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Ḥanafīyah: An Introduction to Islamic Jurisprudential Sects

1- The Character of Abū Ḥanīfah[1]

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 learning 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, who was a prime professor of Iraq, and a precise person. His thoughts were a blend of Imam Ali’s (A.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, made 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 Umayyad 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 the latter period of Umayyad reign. 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 serving 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.

2- Ḥanafīyah after Abū Ḥanīfah

After the death of Abū Ḥanīfah, his two notable disciples, Abū Yūsuf Qāḍī (d. 182 A.H.) and Muhammad b. Ḥasan Shaybānī (d. 189 A.H.) spread Ḥanafīyah. While Hārūn’s caliphate and afterwards, Ḥanafīyah became the official school of Abbasid caliphs, so that only Ḥanafī jurists were allowed to hold the chair of judgment. Fāṭimīyān’s long time sovereignty over Egypt held back this school from spreading in the western part of Islamic world. Afterwards, Ḥanafīyah became the official school in ‘Uthmānī caliphate, too. However, it did not result in spreading it beyond the eastern part of Islamic world.

            Ḥanafī jurists, in their theological doctrine, follow the beliefs of Abū Manṣūr Māturīdī (d. 332 A.H.). It is better to seek the origin of Māturīdī doctrine in theological thoughts of Abū Ḥanīfah; because, before involving in jurisprudence he was a theology professor in Kūfah. Māturīdī’s doctrine somehow confirms the school of Mu‘tazilah, but it differs from Ash‘arī School in about 40 issues. Māturīdī’s doctrine pays attention to reason more than that of the Ash‘arī. Some differences between them are as follows:

  • Māturīdīyah, just like Mu‘tazilah, believe in essential and rational good and evil. But Ashā‘irah believe that nothing is essentially good or bad; but whatever God says good, is good, and whatever God says bad, is bad.
  • Ashā‘irah believe that there are two kinds of Divine attributes: attributes of actions that are generated in time, and attributes of the essence that are pre-existent. On the contrary, Māturīdīyah regard all attributes of God pre-existent, and refer the attributes of actions to one essential attribute.
  • Ashā‘irah believe that God is visible, but Māturīdīyah reject it.
  • Ashā‘irah believe that the Qur’an is non-created and regard it pre-existent, but Māturīdīyah say that there are two kinds of words for God: one is essential and non-created, and the other one is consisted of sounds, which is created.

Some other beliefs of Māturīdīyah are as follows: God never oppresses and it is logically impossible for Him, God’s actions are based upon wisdom, predestination is rejected and human being has power of choice, etc.

            In terms of population, Ḥanafīyah stands first among Muslims, nowadays. It forms the majority of many regions including: Turkey, Albania and Muslim population of the Balkans, non-Kurd Iraqi Sunnis, Afghanistan, Turkish dwelling regions of Central Asia, Caucasia and its neighboring regions, and India. Ḥanafīyah also forms half of Muslim population in Syria and Lebanon. It is the third school in Palestine, and has many followers in Egypt. The Ḥanafīyah presence is negligible in Iran, Hejaz, Yemen, and Siam (Thailand).

3- Sources of Deduction

3-1- The Holy Qur’an: Abū Ḥanīfah was one of the earliest scholars who illustrated the Qur’an’s methods. The issues like “generic reference is definite” and “divergent meaning is not regarded as a proof” are some of the most important subjects that he opposed the majority of scholars about them.

3-2- Sunnah: Abū Ḥanīfah has his special way for operating on isolated tradition that will be mentioned later.

3-3- Consensus: if the transmission of a consensus has been proved, Abū Ḥanīfah would unconditionally rely on it. He regards the explicit consensus as a definite proof, and the tacit consensus as a hypothetical proof.

3-4- Words of a Companion: regarding subjects like ‘ibādāt (religious practices), ḥudūd (penal laws), and dīyāt (blood money and other financial compensations), about which practicing ra’y is impossible, Abū Ḥanīfah follows Companions’ words. He regards their words as the Prophet’s sunnah concerning these issues, and for this reason he prefers them to qiyās.

3-5- Qiyās (judicial reasoning by analogy): for having a quick understanding to find out the common and different points of various issues, Abū Ḥanīfah applied qiyās extensively, and more than everyone before him.

3-5- Istiḥsān (juristic preference): however according to the sound research, Abū Ḥanīfah is not the only person who has counted istiḥsān as a source for deducing religious precepts, but he has adduced it more than the leaders of other schools.

3-6- ‘Urf (local custom which is not in direct conflict with established Islamic principles): Abū Ḥanīfah used to pay attention to sound ‘urf while issuing fatwas, and in the case of contradiction between ‘urf and qiyās he prefers ‘urf. He has presented many jurisprudential derivatives based upon ‘urf.

3-7- Maṣāliḥ Mursalah (consideration of public interests of the time).

