam al-Shafi`i — whom al-Humaydi imitated, — Yahya ibn Sa`id al-Qattan, Malik ibn Anas, Sufyan al-Thawri, Ahmad ibn Hanbal (through Abu Hanifa’s students the Qadi Abu Yusuf and Muhammad al-Shaybani), Waki` ibn al-Jarrah, `Abd Allah ibn al-Mubarak, Yahya ibn Ma`in, and their likes. Then the kings, the sultans, the khulafa’, the viziers imitated him, and the scholars of knowledge, the scholars of hadith, the saints, the jurists, and the commonality imitated him, until Allah was worshipped through the school of Abu hanifa all over the world, and that was because of the good manners upon which Abu Hanifa was grounded, because he did not look down upon taking the highest knowledge from a cupper, and so Allah made him the Imam of the Umma, the greatest of the Imams, and the guide of humanity.”

[Another illustration of Imam Abu Hanifa’s great humility is the narration of Ishaq ibn al-Hasan al-Kufi related by Dhahabi in Manaqib Abi Hanifa (p. 38): A man came to the market and asked for the shop of Abu Hanifa, the Faqih. Abu Hanifa said to him: “He is not a Faqih. He is one who gives legal opinions according to his obligation.”]

÷ Shaykh Abu Ghudda added (al-Raf` p. 397-398): “In addition to the above it is noted that al-Humaydi said: Abu Hanifa said without mentioning from whom he had heard it, and I have not found any proof that al-Humaydi (d. 219) ever met Abu Hanifa at all…. It is clear to us that he was not born when Abu Hanifa died (d. 150)… The report is therefore weak due to the interruption in its chain of transmission, and that is enough.”

÷ Shaykh Abu Ghudda concluded with what we mentioned before, in the section on Ibn `Adi, namely that any criticism of Abu Hanifa attributed to Sufyan al-Thawri is rejected out of hand and there can be no reliance on such criticism to establish narrator-criticism. This particular rule was enunciated by al-Taj al-Subki in Qawa`id fi `ulum al-hadith (p. 195) as well as his Qa`ida fi al-jarh wa al-ta`dil (p. 53-55), also Haytami’s al-Khayrat al-hisan (p. 74), al-Lucknawi’s al-Raf` wa al-takmil (p. 425), and Abu Ghudda’s marginalia on Subki’s and al-Lucknawi’s works.

2nd relation Bukhari also said in his Tarikh al-saghir (p. 174): Nu`aym ibn Hammad narrated to us and said: al-Fazari narrated to us and said: I was visiting with Sufyan al-Thawri and we received news of Abu Hanifa’s death, so Sufyan said: “al-Hamdu lillah! he was taking apart Islam branch by branch. No greater misfortune than him was ever born into Islam (ma wulida fi al-islami ash’amu minhu).”

This relation is even more defective than the first — may Allah have mercy both on Abu Hanifa and his detractors — for the following reasons:

÷ Shaykh `Abd al-Fattah Abu Ghudda said in his marginal notes to al-Lucknawi’s al-Raf` wa al-takmil (p. 393): “Our shaykh, the verifying scholar al-Kawthari, said in his book Fiqh ahl al-`Iraq wa hadithuhum (p. 87), and in the introduction of hafiz al-Zayla`i’s book Nasb al-raya (p.58-59):

There is a kind of criticism by which the critic destroys his credibility from the start through the fact that his words bear all the traits of rashness. If you see him saying, for example: “No greater misfortune than him was ever born into Islam,” you will notice that there is no misfortune (shu’m) in Islam; even if we should admit that there is — in the centuries other than the three mentioned in the hadith — still, without doubt, the gradations of misfortune vary: and to declare a certain person to be the worst of the worst without a statement to that effect from the Prophet is to claim to know the unseen from which the people of Religion are clear. Such a statement, therefore, destroys the credibility of its speaker, if it is firmly established to come from him, before the credibility of the subject of the statement. In a very precarious position indeed is the one who records such an absurdity to the detriment of the leading Imams.”

÷ “And in his book Ta’nib al-Khatib (p. 48, 72, 111) Kawthari also said:

If such a saying were ascertained from Sufyan al-Thawri, he would have fallen from credibility due to this word alone for its passionate tone and rashness. Suffice it to say in refutation of that narration that Nu`aym ibn Hammad is in its chain of transmission, and the least that was said about him is that he conveyed rejected narrations and he has been accused of forging disgraceful stories against Abu Hanifa.

