Al-Madinah Al-Munawwarah, the Radiant has shed its light and knowledge on thousands of our illustrious predecessors. Their heritage and scholarly works form a deep pool of learning we are blessed to dip into for guidance, understanding and inspiration. By reading about the lives and qualities of these pious seekers, Insha’Allah our Iman can be on the increase, with hearts willing to sacrifice and reform all that is of no benefit in this world and our Akhirah.
Imam Abu Hanifah Rahmatullah alaihi made several journeys to Makkah and Madinah throughout his life, initially taking lessons from several Tabi’in, namely Sulaiman Rahmatullah alaihi who had been a slave of Lady Maimunah RadhiAllahu anha, and Salimibn Abdullah who was the grandson of Umar ibn Khattab RadhiAllahu anhu. His lifelong fondness for the company of scholars and for participating in learned gatherings was inborn in him. He became so famous that wherever he went thousands of people gathered around him for interviews, discussions and debates.
The noble father of the venerable Abu Hanifah, the Supreme Imam and founder of our Islamic Law, was the venerable Thabit, may Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala have mercy on him. Once in his bachelor days, he was making his ritual ablution by a stream when he saw an apple bobbing towards him on the water. He picked up the apple and took a bite. As soon as his teeth had broken the skin, he said to himself: ‘What am I doing, biting something that does not belong to me without the owner’s permission?’ Then he started walking back up the stream hoping to find the tree the apple was from.
At length he came upon a tree overhanging the water and, seeing that it bore similar apples, he decided that the one that he had bitten must have come from it. He therefore called to a person working in the orchard: “Sir, three hours ago I found this apple downstream and I took a bite, intending to eat it. But then, as I could not bear the thought of eating something that did not belong to me, I walked all this way to return it to its rightful owner. I guess this apple must have come from your tree. Now let me give you something in exchange for it, or else pardon this trespass of mine.” Hearing this request, the owner of the orchard, whose name was Salih, decided to put the man to the test: “No,” he said, “Impossible! I shall not let you off…. How dare you bite my property without my permission?” Receiving the reply: “What must I do to earn your pardon?” the venerable Salih said: “I will pardon you after you work beside me in this orchard for three years.” By this means he intended to discover whether he was dealing with a pious hypocrite, a stupid Sufi wanting to appear devout, or with a perfect man who would not eat another’s property because he genuinely feared Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala
That was what he wanted to find out by making such a proposal, and the venerable Thabit responded without hesitation: “Yes, I shall work!” He was as good as his word, and worked out the three years. At the end of this time, the venerable Salih said to Thabit: “Even though you have completed the three years, I still have you accountable for that apple. There is only one way to settle that account: I have a daughter, whose name is ‘Abidatu-l’Azhar. She has neither sight nor hearing, and can move neither hand nor foot. If you will take this daughter of mine in marriage, all the apples in the orchard, and all the apple trees shall be yours. Where could I find a conscientious son-in-law like you? If I were to die, who would look after the poor girl in her condition? I could not entrust her to anyone but a person fed on lawful milk, such as you. You are religious, conscientious. Come, give me your reply and we can settle our account.” “I shall take her!” answered Thabit.
The wedding was arranged, with great festivities. When the marriage had been contracted, Thabit entered the bridal chamber. Awaiting him there, dressed in her bridal clothes, he found a ravishing beauty in perfect health. Out he rushed, crying to his father-in law: "This marriage is invalid. You told me that your daughter was blind, but the girl in there has eyes like a gazelle. You told me she was crippled, but she stands there like a cypress." To this the venerable Salih replied: “I spoke to you metaphorically. When I called her blind, I meant blind to what is unlawful. When I called her deaf, I meant deaf to bad words and evil speech. When I said she could neither move hand or foot, I meant that she touched nothing unlawful and never went to places Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala disapproved of. She is your wife, your lawful spouse. She is a worthy partner for you.
The venerable Thabit married that virtuous lady, who became the mother of Abu Hanifah. While still a child the latter recited the Holy Qur’an in three days. When he came home happily to tell his mother: ‘I read ten parts in one day, and got through the entire Qur’an in three days,” the venerable ‘Abidatu-l’Azhar said: “ My son, if your father had not bitten the apple without permission, you would have finished in one day!” May the mercy of Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala be upon her….and Abu Hanifah Rahamatullah alaihi.
Stories and sayings from Imam Abu Hanifah’s life.
