Imam Dhahabi (RA) said, "And he took an interest in seeking hadiths and travelled for this. As for fiqh and being precise in providing an opinion and its innermost points, he was at the top. And people are his children in that…"
Academic discussions and genuine queries are encouraged in Islam but everyone is requested to check their intentions before discussing the Salaf and Imam Abu Haneefa (RA) was amongst the greatest of the Salaf. Its against the Sunnah to speak ill of anyone let alone someone from the Salaf as Rasul-ullah (Sallaho Alaihe Wassallam) said in Authentic Hadeeth:
أخبرنا إبراهيم بن يعقوب قال حدثني أحمد بن إسحق قال حدثنا وهيب قال حدثنا منصور بن عبد الرحمن عن أمه عن عائشة قالت ذكر عند النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم هالك بسوء فقال لا تذكروا هلكاكم إلا بخير
Sayyida Aisha (RA) narrates that Something bad was said in the presence of the Prophet (Sallaho Alaihe Wassallam) about a person who had died. He said: 'Do not say anything but good about your dead" [Sunan An-Nasa'i]
The following is a translation of the introduction (by Shaykh ‘Abd al-Hafiz al-Makki) to Shaykh Latif al-Rahman al-Bahraichi al-Qasmi’s Al-Rasa’il al-Thalathah al-Hadithiyyah, a collection of three hadith compilations containing narrations transmitted by Imam Abu Hanifah Nu‘man ibn Thabit. It was during the Hajj of 2009 that I was sat in a tent in Mina, a stone throw away from the Jamarat, when I was forced to listen to a young man’s rant on how weak Imam A‘zam Abu Hanifah apparently was in hadith.
Ignoring the sanctity of the venue and time, this young man — who it later transpired was an instructor at Al Kauthar Institute — gave a very colourful and misleading description of the respected imam’s supposed lack of knowledge and prowess in hadith. He also gave very little opportunity to others to rectify his wrong impressions. During this lengthy and greatly troubling speech, this young man — who, to add legitimacy to his views, claimed to be Hanafi and cited several contemporary Hanafi ‘ulama to support his claim to this effect — made many frivolous comments regarding the great imam that left me greatly pained and astonished. I also wondered how one could indulge in such slander of an individual who met and narrated from several Companions of the Prophet (may Allah be pleased with them), and that also at such a sacred time and place.
I pray and hope that by translating writings on this subject, misconceptions about this great tabi‘i, hadith scholar and faqih will be removed, insha-Allah. To add salt to my wounds, the Al Kauthar instructor also insisted that Imam Abu Hanifah apparently only knew seventeen hadiths! La hawla wa la quwwata illa billah. I will, insha-Allah, deal with this issue in a subsequent translation.
Shaykh ‘Abd al-Hafiz writes:
In the name of Allah, the Most Compassionate and Most Merciful
All praise is for Allah, the Lord of the Worlds, and salat wa salam on the noblest of messengers and the seal of the prophets Sayyiduna and Mawlana Muhammad, the unlettered and noble prophet, and upon his family and companions, all of them.
After praising Allah and sending salutations upon the prophet:
The Islamic Ummah is united that Imam A‘zam Abu Hanifah Nu‘man ibn Thabit (may Allah mercy him) is one of the four followed imams — Malik, al-Shafi‘i, Ahmad and Abu Hanifah (may Allah mercy them all and be pleased with them).
Among those issues upon which all of the people of knowledge from both the early and latter times are agreed is that these four jurists, and their likes from among the mujtahid imams whose followers have gradually died out, only derived fiqh issues (masa’il) and Shari‘ah rulings from the book of Allah Most High and the Sunnah of His Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace), and that which these two sources indicate towards such as consensus (ijma‘) and legal analogy (al-qiyas al-shar‘i) etc.
The knowledge of the Book and the Sunnah are the basis of ijtihad and the process of deriving rules; it is because of this that the mujtahid jurists were leaders in the knowledge of the Noble Qur’an and the pure Sunnah because without these two core sciences it would not be possible for them to carry out ijtihad and derive rulings and masa’il.
If they did not have the knowledge of the Noble Qur’an and the pure Sunnah then how would they have been able to carry out ijtihad? How would they have been able to derive Shar‘i rulings and from where did they bring these religious masa’il? Without the knowledge of the Book and the Sunnah, the religion cannot be visualized, and nor can the Shari‘ah, its rulings and masa’il.
It is because of this that when any person is designated as a mujtahid, then everyone understands that this person has a large amount and great portion of the knowledge of the Qur’an and Sunnah, such that he is able to perform ijtihad and has been designated as a mujtahid.
However, in spite of all of this, we see some people speaking ill regarding the imam of the fuqaha and mujtahids Imam Abu Hanifah Nu‘man, the great tabi‘i (may Allah mercy him). They falsely and lyingly say, “Surely, he had no knowledge of the pure Sunnah and the hadiths of the Noble Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) and, even if he did, then it was very little.”
These people, even though they were very few in previous times, were refuted by the imams of hadith and Sunnah and the great notable individuals of this science in every age and place. However, a group known for its excesses and extremism, and for calling others heretics and innovators, has increased in recent times. We see some individuals among them in various lands making denigrating remarks regarding this great imam and flaunting unsound treatises, baseless views and malicious lies saying he was ignorant of the science of hadith and the Sunnah (we seek refuge with Allah) while calling themselves the Ansar al-Sunnah, the Ahl al-Hadith, the Salafiyyah and the Muhammadiyyah, as the situation demands. The real people of Sunnah and hadith, the pious predecessors and beloveds of Sayyiduna Muhammad (Allah bless him and grant him peace) are innocent of the vileness of what they say and do.
