Are we obliged to follow scholars and ijma` (the Consensus of the Scholars) since taqlid (following qualified opinion) is characterized by the "Salafis" as reprehensible, and some of them say: "We do not worship men" to support their opinion? What is ijma` exactly? And do the scholars' differences of opinion in religion constitute a blessing or a curse?





When the "Salafis" say: "We do not worship men," know that it is kalimatu haqqin yuradu biha al-batil -- a word of truth spoken in the pursuit of error. For it is only a flashy cover for their desire to follow other than the path of guidance clarified by the Imams and the fuqaha' on certain questions. Thus they will falsely characterize taqlid as blind imitation. This is the method of a pernicious book of theirs entitled Blind-Following of Madhaahib. They will further falsely characterize ijma` as a thing of the past, claiming that it is unverifiable at present due to the great scattering of the scholars and the multifarious character of modern communication.


            The truth is that taqlid is obligatory upon the majority of the Muslim Community, since the majority are not qualified scholars; secondly, knowledge of the questions that enjoy ijma` and those that fall under khilaf  has always been part of the obligatory curriculum of the scholars of Ahl al-Sunna, who exerted massive efforts to make themselves familiar with the positions of each other's schools at all times, although for them the means of communication and education were not nearly as developed as they are today. Yet they were the most intellectually accomplished, most dynamic and scholarly communicative of people, spurring on their mounts in the vanguard of other riders even past the age of sixty in the pursuit of knowledge.[1]  Thus the "Salafis'" pretense that there is no ijma` today only bespeaks their incapacity to keep abreast of such required knowledge and their estrangement from the scholarly community as well as from each other, as is visible from their perpetual internecine disagreements and mutual condemnations.


The following is excerpted from a recent interview of Mawlana Shaykh Nazim al-Haqqani and pertains to the question of taqlid in Islam.


SHAYKH NAZIM. We are followers of the Prophet, SAWS., according to our doctrines that come from the Sahaba, the Ash`aris and the Maturidis, and the Four Madhhabs: Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi`i, and Hanbali. We are "controlled" [muqayyad] by the Four Madhhabs. We have enough proofs. We are not such qualified people as to take [autonomously] what is necessary from the Holy Qur'an and Holy Hadith. We must follow Imams. We must follow Shaykhs. We must follow teachers.


INTERVIEWER. But for the average person and those who criticize you, isn't the Qur'an accessible to everyone in terms of reading and understanding? Why should anyone follow a Shaykh?


SN. How did they learn that? By themselves? Or did their mothers, their teachers teach them? Who gave them a doctor's degree? A title? They go to universities and they receive titles, after which they are speaking.... They are trusting non-Muslims to make them say they are Doctors. I am never accepting that. In Islam there is only `Ulama (scholars of the Science) not doctors.


INT. Does that make the religion only for the `Ulama?


SN. Yes! al `ulama' warathatu al anbiya’. [Scholars of knowledge are the inheritors of Prophets]. How are you saying? Is religion for juhala' [ignoramuses]? Is the Din taken from ignorant people? No! we are not accepting. From this day on, we are going to fight them, and we will not let them propagate their false doctrines among Muslims. We have our doctrines.


INT. But when the Qur’an says it is "Hudan li al-Nas" [Guidance for mankind] (2:185), what does that mean? Is it restricting its message to just...?


SN. Do you understand what is "Nas"? "Nas" also means Europeans, Americans -- they are Nas also! But "Huda"? "Huda" is from the Prophet to his inheritors. Are they inheritors or not? From whom are they taking their knowledge? From non-Muslims. We are not taking from non-Muslims. We are taking from Muslims. And we call our teachers Shaykhs. "Shaykh" and "Imam" means "teacher." We are learning from them, and they teach us from the Qur'an and the Hadith. That is what we teach. We have been authorized.


INT. Coming back to your teachings, Mawlana. What is the teaching of Ahl al-Sunna wa al-Jama`a?


SN. The Prophet said: the Jewish people are divided into 71 sects, Christians into 72 sects, and my Nation is going to be divided into 73 sects. He said: among the 73 sects only one will be on the right path, and the others will be changing and going wrong. They will be mistaken. The Companions asked: O Prophet, who are the right one? He said: Those who stand on my way and my Companions' way are on the right path, and the others are on the wrong. Therefore we say that there must be wrong sects in our day also, but out of His divine justice, Allah Almighty is keeping, among so many wrong paths, one right path. Even if those who follow it are few, it doesn't matter. We are saying that these are Ahl al-Sunna wa al-Jama`a -- the ones that keep the Sunnat al-Rasul, sallah allahu alayhi wa sallam, and following it. And today, those that are accepting the Four Madhhabs and accepting the doctrines of Islam according to the time of the Prophet, they are on the right path.


INT. So, you are saying about the madhhahib...


SN. They must be followed. They must be followed.


INT. But the Madhabs were not there at the time of the Prophet?


SN. I know. When I was first going to Hijaz, between Jeddah and Mecca there was no paved way. Now there are so many highways and motorcars. Before, there were only tracks for camels, but now it is necessary to make the way wider, and wider, and wider. Similarly, because Islam is not only for Arabs that live in the deserts, but it is an international Religion that was to spread through every kind of nations; and because nations have so many traditional customs, therefore the understanding of Islam was made wider and wider so that everyone may easily follow the way of Allah. That is the reason that we are in need of several madhabs as so many ways, and all of them are taking from the Holy Quran and the noble Hadith.


INT. So you mean that we need more madhhabs.


SN. No, four lines is enough. I don't think that we need forty lines! There are not so many cars to necessitate more lanes. Four is enough.


INT. Where does your teaching fit in these four madhhabs?


SN. The Hanafi madhhab. But I am not objecting to whatever followers of other madhhabs do. All of them are going in the same direction. It is not as if one is coming and the other is going. All have the same aim, the same target, the same goal.


INT. But these madhhabs, or these great scholars, at that time, interpreted Islam in a certain way, but now, with the world changing, are those interpretations still applicable?


SN. Yes. Now you are saying something to which before  you were objecting. Because the Four madhabs made it easy for people to act according to the holy commands of Allah Almighty and His Prophet; and now these people are saying they want to take away the four Madhhabs and make it one way -- the "Salafi" way. "Salafi" people -- who are the "Salafi"? Ibn `Abd al-Wahhab? Is he "Salafi"? Is he the only one? What about the Four Imams, are they not the Salaf al-Salih [Pious Followers]? Or are they the Salaf al-Talih [Worthless Followers]? Who is going to be a witness against Imam al-a`zam [Abu Hanifa], Imam al-Shafi`i, Imam Malik, Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal? Who is going to speak against them? How are they finishing that, and they are asking to make one way only, the "Salafi" way?


They want to bring the whole Umma into the "Salafi" way, so that if we ask to go forward, they will say: HARAM; if we ask to go back, they will say KUFR; if we ask to go right they will say SHIRK; if we ask to go left, they will say BID`A. Now we can't move anywhere. How are such people going to introduce Islam to whole nations? They are no-mind people.





The obligation to follow the opinion of those more knowledgeable than us is reported by Ibn Qayyim in his discussion of the different kinds of taqlid. He said: "There is an obligatory (wajib) taqlid, a forbidden taqlid, and a permitted taqlid... The obligatory taqlid is the taqlid of those who know better than us, as when a person has not obtained knowledge of an evidence from the Qur'an or the Sunna concerning something.  Such a taqlid has been reported from Imam al-Shafi`i in many places, where he would say: "I said this in taqlid of `Umar" or "I said that in taqlid of `Uthman" or "I said that in taqlid of `Ata'."  As al-Shafi`i said concerning the Companions -- may Allah be well pleased with all of them: "Their opinion for us is better than our opinion to ourselves.""  Ibn Qayyim, A`lam al-muwaqqi`in `an rabb al-`alamin (2:186-187).

            This is the meaning of Imam Ahmad's frequent warning in his answers: "Beware of speaking on a matter regarding which you don't stand on an imam (as your precedent)": iyyaka an tatakallama fi mas'alatin laysa laka fiha imam. Albani says: "This is a frequent saying of Imam Ahmad: see our editions of his responses to various questions, such as Masa'il `Abd Allah ibn Ahmad, Masa'il Ibn Hani' al-Nisaburi, and Masa'il al-Kharqi." Another saying of his under al-Ma'mun's Inquisition was: "How can I say what was never said before?" (kayfa aqulu ma lam yuqal), cited by Ibn Taymiyya in his Majmu` al-fatawa (19:320-341). See Albani's edition of San`ani's Raf` al-astar li ibtali adillat al-qa'ilina bi fana'i al-nar (Beirut & Damascus: al-maktab al-islami, 1405/1984), p. 41.


            Jamil Effendi Sidqi al-Zahawi of Baghdad (d. 1930 CE) wrote in al-Fajr al-sadiq, a refutation of the Wahhabi heresy:[2] "Among the evidences for the probative value of ijma' is the Prophet's statement, on him be peace: "My Community will never agree on error."  The content of this hadith is so well-known that it is impossible to lie about it [mutawatir] simply because it is produced in so many narrations, for example: "My Community will not come together on misguidance"; "A group of my Community will continue on truth until the coming of the Hour.";  "The hand of Allah is with the Congregation"; "Whoever separates from the Congregation...";  "Whoever leaves the Community or separates himself from it by the length of a span, dies the death of the Jahiliyya (period of ignorance prior to Islam)" etc."


            `Abd Allah ibn Mas`ud said:


Whatever the Muslims deem to be good is good in the eyes of Allah and whatever they consider bad is bad in Allah's view.


            This is an authentic saying of Ibn Mas`ud. Ahmad related it in his Musnad (1:379 #3599), also al-Bazzar and Tabarani in the Mu`jam al-Kabir as Haythami said in Majma` al-zawa'id, and he adds: "Its narrators are trustworthy."  Al-Amidi considered this to be a hadith whose chain of narration goes back to the Prophet (al-Ihkam fi usul al-ahkam 2nd ed. Beirut, 1401/1982, 1:214).  Ahmad Hasan points out that Abu Hanifa's disciple Imam Muhammad ibn Hasan al-Shaybani initially reported this as a hadith, but that later it was attributed to Ibn Mas`ud.[3]


            It is not true that its chain as related by Ahmad contains Sulayman ibn `Amr al-Nakha`i as claimed by `Abd al-Wahhab `Abd al-Latif the commentator to Malik's Muwatta' as narrated by Muhammad ibn al-Hasan al-Shaybani" in his notes (p. 91); nor that it is not contained in Ahmad's Musnad, as `Abd al-Latif further claims; this is a mistake on the part of hafiz al-Sakhawi in al-Maqasid al-hasana (p. 368) where he says: "Ahmad narrated it in al-Sunna and whoever ascribes it to the Musnad is mistaken [it is in the Musnad]... It is extracted by al-Bazzar, al-Tayalisi, al-Tabarani, and Abu Nu`aym in his biography of Ibn Ma`sud in the Hilya, also by Bayhaqi in al-I`tiqad."


            Imam al-Tahawi said in his `Aqida al-tahawiyya:


Wa la nukhalifu jama`at al-muslimin "We do not separate [in belief and practice] from the largest group of the Muslims."


            The commentators have explained that the "largest group of the Muslims" here refers to the ijma` al-muhtahidin or Consensus of the majority of scholars.


