Chapter two: A brief selection of the praises showered on Imam Abu Hanifa:
1. When the verse of Sura Juma', "...and others among them who have not as yet met up with them" was revealed, the Prophet (saw) placed his hand on Salman (ra) the Persian saying, "If Imaan (deen) had been on Pleiades, then men - or he said- a person from among them would have reached it.
Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab al-Tafseer.
Hafiz Suyuti said, "This hadith is an authentic and reliable basis for the inference that reference was to Imam Abi Hanifa."
The student of Hafiz Suyuti said, "Our teacher was convinced that this narration doubtless referred to Imam Abu Hanifa because none from Persia attained his rank in Islamic knowledge ('ilm)."
2. Sam’ani said in al-Ansaab: “He (Imam Abu Hanifa) engrossed himself in the pursuit of knowledge (‘ilm) and went to great lengths in acquiring it until he achieved what none besides him achieved. One day he came to (Caliph) Mansur when ‘Isa ibn Abaan was present. He (Ibn Abaan) said to Mansur, ‘This is the (preeminent) scholar in the world today.’”*
*Quotations from no.2 to 10 are all from Qawaa’id fi ‘Uloom il Hadith, pp. 308-331.
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3. Yazid ibn Harun* said, “I met a thousand men (scholars) and I wrote traditions from most of them. I found five of them to be greater than the rest in jurisprudence (fiqh), fear of Allah (taqwa) and knowledge (‘ilm). The foremost among them was Abu Hanifa.”
4. It was reported from ‘Abdullah ibn Mubarak, “I came to Kufa** and asked the scholars there who the greatest scholar in their land was. Without exception, they took the name of Imam Abu Hanifa.”
5. Hafiz Ibn Khusraw narrated with his chain from Muhammad ibn Salama that Khalaf ibn Ayyub said, “Knowledge (‘ilm) came down from Allah (swt) to Muhammad (saw). Then it passed on to his Companions, then to the Followers. Then it went to Abu Hanifa and his companions.”
It is not hidden that knowledge in that age was nothing other than knowledge of the Qur’an and hadith (‘Ilm al Hadith wa’l Qur’an). Hence, the greatest scholar of that time was the one with the most knowledge of the Qur’an and Hadith.
6. Ibn al-Qayyim said in I’lam al Muwaqqi’in that Yahya ibn Aadam*** said, “Nu’man (Abu Hanifa) gathered all the hadith of his city. His gaze was thus on the final traditions which the Prophet (saw) left behind.”
*In the words of Hafiz Ibn Hajar in Tahdhib al-Tahdhib he was, “One of the eminent and well-known huffaz. Ahmad ibn Hanbal, ‘Ali ibn al-Madini and a host of others have reported from him.”
**Indeed Kufa was the home of 1500 Sahaba of whom 70 were Badris; leave alone the other cities of Iraq. Refer to Fiqh Ahl al-Iraq wa Hadithuhum by Imam Kawthari, pg. 42.
***He is among the teachers (Shuyukh) of the shuyukh of Imam Bukhari. His hadith are narrated in Sahih Bukhari and he was a contemporary of Imam Abu Hanifa in Kufa.
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7. Ibn Khaldun, the historian says, “What indicates that he (Abu Hanifa) was of the senior Mujtahideen in the field of hadith is that his Madhhab gained acceptance among them (Mujtahideen) and they turned to it and gave it recognition after discussion and due investigation.”
8. Ibn Hajar (Makki) said in his Qala’id that Sufyan al-Thawri said, “We were like sparrows in front of a hawk before Abu Hanifa. Truly, Abu Hanifa was the leader of the scholars.”
9. Imam Shafi’ (rah) said that Imam Malik (rah) was asked, “Did you see Abu Hanifa?” He said, “Yes! I saw a man who if he wished to prove to you that this pillar was of gold could prove it.”