÷ “And our shaykh, the verifying savant and hadith scholar Zafar Ahmad al-Tahanawi said in his book Inja’ al-watan min al-izdira’ bi imam al-zaman (Saving the Nation from the scorn displayed against the Imam of the Time) 1:22:

“It is a grievous thing that issues from their mouth as a saying. What they say is nothing but falsehood!” (18:5). By Allah, there was not born into Islam, after the Prophet, greater fortune and assistance than al-Nu`man Abu Hanifa. The proof of this can be witnessed in the extinction of the schools of his attackers, while his increases in fame day and night. I do not blame al-Bukhari for it, since he only related what he heard. However, I blame for it his shaykh Nu`aym ibn Hammad, even if the latter is a hadith master whom some have declared trustworthy [e.g. Ahmad, Ibn Ma`in, and al-`Ujli], nevertheless the hadith master Abu Bishr al-Dulabi said: “Nu`aym narrates from Ibn al-Mubarak; al-Nasa’i said: he is weak (da`if), and others said: he used to forge narrations in defence of the Sunna, and disgraceful stories against Abu Hanifa, all of them lies.” Similarly Abu al-Fath al-Azdi said: “They said he used to forge hadiths in defence of the Sunna, and fabricate disgraceful stories against Abu Hanifa, all of them lies.” Similarly in Tahdhib al-tahdhib (10:462-463) and Mizan al-i`tidal (3:238, 4:268) [and also Tahdhib al-tahdhib (10:460)]: “al-`Abbas ibn Mus`ab said in his Tarikh: “Nu`aym ibn Hammad composed books to refute the Hanafis”… [and in Hadi al-Sari (2:168): “Nu`aym ibn Hammad was violently against the People of ra’y”] therefore neither his word nor his narration to the detriment Abu Hanifa and Hanafis can ever be accepted….

It is, furthermore, established that 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 (jiqh).”

Finally, we repeat Ibn al-Subki’s instruction to hadith scholars already quoted in the discussion of Ibn `Adi: “Pay no attention to al-Thawri’s criticism of Abu Hanifa” and `Abd al-Hayy al-Lucknawi’s warning: “Beware of paying any attention to what took place between Abu Hanifa and Sufyan al-Thawri….” And Allah knows best.

V. The “Salafi’s” claim that the grading of Abu Hanifa as weak for his poor memorization “was the position of… al-Uqailee (ad-Du’afaa p.432) [and] ibn Hibbaan (al-Majrooheen).”

Answer: We already mentioned that jarh — narrator-criticism — is rejected if it is based on differences in methodology and school. Another category of jarh that is not taken into account by the scholars is that declared by a scholar who is known for his fanatic or blind condemnation of others. Examples of this category of jarh are the fanaticism (ta`annut) against Hanafis and Abu Hanifa of the following: Daraqutni and Ibn `Adi as already shown, Ibn Hibban and al-`Uqayli as we will show presently.

Of Ibn Hibban’s general method in narrator-criticism Dhahabi said in Mizan al-i`tidal (2:185, 3:121): “He vociferates, as is his habit” and he calls him “Ibn Hibban the Shredder, the most reckless of the ill-natured ones” (Ibn Hibban al-khassaf al-mutahawwir fi `arimin); while Ibn Hajar said in al-Qawl al-musaddad fi al-dhabb `an musnad Ahmad (p. 33): “Ibn Hibban all-too-readily declares the trustworthy to be weak, and acts as if he does not know what he is saying.” The editor of Ibn Hibban’s book al-Majruhin min al-muhaddithin wa al-du`afa’ wa al-matrukin, Mahmud Ibrahim Zayid, says the following in the margin of his notice on Abu Hanifa (3:61):

[Ibn Hibban] did not leave a single device of the devices of narrator-criticism except he used it [against Abu Hanifa], and in so doing he accepted the reports of narrators whom he himself does not trust for narration according to his own methodology. He discarded the reports of those who are considered trustworthy among the Imams of the Umma and he accepted the reports of the most extreme of those who have been criticized for weakness.

Nor did he content himself with what he cited in the contents of his books in such attacks against the Imam, but he also composed two of his largest books exclusively as an attack against Abu Hanifa, and these books are: Kitab `ilal manaqib Abi Hanifa (Book of the defects in Abu Hanifa’s qualities), in ten parts, and Kitab `ilal ma istanada ilayhi Abu Hanifa (Book of the defects of what Abu Hanifa relied upon), in ten parts!