            Both the knowledge of the questions on which there is Consensus, and that of the differences of opinions on the questions on which there isn't, are requirements of Islamic scholarship. The first scholar to compile a list of questions on which there was Consensus was Ibn al-Mundhir (d. 318) with his Kitab al-ijma`[4] in which he lists 765 questions of worship and social transactions -- leaving out doctrine -- on which there is agreement not among 100% but among the majority of scholars, which is enough to form Consensus according to the definition of Shafi`i and others such as Tabari (d. 310) and Abu Bakr al-Razi (d. 370).  (Abu Ishaq al-Isfarayini said that the questions on which there was Consensus exceeded 20,000. However, the author of the more recent Mawsu`at al-ijma` fi al-fiqh al-islami [Encyclopedia of Consensus in Islamic Law] compiled a total of 9,588 questions.)  Then Ibn Hazm (d. 456) authored Maratib al-ijma` in which he included matters of doctrine but for which he was criticized by Ibn Taymiyya in his Naqd maratib al-ijma` (pub. 1357 H) for claiming that he had compiled the questions on which there was unanimous agreement although he himself contradicts it many times. Suyuti's (d. 911) Tashnif al-asma` bi masa'il al-ijma` was unfortunately lost.


            Tirmidhi reports Ibn al-Mubarak's view that jama`a means the concentration of the manners and knowledge of the Sunna in a living person (or group of persons) at any given time, i.e. without the necessity of their forming the Congregation of Muslims. Abu Bakr ibn al-`Arabi remarks that this is one of the many meanings of the word, and that the most common meaning is that of Congregation in the large sense.[5]


            Ibn Taymiyya has two contradictory views about ijma`.  In the Mukhtasar al-fatawa al-misriyya (Cairo, 1980) he says: Al-a'imma ijtima`uhum hujjatun qati`atun wa ikhtilafuhum rahmatun wasi`a: "The Consensus of the Imams [of fiqh] on a question is a definitive proof, and their divergence of opinion is a vast mercy" (p. 35); and: "If one does not follow any of the four Imams [of fiqh]... then he is completely in error, for the truth is not found outside of these four in the whole Shari`a" (p. 54).


            In the second view Ibn Taymiyya departs from the above and divides the definition of ijma` into two kinds, a general one as expressed in views similar to the above, and a particular one to which he reserves particular adherence, which is that of the Salaf (Pious Predecessors). He says in his Aqida wasitiyya:


The Ahl al-Sunna... are also called Ahl al-Jama`a because jama`a (Community) implies ijtima` (gathering), its opposite being furqa (separation), and the expression jama`a has become a name for people who share the same conviction, while ijma` (Consensus) is the third principle (asl) on which knowledge of divine law (`ilm) and Religion (din) rest... Ijma` is defined as everything which people follow (jami` ma `alayh al-Nas) in matters of religion. But the ijma` to which there is to be meticulous adherence is what the first pious generations (al-Salaf al-salih) agreed upon, for after them divergences became numerous and the Community became spread out.


            Note that he scatters the concept of ijma` between two diametrically opposed areas: the amorphous, unfalsifiable mass of "the people" on the one hand, and the bygone, crystallized era of the Salaf. The above departs from the position of all four schools, for whom the notion of ijma` rests on two fundamentals:


a) the Consensus of Muslim scholars;

b) the Consensus of Muslim scholars at any given time in history.


            That Ibn Taymiyya particularly departed from the Hanbali school's position is clear from Muwaffaq al-Din Ibn Qudama's concept of ijma` in his al-Rawda fi usul al-fiqh as providing a categorical proof which permits of neither abrogation nor allegorical interpretation -- unlike the Qur'an and the Sunna -- while Ibn Taymiyya rejects the notion that the Community is incapable of agreeing on an error. Perhaps this explains why he himself left ijma` alone on more questions than anyone else of those considered among Ahl al-Sunna before him, although Imam Ahmad said that for the single scholar to leave ijma` constitutes shudhudh (dissent and deviation).[6] Ibn Taymiyya was severely brought to task for this by such scholars as Shaykh al-Islam al-hafiz Taqi al-Din al-Subki, al-hafiz al-`Izz ibn Jama`a, Shaykh al-Islam Imam Ibn Hajar al-Haytami, Taqi al-Din al-Hisni al-Dimashqi, Imam al-San`ani (in Raf` al-astar), and others.





Imam al-Shafi`i defines the ijma` thus in his Risala:


The adherence of the Congregation (jama`a) of Muslims to the conclusions of a given ruling pertaining to what is permitted and what is forbidden after the passing of the Prophet, Peace be upon him.


By "Congregation of Muslims" he actually means the experts of independent reasoning (ahl al-ijtihad) and legal answers in the obscure matters which require insight and investigation, as well as the agreement of the Community of Muslims concerning what is obligatorily known of the religion with its decisive proofs.[7]


            Shafi`i continues (Risala p. 253): "The Prophet's order that men should follow the Muslim Community is a proof that the Ijma` of the Muslims is binding." Later on (p. 286) he quotes the hadith whereby the Prophet said: "Believe my Companions, then those who succeed them, and after that those who succeed the Successors. But after them falsehood will prevail when people will swear to the truth without having been asked to swear, and testify without having been asked to testify. Only those who seek the pleasures of Paradise will keep to the Congregation..."[8] Shafi`i comments: "He who holds what the Muslim Congregation (jama`a) holds shall be regarded as following the Congregation, and he who holds differently shall be regarded as opposing the Congregation he was ordered to follow. So the error comes from separation; but in the Congregation as a whole there is no error concerning the meaning of the Qur'an, the Sunna, and analogy (qiyas)."





1. Fa`tasimu bi hablillahi jami`an wa la tafarraqu


"Hold fast to the rope of Allah, all of you, and do not split into factions" (3:103).



2. Wa la tafarraqu illa min ba`di ma ja'ahum al-`ilmu baghyan



"And they were not divided until after the knowledge came unto them, through rivalry among themselves" (42:14).



3. Ya ayyuha al-ladhina amanu ati`ullaha wa ati`u al-rasula

wa uli al-amri minkum


"O you who believe, obey Allah and obey the Prophet and those of authority among you" (4:59).



4. Wa man yushaqiq al-rasula min ba`di ma tabayyana lahu al-huda wa yattabi` ghayra sabil al-mu'minin nuwallihi ma tawalla wa nuslihi jahannama wa sa'at masira


"Whoever contraverts the Messenger after guidance has become clear to him and follows other than the believers' way, We shall give him over to what he has turned to and expose him unto hell, and how evil an outcome!" (4:115).



5. Wa asbir nafsaka ma` al-ladhina yad`una rabbahum bi al-ghadati wa al-`ashiyyi yuriduna wajhah wa la ta`du `aynaka `anhum turidu zinat al-hayat al-dunya wa la tuti` man aghfalna qalbahu `an dhikrina wa ittaba`a hawahu wa kana amruhu furutan


"Restrain thyself along with those who call upon their Lord at morning and evening, seeking his pleasure; and let not thine eyes overlook them, desiring the pomp of this worldly life; and obey not him whose heart We have made heedless of Our remembrance, who followeth his own lust and whose case has gone beyond all bounds." (18:28)



6. Ati`u Allaha wa ati`u al-rasula wa uli al-amri minkum...


"Obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those who are in charge of affairs among you. Should you happen to dispute over something, then refer it to Allah and to the Messenger." (4:58-59)



7. `Alaykum bi al-jama`a fa innallaha la yajma`u ummata Muhammadin `ala dalala


"You have to follow the Congregation for verily Allah will not make the largest group of Muhammad's Community agree on error."[9]



8. La yajma`ullahu ummata Muhammadin `ala dalala


"Verily Allah will not make Muhammad's Community agree on error."[10]



8a. La yajma`ullahu ummati `ala dalala


"Verily Allah will not make my Community agree on error"[11]



8b. Inna Allaha la yajma`u ummati -- aw qala: ummata Muhammadin --`ala dalalatin wa yadullahi ma` al-jama`a


"Verily Allah will not make my Community -- or Muhammad's Community -- agree on error, and Allah's hand is with the largest Congregation."  Tirmidhi said: "And the meaning of "jama`a" according to the people of knowledge is: the people of jurisprudence, learning, and hadith."[12]


There are several views about the meaning of Umma in the preceding hadiths:


·         It means the overwhelming majority of the Muslims. This is the prevailing view, confirmed by many hadiths of the Companions, and also by the hadiths of the Prophet on jama`a and al-sawad al-a`zam.


·         It refers to the scholars only. It is the position of the majority of the fuqaha' that this is what is meant in such hadiths, and also in the saying of al-Qasim ibn Muhammad: "difference in the Umma is a mercy," i.e. among the scholars. Abu Bakr ibn al-`Arabi gave the same restricted meaning to jama`a.


·         It refers, like jama`a, only to the Companions themselves. This is the view of Ibn Taymiyya and a handful of scholars.


·         It refers to all of the Muslims and not to any particular section of them. This is the view of Imam Shafi`i who said in his Risala: "We know that the people at large cannot agree on an error and on what may contradict the Sunna of the Prophet." It is also the view of the scholars of hadith regarding the authentication of a weak hadith: if the people at large do it, then it becomes sahih and even mutawatir. An example is talqin al-mayyit, which Imam Ahmad accepted on the basis of its universal acceptance rather than on the basis of isnad as stated by Ibn al-Qayyim in Kitab al-ruh.


9. Man arada minkum bi habuhat al-jannati fal yulzim al-jama`at


"Whoever among you wants to be in the middle of Paradise, let him cling to the Congregation."[13]



10. Inna al-shaytana dhaybun ka dhayb al-ghanam ya'khudh al-shat al-qasiya wal-najiya fa iyyakum wal-shu`aab wa `alaykum bil-jama`ati wal-`aammati wal-masjid


"Shaytan is a wolf like the wolf that preys on sheep, taking the isolated and the stray among them; therefore, avoid factionalism and keep to the Congregation and the collective and the masjid."[14]



11. Inna ummati la tajtami`u `ala dalalatin fa idha ra'aytum al-ikhtilaf fa `alaykum bi al-sawad al-a`zam.


"My Community shall never agree upon misguidance, therefore, if you see divergences, you must follow the greater mass or larger group."[15]



11a. Lan tajtami`a ummati `ala dalalatin fa `alaykum bi al-jama`ati fa inna yadullahi `ala al-jama`a.


"My Community shall not agree upon misguidance. Therefore, you must stay with the Congregation, and Allah's hand is over the Congregation."[16]



12. Innallaha qad ajara ummati min an tajtami`a `ala dalala


"Verily Allah has protected my Community from agreeing upon error."[17]



13. Kana al-nasu yas'aluna Rasulallahi `an al-khayr wa kuntu as'aluhu `an al-sharr...qultu ya rasulallahi sifhum lana [ayy al-du`at `ala abwabi jahannam] qala hum min jildatina wa yatakallamuna bi alsinatina qultu fa ma ta'murni in adrakani dhalik al-yawm? qala tulzim jama`at al-muslimin wa imamahum


"People used to ask the Prophet about the good and I used to ask him about the evil... I said: O Messenger of Allah, describe them to us [the callers at the door of the fire]. He said: They are of our complexion and they speak our very language. I said: What do you order me to do if that day reaches me? He said: You must  keep to the Congregation of Muslims and to their leader."[18]



14. Yadu Allah `ala al-jama`a


"Allah's hand is over the group."[19]


            al-Munawi said: "Allah's hand is over the group means His protection and preservation for them, signifying that the collectivity of the people of Islam are in Allah's fold, so be also in Allah's shelter, in the midst of them, and do not separate yourselves from them. Whoever diverges from the overwhelming majority concerning what is lawful and unlawful and on which the Community does not differ has slipped off the path of guidance and this will lead him to hell."[20]



14a. Yadu Allah `ala al-jama`at wa man shadhdha shadhdha ila al-nar.


"Allah's hand is over the group, and whoever dissents from them departs  to hell."[21]



14b. Yadu Allah `ala al-jama`a, ittabi`u al-sawad al-a`zam fa innahu man shadhdha shadhdha ila al-nar.


"Allah's hand is over the group, follow the largest mass, for verily whoever dissents from them departs  to hell."[22]

14c. Man faraqa al-jama`ata shibran mata maytatan Jahiliyya.


