Imām al-Bayhaqī’s Letter to ‘Amīd al-Mulk on Imām Abu l-Hasan al-Ash‘arī

In his comprehensive hagio-biography of Imām Abu l-Hasan al-Ash‘arī (260 – 324 H) Tabyīn Kadhib al-Muftarī, Hāfiz Ibn ‘Asākir (499 – 571 H) quotes a lengthy letter written by Imām al-Bayhaqī (384 – 458 H) to the grand vizier of the Seljuk Empire, ‘Amīd al-Mulk (415 – 456 H), on his views about the personality and theology of Imām al-Ash‘arī. Tāj al-Dīn al-Subkī reproduces most of the letter in his Tabaqāt al-Shāfi‘iyyah al-Kubrā[1] with his chain via Ibn ‘Asākir.

Below we present a translation of the letter, which demonstrates Imām al-Bayhaqī’s great respect for Imām al-Ash‘arī and his appreciation of the efforts he made to defend the ‘aqīdah of Ahl al-Sunnah wa l-Jamā‘ah. Continue Reading

Narrations on the Piety and Character of Imam Abu Hanifah

Imam Abu Hanifah, despite his mastery in the Islamic sciences, was recognised for his piety (taqwa), scrupulousness (wara’) and worship (‘ibadah). In the following I will quote a few excerpts from Imam al-Khatib al-Baghdadi’s biographical dictionary Tarikh Baghdad, omitting the chains and relaying the editor’s, Dr Bashshar ‘Awwad Ma’ruf’s, gradings of the chains, as he graciously included his expert analysis on most of the narrations from Abu Hanifah’s biography in the footnotes.

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Examples of the Teachers and Disciples of Imam Abu Hanifah

One of the greatest indications that Imam Abu Hanifah’s opinions in fiqh were informed by an immense knowledge of hadiths, and related Islamic sciences, is the companionship with him of some of the most learned scholars of the salaf. In this respect, the following narrations should shed some light.

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The Testimony of the Salaf on Imam Abu Hanifah’s Excellence in Fiqh

Abu Hanifah al-Nu‘man ibn Thabit was from the geniuses of the sons of Adam. He combined fiqh, worship, scrupulousness and generosity. His birth was in the year 80 H which is one of three opinions on his birth. He saw Anas. And he passed away in the year 150 H.Al-Dhahabi, al-’Ibar, 1:214
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Imam Abu Hanifah’s Rank in Hadith

Imam Abu Hanifah (80 – 150 H) was from the generation of the Tabi’in as he was alive during the era of the Sahabah and he saw Anas ibn Malik (d. 93 H), although it is not authentic that he narrated from him or any other Sahabi. Imam al-Suyuti mentions in Tabyid al-Sahifah (Mahmud Muhammad Mahmud Hasan Nassar ed. p. 34) that Ibn Hajar al-’Asqalani said, “Ibn Sa’d narrated with a sanad in which there is no harm that Abu Hanifah saw Anas.” Ibn Hajar goes on to mention that this distinguishes Abu Hanifah from all the other Imams of the major towns from his contemporaries like al-Awza’i, Hammad ibn Zayd, Hammad ibn Salamah, al-Thawri, Malik, Muslim ibn Khalid and al-Layth ibn Sa’d.
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The Salaf’s Acceptance of Imam Abu Hanifah’s Rank and Knowledge

He was the most learned of the people of his time. (kana a’lama ahli zamanihi)Makki ibn Ibrahim
This is a man [Abu Hanifah] who has reached a [high] degree of knowledge, so if I did not stand for his knowledge, I stood for his age, and if I did not stand for his age I stood for his jurisprudence, and if I did not stand for his jurisprudence I stood for his scrupulousness.Sufyan al-Thawri
I have not seen the like of him in fiqhAbdullah ibn al-Mubarak
My eyes have not seen the like of Abu Hanifah.Sufyan ibn ‘Uyaynah
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