Famous Salaf Us Salihoon were the followers of Imam Al Azam Abu Hanifa
Contrary to the widespread misconception spread by Salafi and modernist sects of today, the rulings of the Four Madh-habs were widespread and extant during the blessed era of the Salaf-us-Saaliheen. The codification and compilation of the rulings of each Madh-hab were in fact the collaborative effort of a galaxy of Imams of the Salaf-us-Saaliheen who had acquired the complete Deen directly from the Sahabah (radhiyallahu anhum) and their successors, well before the birth of Imam Bukhari, Imam Muslim and other later Muhadditheen whom the Salafis make their primary points of reference. As shall be demonstrated, with regards to the practical implementation of the Qur’an and Hadith, the teachers of Imam Bukhari, and their teachers, who were even greater Muhadditheen, deferred to and submitted themselves to the Imams of Fiqh of the Salaf-us-Saaliheen – Fiqh being the proper understanding of the Hadiths, as opposed to mere memorisation and recording of Hadiths which the Muhadditheen specialised in. This fact will become glaringly conspicuous during the course of this article, as we demonstrate the huge weight and widespread prevalence the rulings of the Hanafi Madh-hab had exercised amongst the Salaf-us-Saaliheen.
As a reminder, it first needs to be emphasized that Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) himself had certified the superiority of the Salaf-us-Saaliheen over the rest of the Ummah, which includes the later Muhadditheen such as Imam Bukhari, Imam Muslim, etc:
“The Most Superior of my Ummah is my generation (i.e. the Sahabah), then those who follow them (the Tabi’een), then those who follow them (the Tab-e-Tabi’een).” (Bukhari, Muslim)
The Salaf-us-Saaliheen were the transmitters and upholders of the teachings of the Khulafa-e-Rashideen. Since the Khulafa-e-Rashideen in particular, and the Sahabahs (radhiyallahu anhum) in general witnessed first-hand, understood properly, and upheld the Sunnah of Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) better than anyone, Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) explicitly made the Sunnah of the Khulafa-e-Rashideen on par with his own Sunnah i.e. they are one and the same:
The means through which Allah (azza wa jal) has preserved the pure, untainted Deen as represented by the actual Amal (practice) of the Salaf-us-Saaliheen, is through the agency of the Imams (Aimmah Mujtahideen) and Fuqaha of the Four Madh-habs, who codified, recorded, and mass-transmitted the letter and spirit of the complete Shariah. Nothing of the Deen was ever lost for a single moment.
To the eternal consternation of the multitude of deviant sects, all of whom seek to justify their deviances by wriggling themselves free from rigid Taqleed (tightly binding oneself) to the set of immutable and unchangeable set of laws which the Madh-habs represent, nothing will ever be able to alter the spirit and law of the Shariah which the Aimmah Mujtahideen (the Imams of Fiqh) captured, recorded, and engraved permanently into our heritage.
As a result, the massive contrast and discrepancy between the teachings of deviant sects and the teachings of the Salaf-us-Saaliheen as represented by the accepted Madh-habs of Fiqh and Aqeedah, will forever remain glaring and conspicuous, in every age, to every sincere seeker of the Haqq.
Take, for example, the glaring contrast between the pure Aqeedah of the Salaf-us-Saaliheen and the anthropomorphic Aqeedah of the Salafi sect. There is not the slightest vestige of a hint in any of the books of the accepted Madh-habs, mass-transmitted from the Salaf-us-Saaliheen, of beliefs such as Allah being able to sit upon the back of a mosquito, Allah having limits from several sides, Allah having a size, a body (jism) and spatial direction (jiha), Allah being closer to the top of mountains than to it’s bottom, Hell-fire shutting down even for the disbelievers, and innumerable other abominable beliefs explicitly expounded by Ibn Taymiyyah and other Imams of the Salafi sect which the salafi-lovers of today are extraordinarily silent regarding – their deafening silence even more conspicuous given such hypocrites’ (i.e. the salafi-lovers’) double-standards and propensity to shed crocodile tears and whine tragically about the numerous other deviances which are currently afflicting this Ummah. (See this article for actual quotes: Salafism is Anthropomorphism)
We shall now bring forward a small sample of undisputed authorities of the Salaf-us-Saaliheen who testified to the superiority of Imam Abu Hanifah in Fiqh (the true understanding of the Qur’an and Hadith and the proper method of their implementation), or who adhered to the rulings of Imam Abu Hanifah, or who testified to the widespread prevalence of the Hanafi Madh-hab amongst the Salaf-us-Saaliheen. These Authorities were of such standing that they themselves would have had innumerable followers amongst the Salaf-us-Saaliheen.