"Whoever leaves the Community or separates himself from it by the length of a span, dies the death of the Jahiliyya (period of ignorance prior to Islam)";[23]


15. Abu Ghalib said that during the crisis with the Khawarij in Damascus he saw Abu Umama one day and he was crying. He asked him what made him cry and he replied: "They followed our religion," then he mentioned what was going to happen to them tomorrow. Abu Ghalib said: "Are you saying this according to your opinion or from something you heard the Prophet say?" Abu Umama said: "What I just told you I did not hear from the Prophet only once, or twice, or three times, but more than seven times. Did you not read this verse in Al `Imran: The day faces will be white and faces will be dark..."? (3:106) to the end of the verse. Then he said: I heard the Prophet say: "The Jews separated into 71 sects, 70 of which are in the fire; the Christians into 72 sects, 71 of which are in the fire; and this Community will separate into 73 sects, all of them are in the fire except one which will enter Paradise." We said: "Describe it for us." He said: "The Sawad al-a`zam."


Haythami said in Majma` al-zawa'id: Tabarani narrated it in al-Mu`jam al-kabir and al-Awsat, and its narrators are

trustworthy (thiqat).


16. Ma ra'ahu al-muslimuna hasanan fa huwa `ind Allahi hasanun.


"That which the Muslims consider good, Allah considers good."[24]



17. Sataftariqu ummati `ala thalathat wa sab`ina firqatin kulluhum fil nari ila millatin wahidat, qalu man hiya ya rasulallah, qala ma ana `alayhi wa as-habi


"My Community will split into seventy-three sects.  All of them will be in the fire except one group.  They asked: Who are they, O Messenger of Allah?  He said: Those that follow my way and that of  my companions."[25]



18. La tazalu ta'ifatun min ummati yuqatiluna `ala al-haqqi zahirina ila yawm al-qiyama


"There will always be a group from my Community that fight for truth and remain victorious until Judgment Day."[26]





The Sawad al-a`zam means a "massive gathering of human beings" and this meaning is ascertained by the following sound hadith in Tirmidhi (hasan sahih):


Ibn `Abbas narrated: When the Prophet was taken up to heaven he passed by Prophets followed by their nations and he passed by Prophets followed by their groups and he passed by Prophets followed by no one until he saw a tremendous throng of people (sawad `azim) so he said: "Who are these?" and the answer was: "These are Musa and his nation, but raise your head and look up," whereupon the Prophet said: "(I raised my head and saw) a tremendous throng (sawad `azim) that had blocked up the entire firmament from this side and that!" And it was said: "These are your Nation..."







1. al-Hafiz al-Bayhaqi in his book al-Madkhal and al-Zarkashi in his Tadhkirah fi al-ahadith al-mushtaharah relate:


Imam al-Qasim ibn Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr al-Siddiq said: "The differences among the Companions of Muhammad are a mercy for Allah's servants."


al-Hafiz al-`Iraqi the teacher of Ibn Hajar al-`Asqalani said:


This is a saying of al-Qasim ibn Muhammad who said: The difference of opinion among the Companions of Muhammad is a mercy.



2. Al-Hafiz Ibn al-Athir in the introduction to his Jami` al-usul fi ahadith al-rasul relates the above saying from Imam Malik according to al-Hafiz Ibn al-Mulaqqin in his Tuhfat al-muhtaj ila adillat al-Minhaj and Ibn al-Subki in his Tabaqat al-Shafi`iyya.



3. Bayhaqi and Zarkashi also said:


Qutada said: `Umar ibn `Abd al-`Aziz used to say: "I would dislike it if the Companions of Muhammad did not differ among them, because had they not differed there would be no leeway (for us)."


4. Bayhaqi also relates in al-Madkhal and Zarkashi in the Tadhkira:


al-Layth ibn Sa`d said on the authority of Yahya ibn Sa`id: "The people of knowledge are the people of flexibility (tawsi`a).  Those who give fatwas never cease to differ, and so this one permits something while that one forbids it, without one finding fault with the other when he knows of his position."



5. Al-Hafiz al-Sakhawi said in his Maqasid al-hasana p. 49 #39 after quoting the above:


I have read the following written in my shaykh's (al-Hafiz ibn Hajar) handwriting: "The hadith of Layth is a reference to a very famous hadith of the Prophet, cited by Ibn al-Hajib in the Mukhtasar in the section on qiyas (analogy), which says: "Difference of opinion in my Community is a mercy for people" (ikhtilafu ummati rahmatun li al-Nas). There is a lot of questioning about its authenticity, and many of the imams of learning have claimed that it has no basis (la asla lahu). However, al-Khattabi mentions it in the context of a digression in Gharib al-hadith... and what he says concerning the tracing of the hadith is not free from imperfection, but he makes it known that it does have a basis in his opinion."



6. Al-`Iraqi mentions all of the above (1-5) in his Mughni `an haml al-asfar and adds:


What is meant by "the Community" in this saying is those competent for practicing legal reasoning (al-muhtahidun) in the branches of the law, wherein reasoning is permissible.


            What `Iraqi meant by saying "the branches wherein reasoning is permissible" is that difference is not allowed in matters of doctrine, since there is agreement that there is only one truth in the essentials of belief and anyone, whether a muhtahid or otherwise, who takes a different view automatically renounces Islam as stated by Shawkani.[27]


            Albani in his attack on the hadith "Difference of opinion in my Community is a mercy" ignores this distinction and even adduces the verse: "If it had been from other than Allah they would have found therein much discrepancy" (4:82) in order to prove that differences can never be a mercy in any case but are always a curse.[28] His point is directed entirely against those who are content to follow a madhhab. The only scholar he quotes in support of his position is Ibn Hazm al-Zahiri, whose mistake in this was denounced by Nawawi.



7. Ibn Hazm said in al-Ihkam fi usul al-ahkam (5:64):


The saying "Difference of opinion in my Community is a mercy" is the most perverse saying possible, because if difference were mercy, agreement would be anger, and it is impossible for a Muslim to say this, because there can only be either agreement, or difference, and there can only be either mercy, or anger.


Imam Nawawi refuted this view in his Commentary on Sahih Muslim:


If something (i.e. agreement) is a mercy it is not necessary for its opposite to be the opposite of mercy. No-one makes this binding, and no-one even says this except an ignoramus or one who affects ignorance. Allah the Exalted said: "And of His mercy He has made night for you so that you would rest in it" (28:73), and He has named night a mercy: it does not necessarily ensue from this that the day is a punishment.



8. al-Khattabi said in Gharib al-hadith:


Difference of opinion in religion is of three kinds:


·         In affirming the Creator and His Oneness: to deny it is disbelief;


·         In His attributes and will: to deny them is innovation;


·         In the different rulings of the branches of the law (ahkam al-furu`): Allah has made them mercy and generosity for the scholars, and that is the meaning of the hadith: "Difference of opinion in my Community is a mercy."[29]



9. al-Hafiz al-Suyuti says in his short treatise Jazil al-mawahib fi ikhtilaf al-madhahib (The abundant grants concerning the differences among the schools):


The hadith "Difference of opinion in my Community is a mercy for people" has many benefits among which are the fact that the Prophet foretold of the differences that would arise after his time among the madhahib in the branches of the law, and this is one of his miracles because it is a foretelling of things unseen. Another benefit is his approval of these differences and his confirmation of them because he characterizes them as a mercy. Another benefit is that the legally responsible person can choose to follow whichever he likes among them. [After citing the saying of `Umar ibn `Abd al-`Aziz already quoted (#3 above), Suyuti continues:] This indicates that what is meant is their differences in the rulings in the branches of the law.



10. The muhaddith al-Samhudi relates al-Hafiz Ibn al-Salah's discussion of Imam Malik's saying concerning difference of opinion among the Companions: "Among them is the one that is wrong and the one that is right: therefore you must exercise ijtihad." Samhudi said:


Clearly, it refers to differences in legal rulings (ahkam). Ibn al-Salah said: "This is different from what Layth said concerning the flexibility allowed for the Community, since this applies exclusively to the muhtahid as he said: "you must exercise ijtihad," because the muhtahid's competence makes him legally responsible (mukallaf) to exercise ijtihad and there is no flexibility allowed for him over the matter of their difference. The flexibility applies exclusively to the unqualified follower (muqallid). The people meant in the saying: "Difference of opinion in my Community is a mercy for people" are those unqualified followers. As for the import of Malik's saying "Among the Companions is the one that is wrong and the one that is right," it is meant only as an answer to those who say that the muhtahid is able to follow the Companions.  It is not meant for others.



11. Imam Abu Hanifa said in the shorter version of al-Fiqh al-Akbar:


Difference of opinion in the Community is a token of divine mercy.



12. Ibn Qudama al-Hanbali said in al-`Aqa'id:


The difference in opinion in the Community is a mercy, and their agreement is a proof.



13. Ibn Taymiyya in the Mukhtasar al-fatawa al-misriyya says:


al-a'imma ijtima`uhum hujjatun qati`atun wa ikhtilafuhum rahmatun wasi`a -- The Consensus of the Imams [of fiqh] on a question is a definitive proof, and their divergence of opinion is a vast mercy... If one does not follow any of the four Imams [of fiqh]... then he is completely in error, for the truth is not found outside of these four in the whole Shari`a.[30]


14. al-Shatibi in Kitab al-i`tisam said:


A large group of the Salaf deemed the differences of the Community in the branches of the Law to be one of the paths of Allah's mercy...


            The exposition of the fact that the aforesaid difference is a mercy is what is narrated from al-Qasim ibn Muhammad (ibn Abi Bakr al-Siddiq)'s words: "Allah has made us gain through the differences among the Companions of Allah's Messenger in their practice." No one practices according to the practice of one of them except he (al-Qasim) considered it to be within the fold of correctness.


            Dumra ibn Raja' narrated: `Umar ibn `Abd al-`Aziz and al-Qasim ibn Muhammad met and began to review the hadiths. `Umar then began to mention things which differed from what al-Qasim mentioned, and al-Qasim would give him trouble regarding it until the matter became clearer. `Umar said to him: "Don't do that! (i.e. don't question the difference.) I dislike stripping the favors (of Allah) from their differences."


            Ibn Wahb also narrated from al-Qasim that he said: "I was pleased by the saying of `Umar ibn `Abd al-`Aziz: I would dislike it if the Companions of Muhammad did not differ among them, because if there were only one view then the people would be in difficulty. Verily the Companions are Imams which one uses for guidance (innahum a'immatun yuqtada bihim). If someone follows the saying of one of them, that is Sunna."


            The meaning of this is that they (the Companions) have opened wide for people the door of scholarly striving (ijtihad) and of the permissibility of difference in striving. If they had not opened it, the muhtahids would be in a bind, because the extent of ijtihad and that of opinions do not generally agree: the people who exert striving would then, despite their obligation to follow what they are convinced of, be obliged to follow what differs with them, and this is a kind of unbearable legal obligation and one of the greatest binds.


            Allah therefore gave the Community generous leeway in the existence of disagreement in the branches of the law among them. This is the door that He opened for the Community to enter into this mercy. How then could they possibly not be meant by "those on whom thy Lord has mercy" in the verses "Yet they cease not differing, save those on whom thy Lord has mercy" (11:118-119)?! Therefore, their difference in the branches of the Law are like their agreement in them (in the fact that both consist in mercy), and praise belongs to Allah.[31]


al-Shatibi  also said in al-Muwafaqat (4:119): "Whatever is open to ijtihad is open to difference of opinion among those who make ijtihad, due to differences in circumstances or perspective."


