ʿAllāmah ʿAbd al-Ḥayy al-Laknawī divided the Ḥanafīs into three distinct categories in accordance with the age in which they lived and the importance of their legal opinions:
According to Laknawi, the Mutaqaddimīn begin with Imam Abū Ḥanīfah and ends with Imam Muḥammad. In other words, the Mutaqaddimīn are the first generation of Ḥanafī scholars.
The age of the Mutawassitīn begins after Imam Muḥammad and continues until the time of Shams al-Aʾimmah al-Ḥalwānī (d. 448AH, or 449AH, or 456AH).
The age of the Mutaʾakhkhirīn begins after Imam Shams al-Aʾimmah al-Ḥalwānī and ends with Ḥāfiẓ al-Dīn al-Bukhārī (d. 693AH), and includes the likes of Shams al-Aʾimmah al-Sarakhsī (d. 500AH), Marghīnānī (d. 593AH), and ʿAbdullāh ibn Maḥmūd, the author of al-Mukhtār (d. 683AH). (al-Fawāʾid al-Bahiyyah 241, Maṣādir al-Fiqh al-Ḥanafī of Ḥāmid Abū Ṭālib 17)
It should be noted, however, that the above categorization is not unanimously agreed upon, as some of the scholars considered the Mutaqaddimīn/Salaf to be those scholars who studied with the three Imams of the madhhab, namely Abū Ḥanīfah, Abū Yūsuf, and Muḥammad. Everyone else, according to them is considered amongst the Mutaʾakhkhirīn. This consideration takes into account the frequent usage of the term Mutaʾakhkhirīn by Ḥanafī scholars for those who followed Imam Ḥalwānī in age. The above division also doesn’t take into account the scholars who followed Imam Ḥāfiẓ al-Dīn al-Bukhārī and are considered amongst the preeminent scholars of the madhhab. (al-Madhhab ʿinda ʾl-Ḥanafiyyah 3, al-Fatḥ al-Mubīn 19)
Bilal Ali is a teacher of Islamic studies by profession and a researcher in the Islamic sciences. He currently serves as a full-time instructor of the Arabic language, Islamic law, Hadith, and Islamic Doctrine at the Institute of Islamic Education in Elgin, IL and teaches Islamic law and history part-time for Darul Hikmah. His fields of specialization include Islamic law, hadith, and education.