As for the Hanbali scholar al-`Uqayli: he is possibly the most fanatic and least reliable of narrator-criticism authorities. His notice on Abu Hanifa in his book entitled Kitab al-du`afa’ al-kabir (4:268-285 #1876) is, like that of Ibn Hibban on the Imam, a biased selection of weak, very weak, and fabricated reports. As a result of this and other similar displays he does not carry any weight with the hadith masters. To quote his opinion as evidence for the weakening of Abu Hanifa is only a proof of ignorance on the part of “Salafis.”

`Uqayli attacked in his book narrator after narrator of the authorities relied upon by Bukhari and Muslim, in addition to the Imams of fiqh and hadith, hacking down, in the process, the names of `Ali ibn al-Madini, Bukhari, `Abd al-Razzaq, Ibn Abi Shayba, Ubrahim ibn Sa`d, `Affan, Aban al-`Attar, Isra’il ibn Yunus, Azhar al-Saman, Bahz ibn Asad, Thabit al-Bunani, and Jarir ibn `Abd al-Hamid. Dhahabi throws the book at him in Mizan al-i`tidal (2:230, 3:140):

Have you no mind, O `Uqayli?! (afama laka `aqlun ya `uqayli) Do you know who you are talking about?! The only reason we mention what you say about them is in order to repel from them the statements made about them — as if you did not know that each one of those you target is several times more trustworthy than you?! Nay, more trustworthy than many trustworthy narrators whom you did not even cite once in your book… If the hadith of these narrators were to be abandoned, then shut the gates, cease all speech, let hadith transmission die, put the free-thinkers in office, and let the antichrists come out!

One of `Uqayli’s worse traits in his Kitab al-du`afa’ is his putting derogatory reports in the mouth of great Imams, such as the story whereby Imam Ahmad reportedly states that Abu Hanifa lies (4:284)! If this were true, then how could Imam Ahmad allow himself to narrate hadith from Abu Hanifa in his Musnad, as he did with the narration al-dallu `ala al-khayri ka fa`ilihi which he took from the Imam with a sound chain to the Prophet from Burayda? And the reason why Ahmad included it in the Musnad is that no one other than Abu Hanifa narrated this hadith from Burayda. This is a proof against `Uqayli’s above relation from Ahmad since the latter would not have related this hadith if he considered that Abu Hanifa lied.

A more explicit proof against this spurious attribution to Imam Ahmad is his words as related by his close student, Abu Bakr al-Marrudhi al-Khallal: I said to him [Ahmad ibn Hanbal]: “al-Hamdu lillah! He [Abu Hanifa] has a high rank in knowledge.” He replied: “Subhan Allah! He occupies a station in knowledge, extreme fear of Allah, asceticism, and the quest for the Abode of the hereafter, where none whatsoever reaches him.” Dhahabi narrated it in Manaqib Abi Hanifa (p. 43).

Another proof against `Uqayli’s spurious attribution to Imam Ahmad is given by Ibn Ma`in when he was asked: Does Abu Hanifa lie? and he replied: Woe to you! He is nobler than that. We mentioned this report above, in the first part of Ibn Hajar’s notice from Tahdhib al-tahdhib.

Finally, it is established by Ibn `Imad in his Shadharat al-dhahab (1:228), al-Dhahabi in Tarikh al-islam (6:141), and al-Khatib in Tarikh Baghdad (13:360) that whenever Abu Hanifa was mentioned to Imam Ahmad he would speak kindly of him, and that when Ahmad under the whip was reminded that Abu Hanifa had suffered the same treatment for refusing a judgeship, he wept and said: Rahimahullah. [See above, Ibn Hajar’s notice on Abu Hanifa in Tahdhib al-tahdhib.] May Allah have mercy on both of them. We also refer the reader to Ibn `Abd al-Barr’s relevant section in his book al-Intiqa’, where he systematically refutes al-`Uqayli’s narrations against Abu Hanifa.

VI. The “Salafi’s” claim that the grading of Abu Hanifa as weak for his poor memorization “was the position of… ibn Abee Haatim (al-Jarh wat Tadil).”