15. Ibn `Abd al-Barr said in Jami` bayan al-`ilm:


The ulama are in agreement that it is permissible, for whoever looks into the differing opinions of the Prophet's Companions, to follow the position of whomever he likes among them. The same holds for whoever looks into the positions of the Imams other than the Companions, as long as he does not know that he has erred by contradicting the text of the Qur'an or Sunna or the Consensus of the scholars, in which case he cannot follow the above position. However, if this contradiction is not clear to him in any of the three respects mentioned, then it is permissible for him to follow the saying in question even if he does not know whether it is right or wrong, for he is in the realm of the common people (al-`amma) for whom it is permissible to imitate the scholar upon asking him something, even without knowing the bases of the answer...


            al-`Uqayli mentioned that Muhammad ibn `Abd al-Rahman al-Sayrafi said: I asked Ahmad ibn Hanbal: "If the Companions of the Prophet differed regarding a certain question, is it permissible for us to check their positions to see who among them is right so that we may follow him?" He replied: "It is not permissible to check on the Prophet's Companions (la yajuz alnazar bayna ashabi rasulillah)." I said: "Then what is the procedure in this?" He replied: "You follow whichever of them you like."[32]


16. Abu Dawud narrates that Ibn Mas`ud had censured `Uthman for completing the prayer while travelling (i.e. rather than shortening it to two cycles instead of four), yet when he prayed behind `Uthman he performed four cycles and did not shorten it. When this was pointed out to him he said: "Dissent is an evil" (al-khilafu sharr). (That is: dissent in the lines of prayer, or in the unity of Muslims.) Abu Dawud mentioned al-Zuhri's explanation that `Uthman had prayed four rak`at at Mina instead of two because that year the beduins had come in great numbers and he wished to teach them that the prayer consisted in four cycles.[33]


17. Ibn Abi Zayd al-Qayrawani related in his Jami` fi al-sunan that Ibn Mas`ud said:


Whoever wishes to follow the Sunna, let him follow the Sunna of those that died (i.e. keep to the practice of the Companions). Those are the Prophet's Companions. They were the best of this Community, the purest of heart, the deepest in knowledge, and the scarcest in discourse. They were a people Allah chose for His Prophet's company and the establishment of His Religion. Therefore be aware of their superiority and follow them in their views, and hold fast to whatever you are able from their manners and their lives. Verily they were on a straight path.[34]


18. Ibn Qudama al-Hanbali in the introduction to his manual of fiqh entitled al-Mughni (1:22f.) relates the following examples of the great Imams' occasional practice of positions contrary to their ijtihad:


·         Abu Hanifa, Muhammad al-Shaybani, and Abu Yusuf's position is that ablution is nullified by bleeding. Yet when Abu Yusuf saw that Harun al-Rashid stood for prayer after being cupped without performing ablution, based on Malik's fatwa for him -- since bleeding does not annul ablution in Malik's view -- he prayed behind al-Rashid, and did not repeat his prayer. That is: he considered the prayer valid, and that therefore the ablution is not nullified for one who follows Malik's fatwa.


·         Another time Abu Yusuf performed ghusl and prayed Jum`a in congregation, then he was told that a dead mouse had been found in the tank of the bath water. He did not repeat the prayer but said: "We shall follow in the matter the opinion of our brothers from the Hijaz (i.e. school of Malik): If the quantity of water is more than two pitchers' worth, the water is still pure (if a dead mouse is found in it)."


·         When Shafi`i prayed the dawn prayer with the Hanafis at the grave of Abu Hanifa in Baghdad, he did not make the supplication after rising from bowing in the second cycle of prayer as is required in his own school but not in the Hanafi.


·         Imam Ahmad's opinion is similar to the Hanafis' concerning the necessity of ablution after cupping. Yet when he was asked: "Can one pray behind the Imam who stands up to lead prayer after being cupped without having renewed his ablution?" he replied: "How could I not pray behind Malik and Sa`id al-Musayyib?" and, in another narration: "Can I forbid you from praying behind So-and-so?" That is: behind the Imams who do not consider it necessary to renew ablution.[35]


·         Imam Ahmad also declared that one must pronounce the basmala loud when leading the prayer in Madina -- although this is contrary to his general view in the matter -- due to the fact that the majority of the people of Madina follow the school of Malik, which requires it. Ibn Taymiyya mentions it in his Qa`ida fi tawahhud al-milla.[36]


19. In Bukhari and Muslim from Ibn `Umar: On the day of the battle of al-Ahzab (the battle of the Trench) the Prophet said (to a travelling party): "Let none of you pray the `Asr prayer [in Muslim also: the Zuhr prayer] except after reaching the Banu Qurayza." The `Asr prayer became due for some of them on the way. Some of those said: "We will not offer it till we reach the Banu Qurayza," while others said: "Rather, we will pray at this spot, for the Prophet did not mean that for us." Later on it was mentioned to the Prophet and he did not take to task any of the two groups.


Following are Imam Nawawi's and Ibn Hajar's views of this hadith. Imam Nawawi in Sharh Sahih Muslim said in commenting on the hadith of the Companions' difference in praying `Asr following the Prophet's order (Kitab al-Jihad, Ch. 23, al-Mays ed. 11/12:341) is that he considers that every muhtahid can be correct. He said:


In this hadith there is evidence for those who act upon the understanding and according to analogy and in attending to the meaning of words, and also to those who stick to the external letter; there is also evidence that the muhtahid must not be taken to task  in what he did through his ijtihad if he did his best. And it can be inferred from this that every muhtahid is correct (wa qad yustadallu bihi `ala an kulla muhtahidin musib). Those who take the opposite view can say that the Prophet did not manifest which of the two sides was correct, but he did not take them to task. There is no disagreement that the muhtahid is not taken to task even if he was mistaken, if he did his utmost in striving. And Allah knows best.


20. The same position is taken by Ibn Hajar in Fath al-Bari in

commenting upon the same hadith in Bukhari (Kitab al-Maghazi, ch.31, 1989 ed. 7:520):


"In this hadith is evidence that each one of the two muhtahids that differ in a matter of the branches, is correct." (wa fihi anna kulla mukhtalifayni fi al-furu` min al-muhtahidina musib.)


Some ask about the discrepancy about which prayer was actually mentioned, since it is related in Bukhari as `Asr and in Muslim as Zuhr. Both reports are authentic and confirmed by other sound chains. Nawawi and Ibn Hajar said that the discrepancy is solved by the possibility that the travellers left in two groups, to each of whom was given a different order: the first group had not prayed Zuhr yet; while the second had prayed Zuhr, but not `Asr. Or it is solved by the possibility that one single group left together, containing those who had already prayed Zuhr and those who had not. The import of the hadith is to make haste and not dismount to pray nor anything else.


21. Jamal al-Din al-Qasimi in his Risalat al-jarh wa al-ta`dil said: "It is required by justice that differences of opinion not be a pretext for disaffection. Enmity that stems from religious quarrels typifies the ignorant, not the knowledgeable; it typifies the people of folly, not the fair-minded."





Some mention the account of `Umar's position over the difference of opinion that took place between Ubayy ibn Ka`b and `Abd Allah ibn Mas`ud over the matter of praying in a single garment. Ibn `Abd al-Barr said in his book Jami` bayan al-`ilm:


`Umar ibn al-Khattab was angry about the disagreement between Ubayy ibn Ka`b and Ibn Mas`ud on the question of praying in a single cloth: Ubayy said that it was fine and good, while Ibn Mas`ud said that this was done only when clothes were scarce. `Umar said: "Two men disagreeing from among the Prophet's Companions who are those one looks at and takes from?!" -- and this supports the import of the hadith which they have declared weak whereby My Companions are like the stars; whoever among them you use for guidance, you will be rightly guided. `Umar continued: "Ubayy has told the truth, nor has Ibn Mas`ud fallen short of it: but don't let me hear anyone disagree about this matter after this point, or I will do such-and-such with them!"[37]


Anas relates that the Prophet said: "The simile of the scholars of knowledge (al-`ulama') on the earth is the stars in the sky by which one is guided in the darkness of the land and the sea. When the stars are clouded over, the guides are about to be lost." Ahmad narrated it in his Musnad (3:157 #12606) with a chain containing Rishdin ibn Sa`d who is weak. However, it is confirmed by the hadith in Muslim and Ahmad narrated by Abu Musa al-Ash`ari whereby the Prophet said: "The stars are trust-keepers for the heaven, and when the stars wane, the heaven is brought what was promised (i.e. of the corruption of the world and the coming of the Day of Judgment); and I am a trust-keeper for my Companions, so when I go my Companions will be brought what was promised them (i.e. of fitna and division); and my Companions are trustkeepers for my Community, so when they go my Community will be brought what was promised to you (i.e. following hawa and vying for dunya)."


This trust-keeping is what `Umar meant when he named the Companions: "Those whom people look at and take (knowledge) from" when he disapproved of the difference of opinion between Ubayy ibn Ka`b and `Abd Allah ibn Mas`ud, as related in Ibn `Abd al-Barr's Jami` bayan al-`ilm (2:84). This is confirmed by al-Zuhri's saying related by Darimi in the introduction to his Sunan: "Beware of evaluating things for yourself. By the One in Whose hand is my soul, if you evaluate things for yourself you will assuredly declare lawful the unlawful and declare unlawful the lawful. Rather, whatever reaches you from those who learned from the Companions of Muhammad -- peace be upon him -- put it into practice." Similar to this is al-Awza`is' saying: "Knowledge is what comes from the Companions of Muhammad -- peace be upon him -- and whatever does not come from one of them is not knowledge." Narrated by Ibn `Abd al-Barr in his Jami` bayan al-`ilm (2:36).


            `Umar considered neither Ubayy nor Ibn Mas`ud to be wrong, as illustrated by `Umar's answer in the following hadith from the Book of Prayer in Sahih al-Bukhari:


Narrated Abu Hurayra: A man stood up and asked the Prophet about praying in a single garment. The Prophet said, "Has everyone of you two garments?" A man put a similar question to `Umar whereupon he replied: "When Allah makes you wealthier then you should act wealthier. Let a man gather up his clothes about himself. One can pray in a loinwrap and mantle, or a loinwrap and shirt, or in a loinwrap and long sleeves, or in trousers and a cloak, or in trousers and a shirt, or in trousers and long sleeves, or in legless breeches and long sleeves, or in shorts and a shirt." The narrator added: "And I think he said: "Or in shorts and a cloak."[38]


            Ibn Hajar in Fath al-Bari relates that the second questioner in the above hadith, that is: the man who asked `Umar, was `Abd Allah ibn Mas`ud. He mentions the report in the Musannaf of `Abd al-Razzaq whereby Ibn Mas`ud approached `Umar due to his difference with Ubayy who permitted prayer in a single garment in the sense that it is not offensive (makruh), while Ibn Mas`ud held that this was the case only at the time there was scarcity in clothing, whereupon `Umar went up to the pulpit and said: "What is right is what Ubayy said, and Ibn Mas`ud certainly did not fall short" (al-qawlu ma qala ubayy wa lam ya'il ibnu mas`ud).[39]


            Thus the decision of `Umar whereby he authorized praying in a single garment without blame is not a proof that "one was right and the other was wrong" as some superficial observers understand, rather it is a proof that `Umar exercised his own ijtihad and authority as the Greater Imam in settling the question. He ruled without dismissing any view. Furthermore, if Ibn Mas`ud held his position from the Prophet he cannot change it even after the ruling of the Greater Imam. This is true of every true muhtahid at any time: he is obligated to follow the result of his own ijtihad even if it should differ with that of every other muhtahid of the past and present, unless he becomes convinced that he was mistaken in his previous ijtihad.


