The Epistle of Abu Hanifa to Uthman al-Batti
It has been argued that in the history of Islamic jurisprudence, Abu Hanifa has been considered as a man worthy of considerable praise. This was attributed to his independent method of study who was praised for his honesty and his ability to steadfastly impart knowledge and a noble heart. It was put forward that he built up his vast knowledge from his personal values as well as his friendships with scholars who taught him their methods of investigation and debate. Abu Hanifa was said to have existed between 767 CE and 148 AH and is credited as the creator of the Sunni Hanfi school of Islamic jurisprudence (Williams 142). His hometown was Kufa in Iraq in a family that claimed descendency from Prophet Muhammad’s companion Salman al-Farsi. Abu Hanifa was gained a reputation as one of the Muslims who played a significant role in Islamic thought and philosophy. Moreover, Abu Hanifa was key in the splitting of the Islamic community to the two factions of Sunni and Shia. Abu Hanifa was also considered as one of the foremost jurists of the period within which he existed (Williams 142).
In Abu Hanifa’s letter to Uthman al-Batti, he emphasizes that having a clear insight on matters to do with religion is superior and important than acquiring wisdom in matters that relate to knowledge (Williams 142). In this regard, he states that having faith is more significant than reading and acquiring knowledge through certain works. Note that in Islam is not the same as Christianity as it is not a strict rule and regulation to follow but rather states the guidelines that a group believes is true. Abu Hanifa also emphasizes on fear and obedience towards God since He has the capacity to not only punish deeds but to compensate for any weaknesses evident in the human nature (Williams 142).
Moreover, it is indeed possible for true believers to make mistakes that might set them apart from God (Williams 143). The right guidelines for true believers to follow is not only to be found in man’s own thinking in clearly following the rules and guidelines found in the Qur’an and Prophet Muhammad(Williams 143).
Abu Hanifa argues that any individual is a true believer but is not sure whether where God can be found is one without religious faith or beliefs. This is especially when one considers that God cannot only be in one place and even though heaven or the Ka’ba is considered as his “House” he cannot be contained within the heavens (Williams 143). Moreover, Abu Hanifa argued that since faith must be valued over all other works, it is therefore important for an individual to avoid saying that other Muslims have abandoned their religious faith as evidenced by this individual’s actions. He also argues that even though there can be no greater sin than engaging in fighting and shedding of blood of others one must continue praying that God will provide this individual with blessings and peace (Williams 143).
Abu Hanifa also states that no one can judge our actions except God himself. Indeed an individual who strives to obey God in all instances will go to paradise. However, an individual who abandons his faith and refuses to engage in works that seek to serve the Lord can only be considered as an infidel and is therefore destined for hell (Williams 143). Consider there are believing sinners, individuals with the requisite faith but who go against the laws of God. In this regard, Abu Hanifa argues that it is solely up to God to decide whether to forgive or to punish him. As he puts it only God knows to decisively deal with the quarrels that might arise among the companions of the messenger of God (Williams 143).
Abu Hanifa based his arguments both from the Qur’an as well as the Sunna as he argues that it is important for all individuals to be careful in any opinions they might make about others. He argues:
“May God preserve us both in obedience. When one errs, the other will remember” [2:282] and “I [Moses] did it then when I was among the erring” (Williams 143)
He argues that the above statements provide the clearest proof in encouraging individuals from to refrain from making harsh judgments about each other. As Abu Hanifa puts it:
“Do you not say “a wicked believer,” “a sinful believer” “a trespassing believer”” a cruel believer”? Shall one be rightly guided in wickedness and trespass as one is rightly guided in faith?”(Williams 144).
He further argues that God does not remember old infidelities and wrongs done against Him and cautions scholars in the Qur’an from believing this as true (Williams 144). Moreover, Abu Hanifa argued that if an individual is deemed as a faithful servant of his faith, no action can remove this reputation. Abu Hanifa also puts forward the notion that quarrels that might arise between people of faith can only be solved by God. As he put it:
“And I say about the quarrels of the Companions of the Messenger of God,” God knows best.” This is not any different from your Uthman al-Batti] own opinion about for their matter is just like that of the Companions of the Prophet: A thing decided by tradition and insight” (Williams 144)
He also argues that is indeed hard to judge believers as having acted contrary to the set down beliefs especially with regard to war and fighting (William 144). This is because several justifications are put forward for why individuals engage in war. Indeed he argued that there can be no leader who is considered to be more faithful in his beliefs and actions than the other which then means that the reasons for going to war depend on one’s thinking. As he put it:
“Ali was called “Commander of the faithful,” and “Umar as well: Commander of the faithful. Now would you say that meant “Commander of those Who Obey All the Laws”? “Ali referred to the Muslims of Syria with whom he was as war as “people of faith,” in writing about it. Were they rightly guided when he fought them? The Companions of the Messenger of God fought each other, so both groups could not have been rightly guided in their acts.”(Williams 144)
This was yet another call to ensure that Believers of the faith refrained from making judgments about other believers and thereby making themselves seem more superior in their faith. (Williams 144)
Abu Hanifa argued that any believer who did not know that God was omnipresent could not then claim to be a true believer. Moreover, Abu Hanifa argued that having faith and constantly striving to follow God’s laws was more important than taking part in works that are claimed to be religious. He further claims that only God knows our thoughts and therefore Abu Hanifa argued that believers should at all times resist from making any claims that other Muslims have deviated from their faith. He further emphasized that the wars that occurred between the companions of the Prophets were terrible, only God could judge them.
Williams, John. A. The Word of Islam. Houston, Texas: University of Texas Press, 1994:142-144