Answer: Ibn Abi Hatim’s notice on Abu Hanifa in his book al-Jarh wa al-ta`dil is plagued with grave weaknesses from the viewpoint of reliability. The reason is not that Ibn Abi Hatim is unreliable as an authenticator of narrations, but rather that he is intent on reporting what is damaging to Abu Hanifa at all cost, even if he must turn a blind eye to the inauthenticity of such reports. A flagrant sign of his bias is that he reports only a few derogatory stories, but no positive report about Abu Hanifa, contrary to the rule of fairness imposed on all scholars of narrator-criticism and narrator-authentication. Some examples of those stories:

÷ Ibn Abi Hatim claims in al-Jarh wa al-ta`dil (8:449): “Ibn al-Mubarak [d. 181], in his later period, quit narrating from Abu Hanifa. I heard my father [b. 195!] say that.”

The fact is that if Ibn Abi Hatim were to see such a report as this, he would reject it out of hand and never adduce it as evidence for anything. The reason is that when Ibn al-Mubarak died, Ibn Abi Hatim’s father was not even born. How then could a report from the latter constitute reliable evidence about the former, when the chain of transmission of such a report is cut off and misses one, two, or more narrators?

What puts a final seal on its inadmissibility is that it contradicts the established position of the verifying scholars on Ibn al-Mubarak’s transmission from Abu Hanifa, which is that he never stopped taking hadith from him whether in his early or his later period. This is stated by al-Mizzi in his notice on Abu Hanifa in Tahdhib al-kamal and al-Dhahabi in Manaqib Abi Hanifa (p. 20) and is confirmed by the following reports:

– Ibn al-Mubarak praised Abu Hanifa and called him a sign of Allah. al-Khatib reports it in Tarikh Baghdad (13:337) and al-Dhahabi in Siyar a`lam al-nubala’ (6:398).

– `Ali ibn al-Madini said: “From Abu Hanifa narrated: al-Thawri, Ibn al-Mubarak, Hammad ibn Zayd, Hisham, Waki`, `Abbad ibn al-`Awwam, and Ja`far ibn `Awn.” al-Haytami related it in al-Khayrat al-hisan (p. 74) and al-Qurashi in al-Jawahir al-mudiyya (1:29).

– Both Ibn al-Mubarak and Sufyan al-Thawri said: “Abu Hanifa was the most knowledgeable of all people on earth.” Ibn Hajar related it in his notice on Abu Hanifa in Tahdhib al-tahdhib and also Ibn Kathir in al-Bidaya wa al-nihaya (10:107).

– 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 in Manaqib Abu Hanifa (p. 30) relates it as: “I would have been an innovator.”]

– `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.” Dhahabi related it in Manaqib Abi Hanifa (p. 36).

– Hibban ibn Musa said: Ibn al-Mubarak was asked: “Who is more knowledgeable in fiqh, Malik or Abu Hanifa?” He replied: “Abu Hanifa.” Dhahabi relates it in Tarikh al-islam (6:142) and Manaqib Abi Hanifa (p. 32).

The latter report echoes the statement of Imam Ahmad related by Dhahabi in Manaqib Abi Hanifa (p. 41) whereby Nusayr ibn Yahya al-Balkhi said: I said to Ahmad ibn Hanbal: “Why do you reproach to this man [Abu Hanifa]?” He replied: al-ra’y = “[Reliance on] opinion.” I said: “Consider Malik, did he not speak on the basis of opinion?” He said: “Yes, but Abu Hanifa’s opinion was immortalized in books.” I said: “Malik’s opinion was also immortalized in books.” He said: “Abu Hanifa opinioned more than him.” I said: “Why then will you not give this one his due and that one his due?!” He remained silent.

÷ Ibn Abi Hatim also claims in al-Jarh wa al-ta`dil (8:450): Ibrahim ibn Ya`qub al-Jawzajani [d. 259] told me in writing, on the authority of `Abd al-Rahman al-Muqri’ [d. 185] that the latter said: Abu Hanifa would talk to us, after which he would say: “All that you have heard is wind and null and void” (hadha al-ladhi sami`tum kulluhu rih wa batil).

This is another one of those reports which are against rather than for Ibn Abi Hatim’s credit to cite, due to uncertainty in the link or links that may be missing in its chain of transmission.