The senior imams of hadith and those notable individuals of this science have refuted these disgraceful lies in every age, and wrote hadiths and their commentaries; and there are many that did this.
Many of them devoted books and specific treatises explaining the virtues (manaqib) of Imam Abu Hanifah (may Allah mercy him) because of this. Among them were Imam Ibn Abi al-‘Awwam al-Sa‘di, Imam Hafiz Ibn Abd al-Barr al-Maliki, the hadith scholar Imam Yusuf ibn ‘Abd al-Hadi al-Hanbali, Imam Hafiz al-Dhahabi, Imam Hafiz al-Zayla‘i, Imam Hafiz ‘Ali al-Qari, Imam Hafiz al-Kirmani, Imam al-Kardari, Imam Ibn Hajar al-Makki, Imam Hafiz al-Suyuti, Imam Muhammad ibn Yusuf al-Salihi, Imam Mawfaq ibn Ahmad al-Makki and others.
We shall suffice here in this short introduction by mentioning what the researcher Imam Hafiz Shams al-Din Muhammad al-Dhahabi has mentioned in Tadhkirat al-Huffaz, an excellent book containing only details of the imams and notable hafizs  of hadith. Al-Dhahabi himself mentions regarding this book in his introduction:
“This Tadhkirah is of the names of those trusted (mu‘addal) bearers of the prophetic sciences and those who refer to their [own] ijtihad in considering [narrations to be] reliable, weak, correct and fabricated. It is upon Allah that I hold fast to, upon Him I rely and to Him I turn to.”
In this excellent and wonderful book, Tadhkirat al-Huffaz, Imam Hafiz al-Dhahabi mentions Imam Abu Hanifah among those major hafizs of hadith of the fifth rank (al-tabaqat al-khamisah). He writes:
“Abu Hanifah, the great imam (imam al-a‘zam), the jurist of Iraq, Nu‘man ibn Thabit ibn Zuta al-Taymi (who were their masters) al-Kufi. He was born in 80 AH and saw Anas ibn Malik more than once when he came to them in Kufa. Ibn Sa‘d has narrated this from Sayf ibn Jabir that he heard Abu Hanifah say this. He narrated from ‘Ata’a, Nafi‘, ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Hurmuz al-A‘raj, ‘Adi ibn Thabit, Salamah ibn Kuhayl, Abu Ja‘far Muhammad ibn ‘Ali, Qatadah, ‘Amr ibn Dinar, Abu Ishaq and many others. Zufar ibn Hudhayl, Dawud al-Ta’i, Qadi Abu Yusuf, Muhammad ibn al-Hasan, Asad ibn ‘Amr, Hasan ibn Ziyad al-Lu’lui, Nuh al-Jami‘, Abu Muti‘ al-Balkhi and others learned fiqh from him. He learned fiqh from Hammad ibn Abu Sulayman and others. Waki‘, Yazid ibn Harun, Sa‘d ibn al-Sult, Abu ‘Asim, ‘Abd al-Razzaq, ‘Ubayd Allah ibn Musa, Abu Na‘im, Abu ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Muqri and others narrated from him. He was an imam, pious, knowledgeable, someone who practiced, someone who indulged in great worship and a man of great ranking; he would not accept the sultan’s gifts but would trade and earn a living.
“Dirar ibn Sard said, Yazid ibn Harun was asked, ‘Who is a greater faqih, al-Thawri or Abu Hanifah?’ He replied, ‘Abu Hanifah was a greater faqih and Sufyan was greater in remembering hadith.’ Ibn al-Mubarak said, ‘Abu Hanifah was the greatest faqih among the people.’ Al-Shafi‘i said, ‘People are children to Abu Hanifah in fiqh.’ Yazid said, ‘I never saw anyone more god fearing and more intelligent than Abu Hanifah.’ Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn al-Qasim ibn Mihraz narrated from Yahya ibn Ma‘in who said, ‘There is no issue with him; he was not accused of anything. Yazid ibn ‘Umar ibn Hubayrah imposed on him to take up the judiciary but he refused to be qadi.’ Abu Dawud (may Allah mercy him) said, ‘Imam Abu Hanifah was an imam.’
“Bishr ibn al-Walid narrates from Abu Yusuf who said, ‘I was walking with Abu Hanifah when a man said to another, “This is Abu Hanifah, he does not sleep at night.” Imam Abu Hanifah said, “I swear by Allah, people do not speak of me regarding that which I have not done.” He used to keep awake the night in prayer, du‘a and supplication.’ I (Imam Hafiz al-Dhahabi) say: I have devoted a chapter to the virtues of this imam. He died in Rajab, 150AH. May Allah be pleased with him.”
