We have previously mentioned the manner in which jurisprudence was codified in the circle of Imām Abū Ḥanīfah. The circle would focus on a single legal matter (mas’alah) for up to three days (or even a month or two in some cases) until the ruling became clear to them.
Imām Abū Ḥanīfah used to command his companions to write them (i.e. the finalised rulings) down. Asad ibn al-Furāt said: “Forty men from amongst the companions of Abū Ḥanīfah used to write down the [school’s rulings in] books. And from amongst the top ten were:
- Abū Yūsuf
- Zufar ibn al-Hudhayl
- Dāwud al-Ṭā’ī
- Asad ibn ʿAmr
- Yūsuf ibn Khālid al-Samanī
- Yaḥyā ibn Zakariyyā ibn Abī al-Zā’idah, and he was the one who wrote them (i.e. the rulings) down for thirty years.
Al-Ṣaymarī narrated: “The first of the people to write down the books of Imām Abū Ḥanīfah was Asad ibn ʿAmr al-Bajalī.” and ʿAbd al-Raḥmān al-Rāzī said, “The first of the people to author books in Kūfah was Yaḥyā ibn Zakariyyā.”
However, Imām Muḥammad ibn al-Ḥasan al-Shaybānī excelled above all of the students of Imām Abū Ḥanīfah in codifying [the school’s rulings] due to the nature of his judgements, understanding, memorisation, and assortment [of the rulings] until his books were regarded as the most reliable in the transmission of the opinions of Abū Ḥanīfah and Abū Yūsuf.
Furthermore, all books of the Ẓāhir al-Riwāyah – which are relied upon to find out the rulings of the Ḥanafī school – are the books of Imām Muḥammad ibn al-Ḥasan al-Shaybānī; and not only that, but his books are served as the [exemplar] material for the other schools of thought [when their scholars transcribed their rulings], as has been mentioned.
Imām Zāhid al-Kawtharī said: “Indeed, the history of jurisprudence bears witness that the books authored by other schools such as al-Mudawwanah, al-Ḥujjah, al-Umm and others were only authored in light of Imām Abū ʿAbd Allāḥ Muḥammad ibn al-Ḥasan al-Shaybānī’s books. His books remained a staple for jurists from every school, who deliberated upon its meanings and benefited from it, until the advent of the era of taqlīd.
This was a mark of respect, an acknowledgement of his superiority over those who preceded him—in terms of the careful nature of expression, clarity in speech, solidity in knowing the sources, meticulousness in deriving rulings and his demonstration of proof in those rulings which many of the scholars of his own generation were perhaps unaware of, let alone those who came after. It excelled in terms [its ability] to expand rulings in terms of its chapter-headings; it clearly demonstrates the expertise of his works in terms of the masterful usage of the Arabic language and his ability to unveil the secrets of legislation.
His works do not betray a hidden desire to be singularly distinguished or to adopt aberrant views, when he engages with the jurists. He does not deceive or mock them when attempting to call the people towards the views he considered authentic; this is in contradistinction to what many ‘jurists’ did. Instead, he speaks on the favour of his teachers upon him and cites their opinions in his books, acknowledging their excellence.
He was not fascinated by his vast knowledge but rather it only increased him in sincerity, and so Allāh rewarded him for this by blessing his knowledge until his books became the staple for books from all the different schools of thought – this is no exaggeration – and the use of his books has continued for centuries.
You can see that the books of no jurist – neither one of his rank nor anyone close to him – have reached us as much as his books have and that is upon the Grace of Allāh that He bestows upon whomever He Wills.
Abū al-Ḥāj, Ṣalāḥ Muḥammad. al-Madkhal al-Mufaṣṣal ilā al-Fiqh al-Ḥanafī
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