As for the defect in the matn — text — itself, it is so evident that it would be absurd to pretend that Ibn Abi Hatim missed it. Abu Hanifa was described by the following as an Imam whose fiqh outweighed the intelligence of everyone who lived on earth in his time: Abu Bakr ibn `Ayyash, Ibn Jurayj, Yazid ibn Harun, Shaddad ibn Hakim, Sufyan ibn `Uyayna, Makki ibn Ibrahim, Mis`ar ibn Kidam, `Ali ibn `Asim, and Ahmad ibn Hanbal! All this is related by Dhahabi in Manaqib Abi Hanifa (p. 29-32, 42-43). Would all these testify to the knowledge of an Imam who concludes his lessons by tossing them out into the wind?

In fact, the reality of what Abu Hanifa would say in conclusion of his lessons is linked to his humility and greast fear of Allah as shown by the following reports taken from the same book by Imam Dhahabi (p. 34):

– Muhammad ibn Shuja` al-Thalji said: I heard Isma`il ibn Hammad ibn Abi Hanifa say: Abu Hanifa said: “Our position here is only our opinion. We do not oblige anyone to follow it, nor do we say that it is required for anyone to accept it. Whoever has something better, let him produce it.”

– al-Hasan ibn Ziyad al-Lu’lu’i said: Abu Hanifa said: “Our science in this is only an opinion. It is the best that we have been able to reach. Whoever brings us better than this, we accept it from him.”

The above clarifications of the Imam on his method are a far cry from Ibn Abi Hatim’s corrupt attribution to him of the words: ” All that you have heard is wind and null and void”!

÷ Ibn Abi Hatim in al-Jarh wa al-ta`dil (8:450) claims on the written authority of the same Ibrahim ibn Ya`qub al-Jawzajani that Ishaq ibn Rahawayh said: I heard Jarir say: Muhammad ibn Jabir al-Yamami said: “Abu Hanifa stole Hammad’s books from me”!

May Allah forgive Ibn Abi Hatim and all Abu Hanifa’s detractors for going to such extremes in attempting to discredit him. Such a mendacious report as the above is easily thrown out on the two bases of its chain and its text.

Its chain is weak due to Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Yamani whom Ibn Abi Hatim himself in al-Jarh (1:219) declared to be weak with the words: da`if kathir al-wahm, “He is weak and many times imagines things”! Others who declared this narrator as weak are: Ibn Ma`in in his Tarikh (3:507), al-Nasa’i in al-Du`afa’ wa al-matrukin (p. 533), `Uqayli in al-Du`afa’ (4:41), Ibn Hibban in al-Majruhin (2:270), Ibn `Adi in al-Kamil fi al-du`afa’ (6:2158), al-Dhahabi in al-Mughni fi al-du`afa’ (#5349), among others.

Its text is absurd due to the fact that Abu Hanifa could have easily gotten Hammad ibn Abi Sulayman’s books directly from him, since he was his student for more than twenty years. Furthermore Abu Hanifa was extremely rich, and in no need of stealing what he could obtain by purchase. Finally, Abu Hanifa was reputed for his extreme fear of Allah (wara`), which precludes him, in accordance with all those who testified to his character, from committing such an act. Dhahabi related in Manaqib Abi Hanifa (p. 24): Ibn al-Mubarak said: “Abu Hanifa for a long time would pray all five prayers with a single wudu’,” and 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.”

VII. The “Salafi’s” claim that the grading of Abu Hanifa as weak for his poor memorization “was the position of… al-Haakim (Ma’rifa Ulum al-Hadeeth).”

Answer: It seems this is but another proof of the fibbing of “Salafis,” since al-Hakim in Ma`rifat `ulum al-hadith mentions the Imam only among the “reputable trustworthy Imams”! as we see from the following excerpt taken from Sa`id Muhammad al-Lahham’s edition (Beirut: Dar al-hilal, 1409/1989):

The forty-ninth kind [of the sciences of hadith]: Knowledge of the famous trustworthy Imams (ma`rifat al-a’imma al-thiqat al-mashhurin):

Among the people of Kufa:… Mis`ar ibn Kidam al-Hilali, Abu Hanifa al-Nu`man ibn Thabit al-Taymi, Malik ibn Mighwal al-Bajali…

VIII. The “Salafi’s” claim that the grading of Abu Hanifa as weak for his poor memorization “was the position of… ibn Sa’d (Tabaqaat 6/256).”

Answer: Ibn Sa`d’s weakening of a narrator is questionable when it pertains to the scholars of Iraq — Abu Hanifa being among them — according to Ibn Hajar’s words in his notice for Muharib ibn Dithar in Hadi al-Sari (2:164): “Ibn Sa`d’s tad`if is questionable (fihi nazar), because he imitates al-Waqidi and relies on him, and al-Waqidi, according to the fashion of the scholars of Madina, is extremely adverse to the scholars of Iraq. Know this and you will be directed to what is right, with Allah’s will.”

