How the Ḥanafi Madhab spread

Translation: Taher Noor


[Sheikh ‘Abd al-Raḥmān bin Yaḥyā al-Mu’allimi, may Allah have mercy on him, in an address to Muḥammad Zāhid al-Kawthari Hanafi said:]

Indeed, we are well acquainted with how your Madhab spread.


Due to the attachment of the people with your Madhab since it lured them to achieving leadership without having to tire themselves in seeking aḥādīth, by hearing and memorising them and researching their narrators, hidden defects of narrations [‘illal] and other than that. When they saw that it was enough for a person to gain an easier route than that [i.e. researching hadith] then he can act on his own ideas, and if he does that then he can gain leadership.


Your associates[1] had taken the position of ‘Judge of judges,’[2] and they were eager not to employ judges in any town from the Islamic lands except those who were of their same views. So the people were keen to take positions as judges, and so these judges had run in spreading this Madhab across entire countries.


The Miḥnah[3] was at the hands of your associates and it continued through the caliphate of al-Ma’mūn, the caliphate of al-Mu’taṣim and the caliphate of al-Wāthiq. And the power of the entire state was under their, the Ḥanafis, direction. So they went out in circulating their Madhab in ‘Itiqād [belief] and in Fiqh [legal rulings] in every region. And they conceived malice from anyone who opposed them in Fiqh, so they would target them with different types of harm. And as such they perceived a threat from Abū Mus-hir ‘Abd al-‘A’lā bin Mus-hir, the scholar of the Levant and the successor of the Fiqh of al-Awzā’ī, and Imām Aḥmad ibn Ḥanbal, the flag-bearer of the Fiqh of ḥādīth, and Abū Ya’qūb al-Buyūṭī, the successor of ash-Shāfi’ee and ibn ‘Abd al-Ḥakam and other Mālikis from Egypt. And in the book ‘Qudāt Misr,’ [judges of Egypt], a group of whom they did the same to in Egypt, and in this the poet said, in praise of your judges in Egypt:

Indeed, I rendered the knowledge to its students

And I transgressed in so stubbornly and it did not dissipate

So I advocated the saying of Abū Ḥanīfah as guidance

And Muhammad’s and Yūsuf’s as mentioned

And the boy Abū Layla and the saying of their leaders,

Breathing out Qiyās, to my brother pilgrims looking

And I smashed the view of al-Shāfi’ee and his companions

And the sayings of ibn ‘Ulyah weren’t deserted

I stuck on their straw-mat views and it didn’t suffice

That the straw-mat was seen, so if it attends to you then publicise it

And the Mālikis, after mentioning the rife

I disappointed them as if they are no longer remembered.

Then he mentioned his subjugation of the scholars of Egypt to say the Qur’ān was created and other than that. Look up ‘Qudāt Misr,’ p. 452.


[The Ḥanafi Madhab spread due to] The overwhelming number of non-Arabs in the state and their sectarianism towards your Madhab due to their nationalism and due to what is in your Madhab in terms of concessions and tricks.


Non-Arab states followed as such, so they were of this type (too).

Your associates began propaganda which had no comparison to its like, and upon this track, they made it permissible to lie up until it included lying upon the Messenger ﷺ as is found in the books of Manāqib[4].

al-Mu’allimi, ‘Abd al-Raḥmān., al-Tankeel bi ma fi Ta’neeb al-Kawthari min al-Abāṭīl (with Tahqeeq of al-Albāni), 4th edn., Riyādh, Saudi Arabia, Maktabah al-Ma’ārif lil Nashr wa al-Tawzī’, 1431 AH [2010], vol. 1, pp. 260-261.

[1] The first of whom being Abū Yūsuf Ya’qūb bin Ibrāhīm al-Ansāri, the associate of Abū Ḥanīfah al-Nu’mān bin Thābit bin Zūṭā bin Marzubān to whom the Ḥanafi Madhab is ascribed today.

[2] A juristic position first established by the ‘Abbasid empire and first held by Abū Yūsuf.

[3] An historical period of religious persecution of Islamic scholars, which lead to the imprisonment and torture of many scholars such as Aḥmad ibn Ḥanbal.

[4] Manāqib, lit. virtues. Books regarding the virtues of the Ḥanafi Madhab have historically contained many fabricated narrations attributed to the Messenger ﷺ in support of their Madhab. These also include many baseless exaggerations regarding Abū Ḥanifa such as the romanticized story of his parent’s marriage, or him praying Fajr with the Wudu of ‘Isha for fourty years or him having recited the entire Qur’ān in one single Rak’ah of the prayer. The Messenger ﷺ was more pious and God-fearing than Abū Ḥanifa yet he unrestrictedly prohibited to read the Qur’an in less than 3 days (Tirmidhi #2949), and he advised an individual who wished to stay awake all night to pray that this is not from his Sunnah (Muslim #1401).

Note:  The above image does not present a true representation of which Madhabs are followed around the world till date e.g. large populations of Non-Ḥanafis exist in the Indian subcontinent under the title of Ahl al-Hadith [combined understanding of the methodological Madhabs of Mālik, Shāfi’ee and Aḥmad] who do not ascribe to Abu Ḥanifa. Likewise, this modern map is by no means anyway representative of the historic distribution of such followings, this is since countries such as the Persian empire [modern day Iran], Egypt, the Levant, Khorasan and India had used to be predominantly Ahl al-Hadith until their subjugation by foreign powers such as the Safawids in Persia who caused en masse forced conversions to their current religion today, and likewise the ‘Abbasid and ‘Ottoman empires in the Middle East and Muhammad Ghondalwi in India. This image neither displays the demographics of the Muslim diaspora in Europe, the Americas and most countries in which Muslims are a minority. Please refer to Rihlatu ibn Jubair for more information.

Note 2: Sheikh Muḥammad Nasiruddīn al-Albāni tacitly approved the statements in the above extract in his footnotes.