His real name was Noman bin Sabit bin Zutee (Ra.) Abu Haneefah was his appellation which lexically means Father of the Muslims following the right way. His title is Imam-e Azam.
His father Abu Haneefah was born through Muslim parents. Abu Haneefah attended Ameerul-mo’mineen Hazrat Maula Ali’s company, and thus received abundant beneficence (faiz). Hazrat Maula Ali had asked blessings on Abu Haneefah and his progeny in namaz several times.
He was born in Kufa in 80 AH (699 AD). He was educated by Imam Shabee (passed away in 104 AH), and after his demise by Imam Hammad. When Imam Hammad passed away in 124 AH, lovers of knowledge from all Islamic countries streamed into Imam-e azam’s quarter. Thus he started to educate pupils.
He was one of the greatest Ulama of Islam. He became the exalted religious leader of Ahl-e Sunnat and founder of Hanafee School of Islamic Jurisprudence.
He earned his living in a halal way by trading. He sent goods to other places and with his earnings he met the needs of his disciples. He spent much for his household and gave an equal amount as alms to the poor. Moreover, every Friday he distributed twenty gold coins to the poor for his parent’s souls. He did not stretch his legs towards his teacher Hammad’s house, though he lived at a distance of seven streets away.
For forty years Imam Hanifa performed the morning prayer with the ablution he had made for the night prayer [that is, he did not sleep after the night prayer]. He performed Hajj fifty-five times.
Imam Hanifa had so much taqva that for thirty years he fasted every day [except the five days of a year on which it is haram to fast]. He often read the whole Quran Shareef in one rakat or two. He wore clothes like those of the poor. Yet at times, in order to exhibit the blessings of Allah, he wore very valuable clothes.
He was arrested in 146 AH by Al-Mansur (brother of first Abbasi king, Abbas Al-Fasah), the second king of Abbasi dynasty and was martyred by poisoning after keeping four years in prison due to political reasons in Baghdad in 150 AH (767 AD). It is said that about fifty thousand people performed namaz-e janazah in first lot and six times namaz-e janazah was performed on the day of burial. People came and performed namaz-e janazah up to 20 days. This shows the respect and regards for him in public.
Imam-e azam Abu Haneefah is the Chief of Ahl-e Sunnat. Three-fourth of the rules of Islam that are carried out all over the world belongs to him. Moreover he also has a share in the remaining one-fourth. Imam-e azam Abu Haneefah is the greatest of the mujtahids succeeding the Sahabah-e Kiram. The great leader had true devotion in his every action. In everything he did, he followed our Prophet, in the fullest sense of the word. He reached such a high sense of ijtihad (meaning or conclusion drawn to understand the symbolic or hidden meaning in a verse of Quran Shareef or hadees) and istimbat (conclusion; ability to extract the essence of something) that no one else could be compared with him. He surpassed everybody in following the sunnat in his ijtihad. He took even Hadees-e Mursal as well as Hadees-e Musnad as documents. He understood better than everybody else the greatness of the grades, which the Sahabah-e Kiram had attained by having the honour of being together with our Prophet. This is the reason why Imam Shafaee said, “All mujtahids are Imam-e azam Abu Haneerfah’s children.
The rules of Islam in the Hanafi mazhab were transmitted through a chain beginning with Abdullah ibn-e Masood (R.), who was a Sahabee. Imam-e azam Abu Haneefah acquired the knowledge of fiqh from Hammad, and Hammad from Ibraheem an-Nakhaee. An-Nakhaee learnt it from Alqamah and Alqamah learnt it from Abdullah ibn-e Masood, who learnt it from Rasoolallah (salallahoAlaiheWasalam).
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