In a number of reports found in the biographies of al-Khatib al-Baghdadi and Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr (rahimahullah), Imam Abu Hanifah (rahimahullah) succintly defines the beliefs of the Ahl al-Sunnah wa l-Jama’ah in the context of the different heresies of the time. I will mention five of these narrations below without any analyses of the chains as the multiple corresponding transmissions corroborate one another so there is no need to assess individual chains. Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr’s reports come from his transmission of a book on the virtues of Imam Abu Hanifah (rahimahullah) collected by Yusuf ibn Ahmad ibn Yusuf ibn al-Dakhil al-Saydalani Abu Ya‘qub al-Makki rahimahullah (d. 388), known as “Ibn al-Dakhil,” who was referred to as “the muhaddith of Makkah” and the “transmitter of of Makkah” by al-Dhahabi (rahimahullah).
1. Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr transmitted from Ibn al-Dakhil with the chain: Ahmad ibn al-Hasan al-Hafiz – Muhammad ibn al-Fadl ibn al-‘Abbas – Muhammad ibn Salamah – ‘Ali ibn Habib – Abu ‘Ismah Nuh ibn Abi Maryam: “I asked Abu Hanifah: ‘Who are the Ahl al-Sunnah wa l-Jama’ah?’ He said: ‘The one who does not ponder about [the nature of the essence and attributes of] Allah (Great and Glorious), and he does not anathematise anybody because of a sin, and he gives precedence to Abu Bakr and ‘Umar [over all the Sahabah], and he maintains allegiance with ‘Ali and ‘Uthman, and he does not forbid bottled nabidh, and he wipes over leather socks.’ ( al-Intiqa’ , p. 314)
2. Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr transmitted from Ibn al-Dakhil with the chain: Abu ‘Ali Ahmad ibn ‘Uthman al-Asbahani – Abu Muhammad ibn Abi ‘Abd Allah – Dawud ibn Abi l-‘Awwam – Abu al-‘Awwam – Yahya ibn Nasr: “ Abu Hanifah would favour Abu Bakr and ‘Umar, and he would love ‘Ali and ‘Uthman, and he believed in predestination, the good of it and the bad of it, and he did not speak regarding [the nature of the essence and attributes of] Allah (Great and Glorious) at all, and he would wipe his leather socks, and he was from the most knowledgeable of his people in jurisprudence and the most pious of them.” Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi also narrated it with his chain.
3. Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr narrates from Ibn al-Dakhil with the chain: Muhammad ibn ‘Ali al-Simnani – Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn al-Harawi – ‘Ali ibn Khashram – ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn al-Muthanna: “ Abu Hanifah would prefer Abu Bakr and ‘Umar, and then he would say: ‘Ali and ‘Uthman, and then after this he would say: whoever was earlier and more pious he is superior.”
4. Muhammad ibn Hafs al-Marwazi – ‘Abd al-‘Aziz ibn Hatim – Khalaf ibn Yahya – Hammad ibn Abi Hanifah: I heard Abu Hanifah say: “The congregation (jama’ah) is that you prefer Abu Bakr and ‘Umar and ‘Ali and ‘Uthman, and you do not demean any of the companions of Allah’s Messenger (sallallaahu alaihi wasallan), and you pray [janazah] over one who says “there is no deity but Allah” and behind one who says “there is no deity but Allah” and you wipe the two leather socks and you consign authority to Allah and you leave discussion about [the nature of the essence and attributes of] Allah (Glorious is His Magnificence). ” (Intiqa p. 315)
5. Al-Khatib narrates with the chain: Hafiz Abu Nu’aym al-Asbahani – Abu Bakr ‘Abd Allah ibn Yahya al-Talhi – ‘Uthman ibn ‘Ubayd Allah al-Talhi – Isma’il ibn Muhammad al-Talhi – Sa’id ibn Salim al-Basri: I heard Abu Hanifah say: “I met ‘Ata’ in Makkah and I asked him about something. He asked: ‘Where are you from?’ I said: ‘From the people of Kufa.’ He said: ‘You are from the people of the village who split the religion into sects?’ I said: ‘Yes.’ He said: ‘Then from which of the groups are you?’ I said: ‘From those who do not insult the predecessors and believe in predestination and do not anathematise anybody because of a sin .’ So ‘Ata’ said to me: ‘You have recognised [the truth] so stay firm [on it].’” ( Tarikh Baghdad 15:454)
The doctrinal opinions found in these statements are further corroborated by Imam al-Tahawi’s (rahimahullah) transmission of the beliefs of Imam Abu Hanifah (rahimahullah) in his famous creedal formula famously known as al-‘Aqidat al-Tahawiyyah , and by al-Fiqh al-Akbar which is either the work of Imam Abu Hanifah (rahmatullah alaih) himself or at least accurately represents his views on beliefs based on an early account from him. As shown in earlier posts, Imam Abu Hanifa (rahimahullah) had probably excelled in a primitive form of proto-Kalam, and he made very specific and nuanced conclusions regarding the heretical beliefs of the Jahmiyyah on the one hand and the Mushabbihah led by Muqatil ibn Sulayman on the other. It is no wonder therefore that he is believed to not only be the founder of a law school but also a school of doctrinal theology. May Allah bless the Imam for this tremendous service and bestow on him abundant rewards on behalf of the ummah who are in his debt. Aameen