Then, he sat at the feet of Abu Abdullah Ibn-ul Mubarak and Hamid bid-Sulaiman. Possessor of remarkable memoiy, Abu Hanifa was endowed with remarkable powers of reasoning and deduction. He was, indeed, an analytical mind. He had clarity of mind and great argumentative talent less; and was a great theoretical systematizer.
Soon he was able to establish his own school of jurisprudence. He was given the title of “upholder of private judgment” and the appellation the “the Great Imam”. However, it would be an injustice to Abu Hanifa if one were to say that he did not consider traditions as a legitimate source of law. But he did not readily accept any and every sundry tradition. He applied to them rigid tests.
The outstanding contribution that Abu Hanifa made to the science of law was that he laid down the theories and principles of Muslim jurisprudence, and truly he was called the founder of Muslim jurisprudence.
He reinforced the doctrine of the kiyas and gave it new dimensions. He was also the propounder of istihsan (equity). Abu Hanifa held the view that the ijma was valid in every age, and at the same time, did not ignore the role of custom and usage in the formation of law.
Though, with other jurists, he accorded preference to the Koran and the Sunna as the main sources of law. He, however, did not minimize the importance of the ijma and the Kiyas. Abu Hanifa, with the assistance of forty of his disciples, embarked on the mission of codification of law, and he did succeed in it, but little of the code had survived.
Schacht sums up his achievement thus: “His legal thought is not only more broadly based and more thoroughly applied than that of his older contemporaries but technically more highly developed, more circumspect, and more refined. A high degree of reasoning, often somewhat ruthless and unbalanced, with little regard to practice, is typical of Abu Hanifa’s legal thought as a whole”.
Abu Hanifa’s two disciples, Abu Yusuf and Muhammad Ash-Shaybani, eminent in their own right, further developed the legal thought of their master. Abu Yusuf put more reliance on traditions than his master had done. He tried to bridle the unrestrained reasoning of Abu Hanifa.
But he changed his opinions so frequently that he exposed himself to the accusations of being inconsistent. Shaybani was the disciple of both Abu Hanifa and Abu Yusuf. He emphasized tradition even much more than Abu Yusuf did.
But on many an occasion, he used some or the other tradition as a convenient device in support of his own systematic reasoning. Thus, under the cloak of traditions, what he propounded was strict analogy or systematic reasoning. In the words of Schacht, “Systematic reasoning of a high quality is the feature most typical of Shaybani’s technical legal thought.
Shaybani was the great systematizer of the Kufan doctrine. He was also a prolific writer, and his voluminous works, in which he consciously continued the doctrinal tradition of Abu Hanifa and Abu Yusuf, became the reallying-point of the Hanafi School which emerged from the ancient school of Kufa.
The Hanafi School is well represented in Iraq, its home country, as well as in Syria, it spread far and wide to Afghanistan, to the sub-continent of India and Turkish Central Asia. It enjoyed the protection of the Turkish Seljukid as well as of the Ottoman Turks.
In fact, it was exclusive religion of the Ottoman Empire. Even today, in Lebanon, the Soviet Union and China, majority of the Muslims are followers of the Hanafi School.