10. Khatib al-Baghdadi reported with his chain from Ibn Karamah that he said, “we were with Waki’ ibn al-Jarrah one day when a person said, ‘Abu Hanifa has erred.’ Waki’ spoke, ‘How could Abu Hanifa err when he has with him the likes of Abu Yusuf, Zufar and Muhammad with their analogy(qiyas) and juristic reasoning (ijtihad), the likes of Yahya ibn Zakariyya Abu Zaaida, Hafs ibn Ghiyath and Hibban and Mandal, the sons of ‘Ali with their hifz and understanding of narrations, Qasim ibn Ma’an and his mastery of language and linguistics and Dawud ibn Naseer al-Ta’i and Fudayl ibn ‘Iyad with their abstinence from this world (Zuhd) and fear of Allah (taqwa)? A person with such students and companions can hardly err. If he does, then they will return him to the truth.”
11. Imam Sha’rani said in al-Mizan that Imam Shafi’ (rah) left out the Qunut when he visited Imam Abu Hanifa’s grave and it was time for Fajr. He said, “How can I recite the Qunut in the presence of the Imam when he does not allow it?”
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Imam Sha’rani adds that the reason that Imam Shafi’i did that was to show respect to the Mujtahid Imams, placing them and all their statements on a noble and high pedestal for they never said anything but after knowing an evidence from the hadith of the Prophet (saw).*
12. The following are the praises that Ibn Taymiyya (undisputed Imam of the Salafis) lauded on Imam Abu Hanifa, “These are the scholars who study and research knowledge day and night. They have no personal interest with anyone. In fact, they assert preference to this Companion’s statement sometimes and that Companion’s statement sometimes according to the proofs of the Shari’ah that they behold; like Sa’eed ibn al-Musayyib and the Fuqaha’ of Madinah…and their counterparts, the likes of ‘Alqama, Aswad, Qadi Shurayh, then Ibrahim al-Nakha’i, ‘Amir al-Shabi, Hakam ibn ‘Utayba, Mansur ibn ‘Utayba up to Sufyan al-Thawri, Abu Hanifa, Ibn Abi Layla, Shareek and then Waki’ ibn Jarrah, Abu Yusuf, Muhammad ibn al-Hasan and their peers. **
13. He (Ibn Taymiyya) said in another place, “The Imams of the traditionists, Qur’anic exegesis (tafseer), Purification of the Soul (tasawwuf) and Jurisprudence (fiqh) such as the four Imams (Abu Hanifa, Shafi’, Maalik and Ibn Hanbal) and their followers (students).”
14. Imam Bukhari (rah) said, “I have never found myself more inferior and incapable than before Ibn al-Madini.” This same Ibn Madini together with Imam Ahmad and Yahya ibn Ma’een are the students of Yahya ibn Sa’eed al-Qattan. And he (al-Qattan) would teach them with such majesty between ‘Asr and Maghrib that he would recline against a pillar of the mosque while the three would stand in front of him with arms folded, listening to his lectures on hadith and getting their doubts and questions about hadith and masa’il answered.
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Then note that `Allama Kurdari has listed Yahya al-Qattan among the students of Imam Abu Hanifa and the Ahl Shoora’ (consultative assembly) of his school. He would attend Abu Hanifa’s lessons and benefit from them and would give rulings on his Madhhab. He was the first author of Tarikh al-Rijaal (biographies of hadith narrators). He said with reference to Imam Abu Hanifa, “Allah is my witness that I do not lie when I say that I did not find anyone more correct in his judgment than Imam Abu Hanifa. And I followed him in most of his views.”*
15. Hafiz al-Hadith Makki ibn Ibrahim was the Imam of the traditionists of Balkh and the teacher of Imam Bukhari. Bukhari has included many of his narrations in his Sahih. From amongst the loftiest chains- the 22 Thulathi hadith of Bukhari- twenty are from Hanafi narrators and 11 are from Makki ibn Ibrahim alone. This great distinction (of the number of Thulathiyat in Bukhari) is because of predominantly Hanafi narrators. He is also a student of Abu Hanifa who stayed with him and learnt from him day and night. He says, “Imam Abu Hanifa was the greatest scholar of his time.”
And scholar (‘alim) in the language of the hadith scholars is one who is accomplished in the text and chains (mutun wa isnad) of the ahadith.
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