Imam Hafiz al-Dhahabi has written under the biography of Imam Abu Hanifah (may Allah mercy him) in Siyar A‘lam al-Nubala:
“And he took an interest in seeking hadiths and travelled for this. As for fiqh and being precise in providing an opinion and its innermost points, he was at the top. And people are his children in that…”
With his chain of transmission he writes:
“Isma‘il ibn Hammad ibn Abu Hanifah informed us, ‘Nu‘man ibn Thabit ibn al-Marzaban was from among the free people of Persia. I swear by Allah, we were never enslaved. My grandfather was born in the eightieth year. Thabit went to ‘Ali when he was small and he prayed for barakah for him and his children. We hope to see Allah accept ‘Ali’s (may Allah be pleased with him) prayer for us…’
“Muhammad Sa‘d al-‘Uwfi said, I heard Yahya ibn Ma‘in say, ‘Abu Hanifah was reliable (thiqah), he did not narrate a hadith except that which he remembered and did not narrate that which he did not.’
“Salih ibn Muhammad said, I heard Yahya ibn Ma‘in say, ‘Abu Hanifah was reliable in hadith.’ Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn al-Qasim ibn Mihraz narrated from Ibn Ma‘in, ‘There is nothing wrong with Abu Hanifah.’ And he said once, ‘He is according to us from among the people of truth and was never accused of lying. Ibn Hubayrah imposed on him to take up the judiciary, but he refused to be a qadi…’
“Shu‘ayb ibn Ayyub al-Sarifini said, Abu Yahya al-Himmani narrated to us, ‘I heard Abu Hanifah say, “I saw a dream that scared me. I saw I was digging up the grave of the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace). I came to Basrah and ordered a man to ask Muhammad ibn Sirin and he asked him. He said, ‘This man shall uncover the hadiths of the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace).’”’
“The hadith scholar Mahmud ibn Muhammad al-Marwazi said that Hamid ibn Adam narrated to us that Abu Wahb Muhammad ibn Muzahim narrated to us that, ‘I heard ‘Abd Allah ibn Mubarak say, “If Allah had not aided me with Abu Hanifah and Sufyan, then I would have been like the rest of the people.”’
“Ahmad ibn Zuhayr said that Sulayman ibn Abu Shaykh narrated to us that Hujr ibn ‘Abd al-Jabbar narrated to me who said, Al-Qasim ibn Ma‘n was asked, ‘Does it please you to be the servants of Abu Hanifah?’ He replied, ‘The people have not sat with anyone more beneficial than Abu Hanifah.’ Al-Qasim then said to him, ‘Come with me to him.’ When he (the man who asked) came to him, he stayed with him and said, ‘I have not seen anyone like him.’
“Muhammad ibn Ayyub al-Duris said Ahmad ibn al-Sabah narrated to us, ‘I heard al-Shafi‘i say that Malik was asked, “Did you see Abu Hanifah?” He replied, “Yes, I saw a man if he were to speak to you regarding this pillar that he will make it gold then it would happen through his proofs.”’
“Asad ibn ‘Amr narrates, ‘Abu Hanifah (may Allah mercy him) performed ‘Isha and the morning prayer with one wudu for forty years.’
“Bishr ibn al-Walid narrates from Qadi Abu Yusuf who said, ‘While I was walking with Abu Hanifah I heard a man saying to another, “This is Abu Hanifah, he does not sleep at night.” So Abu Hanifah said, “I swear by Allah, it is not spoken of me that which I have not done.” He used to keep awake the night in prayer, supplication and du‘a.’
“It has been narrated through two chains that Abu Hanifah recited the entire Qur’an in one rak‘ah…
“Ibn al-Mubarak narrates, ‘I have never seen a man commanding so much respect in his gathering, and nor more beautiful in manners and gentleness than Abu Hanifah…’
“Sharik narrates, ‘Abu Hanifah is someone who would remain quiet for a long time and was someone of great intelligence.’ Abu ‘Asim al-Nabil said, ‘Abu Hanifah would be called al-watd (the pole) due to performing so many salah.’ Ibn Ishaq al-Samarqandi narrates from Qadi Abu Yusuf who said, ‘Abu Hanifah used to complete the Qur’an every night in one rak‘ah.’
“Yahya ibn ‘Abd al-Hamid al-Himmani narrates from his father that he remained with Abu Hanifah for six months. He said, ‘I never saw him offer the morning prayer except with the wudu of the ‘Isha of the previous night. He would complete the Qur’an every night at dawn…’
“Nuh al-Jami‘ narrates from Abu Hanifah that he said, ‘What is from the Messenger (Allah bless him and grant him peace), then that will gladly be given priority (‘ala al-ra’s wa al-‘ayn); what comes from the Companions, we shall choose, and what is apart from that, then they are men and we are men.’
“Waki‘ said, ‘I heard Abu Hanifah say, “Urinating in the masjid is better than some types of analogy.”’
“Abu Yusuf said that Abu Hanifah said, ‘It is not appropriate for a man to narrate except that which he has remembered at the time when he heard it.’
“Abu Mu‘awiyah al-Dharir narrates, ‘Loving Abu Hanifah is from the Sunnah.’
“Ishaq ibn Ibrahim al-Zuhri narrates from Bishr ibn al-Walid who said, ‘Mansur called for Abu Hanifah and wanted him to take up the judiciary and he swore that he will definitely take it. Imam Abu Hanifah refused and vowed, “I will not.” Al-Rabi‘ al-Hajib said, “You see the commander of the faithful taking an oath and you then also take an oath?” He replied, “The commander of the faithful is more capable of fulfilling the compensation for his oath than I.” He was sent to prison; he died there in Baghdad…’
“The jurist Abu ‘Abd Allah al-Saymari said, ‘He did not accept the position of qadi, so he was beaten, imprisoned and died in jail.’ Hayyan ibn Musa al-Marwazi said that Ibn al-Mubarak was asked, ‘Is Malik a greater jurist or Abu Hanifah?’ He replied, ‘Abu Hanifah.’ Al-Khuraybi said, ‘Only the jealous or ignorant disparages Abu Hanifah.’
