The Hanafi (Arabic الحنفي) school is one of the four Madhhab (schools of law) in jurisprudence (Fiqh) within Sunni Islam, the other three schools of thought being Shafi'i, Maliki, and Hanbali. The Hanafi madhhab is named after the Iraqi scholar Abu Hanifa an-Nu‘man ibn Thābit (Arabic: أبو حنيفة النعمان بن ثابت) (699 - 767CE /89 - 157AH), 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 the oldest. It has a reputation for putting greater emphasis on the role of reason and being more liberal than the other three schools. The Hanafi school also has the most followers among the four major Sunni schools. (Both the Ottoman Empire and the Mughal Empire were Hanafi so the Hanafi school is still widespread in their former lands). Today, the Hanafi school is predominant among the Sunnis of Central Asia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, China as well as in Iraq, Mauritius, Turkey, Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia in the Balkans and the Caucasus. It is also followed in large numbers in other parts of Muslim world.
Map of Muslim world, Hanafi (in green) is predominant in Turkey, North Middle East, Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent
Sources and methodology
The sources from which the law is derived, in order of importance and preference, are: the Qur'an, the authentic narrations of the Prophet (Hadith), Consensus (ijma), and analogical reasoning (qiyas), qiyas only being applied if direct material cannot be found in the Qur'an or Hadith. As the fourth Caliph, 'Ali, had transferred the Islamic capital to Kufa, and many of the companions of the Prophet had settled there, the Hanafi School had based many of its rulings on Prophetic narrations (Hadith) transmitted by companions residing in Iraq, thus it came to be known as the Kufan or Iraqi school in earlier times. Hence 'Ali ibn Abi Talib and 'Abdullah ibn Mas'ud formed much of the base of the school, as well as other personalities from the household of the Prophet with whom Abu Hanifa had studied such as Muhammad al-Baqir, Ja'far al-Sadiq, and Zayd ibn 'Ali. Many jurists and Hadith transmitters had lived in Kufa including one of Abu Hanifa's main teachers, Hammad ibn Sulayman.
According to Abdalhaqq Bewley:
"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 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."
Some distinctive opinions of Abu Hanifa and the Hanafi School
It is prohibited or disliked to eat some forms of non-fish seafood based on the hadith of Muhammad : "Two types of dead meat and two types of blood have been made lawful for your consumption [without being slaughtered]: fish and locust, liver and spleen". (Reported by Ahmed and Ibn Majah).
Except for at Hajj, every salah (5-times daily prayer) needs to be made in its regular time. (Some non-Hanafi scholars allow a person who is travelling to adjust certain prayer times for convenience).
The beginning of the time for asr prayer (and the end of the time for zhur prayer) is later than in the other schools (roughly when shadows are twice the length of their objects).
A 6th daily prayer called witr is wajib/required (But not at the same level of obligation as the 5-daily prayers).
Abu Hanifa, taking a literal view (harfiyyah), held that "wine" (خمر/Khamr in Quranic/classical Arabic), i.e. the fermented juice of dates or grapes, was absolutely prohibited. Hence he thought it was permissible to drink small non-intoxicating amounts of other alcoholic beverages (e.g. made from honey or grains). Later Hanafi scholars tend to rule that all alcoholic beverages are prohibited regardless of source.
One is allowed to pray in clothing made of dog's skin [which is considered filth by Islamic Sharia hence affects the validity of prayer]
Bleeding can break one's wudu
Merely touching a member of the opposite sex does not break one's wudu.
A Muslim is allowed to work in construction of building thereof, whose wages considered lawful by Hanafis.
All followers of the Hanafi school of thought hold that the Qur'an is uncreated and that Shari'ah law is divine law, compatible for all times and that it is haraam to attempt to change or modify Shari'ah.
All four schools are respected and in fact the differences between the schools are considered a blessing. There are cross-pollination of ideas and debates between the four schools in respect to each school's understanding of Islam. All four schools are respected as valid legal schools of Sunni Islam that have arrived through their analysis of the Qur'an and Sunnah. Muslims are free to follow any of the four schools; and a member who is on the level of mujtahid of one school can choose to follow the way of thought of another school on any particular subject, if that reasoning makes more sense to him/her else the person is considered astray.
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