In relation to such Authorities of the Salaf-us-Saaliheen who adhered to and testified to the superiority of the Hanafi rulings, today’s multitude of Salafi-influenced ‘Mujtahids’ and fraudulent followers of the Madh-habs who justify their right to exit the Madh-hab in case a particular ruling becomes too unpalatable for their Nafs (desires), are merely infants who defecate ‘fatwas’ into their diapers for their own consumption and for the willing consumption of the countless flies (followers) such ‘Mujtahids’ tend to attract. If any group (other than the Aimmah Mujtahideen) ever possessed the right to ‘dabble’ in the Qur’an and the Sunnah and become independent of adhering to the rulings of an Imam of Fiqh, then it were these very Authorities of the Salaf-us-Saaliheen who proclaimed their adherence to the rulings of an Imam in Fiqh. Yet, despite the fact that such Authorities could very well have claimed the right to perform Ijtihaad themselves, many of them having memorized hundreds of thousands of Hadiths, they still largely deferred to and submitted to the rulings of Imam Abu Hanifah or other Leaders of the Salaf-us-Saaliheen in the field of Fiqh.
Unless otherwise stated, the narrations quoted from al-Khatib’s Tarikh Baghdad, which contains narrations of varying degrees of authenticity, are all authentic (Saheeh) even according to both standards of Salafi double-standards – the standard with which they authenticate narrators, and the other standard with which they attempt to weaken the very same narrators when a particular narration does not suit their desires. These narrations, carrying authentic sanads (chains), of superlative praise for Abu Hanifah by undisputed Authorities of the Salaf-us-Saaliheen, completely clash with and override the few narrations of criticism, some allegedly coming from the very same Authorities, which were spread well after the time of the Imam.
Yahya bin Ma’een (158H – 233H)
Yahya bin Ma’een was the teacher of countless luminaries of the Salaf-us-Saaliheen, amongst whom were Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal who would say, “If Yahya Ibn al-Ma’een has not heard of a hadith then that hadith does not exist!”, and Imam Ahmad’s fellow student, Ali Ibn al-Madeenee, who was the famous teacher of Imam Bukhari in whose presence Imam Bukhari confessed to feeling uniquely small in stature (in terms of knowledge). Whenever Ahmad bin Hanbal and Ali bin al-Madeenee would disagree on a matter while studying the Ahadith together, they would refer it to Yayha bin Ma’een. Ali ibn al-Madeenee sums up the tremendous standing of Yahya bin Ma’een in the following statement:
“The knowledge in Basrah ended up with Yahyaa ibn Abee Katheer and Qataadah; and the knowledge in Koofah ended up with Aboo Ishaaq and al-A’mash; and the knowledge in al-Hijaaz with Ibn Shihaab and ‘Amr ibn Deenaar; and the knowledge of these six was transmitted to twelve men: Ibn Abee ‘Aroobah, Ma’mar, Shu’bah, Hammaad ibn Salamah, the two Sufyaans (i.e. Sufyan bin Uyaynah and Sufyan al-Thawri – both mentioned later in this article), Maalik, al-Awzaa’ee, Ibn Ishaq, Hushaym, Aboo ‘Awaanah (and) Yahyaa ibn Abee Zaa’idah. And it came to Ibn al-Mubaarak and Ibn Mahdee and Yahyaa ibn Aadam – and the knowledge of ALL these came to Yahyaa ibn Ma’een.”
Imam ad-Dhahabi, an undisputed authority according to even the Salafis, in transmitting authentically the descriptions of the narrators of Ahadith, narrates the well-accepted fact that Yahya bin Ma’een was a very staunch Hanafi:
Imam ad-Dhahabi states also in his famous Siyar:
“Abu Zakariyyah (Yahya bin Ma’een) was Hanafi in Furoo’ (in the rulings of fiqh)”
Sufyan Ibn Uyaynah mentions the widespread prevalence of the rulings of the Abu Hanifah alongside the prevalence of the Mutawaatir (mass-transmitted) recitation of the Qur’an as transmitted by Hamzah, both of which had reached the furthest regions of the Ummah during the era of the Salaf-us-Saaliheen:
Although Sufyan ibn Uyaynah would have witnessed innumerable Stars of Uloom (knowledge) of the Salaf-us-Saaliheen, amongst whom were the likes of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Imam Shafi’i, Abdullah ibn al-Mubarak, Yahya ibn Ma’een, etc. he states that he had seen none comparable to Abu Hanifah.
