I recently came to know from some of my friends that imam Auu Hanifa was a deviant. He referred to the views of the great scholars of the past about the work and person of Imam Abu Hanifah. He told me that Imam Fakhr Al-Din Razi, wrote: "Imam Ahmad b. Hanbal was asked about Imam Malik. The reply was: "His Hadiths are correct but the narrators are weak." Someone asked him about Imam Shafi'i. The reply was: "His Hadiths and opinion is correct." Then someone asked him about Imam Abu Hanifa. He said "Nu'man's opinion and his hadiths bear no value'."
Similar or severer comments have been attributed to Imam Shafi'i and Imam Malik. Some report that they even called him a liar. Please comment.
There are two questions regarding these findings. First, how do we know for sure that these are not fabrications? I do not think such great scholars would condemn someone merely on the basis of difference of opinion. We know that a hadith is weak according to Imam Muslim and sound according to Imam Bukhari. A narrative is acceptable to Imam Shafi'i and rejected by Malik. Does that entail that we should side with one and condemn the other? If according to some Imam Abu Haifah's views or his reports were not sound does that necessarily entail that he was a fitnah? I do not believe that a person of the stature of Imam Malik or Imam Shafi'i would give such loose comments. Second, let us suppose if such were their views. Does Imam Abu Hanifa lose all credibility and does his unparalleled scholarship lose worth merely on the basis of negative opinion from these scholars? What makes these scholars great is not certificate from other scholars but soundness of scholarship and knowledge of the religion and profound understanding. The same thing put Imam Abu Hanifa on such a lofty status. He was equally great scholar. His fame and repute and great following rest on his sound scholarship and great knowledge. All his works should be considered in the light of the Qur'an and the Sunnah. If his views are sound if gauged on the scale of the Qur'an, Sunnah and reason then these should be accepted and if not then his views should be rejected. There is, however, no point in declaring him a fitnah.