“Yahya ibn Sa‘id al-Qattan said, ‘We do not lie in front of Allah. We have not heard any better opinion than that of Abu Hanifah. We have taken the majority of his opinions.’
“‘Ali ibn ‘Asim said, ‘If the knowledge of Imam Abu Hanifah were to be weighed against the knowledge of the people of his era, then he would surpass them.’
“Hafs ibn Ghiyath said, ‘The speech of Abu Hanifah in fiqh is finer than a hair; only an ignoramus finds fault in it.’
“It has been narrated from A‘mash that he was asked regarding an issue, so he said, ‘Only Nu‘man ibn Thabit al-Khazzaz would be able to answer that expertly. I think he was blessed in his knowledge.’
“Jarir said, ‘Mughayrah said to me, “Sit with Abu Hanifah, you will gain insight in fiqh. If Ibrahim al-Nakha‘i were alive then he would have sat with him.”’
“Ibn al-Mubarak said, ‘Abu Hanifah is the greatest faqih amongst the people.’
“Al-Shafi‘i said, ‘People are children to Abu Hanifah in fiqh.’ I (Imam Hafiz al-Dhahabi) say: leadership (imamat) in fiqh and its subtleties is resigned to this imam. And this is an issue in which there is no doubt.’
“And nothing will be correct in the minds,
“When even the day asks for proof that it is day.
“It is possible that his biography can be separated into two volumes. May Allah be pleased with him and mercy him. He died a martyr having been given poison to drink in 150AH; he was 70 years old. Upon his grave are a large dome and a splendid tomb in Baghdad. And Allah is the most knowledgeable.”
Our shaykh al-hadith, the imam of the hadith scholars, the a‘rif of Allah, the hafiz, the researcher, ‘Allamah Muhammad Zakariyya al-Kandhalwi then al-Madani (may Allah mercy him) writes in his introduction to Awjaz al-Masalik ila Muwatta Malik,
“The fourth beneficial lesson regarding his (i.e. Imam Abu Hanifah) lofty rank in hadith: And there is no need for this lesson because the imam (may Allah be pleased with him) was a mujtahid by consensus, rather he was from among the senior mujtahids and no one has rejected that from those of the earlier and latter times. A man can only be a mujtahid after he has become an expert in the Noble Qur’an, the noble hadiths, the athars, history, lexicography and analogy, as has been explained by the previous and contemporary imams of the principles of fiqh (usul). After all this, rejecting the imamat of an imam in hadith is nothing but scepticism.
“In spite of this, we feel it is appropriate to mention some of the statements of experts on this issue. Ibn al-Mubarak said, ‘He — may Allah be pleased with him — was, I swear by Allah, someone who would firmly grasp knowledge, avoid that which is forbidden, follow the ‘ulama of his city (Kufa), only permit taking that which has been correctly transmitted from the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace), and he knew extremely well those hadiths that are nasikh from those which are mansukh.  He would seek reliable hadiths and those that show the action of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace). He would hold on to that which he found the ‘ulama of Kufa on in following the truth and making it his religion. A group has slandered him and we have not answered, seeking forgiveness for him from Allah Most High.’
“Makki ibn Ibrahim said, ‘Abu Hanifah — may Allah be pleased with him — was the most knowledgeable person of his era. [I (Shaykh Zakariyya) say: the meaning of ‘ilm according to the people of hadith has already been covered -- those who memorise the chains (isnad) and the texts (mutun)]. Mansur said to him, “From whom have you taken knowledge?” He replied, “From the companions of ‘Umar who took from ‘Umar, the companions of ‘Ali who took from ‘Ali and the companions of Ibn Mas‘ud who took from Ibn Mas‘ud (may Allah be pleased with them).” Mansur said, “You are confident.”’ Al-Suyuti has also narrated this and added some words: ‘… and the companions of ‘Abd Allah who took from ‘Abd Allah. There was, on the face of the earth in the time of Ibn ‘Abbas, no one more knowledgeable than he. He said, ‘You are confident of yourself.’
“Ibn Hajr said, ‘Avoid being under the delusion that Abu Hanifah did not have full knowledge apart from fiqh. Allah forbid. He was in the sciences of Shari‘ah — such as exegesis (tafsir) and hadith — the auxiliary sciences relating to literature etc and legal intuition an ocean that could not be surpassed and an imam who could not be contested. The speech of some of his enemies regarding him is different to this; it is rooted in jealousy. The proof of this lies in his being superior to his contemporaries and their accusing him of falsities.’
“Abu Yusuf said, ‘I never saw anyone more knowledgeable in explaining hadiths than him. He had greater insight in sahih hadiths than me.’ It is in Jami‘ al-Tirmidhi regarding him, ‘I never saw a greater liar than Jabir al-Ja‘fi and nor anyone more superior than ‘Ata ibn Abu Rabah. Al-Bayhaqi has narrated regarding Abu Hanifah that he was asked about taking knowledge from Sufyan al-Thawri, he replied, “Write from him for he is reliable except those hadiths from Abu Ishaq narrating from Jabir al-Ja‘fi.”’
