The Forty-Scholar Council of Imām Abū Hanīfah


The Forty-Scholar Council of Imām Abū Hanīfah

By Shaykh Muntasir Zaman

Among the various specialties of the Hanafī school of thought, one outstanding speciality is the rigorous manner in which it was developed. Imām Abū Hanīfah had a council of forty prominent scholars with whom he would consult prior to documenting a legal ruling. Often they would only come to a conclusion on a particular issue after debating it for three days.[1]

As such, one can understand the truthfulness of what Wakī‘ ibn al-Jarrāh stated when a person in his gathering claimed that Imām Abū Hanīfah erred. He said:

How can Abū Hanīfah err when with him are the likes of Abū Yūsuf and Zufar in their logic; and the likes of Yahyā ibn Abī Zā’idah, Hafs ibn Ghiyāth, Hibbān, and Mindal in their memorization of hadīth; and the like of al-Qāsim ibn Ma‘n in his knowledge of language and Arabic; and Dāwūd al-Tā’ī and Fudayl ibn ‘Iyād in their asceticism and their scrupulousness? The one whose companions are such, he does not come close to erring, because if he erred they would correct him.[2]

The following is a report that mentions the forty-scholar council of Imām Abū Hanīfah and its grading. It is reported in Fadā’il Abī Hanīfah of Ibn Abī al-‘Awām:

My father narrated to us, he said: my father narrated to us, he said: Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Salāmah narrated to me, he said: Ibn Abī Thawr wrote to me narrating from Sulaymān ibn ‘Imrān who said: Asad ibn al-Furāt narrated to me:

The companions of Imam Abū Hanīfah who document the books (i.e. legal issues) were forty personalities. The leading ten among them were Abū Yūsuf, Zufar ibn Hudhayl, Dāwūd al-Tā’ī, Asad ibn ‘Amr, Yūsuf ibn Khālid al-Samti, and Yahyā ibn Zakariyya ibn Abī Zā’idah, and he was their scribe for thirty years.[3]

1) The chain of transmission commences from the transmitter of the book, Abū al-‘Abbās Ahmad ibn Muhammad i.e. the grandson of Ibn Abī al-‘Awām, the author. He is the first to say, “My father narrated to us.”

2) Muhammad ibn ‘Abd Allāh i.e. the son of the author. He is the second to say, “My father narrated to us.”

Ahmad was a judge in Egypt, and his father Muhammad hailed from a household of distinguished scholars.[4] The above two are only the transmitters of the book.[5] When citing the incident in reference, al-Kawtharī inFiqh Ahl al-‘Iraq mentioned Ibn Abī al-‘Awām as the narrator from Imam al-Tahāwi.[6]

3) The author of the book, Abū al-Qāsim ‘Abd Allāh ibn Muhammad Ibn Abī al-‘Awām. Muhammad ibn Yūsuf al-Sālihī mentioned him among those who wrote on the virtues of Imām Abū Hanīfah and said, “They are all reliable and expert Hanafis who had vast knowledge.”[7] ‘Abd al-Qādir al-Qurashī said, “He hailed from a household of distinguished scholars.” [8]

4) Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Salāmah. He is none other than Imām Abū Ja’far al-Tahāwī, whose lofty position is well-known and requires no introduction. [9]

5) Ibn Abī Thawr. His full name is Abū al-‘Abbās Muhammad ibn ‘Abd Allāh ibn Abī Thawr who is also known as Ibn ‘Abdūn. Ibn Yūnus said, “He was a scholar of the madhhab of the Iraqis and studied jurisprudence according to the school of Imam Abū Hanīfah.”[10] Qāsim ibn Qutlūbughā included him in al-Thiqāt min Man Lam Yaqa’ fi al-Kutub al-Sittah (reliable narrators who are not found in the six canonical books) and quoted Ibn Yūnus who said he is well known.[11]

6) Sulaymān ibn ‘Imrān. He was also known as Kharūfah and was a judge. Abu ‘Abd Allāh al-Qayrawānī said, “He was diligent in his affairs and possessed intuition.” [12]

7) Asad ibn al-Furāt. He was the student of Imām Mālik, Imām Abū Yūsuf, and Imām Muhammad. Al-Dhahabī said, “He was the Imām, erudite scholar, judge, leader, and the foreman in the ranks of the Mujāhidūn.”[13]

Although Asad ibn al-Furāt never met Imām Abū Hanīfah, he was a direct student of the scholars who were part of Imām Abū Hanīfah’s council, such as Imāms Abū Yūsuf, Muhammad, Yahyā ibn Zākariyyā ibn Abī  Zā‘idah, and Asad ibn ‘Amr al-Bajalī.[14] Moreover, Ibn Abī al-‘Awām relates a similar report via Nūh Abū Sufyān from al-Mughīrah ibn Hamzah[15] who was a student of Imām Abū Hanīfah.[16]

One issue worth noting is that Imām al-Tahawī authored a book on the virtues of Imām Abū Hanīfah entitled, “’Uqūd al-Marjān.”[17] It is possible that the report under discussion is from the book in reference. This is because al-Qurashī directly cites the chain of al-Tahāwī via the above-mentioned route without the intermediary of Ibn Abī al-‘Awām in several place in al-Jawāhir al-Mudiyyah. [18]

In any case, after viewing the above grading one may safely conclude that the report of the forty-scholar council of Imām Abū Hanīfah is reliable.

[1] Ibn Abi al-‘Awām, Fada’il Abi Hanifah, p.341. The chain of this report is the same as the one that will be discussed in this article.

[2] Al-Baghdādī, Tārīkh Baghdād, vol.16, p.365.

[3] Ibn Abi al-‘Awam, Fada’il Abi Hanifah, p.342

[4] Al-Qurashī, al-Jawāhir al-Mudiyyah, vol.1, p.282

[5] Ibn Abi al-‘Awam, Fada’il Abi Hanifah, p.11, p.15

[6] Introduction to Nasb al-Rayah, vol.1, p.68

[7] Al-Salihi, ‘Uqud al-Juman, p.49

[8] Al-Qurashī, al-Jawāhir al-Mudiyyah, vol.1, p.282

[9] Al-Dhahabi, Siyar A’lam al-Nubala, vol.11, p.361

[10]  Ibn Yunus, Tarikh, vol.2, p.212

[11]  Qasim ibn Qutlubugha, al-Thiqat, vol.8, p.369

[12]  Al-Qayrawani, Qudāt Qurtubah, p.236

[13] Al-Dhahabi, Siyar A’lam al-Nubala, vol.10, p.225

[14] Ibid.; al-Kawtharī, Bulūgh al-Amānī, p.15.

[15] Ibn Abi al-‘Awam, Fada’il Abi Hanifah, p.342

[16] Al-‘Aynī, Maghāni al-Akhyār, vol.3, p.131; Al-Salihi, ‘Uqud al-Juman, p.147

[17] Al-Salihi, ‘Uqud al-Juman, p.49; Ismā‘īl Bāshā, Hadiyyat al-‘Ārifīn, vol.1, p.58

[18] Al-Qurashi, al-Jawahir al-Mudiyyah, vol.1, p.140/vol.2, p.211


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