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Cardinal principles & Methodology of Imam Abu Hanifah


Posted May 27, 2009


Filed under: Usul al-Fiqh |

The principles of Abu Hanifah’s methodology are summarized in his own statement:



I first resort to the book of God to find evidence [if I am faced with an issue]. If I do not find any [reference] therein, I resort to the Sunnah of the Messenger of God, may God bless him and grant him peace, and authentic precedents from him which have been handed down by trustworthy persons. If I do not find anything in the Book of God or in the Sunnah of His Messenger, I resort to the statements of his Companions, drawing [freely] upon these as I wish. I do not go beyond this to the statements of others. If the line of enquiry descends to the rank of Ibraaheem, al-Sha`bee, or Ibn al Musayyib, then I am entitled to endeavor to use my ijtihad in the same way as they had done.


These are the cardinal principles of Abu Hanifah’s madhab. There are however some subsidiary or secondary principles which appear to give rise to differences with the other scholars:


* The “general” (`aam) expression is as categorical or definitive (qat`i) in its implication as the particular (khas).6


* The practice of a Companion which is at variance with the general practice is taken only as a specific evidence for his practice.7


* The abundance of narrators does not improve the validity or weightiness of the evidence.


* No consideration should be given to a general proposition which is qualified by way of introducing a condition (shart) or a qualification (.sifah).


* No acceptance is given to a tradition, transmitted by a single person, which could harm public welfare.


* An obligatory command must be acted upon unless there is a constraint which prevents it.


* If the conduct of a competent narrator is at variance with what he has narrated, do what he was seen to have practiced and not what he narrated.


* Priority should be given to a clear-cut analogy over the report of a single person (khabar al waahid) which is in contradiction to it.


* Juristic preference (al istihsaan) should be adopted and analogy abandoned when there appears the need to do so. (Istihsaan is the preference given to one rule over another because of its perceived superiority.)


Abu Hanifah is reported to have said: “We know that this is an opinion and it is the best we were able to produce. However, whoever comes with a better opinion, we will accept it.” [The ethics of disagreement in Islam by Dr Shaykh Taha Jabir al-‘Alwani p.71]


1 comment so far

 shafi on May 28, 2009

“* Priority should be given to a clear-cut analogy over the report of a single person (khabar al waahid) which is in contradiction to it.”


Just one point of caution here – this is usually when the narrator is not a faqih – however even this is not the relied upon opinion in the madhab according to Dr Wahba Zuhayli. Dr Wahba Zuhayli comments that this is in fact the opinion of Isa bin Abaan and the later Hanafis – however the mu’tamad in the school is that Khabar Ahad takes precedent over Qiyas absolutely (mutlaqan). Abu Hanifa RA is also reported to have said “if it wasnt for the narration I would have taken the Qiyas” refering to the question of nullificatio of fast by consuming in a state of forgetfulness as in the Hadith of Abu Hurairah. (Usool ul Fiqh AlIslami – Dr Wahba Zuhayli 1/452)

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