IX. The “Salafi’s” claim that the grading of Abu Hanifa as weak for his poor memorization “was the position of… adh-Dhahabee (ad-Du’afaa q. 215/1-2).”

Answer: Dhahabi’s authentic position on the reliability of Abu Hanifa is established in the notices on Abu Hanifa in Tadhkirat al-huffaz and al-Kashif fi ma`rifat man lahu riwaya fi al-kutub al-sitta, in the monograph he wrote on him entitled Manaqib Abi Hanifa, and in his mention of him in his introduction to Mizan al-i`tidal. In none of the above texts does he mention any weakening of Abu Hanifa. Therefore whatever contradicts them must be questioned and, if established as authentic, retained, if not, rejected as spurious and inauthentic.

Let us examine the text of Dhahabi’s purported notice in his Diwan al-Du`afa’ wa al-matrukin as found in Shaykh Khalil al-Mays’s edition (Beirut: Dar al-fikr, 1408/1988 2:404 #4389):

al-Nu`man: al-Imam, rahimahullah. Ibn `Adi said: “Most of what he narrates is error (ghalat), corruption in the text (tashif), and additions (ziyadat), but he has good narrations.” al-Nasa’i said: “He is not strong in hadith, he makes many errors although he has only a few narrations.” Ibn Ma`in said: “His narrations are not written.”

This is a spurious attribution to Dhahabi and an evident case of interpolation into the text of his book al-Du`afa. Dhahabi said in Tadhhib al-tahdhib (4:101): “Our shaykh Abu al-Hajjaj [al-Mizzi] did well when he did not cite anything whereby he [Abu Hanifa] should be deemed weak as a narrator.” He also said in the introduction of Mizan al-i`tidal, on which his Du`afa’ is based: “I do not mention [in my classifications of the weak narrators] any of the Companions, the Tabi`in, or the Imams who are followed.” It is established that Abu Hanifa is a Tabi`i and the foremost of the Imams who are followed. Moreover, in his entire book on Abu Hanifa entitled Manaqib al-imam Abu Hanifa, Dhahabi mentions no such weakening nor even alludes to it. Nor does he cite it in the chapter devoted to Abu Hanifa in Tadhkirat al-huffaz! How then could he cite in al-Du`afa’ Ibn `Adi’s and al-Nasa’i’s biased opinions, which flatly contradicts his other works, and his method as established from his own words, without any explanation on his part? And how could he relate in the Du`afa’ that Ibn Ma`in said: “His narrations are not written” while he relates in Manaqib Abi Hanifa (p. 45) and Tadhkirat al-huffaz (1:168): “Ibn Ma`in said: Abu Hanifa is trustworthy (thiqa)” and: Ibn Ma`in said of Abu Hanifa: la ba’sa bihi — “there is no harm in him”? Note that in Ibn Ma`in’s terminology such a grading is the same as thiqa (i.e. he is reliable), as stated by Ibn Salah in his Muqaddima (p. 134) and Dhahabi himself in Lisan al-mizan (1:13).

The reason for the discrepancy is clearly that the passage in the Du`afa’ is a later addition to Dhahabi’s book from those who wanted to put on Imam Abu Hanifa’s weakening the stamp of Dhahabi’s credibility, even at the cost of forgery.

A remarkable proof of this forgery is confirmed by the near-identical spurious notice on Abu Hanifa in Dhahabi’s Mizan al-i`tidal under the name of al-Nu`man ibn Thabit, Abu Hanifa, whereby Dhahabi purportedly said: “al-Nasa’i declared him weak from the perspective of his memorization, also Ibn `Adi, and others” (ed. `Ali Muhammad al-Bajawi, Cairo: al-Halabi, 4:265 #9092). This is an addition by other than Dhahabi, which is found in the less reliable copies (nusakh) of the Mizan and not in the authentic manuscripts. There is a hint of this in the footnote by the editor, al-Bajawi, who says: “This notice [on Abu Hanifa] is missing from two of the manuscripts.”

