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Ḥanafīyah: An Introduction to Islamic Jurisprudential Sects

1- The Character of Abū Ḥanīfah

Ḥanafīyah is the earliest sect among all Suuni jurisprudential schools. It was founded by Na‘mān b. Thābit b. Zūṭī. He was born in 80 A.H. at Kufah, but according to the famous opinion, was of Iranian origin. His grandfather, Zūṭī, was a slave from Kabul, and his father was manumitted in Kufah. Na‘mān, chose fur trade as his profession, but, after a while, he started learning. He spent 18 years to learn jurisprudence from Ḥamād b. Abī Sulaymān (d. 120 A.H.) in the method of Ibrāhīm Nakha‘ī.

He studied in the school of Kūfah for 18 years. This school was special for having the great scholars such as Ibn Mas‘ūd. Ibn Mas‘ūd was a prime professor of Iraq, and a precise person. His thoughts were a blend of Imam Ali’s jurisprudence and, somehow, the second caliph’s manner of ijtihād while issuing fatwas. ‘Alqamah was the notable student of Ibn Mas‘ūd, who has acquired and memorized all his knowledge. Masrūq and Shurayḥ, the other scholars of this school, were followers of the notion of ra’y (using personal judgments for attaining religious precepts). Then, Shi‘bī developed this school by tradition and Ḥadīths.  Thus, the school of Kūfah was formed as a combination of Ḥadīths and personal judgments. Later on, Ḥamād b. Sulaymān gathered all these notions, and his disciple, Abū Ḥanīfah, molded them into the form of a school, which appeared in a separate identity and as a distinct tendency in Islamic world. Na‘mān, after the death of his professor, had some trips to Hejaz with the intention of acquiring jurisprudence, and benefited from the elites of there, especially Imam Bāqir (A.S.).

            Abū Ḥanīfah was living at the time of both, Umawī and Abbasid Caliphs. The Islamic government of the time was ruling over an extensive territory. Its boundaries were extended from east to China, from west to the coast of Atlantic Ocean, and from south to India.  The territory was consisted of different nations with a variety of cultures, races, customs, and habits, which inevitably impressed the attitude and jurisprudential views of Abū Ḥanīfah. He observed Kūfī theologians’ debates that were mostly over the issues such as fate and destiny, faith, and Companions’ behavior. He participated in these debates taking the position as for or against, and in this manner, he became skillful at debate and employing rational techniques. All these conditions impressed on his jurisprudential attitude.

            Na‘mān was favored by all Muslims, except Khawārij, in an era of Umawīyah. He showed the tendency toward Shi‘a, and his political thoughts were like Zaydīyah. He believed that the leadership of Abū Bakr and ‘Umar was legitimate, and executorship is not a necessary condition for an Imam. In the revolt of Zayd b. Ali, Na‘mān secretly helped him, and it is reported that he supported the revolt of Ibrāhim b. ‘Abd allah Ḥasanī, one of Zaydī leaders, in Basra. He was summoned to Baghdad for working as the chief justice, but refusing that call caused him to become imprisoned. Few weeks after releasing from the jail, he passed away in Baghdad due to jail harms. He is buried in the suburb of Baghdad that nowadays is called A‘ẓamīyah.

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