Imam Abu Hanifah al-Nu′man b. Thabit (80 - 148 AH),
The Hanafiyyah School is the first of the four orthodox Sunni schools of law. It is distinguished from the other schools through its placing less reliance on mass oral traditions as a source of legal knowledge. It developed the exegesis of the Qur'an through a method of analogical reasoning known as Qiyas. It also established the principle that the universal concurrence of the Ummah (community) of Islam on a point of law, as represented by legal and religious scholars, constituted evidence of the will of God. This process is called ijma', which means the consensus of the scholars. Thus, the school definitively established the Qur'an, the Traditions of the Prophet, ijma' and qiyas as the basis of Islamic law. In addition to these, Hanafi accepted local customs as a secondary source of the law.
History: The Hanafi School of law was founded by Nu'man Abu Hanifah (d.767) in Kufa in Iraq. It derived from the bulk of the ancient school of Kufa and absorbed the ancient school of Basra. Abu Hanifah belonged to the period of the successors (tabi'in) of the Sahabah (the companions of the Prophet). He was a Tabi'i since he had the good fortune to have lived during the period when some of the Sahabah were still alive. Having originated in Iraq, the Hanafi School was favoured by the first 'Abbasid caliphs in spite of the school's opposition to the power of the caliphs.The privileged position which the school enjoyed under the 'Abbasid caliphate was lost with the decline of the 'Abbasid caliphate. However, the rise of the Ottoman Empire led to the revival of Hanafi fortunes. Under the Ottomans the judgment-seats were occupied by Hanafites sent from Istanbul, even in countries where the population followed another madhhab.Consequently, the Hanafi madhhab became the only authoritative code of law in the public life and official administration of justice in all the provinces of the Ottoman Empire. Even today the Hanafi code prevails in the former Ottoman countries. It is also dominant in Central Asia and India. There are no official figures for the number of followers of the Hanafi School of law. It is followed by the vast majority of people in the Muslim world. Main Centre: The school has no headquarters as such. It is followed by the majority of the Muslim population Of Turkey, Albania, the Balkans, Central Asia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, India and Iraq. Taken from:http://philtar.ucsm.ac.uk/encyclopedia/islam/sunni/hana.html
Al‑Madh'hab Al‑Hanafi was the product of the Fiqh rules and regulations as taught by Abu Hanifa. As in other Islamic Schools of Thought Abu Hanifa's Fiqh deals with tawhid, elements of faith, elements of worship(pillars of Islam), the halal and haram, ethics, dealing with other people (Mu'aamalat).
FEATURES of Al‑Madh'hab Al‑Hanafi
The Al‑Hanafi School of Thought tends to put more emphasis on Qiyas القـيــاس (Analogy) and Raa'y الــرأى (personal opinion) than an emphasis on Hadith choices, and the deductions there from. It does not acknowledge the Imamah of Ahlul Bayt. The Hanafi School of Thought began its popularity in the last quarter of the second century Hijrah.
ABU HANIFA: ابو حنيفه النعمان ابن ثابت Head of Al‑Madh'hab Al‑Hanafi: 80H‑150H
Abu Hanifa was born in 80H, grew up to be brilliant and inquisitive; he was a good business man, in charge of an enterprise dealing in the silk industry. He was the employer of many men, managing his enterprise in Kufa well. Abu Hanifa's keen interest in researching Islamic sciences led him to Basrah many times. At first both Al‑Hasan Al‑Basri and Abu Hanifa were associated with Murji'ah philosophy but later on Abu Hanifa dissociated himself from the movement. During his youth Abu Hanifa visited Hijaz to have a dialog with Imam Muhammad Al‑Baaqir (the father of Al‑Saadiq).
The brother of Al‑Baaqir, Zaid Ibn Ali, was revered for his Islamic learning. Zaid Ibn Ali revolted against the oppression of Benu Umayya government in 121H, and Abu Hanifa encouraged people to join and support Zaid′s revolt. Once the revolt was put down, the 41 year old Abu Hanifa was put in jail because of his support of Zaid. Shortly after, Abu Hanifa escaped from jail and left for Medina to join Al‑Saadiq's discourses and teachings at the Institute of Ahlul Bayt.