“Al-Khatib has narrated from Sufyan ibn ‘Uyaynah that he said, ‘The first to sit me down for hadith in Kufa was Abu Hanifah.’ Sufyan said, ‘He is the most knowledgeable of the people with regards to the hadiths of ‘Amr ibn Dinar.’ From this, his high worth in hadiths can also be understood. And why not? He was consulted regarding al-Thawri and would sit Ibn ‘Uyaynah down. It is narrated from Hasan ibn Salih that ‘Abu Hanifah — may Allah be pleased with him — would thoroughly investigate the abrogater (nasikh) from the abrogated (mansukh), he knew the hadiths of the ‘ulama of Kufa, he stringently followed that which the scholars did, and he knew well that which reached him through the ‘ulama of his city.’
“Yahya ibn Adam said, ‘Nu‘man gathered all of the hadiths of his city, he even saw the final hadiths narrating the Prophet’s (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) passing away.’ Al-Khatib has narrated from some of the imams of zuhd (ascetics) that they said, ‘People should supplicate for Abu Hanifah in their prayers for protecting the Sunnah and fiqh for them.’ He also said, ‘People are jealous and ignorant regarding him. According to me, he is better than them all.’
“Mu‘ammar said, ‘I have not seen a man speaking so well in fiqh, having such vastness in the acquisition of knowledge and explaining hadiths with greater insight than Abu Hanifah; and nor [have I seen] anyone who would be so cautious that anything doubtful enters the religion of Allah than Abu Hanifah.’ Yahya ibn Ma‘in was asked, ‘Has Sufyan narrated from him?’ He said, ‘Yes, he was reliable and truthful in fiqh and hadith. He was trustworthy in [matters relating] to the religion of Allah.’ He was asked again and said, ‘He was reliable, I have never heard of anyone considering him weak. This is Shu‘bah who writes that he would narrate hadiths, was experienced and surpassed him.’ Hammad ibn Zayd said, ‘We used to go to ‘Amr ibn Dinar. When Abu Hanifah would come, he (‘Amr) would turn to him and we would begin asking Abu Hanifah. We would ask him and he would narrate to us.’ Isra’il ibn Yunus said, ‘What a great man is Nu‘man. There was none who had retained every hadith in which there is fiqh more than he, scrutinised hadith more than he, and was more knowledgeable of the fiqh inside them than he.’
“Abu Yusuf narrates, ‘I did not differ with him in anything ever except that I pondered over it and found the tract that he followed was more safe in terms of the hereafter. Sometimes, I would be inclined to a hadith and he had more insight in sahih hadiths than me.’ He added, ‘When he had made up his mind with regards to an opinion, I would visit the shaykhs of Kufa to see if I could find a hadith or athar supporting his view. Sometimes, I would find two or three hadiths, which I would take to him and from among that which he would say was this, “This is not sahih, or not ma‘ruf.” So I would say to him, “What do you know of it? Not withstanding, it agrees with your opinion.” He would say, “I know the knowledge of the ‘ulama of Kufa.”’
“Abu Hanifah was with A‘mash who was asked about some juristic issues. A‘mash said to Abu Hanifah, ‘What do you say regarding this?’ He replied and A‘mash said, ‘Where did you get this from?’ Abu Hanifah said, ‘From your hadiths which I have narrated from you.’ He then narrated to him a number of hadiths along with their chains of narration consecutively. A‘mash said to him. ‘That’s enough. What I narrated to you in a hundred days you narrate to me in an hour. I did not know you were acting on these hadiths. Oh community of jurists (fuqaha), you are the physicians and we are the pharmacists. And you fellow, you have taken both.’
“Hafiz has derived (takhrij) from his hadiths many musnad  hadiths, many of which that have reached us are mentioned in the musnad compilations of our shaykhs.”
Abu al-Mahasin al-Dimashqi al-Shafi‘i has established that the imam possessed a vast number of hadiths and was among the eminent hafizs; he has written individual chapters on both issues in ‘Uqud al-Juman. Al-Suyuti has narrated that while explaining the hadith, “The Day of Judgment will not come until knowledge appears,” Hasan ibn Sulayman said, “It is the knowledge of Abu Hanifah and his explanation of the hadiths.” Al-Suyuti also narrates from Ibn al-Mubarak who recited the following poem:
The imam of the Muslims, Abu Hanifah, has surely decorated the lands and those in them,
With traditions and understanding of hadiths, the effects of which are like characters on a page,
There is none like him in the lands of the east and the lands of the west, and nor in Kufa,
I saw those who belittle him foolish, they are in opposition of the truth equipped with weak proofs.
Al-Suyuti has mentioned him like this, and these verses are part of a long poem that historians have narrated from Ibn al-Mubarak. We have omitted the rest for the sake of brevity.
“Allah Most High has favoured me with studying the musnads of Abu Hanifah from a correct manuscript containing the writings of hafizs of hadiths, the last of whom was Hafiz al-Dimyati. I saw him only narrating hadiths from the best of the Followers (Tabi‘), those who were honest and reliable and from the khayr al-qurun as testified by the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) such as Aswad, ‘Alqamah, ‘Ata, ‘Ikramah, Mujahid, Makhul, Hasan al-Basri and their group (may Allah be pleased with them). All narrators between him and the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) were honest, reliable, and outstanding eminent personalities. There was none among them who was untruthful or had been accused of lying.”
