Meaning of ABU HANIFAH in English

in full Abu Hanifah An-nu'man Ibn Thabit born 699, Kufah, Iraq died 767, Baghdad Muslim jurist and theologian whose systematization of Islamic legal doctrine was acknowledged as one of the four canonical schools of Islamic law. The school of Abu Hanifah acquired such prestige that its doctrines were applied by a majority of Muslim dynasties. Even today it is widely followed in India, Pakistan, Turkey, Central Asia, and Arab countries. Abu Hanifah was born in Kufah, an intellectual centre of Iraq, and belonged to the mawali, the non-Arab Muslims, who pioneered intellectual activity in Islamic lands. The son of a merchant, young Abu Hanifah took up the silk trade for a living and eventually became moderately wealthy. In early youth he was attracted to theological debates, but later, disenchanted with theology, he turned to law and for about 18 years was a disciple of Hammad (d. 738), then the most noted Iraqi jurist. After Hammad's death, Abu Hanifah became his successor. He also learned from several other scholars, notably the Meccan traditionist 'Ata' (d. c. 732) and the founder of the Shi'ite law, Ja'far as-Sadiq (d. 765). Ab u Hanifah's mind was also matured by extensive travels and by exposure to the heterogeneous, advanced society of Iraq. By Abu Hanifah's time a vast body of legal doctrines had accumulated as a result of the endeavour to apply Islamic norms to legal problems. The disagreements in these doctrines had rendered necessary the development of a uniform code. Abu Hanifah responded by scrutinizing the current doctrines in collaboration with his students, several of them outstanding scholars. He had each legal problem discussed before formulating any doctrines. Before Abu Hanifah's time, doctrines had been formulated mainly in response to actual problems, whereas he attempted to solve problems that might arise in the future. By the introduction of this method, the area of law was considerably enlarged. Because of this enlargement of the bounds of law and because of Abu Hanifah's somewhat rationalist orientation and his reserve about traditions that were not highly authenticated, his school was sometimes erroneously denounced as the school of ra'y (independent opinion), as opposed to that of Hadith (authoritative tradition). Being a speculative jurist, Abu Hanifah brought about systematic consistency in legal doctrines. In his doctrines, emphasis shifts from material to systematic considerations. Again and again he disregarded established practices and considerations of judicial and administrative convenience in favour of systematic and technical legal considerations. His legal acumen and juristic strictness were such that Abu Hanifah reached the highest level of legal thought achieved up to his time. Compared with his contemporaries, the Kufan Ibn Abi Layla (d. 765), the Syrian Awza'i (d. 774), and the Medinese Malik (d. 795), his doctrines are more carefully formulated and consistent and his technical legal thought more highly developed and refined. Although theology was not Abu Hanifah's primary concern, he did take distinct positions on several theological questions, stimulating the development of the Maturidiyah school, a champion of orthodoxy. Because of his temperament and academic preoccupation, Abu Hanifah took no direct part in court politics or power struggles, despite his obvious antipathy toward the Umayyads and 'Abbasids, the ruling dynasties of the time. His sympathies lay with the 'Alids (the successors of 'Ali, later revered by Shi'ites), whose revolts he openly supported with words and money. This fact partly explains why Abu Hanifah steadfastly refused a judgeship and also why he suffered severe persecution under both dynasties. Zafar Ishaq Ansari Additional reading Muhammad Shibli Numani, Imam Abu Hanifah: Life and Work (1972), provides an introduction. Discussions of his work in its larger context can be found in Joseph Schacht, An Introduction to Islamic Law (1964, reprinted 1982); A.J. Wensinck, The Muslim Creed: Its Genesis and Historical Development, 2nd ed. (1979); and John Alden Williams (ed.), Islam (1961).

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