Objection Against Imam Abu Hanifah

Question

I wanted to know what exactly are the objections raised against Imam Abu Hanifah in the field of Hadith and your response to these.


Answer

The chief objection raised against Imam Abu Hanifah is that he did not give due regard to the narratives ascribed to the Holy Prophet (sws) while forming opinion on specific matters and would prefer his own understanding of the religious sources and reasoning faculty. It is also said that he did not have a proper knowledge of the Hadith.

These objections in fact are merely product of lack of understanding and seem to have been raised by those who preferred to follow the apparent meaning of the sayings of the Holy Prophet (sws) and deemed it unwise to get to the crux and spirit of these sayings.

Imam Abu Hanifah was a jurist. Obviously his field of interest was a study of the sources of Islam and inference of legal rulings. It is quite impossible for one to undertake such a crucial subject without proper study of the understanding of the Holy Prophet (sws) and his explanations to the sources. The Imam had accoutered himself with proper knowledge of the Hadith but he did not have much role in reporting and compiling Hadith. He would not see the traditions reported to him with the eyes of those whose work was just to report or compile sayings of the Holy Prophet (sws) rather he had to analyze these on the yardstick of the basic sources of Islam viz. the Holy Qur'an and the Sunnah as well as common sense and established historical facts. Naturally he could accept them only if found in conformity with these sources. This is what exactly the scholars of the science of Hadith would do while comparing the traditions with one another and accepting the solid ones against the weaker ones. But the Imam had before him the greater and more reliable sources, the Holy Qur'an and the practice of the entire Ummah to gauge the validity of the reports. This I would say is the most plausible approach and should not be condemned anyway if exercised considering the sayings ascribed to the Holy Prophet (sws).

It is a well-known historical fact that the referred Imam boasts a contribution towards the formation and development of the discipline of Islamic Jurisprudence which any other scholar could hardly claim. People used the word 'man of opinion' for him which is a true depiction of his stature. But unfortunately the term has developed a negative meaning as it seems to reflect that he was anti Hadith who would reject the sayings of the Holy Prophet (sws) against his reasoning thus deprecating the value of the Prophetic sayings. This, however, cannot be justified as any critique of his works would testify that he always gave due weight to the basic sources of the Qur'an and the Sunnah against individual reports.

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