It shall soon come in the writings of Ibn Khaldun that he said:
“This is proof that he was from among the major mujtahids in the science of hadith, that his madhhab was held with esteem among them…”
Muhammad ibn Husayn al-Musali mentioned at the end of Kitab al-Du‘afa:
“Yahya ibn Ma‘in said, ‘I have seen none who I can prefer over Waki‘. He used to issue fatwas according to the view of Abu Hanifah. He had memorised all of the hadiths and had heard many hadiths from Abu Hanifah. It was his — may Allah be pleased with him — habit that whenever a hadith scholar would enter Kufa he would pursue the hadiths that he would have.’ Al-Mawfaq has narrated hadiths with his chain until ‘Abd al-‘Aziz ibn Abu Razmah and has mentioned the knowledge of Abu Hanifah in hadith and said, ‘A hadith scholar would come to Kufa and Abu Hanifah would say to his companions, “See, does he have any hadiths that we don’t?” He said, “Another hadith scholar would come to them so Abu Hanifah would say the same.”’”
It is in Jami‘ Usul fi al-Awliya in the imam’s counsel to his son, Hammad:
“He selected five hadiths from five thousand; they are the four famous ones which Abu Dawud selected after him, and the fifth is, ‘The Muslim is he from whose tongue and hand other Muslims are safe.’ Al-Mawfaq said, ‘He — may Allah be pleased with him — selected hadiths from forty thousands hadiths.’ It has been narrated from Yahya ibn Nasr, ‘I heard Abu Hanifah say, “I have chests of hadiths; I have only taken some of them from which benefit can be derived.”’ Hasan ibn Ziyad said, ‘Abu Hanifah would narrate four thousand hadiths; two thousand from Hammad and two thousand from the rest of his shaykhs.’
“Abu Yusuf said, ‘When a question would come to Abu Hanifah, he would say, “Which athar do you have regarding this?” When we had narrated the athars, and he had mentioned what he had, he would examine. If the athars in support of one of the two views were more, then he would take that which is more, and if they were close then he would choose except if the analogy was wrong according to him, then he would leave it in favour of juristic preference (istihsan).’
“Waki‘ said, ‘Surely, that level of cautiousness in hadith was found in Abu Hanifah that is not found in others.’ Al-Mawfaq has narrated regarding Makki ibn Ibrahim al-Balkhi, the imam of Balkh and al-Bukhari’s shaykh, ‘He entered Kufa and remained in the company of Abu Hanifah and heard hadith and fiqh from him. He narrated much from him and loved him so much that Isma‘il ibn Bishr said, “We were in Makki’s gathering when he said, Abu Hanifah narrated to us. Then a stranger called out, ‘Narrate to us from Ibn Jurayj, don’t narrate from Abu Hanifah.’ Makki then said, ‘We don’t narrate to idiots. I forbid you from writing from me. Go from my gathering.’ He did not narrate anything until the man was taken away from his gathering. Then he said, ‘Abu Hanifah narrated to us…’ and continued.”’ There is another narration that the man said, ‘I repent and have made a mistake.’ But Makki refused to narrate to them. Ibn al-Mubarak said, ‘Abu Hanifah had the upper hand in the ability to remember (hifz), understanding, and being meticulous and extremely cautious.’ Khalf ibn Ayyub said, ‘I used to frequent the gatherings of the ‘ulama. At times I would hear something the meaning of which I did not understand which would distress me. When I would come to the gathering of Abu Hanifah, I would ask him about that which I did not know and he would explain it to me. Nur would enter my heart from his explanation and clarification.’
“Hafs ibn Ghiyath narrates, ‘I heard from Abu Hanifah his books and his hadiths. I never saw anyone with a more intelligent pen than he, and nor anyone more knowledgeable regarding that which is corrupt and right in matters relating to rulings than he.’ Muhammad ibn Sa‘d said, ‘I have heard from those who attended to Yazid ibn Harun, and with him was Yahya ibn Ma‘in, ‘Ali ibn al-Madini, Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Zuhayr ibn Harb and a group of people, when a questioner came and asked him regarding an issue. Yazid said to him, “Go to the people of knowledge.” Ibn al-Madini then said to him, “Are the people of knowledge and hadith not besides you?” He said, “The people of knowledge are the companions of Abu Hanifah. You are the chemists.”’”
The erudite ‘allamah, hadith scholar and researcher Shaykh Latif al-Rahman al-Bahraichi al-Qasmi (may Allah protect him with goodness and blessings) has been working on an encyclopaedia of the hadiths of the Prophet transmitted by Imam Azam Abu Hanifah Nu‘man (may Allah mercy him and be pleased with him) which will consist of, insha Allah, all of the imam’s narrations that are present in all of his musnad compilations that have been printed and are in manuscript form, and likewise all of his narrations that are in various collections of pure hadiths, the books of rijal, rankings (tabaqat), biographies (tarajim), history, life history (siyar) etc.
