Distinguishing features: Hanafi maslak

The second distinguishing
feature of Hanafi Fiqh is that it
is easier to understand and
act upon than the other
systems of Fiqh.
The Qur’an says repeatedly: “God
wishes to be gentle, and not
strict with you.” The Prophet
declared: “I come to you with a
gentle and easy Shariah.” It is
Islam’s special pride in
comparison with other religions
that it is far removed from
monasticism, that its ritual is not
rigorous, that its enjoinments are
easy to understand and act upon.
Hanafi Fiqh is superior to its
rivals on similar grounds.
So well known is the fact that
Hanafi Fiqh is easy and liberal
that poets and writers often
employ it as a proverb. A rather
curious example of this is a
simile used by Anwari, an
obscene and unbridled poet, in
which he speaks of “the liberties
allowed by Abu Hanifah.” The
simile occurs in an improper
context, but the point it makes is
clear. On any question, whether
pertaining to the duties of
worship or to worldly
transactions, one finds Abu
Hanifah’s precepts easy and
gentle and those of the other
imams difficult and harsh. Let me
by way of illustration take the
rules regarding theft, laid down
in the Kitab al-Jinayat (the
Criminal Code) and the Kitab al-
Hudud (the Penal Code).
It is agreed by all authorities that
the punishment for theft is
cutting off the right hand, but
the mujtahids in defining theft
have laid down certain
conditions without the fulfilment
of which this punishment cannot
be awarded. What effect these
conditions have on the rules
relating to theft will be clear from
the following comparative table,
which will also show how easy
and consistent with civilised
living is Abu Hanifah’s madhhab
as compared with the other
A large part of Fiqh deals with
prohibitions and permissions. In
this connection, there are many
precepts of the other imams
which, if they were to be acted
upon, would make life unlivable,
while Abu Hanifah’s precepts are
easy to follow. For example,
according to Shafi’i, the following
acts are impermissible: bathing
or performing ablution with
water heated on dung-fire;
eating out of clay vessels baked
on dung-fire; using vessels made
of tin, glass, crystal and agate;
wearing garments made of wool,
sable fur and leather (in which
prayer cannot be offered);
vessels, chairs and saddles with
silver work on them; common
sales in which there is no
declaration of selling and buying.
Abu Hanifah considers all these
acts permissible.
An important sector of Fiqh
connected with the requirements
of society is that which deals
with transactions between
individuals, and it is here that the
practical wisdom of the various
mujtahids can best be judged. Up
to Abu Hanifah’s time, the legal
directions regarding transactions
were too primitive to fulfil the
needs of a developed society.
There were no rules governing
contracts, no written documents,
no procedure laid down for the
adjudication of disputes and the
adducing of evidence. Abu
Hanifah was the first to
introduce all these. Unfortunately,
mujtahids who came after him,
instead of adding to what he had
accomplished, reverted to the
old-time rough and ready
practices, motivated as they were
by a deep-rooted bias for
unworldliness. A famous
traditionist taunts jurists in the
following words: “These people
think that when a suit is filed
regarding a piece of land, it is
necessary to state in the plaint its
situation, boundaries and legal
position, although in the
Prophet’s time there was no
question of furnishing these
particulars.” For the traditionist,
this is a matter for reproach, but
if he had lived in a civilised
country and had had something
to do with business transactions,
he would have known that the
things he considers
reprehensible are essential to
civilised living.


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