            According to all the scholars it is incumbent upon the leader of Muslims to be a muhtahid and it is his responsibility in such cases to settle the question for the sake of the people of his time, and that is the proper context of Imam Malik's injunction: "Exercise ijtihad." It is addressed to the mufti who must establish what is correct in clearcut fashion, not to the muqallid or follower who is only interested in "a way to follow" (= madhhab) without having to verify its proofs and inferences. The muqallid is not free to follow other than what he accepts as correct, nor is the ijtihad of the unqualified ever considered valid for others. However, another mufti may reach another conclusion and be followed, and is not bound by that of the first, nor are those who take their fatwa from him, and no-one finds fault with the other, as al-Layth ibn Sa`d stated. Those who condemn taqlid unconditionally are innovating in religion. As Ibn Qayyim said, there is a kind of taqlid that is even obligatory:


There is an obligatory (wajib) taqlid, a forbidden taqlid, and a permitted taqlid... The obligatory taqlid is the taqlid of those who know better than us, as when a person has not obtained knowledge of an evidence from the Qur'an or the Sunna concerning something. Such a taqlid has been reported from Imam al-Shafi`i in many places, where he would say: "I said this in taqlid of `Umar" or "I said that in taqlid of `Uthman" or "I said that in taqlid of `Ata'." As al-Shafi`i said concerning the Companions -- may Allah be well pleased with all of them: "Their opinion for us is better than our opinion to ourselves."[40]


            A clear proof that the fatwa of the leader overrules but does not invalidate the opinion of the Companions even if it directly contradicts it, is the fact that when `Umar ibn al-Khattab proposed to have all the hadith collected and written down he consulted the Companions and they unanimously agreed to his proposal; later he disapproved of it and ordered that everyone who had written a collection burn it. Yet `Umar ibn `Abd al-`Aziz later ordered that hadith be collected and written.[41]


            Those who think they are muhtahid but in reality are unqualified, when faced by the followers of madhahib, camouflage their deviation under the claim: "We must follow Qur'an and Sunna, not madhahib." When it is pointed out to them that to follow a madhhab is to follow Qur'an and Sunna through true ijtihad, they become upset: "How can the four madhhabs differ and be right at the same time? I have heard that only one may be right, and the others wrong." The answer is that one certainly follows only the ruling that he believes is right, but he cannot fanatically invalidate the following of other rulings by other madhahib, because they also are based on sound principles of ijtihad. At this they rebel and begin numbering the mistakes of the muhtahids: "Imam Shafi`i was right in this, but he was wrong in that; Imam Abu Hanifa was right in this, but he was wrong in that..." They do not even spare the Companions. But when they are rebuked for this blatant disrespect "They become arrogant in their sin" (2:206). And this is the legacy of the "Salafi" movement.












Shaykh Hasan al-Saqqaf wrote in his book about Albani's attacks on the great scholars entitled Qamus shata'im al-Albani [Dictionary of Albani's Insults of the Scholars]:


"He [Albani] says of Imam Abu Hanifa: "The imams have declared him weak for his poor memorization" (in his commentary of Ibn Abi `Asim's Kitab al-Sunna 1:76) although no such position is reported, see for example Ibn Hajar `Asqalani's biography of Abu Hanifa in "Tahdhib al-tahdhib".



A "Salafi" follower of Albani  replied:


The statement that no such position is reported is a lie, it was the position of Muslim (al-Kunaa wal Asmaa), Nasaa'ee (ad-Du'afaa) ibn Adee (al-Kaamil 2/403), ibn Sa'd (Tabaqaat 6/256), al-Uqailee (ad-Du'afaa p.432), ibn Abee Haatim (al-Jarh wat Tadil), Daaruqutnee (as-Sunan p132), al-Haakim (Ma'rifa Ulum al-Hadeeth), Abdul Haqq al-Ishbelee (al-Ahkaam al-Kubraa q.17/2), adh-Dhahabee (ad-Du'afaa q. 215/1-2), Bukharee (at-Taareekh al-Kabeer), ibn Hibbaan (al-Majrooheen)



Our reliance is on Allah. Shaykh Albani has shown enmity towards scholars, of a kind that passes all bounds and is unbefitting of a person with knowledge in Islam. As we mentioned in the first volume, Saqqaf has documented in his book an instance where Albani compares Hanafi fiqh to the Christian Gospels in respect to distance from Qur'an and Sunna,[42] and this would be unacceptable coming from a Christian, how then could it be accepted from a Muslim? Albani and his following have pushed even the gentlest of scholars, the late `Abd al-Fattah Abu Ghudda, to take pen to paper to oppose such aberrations in his book Radd `ala abatil wa iftira'at Nasir al-Albani wa sahibihi sabiqan Zuhayr al-Shawish wa mu'azirihima (Refutation of the falsehoods and fabrications of Nasir al-Din Albani and his former friend Zuhayr al-Shawish and their supporters). This book received two editions recently.


The claim by Albani's supporter whereby "The statement that no such position is reported is a lie" is itself a lie. None of the references he adduces contains a single authentic proof for Albani's claim that "the imams have declared him weak for his poor memorization." For such a claim to be remotely true it would have to be modified to read: "He was graded weak by some scholars but this grading was rejected by the Imams." The proof for this is that the positions reported against Abu Hanifa in the references given are all weak and rejected, and often inauthentic in the first place, in the end amounting to nothing: therefore, even though there is criticism reported, it comes to nothing and does not constitute any "declaration of weakness by the Imams" as asserted by Albani!


The example given as proof by Saqqaf, namely Ibn Hajar `Asqalani's notice on Abu Hanifa in Tahdhib al-tahdhib, confirms that the Imams of hadith never declared Abu Hanifa weak, for Ibn Hajar would have had to report such a weakening if it held true. Rather, he states the reverse, as seen from the translation of Ibn Hajar's notice excerpted below. This shows that Saqqaf's statement is correct, since Ibn Hajar undoubtedly represents the opinions of the Imams of hadith criticism and methodology concerning the weakness or poor memorization of any given narrator or scholar. Moreover, Ibn Hajar in Taqrib al-tahdhib (1993 ed. 2:248 #7179) calls Abu Hanifah al-Imam, and al-faqih al-mashhur (the well-known jurisprudent), and Dhahabi includes him among the hadith masters in his Tadhkirat al-huffaz [Memorial of the Hadith Masters]. These titles are not given to anyone who is declared weak in hadith. And Dhahabi before Ibn Hajar, and al-Mizzi before Dhahabi, all concurred that no position purporting Abu Hanifa's weakness should be retained, as Dhahabi said 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."


            The remainder of the references of the "Salafi" claims are therefore irrelevant and over-ruled, especially in view of Ibn `Abd al-Barr's statement that "Those who narrated from Abu Hanifa, who declared him trustworthy (waththaquhu), and who praised him, outnumber those who criticized him" as related by Ibn Hajar al-Haytami in his book al-Khayrat al-hisan fi manaqib Abi Hanifa al-Nu`man (p. 74). Nevertheless we shall examine the sources that he brings up to show the extent to which these sources all suffer from various problems, as it is the wont of "Salafis" seen time and time again to adduce false or weak evidence to promote their aberrant opinions.





From Tahdhib al-tahdhib, 1st ed. (Hyderabad: Da'irat al-ma`arif al-nizamiyya, 1327) Vol. 10 p. 449-452 #817 (10:45f. of the later edition)



Al-Nu`man ibn Thabit al-Taymi, Abu Hanifa, al-Kufi, mawla Bani Taym Allah ibn Tha`laba. It is said that he was Persian. He saw Anas. He narrated hadith from `Ata' ibn Abi Rabah, `Asim ibn Abi al-Nujud, `Alqama ibn Marthad, Hammad ibn Abi Sulayman, al-Hakam ibn `Utayba, Salama ibn Kuhayl, Abu Ja`far Muhammad ibn `Ali, `Ali ibn al-Aqmar, Ziyad ibn `Alaqa, Sa`id ibn Masruq al-Thawri, `Adi ibn Thabit al-Ansari, `Atiyya ibn Sa`id al-`Awfi, Abu Sufyan al-Sa`di, `Abd al-Karim Abu Umayya, Yahya ibn Sa`id al-Ansari, and Hisham Ibn `Urwa among others.


From him narrated: his son Hammad, Ibrahim ibn Tahman, Hamza ibn Habib al-Zayyat, Zafr ibn al-Hadhil, Abu Yusuf al-Qadi, Abu Yahya al-Hamani, `Isa ibn Yunus, Waki` (ibn al-Jarrah al-Kufi),* Yazid ibn Zuray`, Asad ibn `Amr, al-Bajali, Hakkam ibn Ya`la ibn Salm al-Razi, Kharija ibn Mus`ab, `Abd al-Majid ibn Abi Rawad, `Ali ibn Musshir, Muhammad ibn Bishr al-`Abdi, `Abd al-Razzaq [one of Bukhari's shaykhs], Muhammad ibn al-Hasan al-Shaybani, Mus`ib ibn al-Miqdam, Yahya ibn Yaman, Abu `Usma Nuh ibn Abi Maryam, Abu `Abd al-Rahman al-Muqri, Abu Nu`aym, Abu `Asim, and others [such as `Abd Allah Ibn al-Mubarak and Dawud al-Ta'i: see al-Mizzi's Tahdhib al-kamal 12 and al-Dhahabi in Manaqib Abi Hanifa (p. 20). al-Mizzi's list is about one hundred strong.]...


[* 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." al-Hafiz al-Qurashi in his al-Jawahir al-mudiyya fi manaqib al-hanafiyya (2:208-209) said: "Waki` took the Science from Abu Hanifa and received a great deal from him."]


[Remarks on Abu Hanifa's national origins and his father's profession.]


Muhammad ibn Sa`d al-`Awfi said: I heard Ibn Ma`in say: "Abu Hanifa was trustworthy (thiqa), and he did not narrate any hadith except what he had memorized, nor did he narrate what he had not memorized."


Salih ibn Muhammad al-Asadi said on the authority of Ibn Ma`in: "Abu Hanifa was trustworthy (thiqa) in hadith."


[a) 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: No less than Shu`ba wrote to him (for narrations), and ordered him to narrate hadith." Ibn Hajar said in Kharija ibn al-Salt's notice in Tahdhib al-tahdhib (3:75-76): "Ibn Abi Khaythama said: If al-Shu`bi narrates from someone and names him, that man is trustworthy (thiqa) and his narration is used as proof (yuhtajju bi hadithihi)."


b) al-Haytami in al-Khayrat al-hisan (p. 74) and al-Qurashi in al-Jawahir al-mudiyya (1:29) relate that Imam `Ali ibn al-Madini said: "From Abu Hanifa narrated: al-Thawri, Ibn al-Mubarak, Hammad ibn Zayd, Hisham, Waki` (ibn al-Jarrah al-Kufi), `Abbad ibn al-`Awwam, and Ja`far ibn `Awn. He [Abu Hanifa] is trustworthy (thiqatun) and reliable (la ba'sa bihi = there is no harm in him). Shu`ba thought well of him." Ibn Ma`in said: "Our colleagues are exaggerating concerning Abu Hanifa and his colleagues." He was asked: "Does he lie?" Ibn Ma`in replied: "No! he is nobler than that."


c) Dhahabi in Tadhkirat al-huffaz (1:168) cites Ibn Ma`in's statement about Abu Hanifa: la ba'sa bihi (= there is no harm in him, i.e. he is reliable). Ibn Salah in his Muqaddima (p. 134) and Dhahabi in Lisan al-mizan (1:13) have shown that this expression by Ibn Ma`in is the same as declaring someone as thiqa or trustworthy: "Ibn Abi Khaythama said: I said to Ibn Ma`in: You say: "There is no harm in so-and-so" and "so-and-so is weak (da`if)?" He replied: "If I say of someone that there is no harm in him: he is trustworthy (fa thiqatun), and if I say da`if: he is not trustworthy, do not write his hadith."" Abu Ghudda in his commentary to Lucknawi's Raf` (p. 222 n. 3) has indicated that the equivalency of saying "There is no harm in him" with the grade of trustworthy (thiqa) is also the case for other early authorities of the third century such as Ibn al-Madini, Imam Ahmad, Duhaym, Abu Zur`a, Abu Hatim al-Razi, Ya`qub ibn Sufyan al-Fasawi, and others. Note that like Abu Hanifa, Imam Shafi`i is declared trustworthy by the early authorities with the expression la ba'sa bihi in Dhahabi's Tadhkirat al-huffaz (1:362).]