The proofs that it is an interpolation are both internal and external, as we quote below from Shaykh `Abd al-Fattah Abu Ghudda’s masterful demonstration in his edition of al-Lucknawi’s al-Raf` wa al-takmil (p. 121-126):

`Abd al-Fattah says: al-Lucknawi gave ample proofs for the tampering of the notice on Abu Hanifa in some of the manuscripts of the Mizan in his book Ghayth al-ghamam `ala hawashi imam al-kalam (p. 146), where he mentions many factors for concluding that it does not authentically belong to the Mizan. I will mention only some of them and direct the reader to his book for the rest. He said: “There is no trace of this mention in some of the reliable manuscripts which I have seen, and the following confirms it:

÷ al-`Iraqi said in his Sharh al-alfiyya (3:260): “Ibn `Adi mentioned in his book al-Kamil every narrator who was ever criticized even if he is considered trustworthy, and Dhahabi followed him in this in al-Mizan, except that he did not mention any of the Companions or the Imams that are followed.” ÷ al-Sakhawi said in his Sharh al-alfiyya (p. 477): “Although Dhahabi followed Ibn `Adi in mentioning every narrator who was ever criticized even if he is considered trustworthy, yet he bound himself not to mention any of the Companions or the Imams that are followed.” ÷ al-Suyuti said in Tadrib al-rawi sharh taqrib al-Nawawi (p. 519): “Except that Dhahabi did not mention any of the Companions or the Imams that are followed.”

`Abd al-Fattah says: Dhahabi himself explicitly declares in the introduction of al-Mizan (1:3): “Similarly I did not mention in my book any of the Imams that are followed in the branches of the Law due to their immense standing in Islam and their greatness in the minds of people: such as Abu Hanifa, Shafi`i, and Bukhari. If I mention any of them, I do not do so except to render him his due (`ala al-insaf i.e. to be very fair). This does not attack their standing before Allah and before men.”

However, the edition of the Mizan published at Matba`at al-sa`ada in Cairo in 1325 (3:237) contains a two-line notice on Abu Hanifa [“al-Nasa’i declared him weak from the perspective of his memorization, also Ibn `Adi, and others”] which contains no defense of Abu Hanifa at all, and consists only in criticizing him and declaring him weak: and Dhahabi’s words in the introduction preclude the existence of such a notice, since it is all faultfinding and renders him no justice….

I looked up the third volume of Mizan al-i`tidal kept in the Zahiriyya library in Damascus under the number “368 New,” a very valuable set indeed, which begins with the letter m and ends with the end of the book, all written in the hand of the savant and hadith master Sharaf al-Din `Abd Allah ibn Muhammad al-Wani (d. 749) of Damascus, Dhahabi’s student, who read this back to Dhahabi three times while comparing it to his original, as declared on the back of folios 109 and 159 of the volume, and elsewhere. I saw no mention of Imam Abu Hanifa in that volume under the letter n [for Nu`man] nor under the paternal names.

Similarly I saw no notice for Abu Hanifa in the manuscript kept at the Ahmadiyya library in Aleppo uner the number 337, a good copy made in 1160 from an original made in 777…

Nor in the manuscript of Dhahabi’s own copy of Mizan al-i`tidal kept in the general storing-library in Rabat, Morocco under number 129Q which is signed by the hand of eight different students of his to the effect that they read it in his presence and were certified by him to have done so….

This is a tremendous and rare examplar in the world of manuscripts, and I did not find in it a mention of Abu Hanifa. Something such as this is a decisive proof for anyone that the notice found in some copies of the Mizan is not from the pen of al-Dhahabi, but was interpolated into the book by some of the adversaries of the Imam Abu Hanifa….

Dhahabi’s Mizan has been tampered with by foreign hands in more than one place, and it is imperative that it be edited and published on the basis of a manuscript that has been read before the author himself, such as that in the Zahiriyya library of Damascus, or that in the library of Rabat….

Our friend the savant Shaykh Muhammad `Abd al-Rashid al-Nu`mani al-Hindi in his book Ma tamassu ilayhi al-haja li man yutali` sunan Ibn Majah (p. 47) also showed another aspect of the tampering done with Abu Hanifa’s notice in the Mizan and I refer the reader to it. The same proof was mentioned before him by Lucknawi’s student, the brilliant verifying scholar Zahir Ahmad al-Nimawi in his book al-Ta`liq al-hasan `ala athar al-Sunan (1:88).

