For other uses, see Hanafi (disambiguation)

The Hanafi (Arabic: حنفيḤanafī ) 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.

As the predominant school in South Asia, Central Asia, the Caucasus, the Balkans and Turkey, the Hanafi school has the most adherents in the Muslim world. The Barelwi and Deobandi movements, the two largest Islamic movements in South Asia, are both Hanafi.


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. This is largely due to its being adopted as the official madhab of The Abbasid Caliphate, the Ottoman Empire and the Mughal Empire. As such, the influence of the Hanafi school is still widespread in the former lands of these empires.

Sources and methodology

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."


  • Hanafi permits marriage without consulting a wali (guardian).[3]
  • Hanafi permits one who doesn't speak Arabic to pray in another language.[4]
  • Hanafi permits appointing female judges.[5]
  • Hanafi permits eating only aquatic animals which are fish.[6]
  • 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.[7]

See also


Further reading

  • Branon Wheeler, (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).

External links

  • Hanafi Fiqh SunniPath Answers
  • Shariah Board (Hanafi) Audio Fatawa in many languages (free online)
  • Islami Education
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