It was while working on this that we stumbled upon three short manuscripts relating to the narrations of Imam Abu Hanifah (may Allah mercy him):
1 Kitab al-Arba‘in al-Mukhtarah min Hadith al-Imam Abi Hanifah Rahim Allah (Book of Forty Selected Narrations from the Hadiths of Imam Abu Hanifah May Allah Mercy Him) by the imam, the ‘allamah, the hadith scholar, the faqih Shaykh Yusuf ibn Hasan ibn Ahmad ibn ‘Abd al-Hadi al-Salihi al-Hanbali, who was famously known as Ibn al-Mabrad and died in 909AH (may Allah mercy him);
2 ‘Awaliy al-Imam Abi Hanifah (The ‘Awaliy  of Imam Abu Hanifah) by Imam Hafiz Shams al-Din Abu al-Hajjaj Yusuf ibn Khalil ibn ‘Abd Allah al-Dimashqi al-Hanbali, who died in 648AH (may Allah mercy him);
3 Al-Ahadith al-Sab‘ah ‘an Sab‘ah min al-Sahabah alladhina Rawa ‘anhum al-Imam Abu Hanifah Rahim Allah (The Seven Hadiths from Seven Companions may Allah be pleased with him from whom Imam Abu Hanifah May Allah Mercy Him Narrated) by Imam Shaykh Nasir al-Sunnah Abu al-Makarim ‘Abd Allah Ibn Husayn al-Nisapuri al-Hanafi.
Because these manuscripts have never been published before, in fact the majority people of knowledge have also never heard of them, we decided to publish them separately before including them in the above mentioned encyclopaedia of hadith to make their benefit widespread, and earn the reward of propagating the pure Sunnah, serving the noble hadiths and defending one of the most eminent personalities of the Prophet’s Ummah: the imam of the imams, fuqaha and mujtahids Abu Hanifah Nu‘man ibn Thabit (may Allah mercy him and be pleased with him). We have also placed them in one book due to their brevity and their all being related to Imam Abu Hanifah (may Allah mercy him) as they are all his hadiths.
We hope that the Noble Creator — on behalf of the authors, the researcher, the publisher and all readers — accepts this blessed effort; spreads benefit and goodness far on account of it; and makes it a treasure for the hereafter, a source of reward, and a means of gaining He Who is Gloried and Most High’s proximity and acceptance.
May Allah Most High send salutations upon the best of His creation, the seal of His prophets, the master of His messengers, our chief, our master, our beloved, our exemplar Muhammad, and also upon his family, Companions, wives and followers, all of them. May He bless them, and send much peace.
And all praise is for Allah, the Lord of the Worlds.
Written by he who is in need of his noble lord
‘Abd al-Hafiz Malik ‘Abd al-Haqq
 Ibn Abi al-‘Awwam’s Fadail Abi Hanifah wa Akhbaruhu wa Manaqibuhu was also recently published by Al-Maktabah al-Imdadiyyah, Makkah al-Mukarramah, with additional footnotes by Shaykh Latif al-Rahman al-Bahraichi.
 Mufti Husain Kadodia writes on Sunni Forum that a hafiz is a hadith scholar who has memorised many hadiths and is accepted by the people of his time as a hafiz (Qawa‘id fi ‘Ulum al-Hadith, page 28).
 Athar: That statement or act which is attributed to the Companions.
 In other words that hadith that has abrogated another. The one that abrogates is known as the nasikh while the one that has been abrogated is known as the mansukh.
 A hadith traced up, ascribed or attributed to the author thereof by the mention uninterruptedly, in ascending order, of the persons by whom it has been transmitted, up to the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace).
 Citing several hadith scholars, Shaykh Latif al-Rahman al-Bahraichi writes on page 132 of this book that in the terminology of the scholars of hadith, the ‘awaliy, which is the plural of ‘aliyah, are those hadiths that have a high chain of narration with few links.
Imam Abu Haneefa (RA) was amongst the Taba'een and enough direct quotations have been provided by Scholars of Hadeeth of that era to firmly dispel any doubts about the mastery of Imam Abu Haneefa (RA) regarding Hadeeth. He (RA) was accepted as "Imam" of his time and to put forth a theory 1250+ years later that the salaf accepted a person as Imam who had no mastery of Hadeeth is simply laughable and preposterous! Nevertheless we will reproduce quotations which are being spread on the Internet and then reply to them individually, Insha'Allah.
Shaykh Al-Albani (RA) quotes in Silsilatul Ahaadeeth Ad Dha'eefah:
I mentioned back there (Under hadeeth 397) that Abu Haneefah has been declared weak (by the scholars of Hadeeth ) in Hadeeth
Many quotations of Scholars of Hadeeth are provided in the above article, here we will suffice with a single quotation from the Hadeeth Master Imam Dhahabi 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."
Reading the complete article (above) coupled with the testimony of Imam Dhahabi (RA) we will let the readers decide if they want to believe Shaykh Al-Albani (RA) or the established Master of Hadeeth of the Muslim ummah.
Imaamul Bukhaari said in 'Taareekhul Kabeer' (4/2/81) 'Sakatoo 'Anhu' (this statement of Imaamul Bukhaari literally means: 'they remained quiet about him' That is in reference to the Imaams of Hadeeth. But this statement if it comes from Imaam Bukhaari then it means that they left narrating from him since Imaam al Bukhaari was well known to be subtle in his statements of Jarh. Imaam Ibn Katheer mentions: "If Imaamul Bukhaari says about a narrator 'Sakatoo 'anhu' or 'Feehi Nadhr' (Lit: his affair is dubious) then he (the narrator) is at the lowest level ( of trustworthiness) as far as he is concerned, due to the fact that he was subtle with his disparaging statements" ikhtisaar 'Uloomil Hadeeth p89. AH)
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:
a '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."
b 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.
c 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?!"
d 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."]
e 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."
f 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:
a 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."
b "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.
c "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.