I also took notice of what was said by our shaykh the great savant Mawlana Zafar Ahmad al-`Uthmani al-Tahanawi in his book Qawa`id fi `ulum al-hadith (p. 211) in commenting on Dhahabi’s words — already quoted — from the introduction of his Mizan, whereupon Tahanawi said: “By this it is known that what is found in some copies of the Mizan concerning Abu Hanifa and his weakening due to poor memorization is an ilhaq — something added which was not there originally…. And how could it be there when Dhahabi included Abu Hanifa in Tadhkirat al-huffaz, which he introduced with the words: “This is the memorial of the names of those who were declared the trustees among the carriers of the Science of the Prophet and to whose ijtihad one refers concerning matters of narrator-certification (tawthiq), authentication (tashih), and falsification (tazyif).” End of our shaykh’s words.

I also saw that the Emir al-San`ani said in Tawdih al-afkar (2:277): “There is no notice for Abu Hanifa in al-Mizan.”….

Nor is there any notice for Abu Hanifa in the manuscript of the Mizan that was copied by the meticulous hadith master and muhaddith of Aleppo in his time, Ibrahim ibn Muhammad Sibt Ibn al-`Ajami who finished copying it in the year 789 from a copy that was certified in Dhahabi’s handwriting.

It is therefore decisively ascertained that the notice on Abu Hanifa in the Mizan is an interpolation in some of its manuscripts in which Dhahabi had no part.


The great merits of Imam Abu Hanifa are extremely numerous. Imam Dhahabi wrote one volume on the life of each of the other three great Imams but he said in his Siyar a`lam al-nubala’ (6:403): “The account of Abu Hanifa’s sira requires two volumes.” The greatness of Abu Hanifa was never reached by those who followed him, just as his son Hammad had predicted when upon his father’s body he said: ” You have exhausted whoever comes after you (who tries to catch up with you).” He is the first to have put down the topics of Fiqh in a book, beginning with tahara and salat. Whoever followed after him in Islam using that model, such as Malik, Shafi`i, Abu Dawud, Bukhari, Muslim, Tirmidhi, and others, 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: man sanna fi al-islami sunnatan hasanatan: “Whoever starts something good in Islam…” and al-Shafi`i referred to this when he said: al-nasu `iyalun `ala abi hanifa fi al-fiqh = “people (scholars) are all the dependents of Abu Hanifa in fiqh.” al-Dhahabi relates it in Tadhkirat al-huffaz in the chapter on Abu Hanifa, and also Ibn Hajar in Tahdhib al-tahdhib (10:450). And the hafiz al-Khatib al-Baghdadi narrated in Tarikh Baghdad (13:344) that the hafiz Abu Nu`aym said:

Muslims should made du`a to Allah on behalf of Abu Hanifa in their prayers, because the Sunan and the fiqh were preserved for them through him.

Like Imam Bukhari, Abu Hanifa used to make 60 khatmas of Qur’an every Ramadan: on in the day, one in the night, besides his teaching and other duties. al-Subki relates it of Bukhari in Tabaqat al-shafi`iyya, while Dhahabi and al-Haytami relate it of Abu Hanifa respectively in Manaqib Abi Hanifa (p. 23) and al-Khayrat al-hisan. Al-Khatib in Tarikh Baghdad (13:356), Dhahabi in the Manaqib (p. 22), and Suyuti in Tabyid al-sahifa (p. 94-95) relate that 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.” Suyuti also 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 wilaya.” May Allah be well pleased with His Friend and make him inhabit the Highest Paradise.

May Allah have mercy on Imam al-A`zam Abu Hanifa and forgive his detractors. al-Hamdu lillah it is proven without doubt that Abu Hanifa has been given the three highest gradings by the verifying authorities in hadith since he has been called imam by Abu Dawud, hafiz by al-Dhahabi, and thiqa thiqa by Ibn Ma`in. More importantly, the claim that he was declared weak has been shown to be itself a weak claim no sooner made than proven wrong or worthless. The claims of present-day innovators against him were anticipated and rejected in advance by the hadith master Ibn Hajar al-`Asqalani when he said, as related by his student the hadith master al-Sakhawi in his biography al-Jawahir wa al-durar (p. 227):

The Imam and his peers are of those who have reached the sky, and as a result nothing that anyone says against any of them can have any effect. They are in the highest level, where Allah raised them, through their being Imams that are followed and through whom one reaches guidance. Let this be clearly understood, and Allah is the Giver of success.

Shaykh Muhammad `Awwama mentioned it in his book Athar al-hadith al-sharif (p. 116). And Allah Almighty knows best.


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