The Hanafiyyah school is the first of the four orthodox Sunni schools of law. It is distinguished from the other schools through its placing less reliance on mass oral traditions as a source of legal knowledge. It developed the exegesis of the Qur'an through a method of analogical reasoning known as Qiyas (see Sunni Islam). It also established the principle that the universal concurrence of the Ummah (community) of Islam on a point of law, as represented by legal and religious scholars, constituted evidence of the will of God. This process is called ijma', which means the consensus of the scholars. Thus, the school definitively established the Qur'an, the Traditions of the Prophet, ijma' and qiyas as the basis of Islamic law. In addition to these, Hanafi accepted local customs as a secondary source of the law.

The Hanafi school of law was founded by Nu'man Abu Hanifah (699-765) in Kufa in Iraq. It derived from the bulk of the ancient school of Kufa and absorbed the ancient school of Basra. Abu Hanifah belonged to the period of the successors (tabiin)of the Sahabah (the companions of the Prophet). He was a Tabi'i since he had the good fortune to have lived during the period when some of the Sahabah were still alive. Having originated in Iraq, the Hanafi school was favoured by the first 'Abbasid caliphs in spite of the school's opposition to the power of the caliphs.

The privileged position which the school enjoyed under the 'Abbasid caliphate was lost with the decline of the 'Abbasid caliphate. However, the rise of the Ottoman empire led to the revival of Hanafi fortunes. Under the Ottomans the judgement-seats were occupied by Hanafites sent from Istanbul, even in countries where the population followed another madhhab. Consequently, the Hanafi madhhab became the only authoritative code of law in the public life and official administration of justice in all the provinces of the Ottoman empire. Even today the Hanafi code prevails in the former Ottoman countries. It is also dominant in Central Asia and South Asia. The Sunni Hanafi law was also official Islamic law in Sultanates and Mughal dynasty in South Asia.

Within the Sunni Muslim tradition, Hanafi is one of four schools of law and considered the oldest and most liberal school of law. Hanafi is one of the four schools of thought (madhabs / Maddhab) of religious jurisprudence (Fiqh) within Sunni Islam. Named for its founder, the Hanafi school of Imam Abu Hanifa. It makes considerable use of reason or opinion in legal decisions. Sunni Hanafi creed is essentially non-hierarchial and decentralized, which has made it difficult for 20th century rulers to incorporate its religious leaders into strong centralized state systems.

The Hanafi school of Islamic jurisprudence was founded by Imam Abu Hanifa, born in Kufa, Iraq about A.D.700. He was one of the earliest Muslim scholar-interpreters to seek new ways of applying Islamic tenets to everyday life. In his lifetime Abu Hanifa was disgraced, called ignorant, inventor of new beliefs, hypocrite and kafir. He was imprisoned and poisoned. He died in 150 A.H. [circa 767-768 C.E.]. Abu Hanifa's interpretation of Muslim law was extremely tolerant of differences within Muslim communities. He also separated belief from practice, elevating belief over practice. Hanafi took Shafi as his rival and vice versa.

Most of the Hanafi school follows al-Maturidi in doctrine. Mohammad ibn Mohammad ibn Mahmud Abu Mansur al-Samarqandi al-Maturidi al-Hanafi (d. 333) of Maturid in Samarqand, Shaykh al-Islam, was one of the two foremost Imams of the mutakallimûn of Ahl al-Sunna. He was known in his time as the Imam of Guidance (Imâm al-Hudâ).

Broad-minded without being lax, this school appeals to reason (personal judgment) and a quest for the better. It is generally tolerant and the largest movement within Islam. The Hanafi school is known for its liberal religious orientation that elevates belief over practice and is tolerant of differences within Muslim communities.

Hanafi scholars refuse to control a human religious or spiritual destiny, and refuse to give that right to any human institution. Among the Hudud crimes, those crimes against God, blasphemy is not listed by the Hanafis. Hanafis concluded that blasphemy could not be punished by the state. The state should not be involved in deciding God-human relationships. Rather, the state should be concerned only with the violation of human rights within the jurisdiction of the human affairs and human relationships.

Notwithstanding their common heritage from Imam Abu Hanifah, the scholars belonging to the Hanafi madhhabin South Asia are divided in the Barelvi and the Deobandi school, and these two schools have different attitude toward Wahhabism.

The Sunni Hanafi school is dominant in the Arab Middle East, Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, and Afghanistan. The followers of Imam Abu Hanifa (d. 767) are found in Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, Turkey, Iraq, Syria, China, North Africa, Egypt, and in the Malay Archipelago. The school is followed by the majority of the Muslim population of Turkey, Albania, the Balkans, Bosnia, Central Asia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, China, India and Iraq. Tajik, Turkmen, Kazakhs, Kyrghiz, Uzbeks, Uyghurs, Bashkirs, Hui and Tatars also are Sunni Hanafi.





Page last updated: Tuesday, December 20, 2005 11:56:22 -0500