Abu Hanifa's experience was unique at the Institute, whereby his tutoring took two years. He referred to those years saying:
“Were it not for the two years, Abu Hanifa would have gone astray,”
for such was the Institute's influence on his views, Fiqh, analogy, and the manner of thinking.
Abu Hanifa was a lover of Ahlul Bayt, and he supported the revolts lead by their devotees. Besides his support of the revolt by Zaid Ibn Ali against Benu Umayya (when as a result Abu Hanifa was put in jail), Abu Hanifa also supported the revolt lead by Muhammad Dhul Nafs Al‑Zakiya محمـد ذو النـفــس الـزكـيه and his brother Ibrahim, against Benu Abbas during the Khilaafah of Al‑Mansoor. Abu Hanifa urged people to join and participate in the revolt saying, “He who is killed fighting on the side of Muhammad Dhul Nafs Al‑Zakiya will be parallel to the one who has fought in Badr Battle against the infidels.” When his writings were later discovered Abu Hanifa became a suspect in the eyes of Khalifa Al‑Mansoor.
At a later time, and in a move to discredit Al‑Saadiq, Khalifa Al‑Mansoor asked Abu Hanifa to quiz Al‑Saadiq with forty Fiqh most complex queries. Though obliging to Al‑Mansoor's dictates, Abu Hanifa became mesmerized by Imam Al‑Saadiq's answers to the queries and he acknowledged the uniqueness of the Imam in knowledge. Consequently, Al‑Mansoor′s move to discredit Al‑Saadiq misfired, discrediting himself instead.
Abu Hanifa had tutored 36 students to become scholars in Islam. Particularly famous among them were Ibn Al‑Hudhayl, Abu Yusuf, Muhammad Al‑Sheybani, and Al‑Lu'lu'i.
Though 3 years older than Al‑Saadiq, Abu Hanifa died in 150H two years after Al‑Saadiq's death. Abu Hanifa is claimed to have died in prison or soon after he was released, because of poisoning by Khalifa Al-Mansoor. It is thought that Khalifa Al‑Mansoor had put the aging Abu Hanifa in jail because of either not agreeing with Al‑Mansoor's dictates, or that Al‑Mansoor discovered the support Abu Hanifa gave to the revolt by Muhammad Dhul Nafs Al‑Zakiya who was devotee of Ahlul Bayt. If this was true then Abu Hanifa died in support of the cause of Ahlul Bayt against oppression.
Al‑Madh'hab Al‑Hanafi took off after Abu Hanifa died in 150H. Of his close followers some stand out in spreading the Fiqh. The main ones are Abu Yusuf, Muhammad Sheybani, and Al‑Lu'lu'i.
Abu Yusuf ابو يوســف was the Chief Justice appointed during the times of Khalifa Al‑Mahdi, then Khalifa Al‑Haadi, then Khalifa Al‑Rasheed. The last was grateful to Abu Yusuf for he was the main influence in favor of the Al‑Rasheed for the Khilaafah; therefore Abu Yusuf was elevated to be the Supreme Justice. Meanwhile Abu Yusuf, with full support of the powers of the government, appointed to the Justice Department only those who acknowledged the Hanafi Fiqh-all others had either to change their Madh'hab or lose their job. Abu Yusuf had his own interpretation of the Hanafi Fiqh, and he wrote some books about the Madh'hab. His close student was Al‑Sheybani, who had not reached his twenties when Abu Hanifa died.
Al‑Sheybani الشــيـباني was a good writer, and he wrote a good many books about the teachings of Abu Hanifa, thus making the biggest contribution to the Hanafi Madh'hab. Like Abu Yusuf, Al‑Sheybani had his personal views and Fiqh points, and he expressed them when he wrote the Hanafi Fiqh. Al‑Sheybani also studied under Malik Ibn Anas for 3 years and was affected by his methodology, thus he introduced Malik's method of Hadith selection in the emerging Hanafi Madh'hab.
