Different Interpretations of Abū Ḥanīfa: the Ḥanafī Jurists and the Ḥanafī Theologians

ULUM Journal of Religious Inquiries 1 (2):259-279 (2018)
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Since the spread of Islam in Transoxiana (Mā-warāʾ al-Nahr), religious understandings based on the opinions of Abū Ḥanīfa (d. 150/767) have always been dominant in the region. Therefore, it was not possible for other understandings, which may seem to be opposite to Abū Ḥanīfa’s opinions, to be influential in the region. That Najjāriyya and Karrāmiyya could not be perennial in the region may be an example of this case. Similarly, Māturīdiyya, which benefited from Abū Ḥanīfa’s treatises of creed and his rational method, could not adequately get the support of people at the time of Abū Manṣūr al-Māturīdī (d. 333/944) and Abū l-Muʿīn al-Nasafī (d. 508/1114) because the school was seen as an opposite approach to the prevailing imaginations about Abū Ḥanīfa. Moreover, the Ḥanafī jurists (Ḥanafī fuqahāʾ), who were influential in not only people but also bureaucracy, and the Ḥanafī theologians (Ḥanafī mutakallimūn), who followed al-Māturīdī’s theological method , did not come to terms on their interpretations of Abū Ḥanīfa. The Ḥanafī jurists who benefited mostly from juridical sources and manāqibworks were thinking different from the Ḥanafī theologians who relied on the treatises of Abū Ḥanīfa on such issues as the legitimacy of Kalām as a scholarly discipline, the responsibility of people of fatra(ahl al-fatra: people having no access to the message of Islam), and the creation of faith (īmān). The Ḥanafī jurists took different stance on various issues and argued that faith is not created; the informative (khabarī) attributes of God (ṣifāt Allāh) mentioned in the Qurʾān cannot be interpreted (taʾwīl); no one can be held accountable for faith only based on the intellect unless the message of the Prophet reaches to her or him; the people of fatracannot be responsible for faith. They also stated that Abū Ḥanīfa broke his relationship with the theological (kalāmī) issues in the last years of his life. Although these jurists accepted Abū Ḥanīfa’s distinction between faith and deeds and his view of the stability of one’s faith without increasing or decreasing they condemned theological discussions on these issues by going beyond the limits of the treatise of creed. While the Ḥanafī theologians known as the Ḥanafī scholars of Samarqand who adopted the religious views of Imām al-Māturīdī of Samarqand acknowledged the intellect and considered it as an independent source in religion, the Ḥanafī jurists known as the Ḥanafī scholars of Bukhārāauthorized the intellect only in understanding the transmission (naql) and its interpretation. The different opinions of the two groups can be seen clearly on the question of the religious responsibility of the people of fatra. When we look at the debates regarding Kalām and the Islamic law, we can see that the difference between these two cities (Samarqand and Bukhārā) stems from their methodological views on the epistemological values of the reason (ʿaql) and the transmission (tradition). Māturīdiyya is a school of theology established by the Ḥanafī theologians who upheld the necessity and significance of Kalām. It is possible to say that the Ḥanafī jurists did not contribute to the establishment and systematisation of this school; rather, they tried to prevent it. Our findings show that the Ḥanafī jurists who lived in Transoxiana differ from each other because of their different understandings of Abū Ḥanīfa. In the historical process extending today it is evident that the religious views of the Ḥanafī jurists and their interpretation of Abū Ḥanīfa have been prominent and effective, not that of Māturīdiyya, which is the understanding of the Ḥanafī theologians.

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Abdullah Demir
Ankara Yıldırım Beyazıt University


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