Home » Fiqh, Hadith, Usul al-Fiqh

A Quick Look at Some of the Usūl of Imam Abu Hanifah

booksCondensed from Ta’neeb ul-Khateeb of Shaykh Zahid Al-Kawthari

Prepared by Mawlana Muhammad Karolia

It is quite common these days to hear people criticizing Imam Abu Hanifah rahimahullah because “he doesn’t practice on the Hadith of Bukhari that…”. Such people don’t realise that due to his high level of Taqwa, it is impossible that Imam Abu Hanifah rahimahullah deliberately opposed any Hadith at all. However, like all other Mujtahideen, he observed certain usool (principles) while deducing Ahkam (rulings). Ignorance of these usool is one of the basic reasons why so many people these days accuse Imam Abu Hanifah rahimahullah of opposing many Ahaadith.
Mentioned below are some of these usools:

1) The narration of a Tabi’i, which he narrates directly from Rasulullah sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam is called mursil. Imam Abu Hanifah rahimahullah accepts a mursil narration only if:
a) Its’ narrator is reliable,b) It is not in conflict with a stronger daleel (proof).
2) The Khabr ul-Waahid is a Hadith that was narrated by only one person in every era until the period of tadween (codification) of Hadith. Imam Abu Hanifah rahimahullah does not practice on the Khabr ul-Waahid if:a) it contradicts any ruling of the Qur’an that is `aam (general) or zaahir (apparent). The rulings of the Qur’an that are `aam or zaahir are qat’ee (categorical) while the Khabr ul-Waahid is not qat’ee. Thus when the Khabr ul-Waahid contradicts a ruling of the Qur’an that is `aam or zaahir, Imam Abu Hanifah rahimahullah prefers the ruling of the Qur’an because it is the stronger daleel (proof).b) it contradicts a widespread Sunnah of Rasulullah sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam.

c) it contradicts the continuous practice (al ‘amal ul-mutwaarith) of the Sahabah radiyallahu anhum and Tabi’in.

d) it contradicts any of the usool (principles) which he (i.e. Imam Abu Hanifah) had deduced after thorough and exhaustive study of the Shari’ah. In other words, contradiction of any of these usool is regarded by Imam Abu Hanifah rahimahullah as an `illat (weakness) in the narration.

e) The Sahabi who narrates the Hadith does not practice on it himself.

f) There was Umoom ul-Balwa (general involvement) of the Sahabah radiyallahu anhum and Tabi’in  in the issue discussed in the Khabr ul-Waahid. In other words, Imam Abu Hanifah rahimahullah argued that if so many people knew about the issue, why did so few of them narrate it?

3) When there is some contradiction between two Khabr ul-Waahid, he compares the narrators. Thus, he gives preference to the Khabr ul-Waahid whose narrator is a Faqih (jurist). And if both narrators are Faqih, he prefers the narration of the narrator who is a greater Faqih.

4) When there are two conflicting narrations, he prefers the narration that is supported by a greater number of statements and fatawa of the Sahabah radiyallahu anhum.

5) When there are two conflicting narrations regarding a particular Shar’i punishment, he prefers the narration which mentions a lighter punishment.

Referring to some of the above usool, Hafez Muhammad bin Yusuf al-Salihi rahimahullah writes in his book `Uqood ul-Jamaan:

“As a result of these principles Imam Abu Hanifah rahimahullah did not practice on a number of Khabr ul-Waahid… and the truth is that he did not oppose (these) Ahaadith due to stubbornness. Instead, he opposed them due to ijtihad and clear and valid proofs. Thus in the instance that he erred, he will receive one reward and in the instance that he was correct he will receive two rewards. Those who criticize him are either jealous or ignorant of the procedures of ijtihad.”
Note: This article was edited for spelling, grammar, and style in addition to a new title.