Abu Wahb Muhammad ibn Muzahim said: I heard Ibn al-Mubarak say: "The most knowledgeable of people in fiqh (afqah al-Nas) is Abu Hanifa. I have never seen anyone like him in fiqh." Ibn al-Mubarak also 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."]


Ibn Abi Khaythama said from Sulayman ibn Abu Shaykh: "Abu Hanifa was extremely scrupulous (wari`) and generous (sakhi)."


Ibn `Isa ibn al-Tabba` said: I heard Rawh ibn `Ubada say: "I was with Ibn Jurayj in the year 150 when the news of Abu Hanifa's death reached him. He winced and pain seized him; he said: "Verily, knowledge has departed (ay `ilmun dhahab)." Ibn Jurayj died that same year."


Abu Nu`aym said: "Abu Hanifa dived for the meanings of matters so that he reached the uttermost of them."


Ahmad ibn `Ali ibn Sa`id al-Qadi said: I heard Yahya ibn Ma`in say: I heard Yahya ibn Sa`id al-Qattan [Ahmad ibn Hanbal's greatest shaykh] 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).]


[About Yahya al-Qattan, Imam Nawawi relates on the authority of Ishaq al-Shahidi:


I would see Yahya al-Qattan -- may Allah the Exalted have mercy on him -- pray the midafternoon prayer, then sit with his back against the base of the minaret of his mosque. Then `Ali ibn al-Madini, al-Shadhakuni, `Amr ibn `Ali, Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Yahya ibn Ma`in, and others would stand before him and ask him questions about hadith standing on their feet until it was time for the sunset prayer. He would not say to a single one of them: "Sit" nor would they sit, out of awe and reverence.


Related in Nawawi's al-Tarkhis fi al-ikram bi al-qiyam li dhawi al-fadl wa al-maziyya min ahl al-islam `ala jihat al-birr wa al-tawqir wa al-ihtiram la `ala jihat al-riya' wa al-i`zam (The Permissibility of Honoring, By Standing Up, Those Who Possess Excellence and Distinction Among the People of Islam: In the Spirit of Piousness, Reverence, and Respect, Not in the Spirit of Display and Aggrandizement) ed. Kilani Muhammad Khalifa (Beirut: Dar al-Basha'ir al-islamiyya, 1409/1988) p. 58.]


al-Rabi` and Harmala said: We heard al-Shafi`i say: "People are children before Abu Hanifa in fiqh."


It is narrated on the authority of Abu Yusuf that he said: "As I was walking with Abu Hanifa we heard a man saying to another: This is Abu Hanifa, he does not sleep at night. Abu Hanifa said: He does not say something about me which I do not actually do. He would -- after this -- spend the greatest part of the night awake."


Isma`il ibn Hammad ibn Abi Hanifa said that his father (Hammad) said: When my father died we asked al-Hasan ibn `Amara to undertake his ritual washing. After he did he said: "May Allah have mercy on you and forgive you (O Abu Hanifa)! You did not eat except at night for thirty years, and your right side did not lay down at night for forty years. You have exhausted whoever comes after you (who tries to catch up with you). You have outshone all the readers of the Islamic sciences."


`Ali ibn Ma`bad said on the authority of `Ubayd Allah ibn `Amr al-Raqi: Ibn Hubayra told Abu Hanifa to undertake the judgeship of Kufa and he refused, so he had him lashed 110 times, but still he refused. When he saw this he let him go.


Ibn Abi Dawud 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."...


Ahmad ibn `Abda the Qadi of Ray said that his father said: We were with ibn `A'isha when he mentioned a saying of Abu Hanifa then he said: "Verily, if you had seen him you would have wanted him. Verily, his similitude and yours is as in the saying:


Censure them little or much: I will never heed your blame.

Try only to fill, if you can, the space that they filled.


al-Saghani said on the authority of Ibn Ma`in: "I heard `Ubayd ibn Abi Qurra say: I heard Yahya ibn al-Daris say: I saw Sufyan [al-Thawri] being asked by a man: "What do you have against Abu Hanifa?" He said: "What is wrong with Abu Hanifa? I heard him say: I take from Allah's Book and if I don't find what I am looking for, I take from the Sunna of Allah's Messenger, and if I don't find, then from any of the sayings that I like from the Companions, nor do I prefer someone else's saying over theirs, until the matter ends with Ibrahim (al-Nakh`i), al-Shu`bi, Ibn Sirin, and `Ata': these are a folk who exerted their reasoning (ijtihad) and I exert mine as they did theirs." [i.e. Sufyan criticized Abu Hanifa, a junior Tabi`i,  for placing his own opinion at the same level as that of the senior Tabi`in.] ...


[Mentions of Abu Hanifa's date of death and of the fact that Tirmidhi and Nasa'i narrated hadith from him.] End of Ibn Hajar's words.





I. The "Salafi's" claim that the grading of Abu Hanifa as weak for his poor memorization" was the position of ... Daaruqutnee (as-Sunan p132)."


Answer: Daraqutni did declare Abu Hanifa weak in his Sunan (1:132), without including him in his Kitab al-du`afa'. However, his opinion of Abu Hanifa carries no weight since he is known to have fallen into extremism in his opinion on Abu Hanifa, and because of this, this particular judgment of his is rejected as required by the rules of narrator-criticism. The hadith master al-Badr al-`Ayni, author of `Umdat al-qari, a massive commentary on Sahih al-Bukhari, said in his commentary of al-Marghinani entitled al-Binaya sharh al-hidaya (1:709):


From where does he [Daraqutni] take the right to declare Abu Hanifa weak when he himself deserves to be declared weak! For he has narrated in his Musnad [i.e. his Sunan] narrations that are infirm, defective, denounced, strange, and forged.


            This is a serious charge made against Daraqutni as a narrator, and many authorities have stated the same concerning him. Another hadith master, al-Zayla`i, said in Nasb al-raya (1:356, 1:360): "al-Daraqutni's Sunan is the compendium of defective narrations and the wellspring of strange narrations... It is filled with narrations that are weak, anomalous, defective, and how many of them are not found in other books!" While Muhammad ibn Ja`far al-Kattani said in al-Risala al-mustatrafa (p. 31): "Daraqutni in his Sunan... has multiplied the narrations of reports that are weak and denounced, and indeed forged."


Ibn `Abd al-Hadi al-Hanbali wrote a large volume still unpublished on the merits of Abu Hanifa entitled Tanwir al-sahifa bi manaqib al-imam Abi Hanifa in which he said: "Among those who show fanaticism against Abu Hanifa is al-Daraqutni." It is quoted in Ibn `Abidin's Hashiyat radd al-muhtar (1:37). `Abd al-Fattah Abu Ghudda in his commentary of Abu al-Hasanat al-Lucknawi's al-Raf` wa al-ta`dil (p. 70 n.1) also said: "al-Daraqutni's fanaticism against Abu Hanifa is well-known" and he gives several sources listing the scholars who held the same opinion.


One of the reasons for Daraqutni's attitude is his extreme bias in favor of the school of Imam Shafi`i. This is shown in Muhammad `Abd al-Rashid al-Nu`mani's commentary on the book Dhabb dhubabat al-dirasat `an al-madhahib al-arba`a al-mutanasibat (2:284-297) by the Indian scholar `Abd al-Latif al-Sindi. al-Lucknawi also referred to this question in his book al-Ajwiba al-fadila `ala li al-as'ila al-`ashra al-kamila (p. 78):


It is related that when Daraqutni went to Egypt some of its people asked him to compile something on the pronunciation of the Basmala, whereupon he compiled a volume. A Maliki came to him and summoned him to declare on oath which were the sound narrations of this book. Daraqutni said: "Everything that was narrated from the Prophet concerning the loud pronunciation of the Basmala is unsound, and as for what is related from the Companions, some of it is sound and some of it weak."



II. The "Salafi's" claim that the grading of Abu Hanifa as weak for his poor memorization "was the position of... ibn Adee (al-Kaamil 2/403)."


Answer: 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 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:


- Ibn `Adi's 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:


·         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.


·         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!"


- 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."


- Ibn `Adi's report of Yahyan ibn Ma`in's alleged 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 a source of reliable and trustworthy narrations:


a) 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).


b) 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."


c) 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's 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).



III. The "Salafi's" claim that the grading of Abu Hanifa as weak for his poor memorization "was the position of Muslim (al-Kunaa wal Asmaa) [and] Nasaa'ee (ad-Du'afaa)."


Answer: 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 speaking, 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 known 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.



IV. The "Salafi's" claim that the grading of Abu Hanifa as weak for his poor memorization "was the position of... Bukharee (at-Taareekh al-Kabeer)."


Answer: 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[43] in `aqida and showing hatred of `Ali, does not automatically mean that he is majruh [defective]. An example of a Shi`i narrator retained by Bukhari is the great muhaddith `Abd al-Razzaq al-San`ani (d. 211), the author of the Musannaf, from whom Bukhari took a quantity of hadiths. Two examples of narrators retained by Bukhari and Muslim although they were accused of being Nasibi are Huswayn ibn Numayr from whom Bukhari narrates the hadiths: "The Communities were shown to me and I saw a great dark mass" and "The Communities were shown to me and there was a Prophet with only one follower, and a Prophet with only two followers"; and Ahmad ibn `Abdah al-Dabbi, from whom Muslim takes one of three chains of the hadith: "I have been ordered to fight people until they say la ilaha ilallah and believe in me."


Another example is the undue weakening of a scholar of the so-called "school of ra'y" [opinion] at the hands of a scholar of the so-called "school of hadith," in this case the weakening of a Hanafi by a Hanbali: thus Ahmad's weakening of Mu`alla ibn Mansur al-Razi (d. 211) is rejected, as shown by Dhahabi in al-Mughni (2:270) and by Abu Dawud before him, who said in his Sunan (book of Tahara): "Yahya ibn Ma`in said that Mu`alla is trustworthy while Ahmad ibn Hanbal would not narrate from him because he followed the methodology of ra'y"; thus Abu Dawud rejects Ahmad's verdict and narrates from Mu`alla, as did Muslim, Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah, and others.


Bukhari's narrations, in his Tarikh al-saghir, of reports ostensibly detrimental to Abu Hanifa, just as his narration of Yazid ibn Harun's outlandish labeling of Abu Hanifa's student, Muhammad al-Shaybani, as a Jahmi in his Khalq af`al al-`ibad (1990 ed. p. 15), belong to this category of rejected jarh. Such reports are simply dismissed as mistakes for which Bukhari must be forgiven, as he is not ma`sum.


The same is said about Ibn Hibban's outlandish declaration in his Kitab al-majruhin (3:63-64) that Abu Hanifa is not to be relied upon because "he was a Murji' and an innovator." Such a judgment is discarded, as stated by al-Lucknawi in al-Raf` wa al-takmil: "Criticism of Abu Hanifa as a narrator on the claim of his irja' is not accepted." The reason is that the so-called Murji'a among the Hanafi Imams all belong to Ahl al-Sunna and are in no wise to be called innovators, such as Abu Hanifa, his shaykh Hammad ibn Abi Sulayman, and his two students Muhammad and Abu Yusuf. al-Dhahabi said in his Tarikh al-Islam (3:358f.): "The disapproved Murji'a are those who accepted Abu Bakr and `Umar but withheld taking a position concerning `Uthman and `Ali." It is obvious that the Hanafi Imams do not enter into such a definition. Imam Abu Hanifa said in his Fiqh al-akbar (as narrated by `Ali al-Qari in his Sharh, 1984 ed. p. 96-101):


The best of mankind after the Prophets, peace be upon them all, are Abu Bakr al-Siddiq, then `Umar ibn al-Khattab, then `Uthman ibn `Affan dhu al-Nurayn, then `Ali ibn Abi Talib al-Murtada, may Allah be well pleased with all of them: men worshipping their Lord, steadfast upon truth and on the side of truth. We follow all of them (natawallahum jami`an). Nor do we mention any of the Prophet's Companions except in good terms.


