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The Hanafi Maddhab: History and Problems of Development

14.01.2009 11:40

Since the beginning of the Islamic call Muslims have always paid great attention to social discussions over behavior in unknown and complicated cases (civil, criminal, financial, political etc.) in accordance with the principles of Islam.

It resulted in appearance of a system of religious laws based on the Quran and the Sunnah, called in Arabic Sharia (“straight way”), and a complex of judicial norms, derived from the Sharia laws (Arab. fiqh – “deep understanding of faith”). Basing on the statement, that the Quran (as the everlasting Celestial Tablet, Revelation of the Almighty and the All-knowing God) and the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) (as a collection of quotations and actions of this outstanding man, an elect of God, the leader of the nation, a Prophet and a state leader), in general, include answers on all questions, the faqihs’ – experts in religious laws – task was “extracting” these prescriptions. For this end they used consensus of scholars (ijma’), including the followers of the Prophet (PBUH); decision by analogy with the Quran and the Sunnah (qiyyas); not making decision by analogy or its correction in case of its inexpediency (istihsan, minted by Abu Hanifa); making decision in accordance with its usefulness for society (istislah, minted and used by imam Malik); and local law (‘urf or adats) as an additional source. Despite the fact that scholars were initially separated into categories of “sahaba al-hadith” (“traditionalists”, who followed the literal meaning of hadithes) and “sahaba ar-ra’i” (“people of free decision”, who logically interpreted the hadithes), this classification later became vague, due to the achievements of Abu Hanifa and his followers, as well. At the same time, even nowadays there are fanatic followers of a highly puritan approach to different problems. The element of consensus, an obligatory condition of the Sharia, has made this system flexible and adoptive and has provided its operation and development for several centuries until the present time on a huge territory. Religious legislation system embraces all spheres of life of a Muslim.

At the initial period religious laws were studied in Medina, when it was the capital of the Arabic Caliphate and the center, where all unknown problems, which Muslims faced on new territories, were solved. Gradually, the leading role in this sphere was received by Iraqi cities: Qufa, Basra, then Baghdad, which became the largest center of education in different spheres of science and religion. Islamic jurisprudence became an independent systematic and serious discipline here.

The necessity to appeal to judicial substantiation of certain norm in Islam resulted in appearance of the four schools of jurisprudence (maddhab – “way”), founded by outstanding scholars and later named after them (other maddhabs were ousted by the commonly accepted four). All of them appeared in the first century of the Abbasid rule and have been accepted as authoritative and canonical. The above-mentioned principles of creating religious judicial norms are common for all four schools, despite peculiarities of each of them; specific accents and interpretations in certain issues make them independent. One of the largest both in followers and territorial distribution and the first in the list of these maddhabs is the Hanafi one.

Abu Hanifa and his school

The founders of the Hanafi maddhab were imam Abu Hanifa and his followers – Abu Yusuf and Muhammad ash-Shaybani. This school is the most conceptual and tolerant one, which followed the way of logical and rational reasoning (sahaba ar-rai) from the very beginning. In the IX-X centuries its citadels were Horasan and Central Asia; khans of the Golden Horde and the Great Mogul abided by it; in the Ottoman sultanate it received official state status). Nowadays approximately half of the Muslims belongs to its followers. This maddhab is spread in Turkey, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, China, Syria, Balkan states, partly in Indonesia. The majority of Muslims of Russia and the CIS countries – in Central Asia and Kazakhstan, in the Volga region, in Siberia, the Crimea, North Caucasus (except Chechens, Ingush people and certain Dagestan peoples), partly in Azerbaijan abide by this maddhab.

A great intellectual and scholar Nu’man Ibn Thabit called Abu Hanif was born in 699 in Qufa to a family of a rich silk trader and received perfect general and theological education. Biographers of Abu Hanifa are inclined to think that in childhood he saw a follower of the Prophet (PBUH), Anas Ibn Malik, but they argue if he heard hadithes in his interpretation. Possibly, Abu Hanifa also encountered with Abu Tufail Amir Ibn Vasil, another follower. Specialists name the following representatives of the Prophet’s (PBUH) family as teachers of Abu Hanifa, whom he met and communicated with: Nuhammad al-Baqir (the fifth Shi’it imam), wh