Ali bin al-Madeenee narrates that his teacher, Yazeed bin Zuray’, would express surprise at the widespread acceptance the rulings of Imam Abu Hanifah had acquired during the era of the Salaf-us-Saaliheen:
Regarded as amongst the greatest Muhadditheen of his era, Yazeed bin Haroon was the teacher of the likes of Ahmad bin Hanbal, Yahya bin Ma’een and Ali bin al-Madeenee. Ali bin al-Madeenee said regarding him: “I have not seen a greater memorizer of hadith than Yazeed bin Haroon.” al-Hasan ibn Ali narrated Yazeed’s testimony that Imam Abu Hanifah was the greatest Faqeeh that he had ever seen:
“When a man asked Yazeed ibn Haroon, “O Abu Khalid! Who is the best in fiqh from those you have seen?” I heard him reply, “Abu Hanifah.” (Tarikh Baghdad 15:468)
Ibn Abdul Barr and others have narrated similar statements confirming Yazeed ibn Haroon’s opinion that Abu Hanifah was the most knowledgeable scholar from amongst the galaxy of luminaries he would have had come across:
He was the famous teacher of Imam Shafi’i, Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal and countless other luminaries of the Salaf-us-Saaliheen. Imam Ahmad once stated that Wakee’ ibn al-Jarrah possessed the most superior memory that he had ever come across. Khatib Baghadi states in his biographical note on Wakee’ that he would issue fatwas according to Imam Abu Hanifah’s rulings:
Allamah adh-Dhahabi relates a similar statement from Yahya bin Ma’een that Wakee’ would issue fatwas according to the rulings of Imam Abu Hanifah:
Many other Muhadditheen have transmitted this as an accepted fact. Ibn Abdul Barr, for instance, narrates the following with his chain:
The following two reports from Tareekh Baghdad are of a sufficient level of authenticity to corroborate Wakee’ ibn al-Jarrah’s deference to the rulings of Imam Abu Hanifah:
“Ibn Karamah narrated: We were with Wakee‘ [ibn al-Jarrah] (126 – 196) one day and a man said: “Abu Hanifah erred!” Wakee‘ said: “How can Abu Hanifah err when with him are the likes of Abu Yusuf and Zufar in their logic; and the likes of Yahya ibn Abi Za’idah, Hafs ibn Ghiyath, Hibban and Mindal in their memorisation of hadith; and the like of al-Qasim ibn Ma‘n in his knowledge of language and Arabic; and Dawud al-Ta’i and Fudayl ibn ‘Iyad in their asceticism and their scrupulousness? The one whose sitting partners are such, he cannot come close to erring, for if he erred they would surely have corrected him.” (Tarikh Baghdad 16:365)
“Yahya ibn Ma‘een said: “I have not seen [anybody] superior to Wakee’ ibn al-Jarrah!” It was said to him, “Not even Ibn al-Mubarak?” He said, “Ibn al-Mubarak indeed had excellence, but I have not seen [anybody] more virtuous than Wakee‘. He would face the qiblah and memorise his hadiths. He would stand [in prayer] in the night and fast continuously. He would give fatwa according to the opinion of Abu Hanifah, and he had heard many hadiths from him.” Yahya ibn Ma‘een said: “And Yahya ibn Sa‘eed al-Qattan would give fatwa according to the opinion of Abu Hanifah also.” (Tarikh Baghdad15:653)
Qasim ibn Ma’n ibn Abdur-Rahman ibn Abdullah ibn Mas’ood (d 175 H)
The following narration relates how Qasim ibn Ma’n, the great-grandson of Hadhrat Abdullah ibn Mas’ood (radhiyallahu anhu), was once assailed for being a “child” (i.e. an ardent follower) of Imam Abu Hanifah.
He was an undisputed authority in all fields of Knowledge whose merits are innumerable. Sufyan ibn ‘Uyaynah said, “I looked into in the matter of the Sahabah and I did not find any virtue in them over Ibn al-Mubarak except their companionship of the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) and their battles with him.” Abdullah ibn Mubarak testified to Imam Abu Hanifah’s superiority in Fiqh:
He was the Imam to whom even great authorities would refer to when they differed in the field of knowledge. Ibrahim ibn Sa’eed al-Jawhari narrates that, “When Shu’bah and Sufyan differed they would say, ‘Let us go to the weighing scales, Mis’ar.” Mis’ar’s standing and rank can be gauged from the fact that both Sufyan ath-Thawri and Shu’bah were widely regarded as Ameer-ul-Mu’mineen (Chief of the the Believers) in Hadith, the highest rank in the field of Hadith amongst the Salaf-us-Saaliheen. Hafiz adh-Dhahabi narrates in Manaqib Abi Hanifah that Mis’ar ibn Kidam said:
Abu Aasim was amongst the greatest and eldest of al-Bukhari’s teachers in Hadith. In the narration below, while proclaiming Imam Abu Hanifah’s superiority in Fiqh, Abu Aasim employs hyperbole in order to emphasise Imam Abu Hanifah’s superiority over others:
“al-Shafi‘i said: “All people are dependent on Abu Hanifah in fiqh.” (Tarikh Baghdad 15:474) ”
He was blessed with a long life such that he was privileged to be both a student of Imam Abu Hanifah as well as being one of the senior teachers of Imam Bukhari. Most of Bukhari’s thulaathiyat narrations (sanads containing only three narrators) run through him. Proclaiming Imam Abu Hanifah’s superiority in knowledge, Makki ibn Ibrahim stated:
Over a thousand Sahabah, including ‘Abdullah ibn Mas’ud, ‘Ammar ibn Yasir, ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib, Abu Musa al-Ash’ari, and seventy Sahabah (radhiyallahu anhum) who participated in Badr, had migrated to and settled in Kufa, It thus became a hub and centre of learning of all the Deeni sciences. Kufa’s standing in the field of Hadith, for example, can be understood from the fact that when al-Hakim, the author of the famous Mustadrak, devoted a chapter to listing the great Muhadditheen of the Salaf-us-Saaliheen, he mentioned forty narrators from Madīnah, twenty-one from Makkah, and two hundred and one from Kūfah (including Imām Abū Hanīfah). Imam Abu Hanifah was recognised by the Kufans as being the greatest Faqeeh living amongst them at that time: