Waqar Akbar Cheema
Some modernists using the name of “Hanafi” scholars seek to raise questions about established Islamic ideals, opinions, and institutions. One such group tends to impugn the trustworthiness and reliability of a major hadith authority among the students of the companions of the Prophet (ﷺ) – ‘Ikrimah, the freedslave of ‘Abdullah bin ‘Abbas.
While there is no dearth of material regarding the status and merits of ‘Ikrimah as an authority in hadith and answering to objections in this regard, here we shall dwell on Abu Hanifa’s (80-150 AH) relation with and opinion of ‘Ikrimah (d. circa 115).
2. Abu Hanifa’s praise for ‘Ikrimah
Hadith scholar Abdullah b. Muhammad al-Ustadh al-Harithi al-Sabadhmuni (d. 340) writes:
ثنا أبو حمزة الأنصاري قال: سمعت عبد الله بن داود الخريبي يقول: قلت لأبي حنيفة: من أدركت من الكبراء؟ قال: القاسم وسالم وطاوس وعكرمة ومكحول وعبد الله بن دينار والحسن البصري وعمرو بن دينار وأبا الزبير وعطاء وقتادة وإبراهيم والشعبي ونافع وأمثالهم.
Abu Hamza Al-Ansari reported that he heard Abdullah bin Dawud saying; I asked Abu Hanifa: “Who do you count among the great?” Abu Hanifa said, “Al-Qasim, Salim, Tawus, ‘Ikrimah, ‘Abdullah bin Dinar, Al-Hasan Al-Basri, ‘Amr bin Dinar, Abu Al-Zubair, ‘Ata’, Ibrahim, Sha’bi, Nafi’, and the likes of them.”
3. Abu Hanifa’s narrations on the authority of ‘Ikrimah
‘Ikrimah has been counted among those from whom Abu Hanifa narrated. Among those who have mentioned that Abu Hanifa reported on the authority of ‘Ikrimah are Al-Mizzi (d. 742), Al-Dhahabi (d. 748). Likewise, the well-known Hanafi hadith exegete Badr al-Din al-‘Ayni (d. 855) after mentioning those who narrated on the authority of ‘Ikrimah states;
وروى عنه الإمام أبو حنيفة أيضًا
Imam Abu Hanifa also narrated from him.
Abu Hanifa has reported a number of narrations through ‘Ikrimah. In the following we shall present some without attempting at compiling an exhaustive list of such reports.
3.1 Abu Hanifa’s direct narration from ‘Ikrimah
Abu Hanifa has been reported to have narrated directly from ‘Ikrimah – the freedslave of Ibn ‘Abbas:
عن أبي حنيفة عن عكرمة عن ابن عباس عن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم أنه قال: “أفضل الشهداء حمزة بن عبد المطلب ورجل تكلم بكلمة حق عند سلطان جائر فقتل”
Abu Hanifa narrated from ‘Ikrimah from Ibn Abbas that the Prophet (ﷺ) said: The best of the martyrs is Hamza bin ‘Abdul Muttalib and a person who speaks for the truth in front of the oppressor ruler and is killed.
It has also reported this hadith with complete isnad by others including Al-Tabarani (d. 360), Abu Nu’aym (d. 430), Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr (d. 464), ‘Abdul Khaliq bin Asad al-Hanafi (d. 564),[11.a] Abu Tahir al-Silafi (d. 576), Abu al-Qasim al-Rafi’i (d. 623). It is also mentioned by Al-Jassas (d. 370),  Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani (d. 852), ‘Abdul Qadir al-Qurashi (d. 775), Al-Ghazi (d. 1010). Al-Tabarani and Abu Nu’aym record that Abu Hanifa narrated with the words حدثني عكرمة (haddathani ‘Ikrimah) i.e. “‘Ikrimah narrated to me.” It makes clear that Abu Hanifa directly heard the narration from ‘Ikrimah.
Al-Jassas assures us that Abu Hanifa actually sought evidence with this narration in his discussion with Ibrahim al-Saigh.
سأله إبراهيم الصائغ وكان من فقهاء أهل خراسان ورواة الأخبار ونساكهم عن الأمر بالمعروف والنهي عن المنكر، فقال: هو فرض وحدثه بحديث عن عكرمة عن ابن عباس …
Ibrahim al-Saigh who was one of the jurists of Khurasan asked Abu Hanifa regarding commanding good and forbidding evil. He replied, “It is an obligation,” and then narrated to him the hadith of ‘Ikrimah from Ibn ‘Abbas …
Another narration directly narrated by Abu Hanifa from ‘Ikrimah goes as;
عن أبي حنيفة عن عكرمة، عن ابن عباس رضي الله عنهما، قال: قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: «أمرت أن أسجد على سبعة أعظم، ولا أكف شعرا ولا ثوبا»
Abu Hanifa narrated from ‘Ikrimah that Ibn ‘Abbas reported: The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: I have been ordered to prostrate on seven bones and not to tuck up hair and clothes.