Imaam An Nasaa’ie mentions at the end of ‘Ad-Du’afaa’ Wal Matrookeen’ (p57): “He is not strong in hadeeth and he makes many mistakes even though his narrations are few“
Imaam Muslim mentioned in ‘Al Kunaa Wal Asmaa’ (1/31ق) “He is unstable (Mudtarib) in hadeeth and doesnt have many Authentic hadeeth“
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.
Imaam Ibn ‘Adee in ‘Al Kaamil’ (2/403):”He has some sound hadeeth but the majority of what he narrates are erroneous narrations, with mistakes in wording and additions in their chains of narration and their texts. He (also) makes Mistakes when quoting the names of the narrators and the majority of that which he narrates is like this. None of his narrations are authentic other than a little more the ten, while he actually narrates some three hundred hadeeth, some of them popular, while some are strange narrations but they are all narrated in this fashion. This is because he is not from Ahlul Hadeeth (the people of hadeeth), thus one should not transmit from an individual of this description in hadeeth”.
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:
a bn '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:
b 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.
c 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!"
d 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."
e 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:
i 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).
ii 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."
iii 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).
Imaam Ibn S'ad mentions in his 'Tabaqaat' (6/256): "He was 'Dae'eef (weak) in hadeeth"
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."
Imaam Al Uqailee mentions in 'Ad Du'afaa' (The weak Narrators): "It was narrated to me from Abdullah ibn Ahmad who said:"I heard my father (Imaam Ahmad) say: " The Hadeeth of Abu Haneefah are weak"
Imaam Ibn Hibbaan stated: "He was a man who used to debate (ie in issues of knowledge) and he was apparently pious, though hadeeth was not his fortḗ. He narrated some one hundred and thirty hadeeth with isnaad (chains of narration), he has no other hadeeth in the dunya but them and he erred in one hundred and twenty of them! He either reversed the chain of narration or he changed the text of the hadeeth to the extent that the hadeeth was not recognisable. So since his errors have overcome his instances of correctness, one should leave relying upon him in narration".
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.
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)."
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:
a 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:
b 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).
c '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).
d 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).
e 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."]
e '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).
f 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.
g 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):
h 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."
i 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"!
j 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."
He was mentioned by Imaam Haakim in 'Ma'rifatu 'Uloomil Hadeeth' (Imaam Haakim's book concerning the Science of Hadeeth) alongside a group of Narrators from the era of the Atbaa'ut Taabi'een (Successors of the Successors of the Companions) and the period after them, whose ahadeeth were not used in the Books of Authentic Hadeeth, he then sealed that with his statement (P256): " Everyone we have mentioned here is well known as a narrator, but they are not considered among the precise, trustworthy memorisors".
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...
Imaamudh Dhahabee mentions in 'Dewaan Ad Dhu'afaa'(1-2/215ق): " An Nu'maan Al Imaam – Rahimahullah Ibn Adee said: The majority of that which he narrates is an error or has in it incorrect alterations of words or has incorrect additions in them, though he does have some good ahaadeeth. Imaamun Nasaa'ee said: "He is not strong in Hadeeth and he makes many errors and mistakes even though his narrations are few" Imaam Ibn Ma'een said: "Do not pen down his hadeeth". This narration from Ibn Ma'een means that with him Abu Haneefah is considered among the weak narrators, which explains that the statement that has come from Al Haafidh (ibn Hajr) in 'Tahdheeb' wherein Ibn Hajr narrates that Ibn Ma'een declares him trustworthy, is not the only statement that Ibn ma'een has made concerning him. The reality is that the opinions of Ibn Ma'een about the imaam are at variance. On occasions he declares him trustworthy and on other occasions he declares him weak as in this narration. On other occasions he says in that which ibn Muhriz narrates from him in 'Ma'rifatur Rijaal (1/6/1): "Abu Haneefah was 'Laa Ba'sa bihi' (This is a term used by the scholars of hadeeth to refer to one whos ahaadeeth may be written down for the purpose of analysis and comparison with the ahaadeeth of the other Imaams not sole reliance upon them) and he did not used to lie" and he said on another occasion: " Abu Haneefah as far as we are concerned is from the people of truthfulness, he was not accused of lying" (Shaikh Albaani continues): "There is no doubt with us that Abu Haneefah is from the people of truthfulness! but that is not sufficient for us to rely upon his hadeeth until (the state of) his precision, integrity and memory is added to that, and this is what is not established for him – Rahimahullah rather that which is established is the opposite, as is seen from the testimonies of the aforementioned Imaams. And they are those who one will not go astray if he holds on to their testimonies and follows their statements. This though, does not affect in any way the station of Abu Haneefah – Rahimahullah in his deen and his piety and his fiqh as some of his staunch followers wrongly presume (and misunderstand). For how many a Jurist, Judge or righteous, upright individual has been criticised by the scholars of Hadeeth in that which concerns their memory or them not being precise, but that does not affect their deen or known uprightness, and this is an affair that is not hidden from those who busy themselves studying the biographies of the narrators..."
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:
a 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.