The promotion of the Hanafi Fiqh by the government powers over an extended period of time popularized the Madh'hab; thus the Hanafi Madh′hab slowly became mainstream. Unlike the Ja'fari Fiqh (which was adamantly independent of the government), the Maaliki and by now the Hanafi Madh'habs were eagerly embraced and espoused by the government in a move as a counterweight to the Ja'fari Fiqh, (that of Ahlul Bayt), because these two conformed to the policies and practices of the government.
Hanafi School (Al-Madhab al-Hanafi)
The Hanafi school, founded by Imam Abu Hanifah al-Nu′man b. Thabit (80 - 148 AH), was the first to acquire widespread popularity. The first scholar to pay allegiance to this school of thought was Abul Abbas al-Saffah who was the leader of the revolution against the Umayyah dynasty and the founder of the Abbasid Empire. Other
scholars and jurists (fuqaha) also joined him in the hope that a just government would rise and implement the sunnah of the Prophet and save the Muslim ummah from the tyranny of the Umayyah dynasty.
However, Abu Hanifah soon realized that the Abbasid were not sincere in their call to establish the Islamic sharia (law) and Islamic government, and so he distanced himself from the government and refused to accept the formidable position of leadership in the judiciary system (al-qada) during the time of al-Mansur al-Abbasi. Al-Mansur tried to bring Abu Hanifah to his side, but he refused and was then imprisoned, and according to some accounts even tortured. Some historians have also reported that the Abbasid eventually poisoned Abu Hanifah.
Nonetheless, the Abbasid government succeeded in attracting two of the most prominent students who had studied directly under Abu Hanifah: Abu Yusuf al-Qadi and Muhammad b. al-Hasan al-Shaybani.Abu Yusuf joined the Abbasid government during the reign of al-Mahdi al-Abbasi in the year 158 AH. He continued working for them during the rules of al-Hadi and al-Rashid and wrote several works on jurisprudence, one of the most noteworthy being Kitab al-Kharaj, which he wrote at the request of the caliph Harun al-Rashid.
He enjoyed an intimate relationship with the ruling powers, and through this, they supplemented the salary they paid him with gifts and lavish invitations, enabling him to lead an extravagant life for that time. The other student, Muhammad b. al-Hasan al-Shaybani, assumed leadership of the judiciary system (al-qada) during the time of Harun al- Rashid. He wrote many thesis in jurisprudence (fiqh), including Jami al- Sagheer, which he narrated from Abu Yusuf al-Qadi, Abu Hanifah, and Jami al-Kabeer.29
Undoubtedly, the government played a central role in promoting the Hanafi school of thought because of Abu Yusuf al-Qadi and Muhammad b. al-Hasan al-Shaybani, and particularly since the position of judiciary leadership that the latter took, was central in promoting the jurisprudence (fiqh) of a particular school of thought. Regarding this issue, Ibn Hazm says:
Two schools of thought were promoted and spread in the beginning of their emergence by leadership (riyasah) and the government (sultanah).The first was the Hanafi school of thought; since Abu Yusuf al-Qadi was declared the leader of the high court, he employed people only from his school of thought. The second school of thought that was supported by the government was the Maliki school of thought.30
Along the same line, al-Dahlawi says:Any school of thought whose leaders are famous and who assumed the positions of judiciary leadership (qada) and authority (ifta or the fatwa)
will spread among the lands and expand day after day. Conversely, the people will not know any school of thought whose leaders did not assume the position of judiciary leadership and authority, and they will die out in the future.31From this, it is clear that the expansion of a school of thought at that time, hinged on the government. The government in turn, supported the schools of thought because of their willingness to compromise Islamic principles in favor of the government, and so a reciprocal relationship developed between the government and the propagators of the schools of thought who used the judiciary positions (the position of qadi) that they were appointed to, to spread their ideologies to the masses.
28 His work on Abdullah b. Saba is available in English under the title of Abdullah Ibn Sabaand Other Myths and has been printed in two volumes.
29 Al-Zarakli, Al-Alam, 6:80
30 Wafayat al-Ayan, 6:14