3-8- Istiṣḥāb (the principle of continuance).

4- The Features of Abū Ḥanīfah’s Jurisprudence

  • The followers of Abū Ḥanīfah, his school, and his method are called Ahl al-Ra’y (people of opinion), because Abū Ḥanīfah believed in ra’y, and after issuing any fatwa and presenting a rule, declared that this is my opinion. He was against Ahl al-Ḥadīth (adherents of ḥadīth), and only accepts the tradition attested in a continuous manner from Successors, and never accepts an isolated tradition. He was a theologian that, probably, influenced on his jurisprudential method, and was an effective factor in applying this manner.
  • Frankness, intrepidity, and being lenient while issuing fatwa, are the features of Abū Ḥanīfah, that researchers and jurists are all in agreement. He used to certify man’s acts and works as far as possible, and, in his opinion, tries to support weak and poor people in this manner.
  • Observing state sovereignty, which is manifested through Imam.
  • Hypothetical jurisprudence.
  • Abū Ḥanīfah believed that the reality of faith and heresy is confirmation and rejection. He did not believe in different degrees of faith.

5- The Most Important Jurists and Books

  • Abū Ḥanīfah Na‘mān b. Thābit (d. 150 A.H.), founder of the school,
  • Abū Yūsuf Ya‘qūb b. Ibrāhīm Anṣārī (d. 198 A.H.): al-Kharāj, al-Āthār, Ikhtilāf Abī Ḥanīfah wa Ibn Abī Laylī,
  • Muhammad Ḥasan Shaybānī (d. 189 A.H.): al-Mabsūṭ, al-Jāmi‘ al-Ṣaghīr, al- Jāmi‘ al-Kabīr, al-Ziyādāt, al-Ḥujjah ‘alā Ahl al-Madīnah,
  • Zafar b. Hudhayl (d. 158 A.H.),
  • Ḥasan b. Ziyād Lu’lu’ī (d. 204 A.H.),
  • Ḥākim Marwazī, Abū al-Faḍl Muhammad b. Muhammad b. Ahmad Sullamī Balkhī, known as Ḥākim al-Shahīd (d. 334 A.H.): al-Kāfī, it is an abridgement of Shaybānī’s book, al-Mabsūṭ,
  • Abū Ja‘far Ahmad b. Muhammad Ṭaḥāwī (d. 321 A.H.): al-Jāmi‘ al-Kabīr fī al-Shurūṭ, al-‘Aqā’id al-Ṭaḥāwīyah (regarding religious persuasions),
  • Ahmad b. ‘Umar (=‘Amr or Mihr or Mahīr) Khaṣṣāf (d. 261 A.H.): Kitāb al-Ḥiyal, Kitāb al-Waqf,
  • Abū al-Ḥasan Ahmad b. Muhammad Qadūrī Baghdādī (d. 428 A.H.): al-Mukhtaṣar,
  • Sarakhsī, Shams al-A’immah Muhammad b. Ahmad (d. circa 483 A.H.): al-Mabsūṭ fī Sharḥ al-Kāfī (includes 30 chapters),
  • ‘Alā’ al-Dīn Abū Bakr b. Mas‘ūd b. Ahmad Kāshānī (d. 587 A.H.): Badā’i‘ al-Ṣanāyi‘ fī Tartīb al-Sharāyi‘ (includes 7 chapters),
  • ‘Alā’ al-Dīn Abū Manṣūr Muhammad b. Ahmad Samarqandī (d. 584 A.H.): Tuḥfah al-Fuqahā’,
  • Marghayānī, Burhān al-Dīn Abū al-Ḥasan Ali b. Abī Bakr Marghayānī Rāshidānī (d. 593 A.H.): al-Hidāyah ( it is a commentary on Bidāyah al-Mubtadī), [2]
  • ‘Abd Allah Mūṣilī, Majd al-Dīn Abū al-Faḍl ‘Abd Allah b. Maḥmūd b. Mawdūd (d. 683 A.H.): al-Mukhtār, and its commentary: al-Ikhtiyār fī Ta‘līl al-Mukhtār,
  • Ibn Sā‘ātī, Ahmad b. Ali Ḥanafī (d. 694 A.H.): Majma‘ al-Baḥrayn wa Multaqā al-Nahrayn,
  • Ḥāfiẓ al-Dīn ‘Abd Allah b. Ahmad b. Maḥmūd Nasafī (d. 710 A.H.): Kanz al-Daqā’iq,[3]
  • Kamāl al-Dīn Ibn Hammām, Muhammad b. Hammām al-Dīn ‘Abd al-Wāḥid Iskandarī Sīwāsī (d. 861 A.H.): Fatḥ al-Qadīr (includes 8 chapters),
  • Mullā Khusraw, Muhammad b. Farāmarz Rūmī (d. 885 A.H.): Durar al-Ḥikām fī Sharḥ Ghurar al-Aḥkām. (Sharanbalānī has written an annotations on this book by the name of: Ghunyah Dhawi al-Aḥkām),
  • Ibn Najīm Zayn al-Dīn ‘Umar b. Ibrāhīm b. Muhammad Miṣrī (d. 970 A.H.): al-Baḥr al-Rā’iq fī Sharḥ Kanz al-Daqā’iq (includes 8 chapters), al-Ashbāh wa al-Naẓā’ir,
  • Muhammad ‘Alā’ al-Dīn Ḥaṣfakī (d. 1088 A.H.): al-Durr al-Mukhtār fī Shrḥ Tanwīr al-Abṣār (includes 2 chapters),
  • Mawlā Sheikh Niẓām al-Dīn Barhānbūrī (d. 11th century A.H.): al-Fatāwā al-Hindīyah = al-Fatāwā al-‘Ālim Kayrīyah (in cooperation with some Indian scholars[4]). This book is written in reply to the request of the Indian ruler, Awrang Zayb ‘Ālamgīr. It includes six parts, and its margins contain al-Fatāwā al-Khānīyah (by: Maḥmūd Awzjandī Qāḍīkhān Ḥasan b. Manṣūr, d. 592 A.H.) and al-Fatāwā al-Bazzāzīyah (by: Ḥāfiẓ al-Dīn Muhammad, known as Ibn Bazzāz, d. 827 A.H.),
  • Muhammad Amīn known as Ibn ‘Ābidīn (d. 1252 A.H.): Radd al-Muḥtār ‘alā al-Durr al-Mukhtār = Ḥāshīyah Ibn ‘Ābidīn. It includes 7 chapters, in addition to two supplements under the titles of: Nashr al-‘Urf fī Binā’ Ba‘ḍ al-Aḥkām ‘alā al-‘Urf, and al-‘Uqūd al-Durrīyah fī Tanqīḥ al-Fatāwā al-Ḥāmidīyah.
  • Sheikh ‘Abd al-Ghanī Ghanīmī Maydānī (d. 1298 A.H.): al-Lubāb fī Sharḥ al-Kitāb, Sharḥ al-‘Aqā’id al-Ṭaḥāwīyah (regarding religious persuasions),[5]


