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Question: Can you explain the contribution of Imam Abu Hanifah?

Imam Abu Hanifah was the first of the four eminent imams that the majority of Muslims cherish deep admiration for; they invoke Allah’s pleasure when their names are mentioned; and consider them highly for their great scholarship, character, and contributions. Imam Ibn Taymiyya has rightly observed that it is imperative that Muslims cherish love and invoke mercy of Allah on them and patronize them.

Coming specifically to your question, I would like to list some of the important aspects of the legacy of this imam in a few words:

  1. He was one of those who contributed to the development of fiqh (jurisprudence) by asking intelligent questions and trying to answer them in a structured and methodical way. Imam Shafi was perhaps referring to this unique contribution of Imam Abu Hanifah when he said, “All fuqaha owe a debt of gratitude towards Abu Hanifah”; his method of stating the issues before seeking the answer to them was also pointed to as a major contribution of the imam by Imam Ibn Suray, another eminent Shafi’i scholar.
  2. He was known as a great scholar who reasoned about laws: He was more focused on inferring principles that can be used for inferring rules: The branch of jurisprudence later known as qawa’id al-fiqh, in no small measure, can be attributed to the efforts of people like Abu Hanifah.
  3. Through the method of rational discourse and argumentation, Abu Hanifah helped fuqaha to detect and discern contradictions and inconsistencies in their thinking and reasoning.
  4. Abu Hanifah was also well aware of the fragile nature of human knowledge: although he argued his points most vigorously, and tried to discover solutions, he always considered the tentative nature of his conclusions: Hence, when he once argued his point and presented his conclusion most forcefully, one of his students asked him, “Is this the truth that we must adhere to firmly?”, the great Imam immediately replied, “Who knows; it could be proven as pure error (when we discover stronger evidences that contradict it)”. Therefore, it is no wonder for us to know that he as well as his foremost companions such as Abu Yusuf and Muhammad, may Allah have mercy on them all, revised their opinions whenever they were exposed to compelling evidences to the contrary.
  5. Besides his great scholarship, intelligence, and expertise in jurisprudence, he was also well known for his piety, clemency, tolerance, magnanimity, and patience--excellent traits which earned him great love and admiration from Muslims throughout the centuries.

To conclude: Imam Abu Hanifah is undoubtedly one of the great imams whose memory, scholarship, legacy, and exemplary character that all Muslims should cherish; we should patronize/befriend him as we should all other great imams and awliya’ Allah (friends of Allah). May Allah inspire in our hearts true love for Allah and His Messenger as well for all of the great imams, scholars, and righteous people—aameen.

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