One day a man came to the Imam and said: “I kept some money somewhere in my house, but do not remember exactly where. I now need the money badly, please tell me how I can find it.” “Brother,” protested the Imam, “I do not find this kind of problem mentioned in Fiqh. Why have you come to me for advice?” But on further entreaty by the man he advised him to pray throughout the night. The man accordingly went home and started praying. He had prayed for a little while when he suddenly remembered where he had put the money. So he ran to the Imam and told him of the efficacy of his advice. “Of course,” commented the Imam, “Shaytan could not bear the idea of your praying for the whole night, so he made you remember at once where you had put your money. However you ought to have prayed throughout the night by way of giving thanks to Allah.
One day when the Imam arrived at his shop, his servant put out some lengths of cloth and by way of a good augury said, “May Allah grant us paradise!” The Imam started weeping and wept so much that his whole mantle became wet. Then he told the servant to shut the shop and went out covering his face with his handkerchief. When he came to the shop the following day he said to the servant, “Who are we to wish for Paradise?” It will be enough if Allah spares us His wrath.” Umar Faruq used to say similarly, “If on the Day of Judgement I am neither punished nor rewarded, I shall be quite happy.
The Imam was tender hearted and was greatly disturbed by other people’s pain and sorrow. One day while he was teaching in a mosque somebody came with the news that a certain man had fallen from the roof of his house. He cried out loud, left the class and ran barefoot to the man’s house and attended upon him until he had fully recovered. But as distressed as he was with other people’s sufferings, he bore his own with an equanimity which astonished people. Through all the persecution to which he was subjected by the Caliph and his officers he never wavered for a moment. Patience and steadfastness were his constant companions.
There was a merry cobbler living in the Imam’s neighbourhood. After his days work he would come home with meat and wine and entertain his friends till all hours of the night. They would eat kababs, which he himself would cook and drink his wine with him. Happily drunk he would sing a couplet: “People have let me go to waste, who would have been useful to them in battle and siege.” The Imam, who used to spend the greater part of the night in prayer would hear his singing, but never objected to it out of neighbourly consideration and his habitual kindness. One night the cobbler was arrested and locked up. On the following morning the Imam mentioned to his friends that he had not heard the cobbler singing in the night. They informed him of what had happened. He immediately proceeded to the governor, Isa ibn Musa, who was the cousin of Caliph Mansur, and distinguished among the Abbasids for sagacity and bravery. On being informed that Imam Abu Hanifah was coming to see him he sent a number of courtiers to receive him, with orders that he be escorted on horseback right up to his courtyard. When asked why he had taken the trouble to come to the governor, who said he could have come to Imam Abu Hanifah, he replied, “I come to ask for the release of the cobbler, who is my neighbor. Isa immediately sent for orders for the cobbler’s release. As they walked home the Imam said, “Well my friend, have I let you go to waste?” The cobbler replied, “No sir, you have proved a very good neighbor.” From that day on he gave up his drunken ways and joined the Imam’s classes, and in due course attained such scholarship that he came to be known as a faqih.
His piety and devotion knew no bounds. Praying was a delight to him and he used to engage in it with great gusto and sincerity, and he was famous for this. Dhahabi writes: “Accounts of his piety and devotion have reached a degree of tawatur (an unbroken chain of uncontradicted narrations).” While saying his prayers or reciting the Qur’an he would be so overcome by feeling that he would start weeping and go on doing so for hours. Ibrahim Basri relates that one morning while he was saying his prayers together with the Imam, the latter recited the Ayat:
Do not think that Allah is forgetful of the conduct of the iniquitous.
And in reciting it he wept so much that his whole body shook with sobs. Za’idah relates that having an important question to consult the Imam about, he joined the Esha prayer with him and waited for him to finish his nafls. But the Imam when in reciting from the Qur’an he reached the Ayat:
Save us from the torture of Hell’s hot wind
He went on repeating it till the morning.
On another occasion he spent the whole night weeping while repeating the Ayat:
Judgement Day is the sinners promised hour and it is a difficult and unpleasant hour.
May Allah Ta’ala be pleased with him and with us.
All good is from Allah Ta’ala whereas mistakes are from this humble speck. May Allah Ta’ala Bless all readers, bringing you all closer to Him and His Rasul SallAllahu alaihi wasallam. May He accept our humble efforts and grant us the capacity to be good and do good. Ameen.