1- See: al-Shak‘ah, Muṣṭafā, al-A’immah al-Arba‘ah, Dār al-Kitāb al-Lubnānī, 1985.

2- It is a very famous book that is written in four volumes. There are many annotations on this book, such as: al-Ghāyah, by Sarūjī; al-Kifāyah, by Kirlāfī; al-Wiqāyah, by Tāj al-Sharī‘ah; al-Niqāyah, by Ṣadr al-Sharī‘ah; al-Nihāyah, by Saghnāqī; Ḥāshīyah al-Nihāyah, by Qawnawī; Mi‘rāj al-Dirāyah, by Qwām al-Dīn Kākī; al-‘Ināyah, by Bābartī; and al-Bināyah, by ‘Aynī.

3- There are many annotations and commentaries on this book, such as: al-Baḥr al-Rā’iq fī Sharḥ Kanz al-Daqā’iq, by Ibn Najīm; Tabyīn al-Ḥqā’iq fī Sharḥ Kanz al-Daqā’iq, by ‘Uthmān b. Ali Zayla‘ī (includes 30 chapters); Ramz al-Ḥqā’iq, by ‘Aynī; al-Nahr al-Fā’iq, by ‘Umar b. Najīm; Minḥah al-Khāliq, by Ibn ‘Ābidīn; Kashf al-Ḥaqā’iq, by Afghānī; etc.

4- Qāḍī Muhammad Ḥusein Jawnbawrī, Sayyid Ali Akbar Sa‘d Allah Khān, Mullā Ḥāmid Jawnbawrī, and Muhammad Ikrām Lāhawrī.

5- Some other important Ḥanafī jurists and books are as follows:

  • Awzjandī Farghānī (d. 592 A.H.): Fatāwā Qāḍīkhān,
  • Burhān al-Sharī‘ah Maḥmūd b. Ahmad Maḥbūbī Ḥanafī (d. 673 A.H.): Waqāyah al-Riwāyah fī Masā’il al-Hidāyah,
  • Zayla‘ī (d. 742 A.H.), Tabyīn al-Ḥqā’iq,
  • Ibn Wahbān, ‘Abd al-Wahhāb b. Ahmad b. Wahbān al-Ḥārith, a judge and a literary man (d. 768 A.H.): al-Manẓūmah al-Wahbānīyah. ‘Abd al-Jalīl al-‘Aṭā’ al-Bakrī has set up an inquiry into this book, and it is published by Dār al-Fikr press, containing a commentary by Ibn al-Shaḥnah.
  • Bābartī (d. 786 A.H.): Shrḥ al-‘Ināyah,
  • Abū Bakr Ḥaddādī Baghdādī (d. 800 A.H.): al-Jawharah al-Nayyirah,
  • Asrawshnī (d. 632 A.H.): Aḥkām al-Ṣighār,
  • Ibn Qāḍī Samāwah (or Samāwanah), Sheikh Maḥmūd b. Ismā‘īl (d. 818 or 823 A.H.): Jāmi‘ al-Fuṣūlayn (including two chapters),
  • Ibn Kurdī (d. 827 A.H.): al-Fatāwā al-Bazzāzīyah,
  • Ṭarāblusī (d. 844 A.H.): Mu‘īn al-Ḥukkām fīmā Yataraddu bayn al-Khaṣmayn min al-Aḥkām,
  • ‘Aynī (d. 855 A.H.): al-Bināyah fī Sharḥ al-Hidāyah,
  • Ibn Shaḥnah (d. 882 A.H.): Lisān al-Ḥukkām fī Ma‘rifah al-Aḥkām,
  • Ibrāhīm Ḥalabī (d. 956 A.H.): Multaqā al-Abḥur,
  • Qāḍīzādah (d. 988 A.H.): Natā’ij al-Afkār,
  • Shalbī (d. 1000 A.H.): Ḥāshīyah ‘alā Tabyīn al-Ḥqā’iq,
  • Tamrtāshī (d. 1004 A.H.): Tanwīr al-Abṣār,
  • Ghānim b. Muhammad al-Baghdādī (d. 1030 A.H.): Majma‘ al-Ḍimānāt,
  • Muhammad b. Sulaymān, known as Dāmād Afandī (d. 1079 A.H.): Majma‘ al-Anḥur fī Sharḥ Multaqā al-Abḥur,
  • Sheikhīzādah (d. 1078 A.H.): Majma‘ al-Anḥur,
  • Ramlī (d. 1081 A.H.): al-Fatāwā al-Khayrīyah,
  • Ḥimawī, Shahāb al-Dīn Abū al-‘Abbās Ahmad b. Muhammad Ḥuseinī Miṣrī (d. 1098 A.H.): Ghamz ‘Uyūn al-Baṣā’ir. It is a commentary on al-Ashbāh wa al-Naẓā’ir written by Ibn Najīm (includes 2 chapters),
  • Al-Ṭaḥṭāwī (d. 1231 A.H.): a supplement to Marāqī al-Falāḥ,
  • Muhammad b. Muhammad Amīn b. ‘Ābidīn (d. 1306 A.H.): Qurrah ‘Uyūn al-Khiyār (it is a supplement to Ḥāshīyah Ibn ‘Ābidīn),
  • Ali Ḥaydar (d. 1353 A.H.): Duarr al-Ḥukkām,

Famous Ḥanafī books and treatises regarding issuing fatwas are as follows:

  • Al-Fatāwā al-Hindīyah fī Madhhab al-Imām al-A‘ẓam Abī Ḥanīfah al-Nakha = Fatāwā-i ‘Ālamgīr, al-Sheikh Niẓām al-Dīn and some other Indian scholars,
  • Al-Jāmi‘ al-Wajīz, known as al-Fatāwā al-Bazzāzīyah, Muhammad b. Muhammad Shahāb Kardarī, entitled as Ḥāfiẓ al-Dīn b. Bazzāz, (d. 827 A.H.),
  • Al-Fatāwā al-Wilwālijīyah, ‘Abd al-Rashīd Wilwālijī (d. circa 540 A.H.),
  • Al-Fatāwā al-Khānīyah,
  • Al-Fatāwā al-Ẓahīrīyah, Ẓahīr al-Dīn Muhammad Bukhārī (d. 619 A.H.),
  • Al-Fatāwā al-Ṭarṭūsīyah, Ibrāhīm Ṭarṭūsī (d. 758 A.H.),
  • Al-Fatāwā al-TaTārkhānīyah, Ibn ‘Alā’ al-Dīn (d. 800 A.H.),
  • Al-Fatāwā al-Khayrīyah, Khayr al-Dīn Ramlī (d. 1081 A.H.),
  • Al-Fatāwā al-Anqarwīyah, Muhammad Afandī Anqarawī (d. 1098 A.H.),
  • Al-Fatāwā al-Ḥāmidīyah, Ḥāmid Afandī,
  • Al-Fatāwā al-Mahdīyah fī al-Waqāyi‘ al-Miṣrīyah,

The article was written by Hujjat al-Islam Mujtaba Elahi Khorasani (Teacher of Advance Level of Mashhad Seminary) and Translated by Sayyid Dilawar Ali Naqavi  (Seminary Member, Researcher, English Translator and M.A. Student in Quranic Interpretation and Sciences).

About Alireza Mosaddeq

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