A longer definition of the "Murji'a" is given by Ibn Hajar in Hadi al-Sari (2:179) where he says:


Irja' has the sense of "delaying" and carries two meanings among the scholars: some mean by it the delaying in declaring one's position in the case of the two warring factions after `Uthman's time [i.e. neither following nor rejecting either one]; and some mean by it the delaying in declaring that whoever commits grave sins and abandons obligations enters the Fire, on the basis that in their view belief consists in assertion and conviction and that quitting deeds [i.e. ceasing from obeying commands and prohibitions] does not harm it."


            The Sunni so-called "Murji'a" belong to the latter category but with one important provision: they do not hold that quitting deeds does not harm belief in the sense of threatening to destroy it: on the contrary, they hold that quitting deeds does harm the quitter. As `Ali al-Qari said in the title of one of his chapters in Sharh al-fiqh al-akbar (p. 67, 103), "Acts of disobedience harm their author, contrary to the belief of certain factions." al-Mizzi relates in his Tahdhib al-kamal from Abu al-Salt al-Harawi this clarification overlooked by Ibn Hajar, whereby the Sunni "Murji'a" is thus called not because he considers that "quitting deeds does not harm belief" but only because he professes hope (yarju) of salvation for great sinners, as opposed to the Khawarij who declare sinners disbelievers, and the Mu`tazila who disbelieve in the Prophet's intercession for great sinners. In this sense Abu Hanifa and the Maturidi school of doctrine hold what all other schools of Ahl al-Sunna hold. As for the Murji'a who rely on faith alone exclusively of deeds, they belong to the heretical sects, and the attribution of Abu Hanifa to such a belief is iftira' and fabrication.


The difference with the Imam which Bukhari and Ibn Hibban were picking upon resides in among others in Abu Hanifa's view that iman -- belief -- stands for one's Islam and vice-versa and therefore neither increases or decreases once acquired. It is a fundamental tenet of the Maturidi school with which Bukhari differed and which is illustrated by the latter's chapter-titles like "Salat is part of belief," "Belief increases and decreases" etc. in his Sahih as al-Zayla`i pointed out in the excerpt we already quoted from him. The vast majority of Hanafis and the entire Maturidi school of doctrine hold the opposite view, as illustrated by `Ali al-Qari's naming two chapter-titles of his Sharh al-fiqh al-akbar: "Belief neither increases nor decreases" (p. 126, 202), and another chapter is entitled: "The believers are equal in belief but differ in deeds" (p. 128) and another: "The grave sin [such as not performing salat] does not expel one from belief" (p. 102). All the above is also the sound doctrine of Ahl al-Sunna, as opposed to some present-day extremists who declare anyone who commits a major sin to be a disbeliever in need of repeating his shahada or be killed -- and the latter contradicts the view of Imam Ahmad, who insisted that no Muslim should be called a disbeliever for any sin, as shown by Ibn Abi Ya`la in Tabaqat al-hanabila (1:329).


            After these preliminaries we may now turn to show why Bukhari's aspersions on Abu Hanifa in his Tarikh al-saghir are not retained by the scholars, even if today's "Salafis" attempt to rely on them to justify Albani's position against the Imam!


1st relation      Bukhari said in his Tarikh al-saghir (p. 158): I heard al-Humaydi say: Abu Hanifa said: "I came to Mecca and took from the cupper three Sunan when I sat in front of him: He said to me to face the Ka`ba, he began with the right side of my head [shaving], and he reached the two bones." al-Humaydi said: "A man who does not have Sunan from the Prophet nor from his Companions concerning the rituals of Pilgrimage or other things, how can he be imitated in questions of inheritance, obligations, charity, prayer, and the questions of Islam?!"


            This relation is defective from several perspectives:


·         `Abd al-Fattah Abu Ghudda said in his annotations to al-Lucknawi's Raf` wa al-takmil (p. 395-397) that his shaykh al-Tahanawi said in his book Inja' al-watan (1:23): "al-Humaydi wished to demean Abu Hanifa with his comments, but in fact he praised him without realizing. For Abu Hanifa was gracious and generous, and he would show gratefulness to whomever showed him kindness or taught him something, even a single letter. He was not one who kept hidden other people's goodness towards him, or their favors. When he obtained something related to matters of religion from a simple cupper, he told of the cupper's kindness and he showed him up as his teacher, fulfilling the right he held over him. And what a strange thing indeed to hear from al-Humaydi, when his own shaykh, al-Shafi`i, said: I carried from Muhammad ibn al-Hasan al-Shaybani knowledge equivalent to a full camel-load, and he would say: Allah has helped me with hadith through Ibn `Uyayna, and He helped me with fiqh through Muhammad ibn al-Hasan. And it is well-known that the well-spring of Muhammad ibn al-Hasan's sciences are Abu Hanifa. Imam Shafi`i also said: Whoever seeks fiqh, let him frequent Abu Hanifa and his two companions; and he also said: Anyone that seeks fiqh is a dependent of Abu Hanifa. And yet, with all this, al-Humaydi does not show gratefulness for the Imam who is his Shaykh's Shaykh, nor for the favor he represents for him."


·         al-Tahanawi also mentioned that Abu Hanifa went to pilgrimage with his father as a young man, and that the incident may well have taken place at that time, since what is learnt in a young age is hardly ever forgotten.


·         al-Tahanawi also pointed out that in the time of Abu Hanifa in Mecca knowledge was distributed everywhere among the people, and it is not a far-fetched possibility that the humble cupper was one of the Tabi`in who had heard or seen what he knew from the Companions themselves. He asks: "From where does Humaydi know that that cupper was not one of the knowledgeable Tabi`is, and that he either narrated these three Sunan with their chain back to the Prophet, or suspended back to one of the great Companions?!"


·         al-Tahanawi concluded: "As for Humaydi's saying: how can Abu Hanifa be imitated, then we know that a greater one than Humaydi did imitate him, such as Imam al-Shafi`i -- whom al-Humaydi imitated, -- Yahya ibn Sa`id al-Qattan, Malik ibn Anas, Sufyan al-Thawri, Ahmad ibn Hanbal (through Abu Hanifa's students the Qadi Abu Yusuf and Muhammad al-Shaybani), Waki` ibn al-Jarrah, `Abd Allah ibn al-Mubarak, Yahya ibn Ma`in, and their likes. Then the kings, the sultans, the khulafa', the viziers imitated him, and the scholars of knowledge, the scholars of hadith, the saints, the jurists, and the commonality imitated him, until Allah was worshipped through the school of Abu Hanifa all over the world, and that was because of the good manners upon which Abu Hanifa was grounded, because he did not look down upon taking the highest knowledge from a cupper, and so Allah made him the Imam of the Umma, the greatest of the Imams, and the guide of humanity."


[Another illustration of Imam Abu Hanifa's great humility is the narration of Ishaq ibn al-Hasan al-Kufi related by Dhahabi in Manaqib Abi Hanifa (p. 38): A man came to the market and asked for the shop of Abu Hanifa, the Faqih. Abu Hanifa said to him: "He is not a Faqih. He is one who gives legal opinions according to his obligation."]


·         Shaykh Abu Ghudda added (al-Raf` p. 397-398): "In addition to the above it is noted that al-Humaydi said: Abu Hanifa said without mentioning from whom he had heard it, and I have not found any proof that al-Humaydi (d. 219) ever met Abu Hanifa at all.... It is clear to us that he was not born when Abu Hanifa died (d. 150)... The report is therefore weak due to the interruption in its chain of transmission, and that is enough."


·         Shaykh Abu Ghudda concluded with what we mentioned before, in the section on Ibn `Adi, namely that any criticism of Abu Hanifa attributed to Sufyan al-Thawri is rejected out of hand and there can be no reliance on such criticism to establish narrator-criticism. This particular rule was enunciated by al-Taj al-Subki in Qawa`id fi `ulum al-hadith (p. 195) as well as his Qa`ida fi al-jarh wa al-ta`dil (p. 53-55), also Haytami's al-Khayrat al-hisan (p. 74), al-Lucknawi's al-Raf` wa al-takmil (p. 425), and Abu Ghudda's marginalia on Subki's and al-Lucknawi's works.


2nd relation     Bukhari also said in his Tarikh al-saghir (p. 174): Nu`aym ibn Hammad narrated to us and said: al-Fazari narrated to us and said: I was visiting with Sufyan al-Thawri and we received news of Abu Hanifa's death, so Sufyan said: "al-hamdu lillah! he was taking apart Islam branch by branch. No greater misfortune than him was ever born into Islam (ma wulida fi al-islami ash'amu minhu)."


            This relation is even more defective than the first -- may Allah have mercy both on Abu Hanifa and his detractors -- for the following reasons:


·         Shaykh `Abd al-Fattah Abu Ghudda said in his marginal notes to al-Lucknawi's al-Raf` wa al-takmil (p. 393): "Our shaykh, the verifying scholar al-Kawthari, said in his book Fiqh ahl al-`Iraq wa hadithuhum (p. 87), and in the introduction of hafiz al-Zayla`i's book Nasb al-raya (p.58-59):


There is a kind of criticism by which the critic destroys his credibility from the start through the fact that his words bear all the traits of rashness. If you see him saying, for example: "No greater misfortune than him was ever born into Islam," you will notice that there is no misfortune (shu'm) in Islam; even if we should admit that there is -- in the centuries other than the three mentioned in the hadith -- still, without doubt, the gradations of misfortune vary: and to declare a certain person to be the worst of the worst without a statement to that effect from the Prophet is to claim to know the unseen from which the people of Religion are clear. Such a statement, therefore, destroys the credibility of its speaker, if it is firmly established to come from him, before the credibility of the subject of the statement. In a very precarious position indeed is the one who records such an absurdity to the detriment of the leading Imams."


·         "And in his book Ta'nib al-Khatib (p. 48, 72, 111) Kawthari also said:


If such a saying were ascertained from Sufyan al-Thawri, he would have fallen from credibility due to this word alone for its passionate tone and rashness. Suffice it to say in refutation of that narration that Nu`aym ibn Hammad is in its chain of transmission, and the least that was said about him is that he conveyed rejected narrations and he has been accused of forging disgraceful stories against Abu Hanifa.


·         "And our shaykh, the verifying savant and hadith scholar Zafar Ahmad al-Tahanawi said in his book Inja' al-watan min al-izdira' bi imam al-zaman (Saving the Nation from the scorn displayed against the Imam of the Time) 1:22:


"It is a grievous thing that issues from their mouth as a saying. What they say is nothing but falsehood!" (18:5). By Allah, there was not born into Islam, after the Prophet, greater fortune and assistance than al-Nu`man Abu Hanifa. The proof of this can be witnessed in the extinction of the schools of his attackers, while his increases in fame day and night. I do not blame al-Bukhari for it, since he only related what he heard. However, I blame for it his shaykh Nu`aym ibn Hammad, even if the latter is a hadith master whom some have declared trustworthy [e.g. Ahmad, Ibn Ma`in, and al-`Ujli], nevertheless the hadith master Abu Bishr al-Dulabi said: "Nu`aym narrates from Ibn al-Mubarak; al-Nasa'i said: he is weak (da`if), and others said: he used to forge narrations in defense 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 defense 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 of 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.


V. The "Salafi's" claim that the grading of Abu Hanifa as weak for his poor memorization "was the position of... al-Uqailee (ad-Du'afaa p.432) [and] ibn Hibbaan (al-Majrooheen)."


