Home > Biographies > Imam Abu Hanifa (Rd) : Part 3

Imam Abu Hanifa (Rd) : Part 3

More Quotes from Imam Bukhari

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….

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