Hanafi or Muslim?

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Question: A friend at campus often asks fellow students: “Are you a Muslim or a Hanafi/Shaafi‘ee?” How does one respond to such a question? Please advise.

Answer: The word “or” (in the context of the question) is used between two words of the same species. It is correct to ask someone whether he will eat “rice or bread” since both are food items, but you cannot enquire whether he will eat “bread or paper”. Likewise, if your friend asks someone whether he lives in Durban or South Africa, the question will be absurd. Only one who is ignorant of the fact that Durban is not a country, but a city in South Africa, can ask such a question.

Your friend’s question implies that one can either be a Muslim or a Hanafi. Thus if someone says he is a Hanafi then, Allah forbid, he is not a Muslim!! It is the same as asking whether you live in Durban or South Africa, and that if you live in Durban, then you are not a South African???

Such questions stems from being ignorant of the fact that Imaam Abu Hanifah (rahmatullahi ‘alaihi) did not make his own deen. By means of the great expertise and in-depth knowledge that Allah Ta'ala had blessed him with, he deduced the laws of deen from the Quraan and hadeeth. His expertise and mastery was attested to by the likes of 'Abdullah bin Mubaruk [rahmatullahi ‘alaihi] who was one of the greatest Muhaddith of his time. Saheeh Bukhaari is filled with his narrations. Thus in the light of his vast knowledge and rare expertise, Imaam Abu Hanifa (rahmatullahi 'alaihi) merely explained and expounded the laws of deen. The detailed proofs of these deductions from the Quraan and hadeeth are recorded in many books well known to the scholars of Islam.

Likewise, there were many other great Fuqahaa (jurists) such as Imaam Maalik (rahmatullahi ‘alaihi), Imaam Shaafi‘ee (rahmatullahi ‘alaihi) and Imaam Ahmad bin Hambal (rahmatullahi ‘alaihi). Their codification of the laws of deen in the light of their expertise developed into the four mazhabs (schools of thought), all following the same primary sources of the Quraan and hadeeth. Thus those who follow the jurisprudence (laws and rulings deduced from the Quraan and hadeeth) codified by Imaam Abu Hanifah (rahmatullahi ‘alaihi) are referred to as Hanafi, while those who follow the jurisprudence of Imaam Shaafi‘ee are called Shaafi‘ee, etc. The identification of Hanafi, Shafi'ee, etc, is only made in relation to fiqh.

Freelancer

In this era there is a further need to identify oneself as a Hanafi, Shaafi‘ee, Maaliki or Hambali. The need is to make it known that one is not a “freelancer” — someone who does not have the knowledge and expertise to deduce the laws of deen from their sources, yet claims to follow the Quraan and hadeeth directly. It is similar to a person who has barely stepped into high school, yet claims to be a senior counsel in matters of law!

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