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Abu Hanifah

Source:
The Islamic World: Past and Present What is This? Accessible coverage of Islam from the seventh century to the twenty-first century

    Abu Hanifah

    699 – 767

    Scholar and

    jurist

    Legal scholar Abu Hanifah is celebrated as the founder of the Hanafi, considered by many to be the most liberal of the four Sunni schools of law. The other schools are the Maliki, Shafi'i, and Hanbali. The Hanafi school is known for its use of analogy, or comparison, in legal reasoning.

    Of Persian heritage, Abu Hanifah was a native of Kufa, a city in what is now Iraq. Kufa, a young city with a diverse population, was a leading center of scholarship and legal thought. Abu Hanifah studied law in Kufa while earning his living as a textile merchant. His academic training and his experience as a merchant enhanced his ability to apply logic to the practical aspects of life.

    All schools of Islamic law consult the Qur'an first for legal and moral instruction. But for matters not specifically addressed in the Qur'an, legal scholars turn next to the sunnah—the actions and sayings of Muhammad as recorded in the hadith. Scholars differ in their reliance on the hadith. Some follow these teachings strictly, but Abu Hanifah sought to broaden the rules by using analogical reasoning and thoughtful opinion regarding the implications of the Qur'an and the hadith. He relied so heavily on opinion in the formulation of legal rules that his school came to be called the People of Opinion.

    The Hanafi school also developed the process of ijma, which is the consensus, or agreement, of a group of Islamic legal and religious scholars on a point of law. Once consensus is reached, it is considered to be evidence of the will of God.

    Abu Hanifah promoted a degree of respect for personal freedom that is not seen in the other schools of law. The majority of Muslims today follow the teachings of the Hanafi school. See also Hadith; Ibn Hanbal ; Law; Malik ibn Anas ; Shafi'i ; Sunnah; Sunni Islam.

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