Answer: 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) of the following scholars against Hanafis and Imam Abu Hanifa: 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.


VI. 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)."


Answer: 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 costs, 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:


·         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:


- 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).


- `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).


- 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).


- 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."]


- `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).


- 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 gave opinions more than him." I said: "Why then will you not give this one his due and that one his due?!" He remained silent.


·         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 great fear of Allah as shown by the following reports taken from the same book by Imam Dhahabi (p. 34):


- 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."


- 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"!


·         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."


VII. The "Salafi's" claim that the grading of Abu Hanifa as weak for his poor memorization "was the position of... al-Haakim (Ma'rifa Ulum al-Hadeeth)."


Answer: 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...



VIII. The "Salafi's" claim that the grading of Abu Hanifa as weak for his poor memorization "was the position of... ibn Sa'd (Tabaqaat 6/256)."


Answer: 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."



IX. The "Salafi's" claim that the grading of Abu Hanifa as weak for his poor memorization "was the position of... adh-Dhahabee (ad-Du'afaa q. 215/1-2)."


Answer: 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:


                                                ·         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 under 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 specimen 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 falsi-fication (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.





The great merits of Imam Abu Hanifa are extremely numerous. Imam Dhahabi wrote one volume on the life of each of the other three great Imams but he said in his Siyar a`lam al-nubala' (6:403): "The account of Abu Hanifa's sira requires two volumes." The greatness of Abu Hanifa was never reached by those who followed him, just as his son Hammad had predicted when upon his father's body he said: " You have exhausted whoever comes after you (who tries to catch up with you)." He is the first to have put down the topics of Fiqh in a book, beginning with tahara and salat. Whoever followed after him in Islam using that model, such as Malik, Shafi`i, Abu Dawud, Bukhari, Muslim, Tirmidhi, and others, are indebted to him and give him a share of their reward because he was the first to open that road for them, according to the hadith of the Prophet: man sanna fi al-islami sunnatan hasanatan: "Whoever starts something good in Islam..." and al-Shafi`i referred to this when he said: al-nasu `iyalun `ala abi hanifa fi al-fiqh = "people (scholars) are all the dependents of Abu Hanifa in fiqh." al-Dhahabi relates it in Tadhkirat al-huffaz in the chapter on Abu Hanifa, and also Ibn Hajar in Tahdhib al-tahdhib (10:450). And the hafiz al-Khatib al-Baghdadi narrated in Tarikh Baghdad (13:344) that the hafiz Abu Nu`aym said:


Muslims should make du`a to Allah on behalf of Abu Hanifa in their prayers, because the Sunan and the fiqh were preserved for them through him.


Like Imam Bukhari, Abu Hanifa used to make 60 khatmas of Qur'an every Ramadan: one in the day, one in the night, besides his teaching and other duties. al-Subki relates it of Bukhari in Tabaqat al-shafi`iyya, while Dhahabi and al-Haytami relate it of Abu Hanifa respectively in Manaqib Abi Hanifa (p. 23) and al-Khayrat al-hisan. al-Khatib in Tarikh Baghdad (13:356), Dhahabi in the Manaqib (p. 22), and Suyuti in Tabyid al-sahifa (p. 94-95) relate that Ibrahim ibn Rustum al-Marwazi said: "Four are the Imams that recited the entire Qur'an in a single rak`a: `Uthman ibn `Affan, Tamim al-Dari, Sa`id ibn Jubayr, and Abu Hanifa." Suyuti also relates in Tabyid al-sahifa that a certain visitor came to observe Abu Hanifa and saw him all day long in the mosque, teaching relentlessly, answering every question from both the scholars and the common people, not stopping except to pray, then standing at home in prayer when people were asleep, hardly ever eating or sleeping, and yet the most handsome and gracious of people, always alert and never tired, day after day for a long time, so that in the end the visitor said: "I became convinced that this was not an ordinary matter, but wilaya (Friendship with Allah)."


May Allah be well pleased with His Friend and make him inhabit the Highest Paradise. May Allah have mercy on Imam al-a`zam Abu Hanifa and forgive his detractors. al-hamdu lillah, it is proven without doubt that Abu Hanifa has been given the three highest gradings by the verifying authorities in hadith since he has been called imam by Abu Dawud, hafiz by al-Dhahabi, and thiqa thiqa by Ibn Ma`in. More importantly, the claim that he was declared weak has been shown to be itself a weak claim no sooner made than proven wrong or worthless. The claims of present-day innovators against him were anticipated and rejected in advance by the hadith master Ibn Hajar al-`Asqalani when he said, as related by his student the hadith master al-Sakhawi in his biography al-Jawahir wa al-durar (p. 227):


The Imam and his peers are of those who have reached the sky, and as a result nothing that anyone says against any of them can have any effect. They are in the highest level, where Allah raised them, through their being Imams that are followed and through whom one reaches guidance. Let this be clearly understood, and Allah is the Giver of success.


Shaykh Muhammad `Awwama mentioned it in his book Athar al-hadith al-sharif (p. 116). And Allah Almighty knows best.


With this we end the last volume in our presentation of Islamic Beliefs and Doctrine According to Ahl al-Sunna. May Allah place us also in the company of His Friends here and hereafter, and accept from his servant in need, Muhammad Hisham Kabbani, the effort of this work in addressing certain urgent questions despite its mistakes and shortcomings, and may He forgive us and all those who preceded us in faith, and guide all those who ask for the true knowledge of Ahl al-Sunna, and protect them against the confusions of the seventy-two stray paths and their invitations to perdition. Success is from Allah. O Allah! Send abundant blessings and peace on Your Prophet, his Family and his Companions. And the last of our speech is: Praise belongs to Allah, Lord of the Worlds.


                [1]As al-hafiz al-Sakhawi reports of his master al-hafiz al-`Asqalani.

                [2]See The Doctrine of Ahl al-Sunna Versus the "Salafi" Movement, translated with introduction and notes by Shaykh M. Hisham Kabbani (As-Sunna Foundation of America, 1996).

                [3]Ahmad Hasan, The Doctrine of Ijma` in Islam, Islamabad: Islamic Research Institute, 1976, p. 37.

                [4]Published in 1401 H by Fouad `Abd al-Mun`im Ahmad at Dar al-da`wa in Doha, Qatar.

                [5]Ibn al-`Arabi al-maliki, `Aridat al-ahwadhi 9:11.

                [6]See Rawdat al-nazir 2:143.

                [7]See Imam Abu Zuhra's Usul al-fiqh p. 191ff.

                [8]al-Shafi`i, Musnad 2:187; Ahmad, Musnad 1:112-113, 176-181.

                [9]Ibn Abi Shayba relates it with a sound chain.

                [10]al-Hakim narrated it in the Mustadrak (1:116, 177) with a sound (sahih) chain.

                [11]Tirmidhi with a fair (hasan) chain.

                [12]Tirmidhi (gharib) #2256, Cairo ed. `Aridat al-ahwadhi (11:9).

                [13]Tirmidhi related it and said it is sound (sahih).

                [14]Ahmad relates it through Mu`adh and through Abu Dharr, the two chains being respectively fair [hasan] and sound [sahih] according to Haythami in Majma` al-zawa'id.

                [15]Ibn Majah (2:1303 #3950) from Anas with a weak chain. Ahmad narrates it mawquf through three sound chains to Abu Umama al-Bahili and Ibn Abi Awfa. However, it is marfu` to the Prophet from Abu Umama by Ibn Abi Shayba in his Musannaf as well as Ibn Jarir al-Tabari, the latter two's narration stating that Abu Umama heard this from the Prophet up to seven times. Bayhaqi in al-Madkhal narrates something similar from Ibn `Abbas.

                [16]Tabarani narrated it with two chains from Ibn `Umar, one of which is sound (sahih).  See Haythami, Majma` al-zawa'id, chapter on the obligation to stay with the Congregation.

                [17]Ibn Abi `Asim narrated it in the Sunna and Albani declared it hasan in his Silsila sahiha (3:319).

                [18]Bukhari and Muslim on the authority of Hudhayfa ibn al-Yaman.

                [19]Tirmidhi (hasan).

                [20]al-Munawi, Sharh al-Jami` al-saghir 3:449.

                [21]Tirmidhi (gharib) from Ibn `Umar, al-Hakim both from Ibn `Umar and Ibn `Abbas, and Ibn Jarir from Ibn `Umar.

                [22] Narrated by al-Hakim and al-Tabari from Ibn `Abbas, and al-Lalika'i in al-Sunna and al-Hakim also narrated it from Ibn `Umar.

                [23]Muslim (Imara #55) through Ibn `Abbas. Muslim relates it with slight variations through three more chains. Ibn Abi Shayba also relates it in his Musannaf.

                [24]Ahmad in the Musnad (#3599) relates it from the words of Ibn Mas`ud (mawquf) with a sound chain.

                [25]Tirmidhi, Abu Dawud, and al-Darimi related it.

                [26]Bukhari, Muslim etc. related it. Hadith mutawatir.

                [27]al-Shawkani, Irshad al-Fuhul p. 259 as quoted in Mohammad Hashim Kamali, Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence p. 383.

                [28]Albani, Silsila da`ifa 1:76 #57.

                [29]al-Jarrahi cited it in Kashf al-khafa 1:64 #153.

                [30]Ibn Taymiyya, Mukhtasar al-fatawa al-misriyya (Cairo, 1980) p. 35, 54.

                [31]al-Shatibi, al-I`tisam 3:11; or (1995 Beirut ed.) p. 395.

                [32]Ibn `Abd al-Barr, Jami` bayan al-`ilm (Cairo: dar al-tiba`a al-muniriyya) 2:78-83, 181.

                [33]Abu Dawud, Manasik, Chapter on Prayer #1960.

                [34]Ibn Abi Zayd, al-Jami` fi al-sunan (1982 ed.) p. 118-119.

                [35]Ibn Qudama, Muqaddimat al-Mughni 1:22.

                [36]Ibn Taymiyya, Qa`ida fi tawahhud al-milla p. 174.

                [37]Ibn `Abd al-Barr, Jami` bayan al-`ilm 2:84.

                [38]Cf. English version vol. 1, Bk. 8, #361.

                [39]Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bari (1989 ed.) 1:627.

                [40]Ibn Qayyim, I`lam al-muwaqqi`in 2:186-187.

                [41]al-Baghdadi relates it in his Taqyid al-`ilm 49, 52-53, 105-106, and Ibn Sa`d in his Tabaqat 3(1):206, 8:353.

                [42]In his commentary of Mundhiri's Mukhtasar Sahih Muslim, 3rd ed. (al-Maktab al-islami 1977) p. 548. The comparison was removed from later editions.

[43] Fayruzabadi in the Qamus, Ibn Manzhur in Lisan al-`Arab, and al-Zabidi in Taj al-`arus define the Nawasib as those who made a point of opposing `Ali ibn Abi Talib, peace be upon him. They are part of the Khawarij, who are those Muslims (whether in past or recent times) who oppose one whom the majority of Muslims have taken as their leader. Ibn `Abidin said in his Radd al-muhtar `ala al-durr al-mukhtar (3:309), "Bab al-bughat" [Chapter on Rebels]: "The name of Khawarij is applied to those who part ways with Muslims and declare them disbelievers, as took place in our time with the followers of Ibn `Abd al-Wahhab who came out of Najd (in the Eastern Arabian peninsula) and attacked the Two Noble Sanctuaries (Mecca and Madina). They (Wahhabis) claimed to follow the Hanbali school, but their belief was such that, in their view, they alone are Muslims and everyone else is a mushrik (polytheist). Under this guise, they said that killing Ahl al-Sunna and their scholars was permissible, until Allah the Exalted destroyed them in the year 1233 (1818 CE) at the hands of the Muslim army."