The Hanafi Madhab

Scholar Abu Hanifa an-Nu‘man ibn Thābit

Decorative Lines

The Hanafi (Arabic: حنفي‎ Ḥanafī ) 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 Abu Hanifa an-Nu‘man ibn Thābit (Hijri: أبو حنيفة النعمان بن ثابت) (767 – 699CE /80 – 148 AH), a Tabi‘i whose legal views were preserved primarily by his two most important disciples, Abu Yusuf and Muhammad al-Shaybani. This is the most prominent among all Sunni Schools and it has the most adherents in the Muslim world.


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 and being more liberal than the other three schools. The Hanafi school also has many followers among the four major Sunni schools. This is largely 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. Today, the Hanafi school is predominant in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, China as well as in Mauritius, Turkey, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, North Caucasus Republics, Russia, Crimea peninsula in Ukraine and Uyghuristan (Xinjiang) in China. It is also practiced in large numbers in other parts of Muslim world, particularly in parts of the Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Iran, Iraq and Palestine.

Sources and Methodology

Map of the Muslim world. Hanafi (grass green) is the Sunni school predominant in Turkey, the Northern Middle East, many parts of Egypt, Central Asia and most of the Indian subcontinent

The sources from which the law is derived, in order of importance and preference, are: the Qur’an, the authentic narrations of the Prophet (Hadith), Consensus (ijma), and analogical reasoning (qiyas), qiyas only being applied if direct material cannot be found in the Qur’an or Hadith.

As the fourth Caliph, ‘Ali, had transferred the Islamic capital to Kufa, and many of the companions of the Prophet had settled there, the Hanafi School had based many of its rulings on Prophetic narrations (Hadith) transmitted by companions residing in Iraq, thus it came to be known as the Kufan or Iraqi school in earlier times.

Hence ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib and ‘Abdullah ibn Mas’ud formed much of the base of the school, as well as other personalities from the household of the Prophet from whom Abu Hanifa had studied such as Muhammad al-Baqir, Ja’far al-Sadiq, and Zayd ibn ‘Ali. Many jurists and Hadith transmitters had lived in Kufa including one of Abu Hanifa’s main teachers, Hammad ibn Sulayman.

According to Abdalhaqq Bewley

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.” Essay by Abdalhaqq Bewley, “The Recovery of True Islamic Fiqh: An introduction to the work of Shaykh Abdalqadir as-Sufi”.

Some Distinctive
Opinions of the School

It is prohibited or frowned upon to eat some forms of non-fish seafood based on the hadith of Muhammad : “Two types of dead meat and two types of blood have been made lawful for your consumption [without being slaughtered]: fish and locust, liver and spleen”.

Except for at Hajj, every salah (each of the five daily prayers) needs to be made in its regular time. (Some non-Hanafi scholars allow a person who is travelling to adjust certain prayer times for convenience).

Women may serve as qadis, i.e. judges of Islamic law.

The beginning of the time for asr prayer (and the end of the time for zuhr prayer) is later than in the other schools (roughly when shadows are twice the length of their objects). The hands are not raised while going to ruku and after it, whereas this is practised in the Shafi’i and Hanbali schools. A sixth daily prayer called witr is wajib/required (but not at the same level of obligation as the five daily prayers).

Abū Ḥanīfa, taking a literal view (harfiyyah), held that “wine” (خمر/Khamr in Quranic/classical Arabic), i.e. the fermented juice of dates or grapes, was absolutely prohibited but it was permissible to drink small non-intoxicating amounts of other alcoholic beverages (e.g. made from honey or grains). Later Hanafi scholars tend to rule that all alcoholic beverages are prohibited regardless of source.

Bleeding Can Break
One’s Wudu

Merely touching a member of the opposite sex does not break one’s wudu. A Muslim is allowed to work in Church construction and building thereof, whose wages considered lawful by Hanafis. It is possible to get married without the permission or consultation of a wali.