3.2 Abu Hanifa’s narrations from ‘Ikrimah through other narrators
4. Narrations of ‘Ikrimah and prominent early Hanafi scholars
Following the Imam his students have also narrated from ‘Ikrimah and used his reports as proof in scholarly argumentations and disputations. Abu Yusuf (d. 182) has quoted and sought evidence with narrations of ‘Ikrimah in his Al-Athār and al-Kharāj. Similarly Muhammad bin Hasan al-Shaibani (d. 189) in his Al-Asl, and Al-Hujja ‘ala Ahl al-Madina.
Other early prominent Hanafi scholars such as Abu Bakr al-Jassas and al-Tahawi (d. 321) have also used ‘Ikrimah’s narrations at scores of places in their well-known works.
Even for particular topics and issues there is no evidence that Hanafi or other mainstream Sunni scholars questioned the authenticity of narrations only due to ‘Ikrimah.
The foregoing provides conclusive evidence that Abu Hanifa not only accepted the narrations on the authority of ‘Ikrimah, he himself narrated from him and recognized him as one of the great scholars. Therefore, those who claim to speak for and revive Hanafi methodology in hadith make an absurd case in criticizing and rejecting the reports of ‘Ikrimah.
References & Notes:
 See for instance, al-Mundhiri, Zaki al-Din, Juz’ fihi Zikr hal ‘Ikrima Mawla Ibn ‘Abbas wa ma Qila Fihi, (Beirut: Dar al-Basha’ir al-Islamiya, 2000) 23-38; Ibn Jarir al-Tabari, Muhammad bin Nasr al-Marwazi, Ibn Manda, Abu Hatim Ibn Hibban, and Ibn Abd al-Barr wrote dedicated works in defence of ‘Ikrimah, see al-‘Asqalani, Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bari, (Beirut: Dar al-Ma’rifa, 1379) Vol.1, 425; see also Usmani, Muhammad Taqi, ‘Ulum al-Qur’an, trans. as An Approach to Qur’anic Sciences, (Karachi: Darul-Ishaat, 2000) 477-482
 There are variant reports about his age (84 or 88) and year of death (104, 105, 106, 107 or 115). Haitham bin ‘Adi, Abu al-Hasan al-Mada’ini, and Yahya bin Ma’in said he died in the year 115 AH, see al-Mizzi, Yusuf bin ‘Abdul Rahman, Tahdhib al-Kamal fi Asma’ al-Rijal, (Beirut: al-Resalah Publications, 1980) Vol.20, 292
 For details about him see, ‘Uthmani, ‘Ila’ al-Sunan, (Karachi: Idarah al-Qur’an wa al-‘Ulum al-Islamiya, 1414 AH) Vol.3, 74.
Shah Wali Ullah mentions him along with a few others and says; كلهم من أصحاب الوجوه, واليهم مرجع الفقهاء الحنفية “They are all from asḥāb al-wujūh to whom the Hanafi jurists refer.” See, Dehlawi, Wali Ullah, Itahaf al-Nabihi fima yuhtaj ilaihi al-Muhaddith wa al-Faqih, (Lahore: Maktaba al-Salafiyya, 1424) 286-287.
Elsewhere he says asḥāb al-wujūh have a rank between mujtahid al-muntasib and mujtahid al-madhhab; See his, al-Insaf fi bayan Asbab al-Ikhtilaf, (Beirut: Dar al-Nafa’is, 1404) 71-72; al-Lucknawi, ‘Abdul Hayy, al-Fawa’id al-Bahiyya fi Tarajim al-Hanafiyya, (Beirut: Dar al-Ma’rifa, n.d.) 104-105
al-Harithi’s Musnad Abu Hanifa has been well received by scholars. Ibn Qutlubagha rearranged it topically and wrote a gloss over it in two volumes. Mahmud bin Ahmad al-Qunawi abridged and wrote a commentary over it. Similarly Isma’il al-Awghani, Abu al-Baqa, and Ahmad ibn Abi al-Diya al-Makki also produced abridgements of it. Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani trusted it. See ‘Ila’ al-Sunan, Vol.3, 29-32
 al-Harithi, Abu Muhammad, Musnad Abi Hanifa, (Beirut: Dar al-Kotob al-Ilmiyah, 2008) 38 No. 64; al-Khwarazmi, Abu al-Mu’ayyad, Jami’ al-Masanid, (Hyderabad: Da’ira al-Ma’arif, 1332) Vol.2, 333
 al-Mizzi, Yusuf bin ‘Abdul Rahman, Tahdhib al-Kamal fi Asma’ al-Rijal, Vol.29, 419
 al-Dhahabi, al-Kashif, (Jeddah: Dar al-Qibla, 1992) Vol.2, 322 No. 5845, Manaqib Abi Hanifa wa Sahibaih, (Hyderabad: Ihya’ al-Ma’arif, 1408) 19; Siyar al-A’lam al-Nubala, (Beirut: al-Resalah publications, 1985) Vol.6, 391. In al-Siyar al-Dhahabi expressed his doubt regarding Abu Hanifa having met with ‘Ikrimah (وفي لقيه له نظر), however, the manner in which Abu Hanifa reported from ‘Ikrimah as quoted below from al-Tabarani and Abu Nu’aym lays to rest any confusion on the issue.
