His Life, Legal Method and Legacy
Author(s): Mohammad Akram Nadwi
Reviewed by: M. Mansur Ali, Cambridge Muslim College, UK
This very short, albeit highly erudite, work of hagiography is written by a scholar who has engaged with the study of Abu Hanifah and his legacy for a very long time. By using only the most authentic reports found in the classical Islamic prosopographical collections, original Arabic and Urdu sources and core Hanafi legal texts, the author endeavours to understand why and how Abu Hanifah came to inherit the appellation al-Imam al-A[zam (the greatest one worthy to be followed), an epithet which is worthy of him today as it was in his days.
The book is written in the typical format of a classical Islamic biography work. The author discusses Abu Hanifah’s life, his life style, his erudition and probity, his piety and propriety, his scholarship, his teachers and his students. He talks about him as a jurist, theologian and Hadith scholar. The impact of Abu Hanifah’s fiqh and its status in the modern age is discussed in details. All of these discussions take place within the framework of the overall development of Islamic law in general. The quality of the book is further enhanced by the use of diagrams and an annotated reading list. Given the plethora of sources found on Abu Hanifah’s life in English in the form of monographs, articles, introductory sections to translated classical texts, translations of Arabic and Urdu books, audio and visual recordings and the internet, the question that looms on this reviewer’s mind is: what is the need for yet another biography of Abu Hanifah?