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The Hanafi (Arabic: حنفي Ḥanafī ) school is one of the four Madhhabs (schools of law) in jurisprudence (Fiqh) within Sunni Islam. The Hanafi madhhab is named after the Persian scholar Abū Ḥanīfa an-Nu‘man ibn Thābit (AD: أبو حنيفة النعمان بن ثابت) (699 - 767CE /80 - 148 AH), a Tabi‘i whose legal views were preserved primarily by his two most important disciples, Abu Yusuf and Muhammad al-Shaybani.
Among the four established Sunni schools of legal thought in Islam, the Hanafi school is one of the oldest and by far, the largest in parts of the world. It has a reputation for putting greater emphasis on the role of reason. The Hanafi school also has many followers among the four major Sunni schools.
The sources from which the Hanafis derive Islamic law, in order of importance and preference, are: the Qur'an, the authentic narrations of the Muslim prophet Muhammad (known as Hadith), consensus of the Muslim community (ijma), analogical reasoning (qiyas), juristic discretion (Istihsan) and the customs of the local population enacting said law (Urf). The development of analogical reason and the scope and boundaries by which it may be used is recognized by the majority of Muslim jurists, but its establishment as a legal tool is the result of the Hanafi school. While it was likely used by some of his teachers, Abu Hanifa is regarded by modern scholarship as the first to formally adopt and institute analogical reason as a part of Islamic law.1 As the fourth Caliph, Ali had transferred the Islamic capital to Kufa, and many of the first generation of Muslims had settled there, the Hanafi school of law based many of its rulings on the prophetic tradition as transmitted by those first generation Muslims residing in Iraq. Thus, the Hanafi school came to be known as the Kufan or Iraqi school in earlier times. Ali and Abdullah, son of Masud formed much of the base of the school, as well as other personalities from the direct relatives of Muhammad from whom Abu Hanifa had studied such as Muhammad al-Baqir, Ja'far al-Sadiq, and Zayd ibn Ali. Many jurists and historians had lived in Kufa including one of Abu Hanifa's main teachers, Hammad ibn Sulayman. According to Abdalhaqq Bewley:2
"Hanafi methodology involved the logical process of examining the Book and all available knowledge of the Sunna and then finding an example in them analogous to the particular case under review so that Allah's deen could be properly applied in the new situation. It thus entails the use of reason in the examination of the Book and Sunna so as to extrapolate the judgments necessary for the implementation of Islam in a new environment. It represents in essence, therefore, within the strict compass of rigorous legal and inductive precepts, the adaptation of the living and powerful deen to a new situation in order to enable it to take root and flourish in fresh soil. This made it an ideal legal tool for the central governance of widely varied populations which is why we find it in Turkey as the legacy of the Uthmaniyya Khilafa and in the sub-continent where it is inherited from the Moghul empire."
- The Hanafi school permits marriage without consulting a wali (guardian).3
- The Hanafi school considers that a woman is not obligated to cover her feet, differing with all other schools.4
- The Hanafi school views that time of Asr prayer starts when length of the shadow is twice as long as its original objects, while all other schools view that Asr prayer starts when length of the shadow is as long as its original object.5
- The Hanafi school permits one who doesn't speak Arabic to pray in another language.6
- The Hanafi school permits appointing female judges.7
- The Hanafi school permits eating fish but not other aquatic animals.8
- The Hanafi school considers admission in a court of law to be divisible; that is, a plaintiff could accept some parts of a defendant's testimony while rejecting other parts. This position is also held by the Maliki school, though it is opposed by the Zahiris and the majority of the Hanbalis.9
*Reuben Levy, Introduction to the Sociology of Islam, pg. 236-237. London: Williams and Norgate, 1931-1933.
*Chiragh Ali, The Proposed Political, Legal and Social Reforms. Taken from Modernist Islam 1840-1940: A Sourcebook, pg. 280. Edited by Charles Kurzman. New York City: Oxford University Press, 2002.
*Mansoor Moaddel, Islamic Modernism, Nationalism, and Fundamentalism: Episode and Discourse, pg. 32. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005.
*Keith Hodkinson, Muslim Family Law: A Sourcebook, pg. 39. Beckenham: Croom Helm Ltd., Provident House, 1984.
*Understanding Islamic Law: From Classical to Contemporary, edited by Hisham Ramadan, pg. 18. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 2006.
*Christopher Roederrer and Darrel Moellendorf, Jurisprudence, pg. 471. Lansdowne: Juta and Company Ltd., 2007.
*Nicolas Aghnides, Islamic Theories of Finance, pg. 69. New Jersey: Gorgias Press LLC, 2005.
*Kojiro Nakamura, "Ibn Mada's Criticism of Arab Grammarians." Orient, v. 10, pgs. 89-113. 1974
- Essay by Abdalhaqq Bewley, "The Recovery of True Islamic Fiqh: An introduction to the work of Shaykh Abdalqadir as-Sufi". (Citation awaiting copy editing).
- Islamic Family Law in A Changing World: A Global Resource Book - Page 232, 2002
- Making Moral Decisions, p 106 John Holm
- Nigeria "Political Shariʼa"?: Human Rights and Islamic Law in Northern Nigeria, Carina Tertsakian - 2004, p 64
- Making Moral Decisions - Page 106, Jean Holm, John Bowker - 2001
- Ṣubḥī Rajab Maḥmaṣānī, Falsafat al-tashrī fī al-Islām, pg. 175. Trns. Farhat Jacob Ziadeh. Leiden: Brill Archive, 1961.
- Branon Wheeler, Applying the Canon in Islam: The Authorization and Maintenance of Interpretive Reasoning in Ḥanafī Scholarship (Albany, SUNY Press, 1996).
- Nurit Tsafrir, The History of an Islamic School of Law: The Early Spread of Hanafism (Harvard, Harvard Law School, 2004) (Harvard Series in Islamic Law, 3).