 al-‘Ayni, Badr al-Din, Maghani al-Akhyar fi Sharh Asami Rijal Ma’ani al-Athar, (Beirut: Dar al-Kotob al-Ilmiyah, 2006) Vol.2, 337
 al-Harithi, Abu Muhammad, Musnad Abi Hanifa , 38 No. 65-67 ; al-Khwarazmi, Abu al-Mu’ayyad, Jami’ al-Masanid, Vol.2, 281
 al-Tabarani, Abu al-Qasim, Mu’jam al-Awsat, (Cairo: Dar al-Haramain, n.d.) Vol.4, 238 No. 4079; al-Tabarani’s claim that two successive narrators after Abu Hanifa are alone in narrating this is mistaken, see al-Harithi, Abu Muhammad, Musnad Abi Hanifa , 38 No. 65-67
 al-Asbahani, Abu Nu’aym, Musnad al-Imam Abi Hanifa, (Riyadh: Maktaba al-Kawthar, 1415) 187
 Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr, al-Tamhid lima fi Muwatta min al-Ma’ani wa al-Asanid, (Morocoo: Ministry of Awqaf and Religious Affairs, 1387 AH) Vol.13, 54
[11.a] ‘Abdul Khaliq bin Asad, Kitab al-Mu’jam, (Beirut: Dar al-Basha’is al-Islamiya, 2013) 110
 al-Silafi, Abu Tahir, Kitab al-Mu’jam, (Makkah: Maktaba al-Tajjariya, n.d.) 180, No. 573
 al-Rafi’i, Abu al-Qasim, al-Tadwin fi Akhbar Qazwin, (Beirut: Dar al-Kotob al-‘Ilmiya, 1987) Vol.4, 11
 al-Jassas, Abu Bakr, Ahkam al-Qur’an (Beirut: Dar al-Kotob al-‘Ilmiya, 1994) Vol.1, 85, 319; Vol.2, 9
 al-‘Asqalani, Ibn Hajar, al-Amali al-Mutalaqah, (Beirut: Maktab al-Islami, 1995) 197
 al-Qurashi, Abdul Qadir, al-Jawahir al-Mudiyya fi Tabaqat al-Hanafiyya, (Karachi: Mir Muhammad, n.d.) Vol.2, 193
 al-Ghazzi, Taqi al-Din, Tabaqat al-Saniyya fi Tarajim al-hanafiyya (Riyadh: Dar al-Rifa’i, 1983) Vol.1, 247-248; Vol.3, 59
 al-Jassas, Abu Bakr, Ahkam al-Qur’an, (Beirut: Dar al-Kotob al-‘Ilmiya, 1994) Vol.1, 85
 al-Harithi, Abu Muhammad, Musnad Abi Hanifa , 38 No. 68; al-Khwarazmi, Abu al-Mu’ayyad, Jami’ al-Masanid, Vol.1, 397
 al-Asbahani, Abu Nu’aym, Musnad al-Imam Abi Hanifa, 91
 Abu Yusuf, al-Athar, (Beirut: Dar al-Kotob al-Ilmiya, n.d.) 237, No. 1051; al-Harithi, Abu Muhammad, Musnad Abi Hanifa , 224, 229-230 No. 643, 660, 662; al-Asbahani, Abu Nu’aym, Musnad al-Imam Abi Hanifa, 259; al-Khwarazmi, Abu al-Mu’ayyad, Jami’ al-Masanid, Vol.1, 215, 439, Vol.2, 10-11, 241
 al-Harithi, Abu Muhammad, Musnad Abi Hanifa , 82 No. 199-200; al-Khwarazmi, Abu al-Mu’ayyad, Jami’ al-Masanid, Vol.1, 276
 Abu Yusuf, al-Athar, 237, No. 1051
 Abu Yusuf, al-Kharaj, (Cairo: Matba’ al-Salafiyya, 1382 AH) 162, 181, 183, 211, 213
 al-Shaibani, Muhammad bin al-Hasan, al-Asl, (Beirut: Alam al-Kitab, 1990) Vol.2, 261; Vol.3, 83
 al-Shaibani, Muhammad bin al-Hasan, al-Hujjah ‘ala Ahl al-Madina, (Beirut: Alam al-Kitab, 1403 AH) Vol.1, 109, 460; Vol.2, 112, 176, 225, 233, 266, 269, 362-363, 618; Vol.3, 61-62,