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Flashbacks from history: A flame that never died
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 07 - 03 - 2014


Amal Al-Sibai
Saudi Gazette


THIS lunar month, Jumada Al-Awwal, is a good time to think of and pray for the man who has lit the way for thousands, who organized and facilitated the laws of Islam so that we can understand and follow to this day. It is in the month of Jumada Al-Awwal that the Muslim scholar Abu Hanifah died, in the year 150 after Hijra (migration of Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him from Makkah to Madinah), corresponding to the year 767.
Due to the knowledge he passed on, he was named by the people of his time Imam of Imams, Lamp of the Ummah, and was known to be truthfully spoken, abstinent, wise, pious, and a trusted authority in jurisprudence.
The Islamic history teacher, Firas Al-Khateeb, wrote extensively about Imam Abu Hanifah in his book and website, Lost Islamic History.
Imam Abu Hanifah's full name is Nu'man ibn Thabit and he was born in 699 in Iraq; the city of Kufa. Abu Hanifah initially occupied himself with running his father's silk business.
By his teenage years, Abu Hanifah began studying under some of the most highly acclaimed scholars in Kufa. Abu Hanifah had the honor of meeting and learning from around 8 to 10 companions of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, such as Anas ibn Malik and Jabir ibn Abdullah. Afterwards he traveled to Makkah and Madinah in pursuit of knowledge.
The Imam soon became an expert in Islamic law or jurisprudence, meanings of the verses of the Holy Qur'an, Hadith (sayings of the Prophet, peace be upon him), and in debate.
“Imam Abu Hanifah was a firm believer that a code of laws cannot stay static for too long, at the risk of no longer meeting the needs of the people. Thus he advocated interpreting the sources of Islamic law in response to the needs of the people at the time. This dynamic form of legalism did not supersede the Qur'an and Sunnah (sayings and doings of the Prophet, peace be upon him). Instead, he promoted the use of the Qur'an and Sunnah to derive laws that addressed the issues that people dealt with at that time.
A major aspect of his methodology was the use of debate to derive rulings. He would commonly pose a legal issue to a group of 40 of his students, and challenge them to come up with a ruling based on the Qur'an and Sunnah. Students would first attempt to find the solution in the Qur'an, if it was not clearly answered in the Qur'an, they would turn to the Sunnah, and if it was not there, they would use reason to find a logical solution,” wrote Al-Khateeb.
Abu Hanifah's books answer pressing questions about Islamic rulings to this day. His school of law became very popular in the Muslim world and is very influential today in Turkey, Syria, Iraq, the Balkans, Egypt, and the Indian subcontinent.
Some quaint stories that reveal the sincerity and beauty of his character, his scrupulous nature, were narrated by his students and recorded in the book, The Four Great Imams. Many of us have probably not heard some of these stories; as we read, let us collectively invoke Allah's mercy upon Abu Hanifah.
— Once, a passer-by, upon seeing Imam Abu Hanifah avoided the Imam and took a different path. When the Imam asked about this man, he was told that the man had owed Abu Hanifah 10,000 dirhams and was ashamed that he still had not repaid the debt. The Imam was so moved that he announced that he had forgiven this man and relieved him of the repayment of the debt.
· While giving a lesson in the mosque, Imam Abu Hanifah heard the news that someone had fallen from a roof. Abu Hanifah immediately left the gathering, running to the place of the accident to help. The Imam paid daily visits to nurse and care for the injured man, until he recovered.
— One of Abu Hanifah's students, Sufyan Thawri, reported that he had never, not once, heard Abu Hanifah backbite about anyone.
· Another student who commonly dwelled with Abu Hanifah, reported that he never saw the Imam sleep and rest through the entire night, the Imam would spend night hours in studying and night prayer, weeping and supplicating.
— There was a known incident of a stolen sheep where Imam Abu Hanifah lived. He inquired about the normal lifespan of sheep. After finding out that an average sheep lives for about 7 years, he did not eat any lamb meat for 7 years, out of piety and fear of eating from the meat of a stolen sheep; of taking from something he had no right to.
Where are the men like him today?
The ruler of the Abbasid Caliphate, Al-Mansur, imprisoned Abu Hanifah because he rejected the ruler's offer to the post of Chief Judge of the State; preferring to remain independent and a free scholar. The great scholar, Abu Hanifah died in prison, but his light never died out.
Historians stated that so many people came forth to attend Abu Hanifah's funeral that the funeral services were repeated six times to accommodate more than 50,000 persons who had amassed for his burial. For 20 days after his death, people went on performing funeral prayer for him.


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