Shiite contention: Imam Abu Hanifa (rahimahullah) studied under Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (rahimahullah)

[By Shaykh Taha Karaan d.b,
Darul Uloom al-Arabiyya al-Islaamiyyah, Western Cape]

Regarding Imam Abu Hanifah’s (rahmatullah alaih) allegedly having studied under Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (rahmatullah alaih), please be informed as follows:

Imam Abu Hanifah (rahmatullah alaih) was the pupil and intellectual successor of his mentor, Hammad ibn Abi Sulayman (rahimahullah), who was the successor to Ibrahim an-Nakha’i (Rahimahullah), who was the successor to his uncle ‘Alqamah ibn Qays an-Nakha’i (rahimahullah), who was the successor to Sayyiduna ‘Abdullah ibn Mas’ud, (radhiyallahu anhu) who was sent as a teacher to the city Kufah by Amir al-Mu’minin Sayyiduna ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab (radhiyallahu anhu). This chain of intellectual descent is known to anyone knowledgeable of the legislative history of Islam.

In fact, Imam Abu Hanifah (rahimahullah) held his dicourses at the very same place in the masjid of Kufah where Ibn Mas’ud (radhiyallahu anhu) used to teach. This teaching circle was passed down generation after generation, by the men whose names you have just read: From Ibn Mas’ud to ‘Alqamah; from ‘Alqamah to Ibrahim; from Ibrahim to Hammad; and ultimately from Hammad to Abu Hanifah, after whom it was occupied by three of his students successively: firstly Zufar ibn Hudhayl; then Abu Yusuf; and then Muhammad ibn al-Hasan (rahimahumullah).

Now, regarding the link between Abu Hanifah and Ja’far as-Sadiq (rahimahumullah), you need to keep in mind the following:


Imam Abu Hanifah (rahimahullah) was born in the year 80 AH

Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (rahimahullah) was born in the year 83 AH

In other words, not only were they contemporaries; but Abu Hanifah (rahimahullah) was 3 years older than Ja’far as-Sadiq (rahimahullah).


Imam Abu Hanifah’s (rahimahullah) education took place in Kufah, in the school originally established by Ibn Mas’ud (radhiyallahu anhu). Like other ‘ulama of his time, he used to go to Hijaz for Hajj, and passing through Madinah, he used to benefit from the knowledge of eminent men of learning, such as the father of Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (rahimahullah), namely Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (rahimahullah). Many of the ahadith he narrates from Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (rahimahullah) are documented in the books of his pupils Abu Yusuf and Muhammad ibn al-Hasan (rahimahimullah)


It is true that Imam Abu Hanifah (rahimahullah) does narrate some ahadith from Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (rahimahullah). But that was according to the habit of the ‘ulama to narrate from even their contemporaries. If that alone is to be taken as evidence that Imam Abu Hanifah “studied” under Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq, then we will be bound to conclude that Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq similarly learnt from people other than his father, such as Ibn Shihab az-Zuhri, ‘Ata ibn Abi Rabah, ‘Urwah ibn Zubaur and Muhammad ibn al-Munkadir. Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq has narrated hadith from all of these men, and even others besides them. (Tahdhib al-Kamal vol. 5 p. 75)


In the year 132 A.H the Abbasids came to power, having ousted the Umayyads. Abu Hanifah (rahimahullah) was then 52 years of age. The Abbasid khalifah Abu Ja’far al-Mansur wanted Abu Hanifah as his chief justice, which post he refused. In order to escape the vengeance of the khalifah, Abu Hanifah (rahimahullah) betook himself to the Hijaz where he spent the next 2 years. It is in terms of this sojourn in the Hijaz that he is reported to have said, “Were it not for the 2 years, Nu’man (i.e. Abu Hanifah) would have been destroyed”. Creative Shi’i imaginations would have us believe that what he actually meant thereby was that it was during this period that he gained his knowledge at the feet of Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (rahimahullah)(Also read: Ja’fari Madhhab: The So -called “Fifth Madhhab” is a Shiite Myth ). The absurdity of this can be seen from the fact that by that time he was already so famous as a man of learning, that he was sought by the khalifah as the chief justice. Apart from that, he was, as already shown, over 50 years of age.


There is a famous story in circulation about Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (rahimahullah)posing certain questions to Imam Abu Hanifah (rahimahullah)regarding the use of Qiyas (analogy). You should be informed that the story appears in this form in Shi’i books such as al-Kafi. In the Sunni literature it appears with significant changes.

First of all, the discussion is not between Abu Hanifah and Ja’far as-Sadiq (rahimahumullah), but between Abu Hanifah and Muhammad al-Baqir (rahimahumullah).

Secondly, the story goes as follows:

Al-Baqir (rahimahullah) asks Abu Hanifah (rahimahullah) if he is the one who is changing the Deen of his (al-Baqir’s) grandfather (Rasulullah sallallahu `alayhi wasallam) through the use of Qiyas (analogy). Abu Hanifah (rahimahullah) denies that he is changing the Deen. In order to demonstrate the falsehood of the rumours, he then goes on his knees in front of Imam al-Baqir (rahimahullah) and uses the comparison between (1) the share of a man and a woman in the spoils of war; (2) fasting and prayer with regard to a woman in menstruation having to pay in the former and not the latter; (3) urine and semen in respect of the method of purification for either one.

After this lucid demonstration of his usage of Qiyas only where there is no textual evidence, and strictly adhering to the authority of text where it exists, Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (rahimahullah) stands up and kisses Imam Abu Hanifah (rahimahullah)on his forehead. (Manaqib Abi Hanifah by al-Kardari, p. 99)

It was only later that the Shi’ah would adapt the story to suit their own particular needs.

________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________

What the Sheikh is doing is rightly refuting the wrong idea that is promoted by Shiahs
that Imam Abu Hanifa (rahmatullah alaih) learned his Islam at the feet of Imam Jafar as Sadiq (ramatullah alaih)
when if fact he learned his understandings of Fiqh according to the teachers of the school of Iraq.

No Sunni says that Jafar as Sadiq (rahmatullah alaih) was Imam Abu Hanifa’s (rahimahullah) main teacher or anything along this line of thought,
but this is not to say that he did not benefit or learn from Imam Jafar as Sadiq (rahimahullah),
however he benefited from him in the way that one scholar may learn from another and still count them amongst their teacher
when one of them is considered as more senior at the time of learning.

Imam Abu Hanifa (rahimahullah) was indeed chronologically older than Imam Jafar as Sadiq (rahimahullah),but he turned to the study of Fiqh as a grown man
whilst Jafar as Sadiq (rahimahullah) was of the Prophet (sallallaahu alaihi wasallam) family and learned it from his infancy.

Because of this Imam abu Hanifa (rahimahullah) came to his peak of Islamic knowledge later in life than Imam Jafar as Sadiq (rahimahullah) – therefore his learning from him and counting him amongst his teachers is no strange thing even though Imam Jafar (rahimahullah) was chronologically a little younger than himself(especially as Imam Jafar as Sadiq (rahmatullah alaih) was from the blessed family of the Prophet (sallallaahu alaihi wasallam)


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