The Hanafi School of law was founded by Imam Abu Hanifah whose alias is Nu’man bin Thabit bin Zuta bin Marzuban. Imam Abu Hanifah was born in 80 AH (700 CE) in Kufa from Persian parentage. He is known as Imam al-A’zam (The Greatest Imam). His school has the largest number of followers (approximately 47% of Sunni Muslims or more) among the four imams. He was the only tabi’i (who met with the companions of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ) out of the four luminaries. He had the privilege of seeing Anas bin Malik, Sahl bin Sad as-Sa’idi, Abdullah bin Abu Awfa and Abu al-Tufayl ‘Amir bin Wathilah.
Hammad bin Abi Sulayman, ‘Ata bin Abi Rabah, Muhammad al-Baqir, Zayn al-Abidin, Nafi, and many other distinguished scholars are among the teachers of Imam Abu Hanifah. Qadi Abu Yusuf and Imam Muhammad are among his most famous students. He was the pioneer in classification and compilation of fiqh. One of the biggest contributions of Imam Abu Hanifah is that he organised fiqh into functional sub categories starting with purification. All other imams and scholars followed his organisation. He is known for his unparalleled knowledge of fiqh and aptitude in analytical deduction as well as taqwa and an amazing memory.
A quote attributed to Imam al-Shafi’i states that a person who wanted to specialise in fiqh should read Abu Hanifah’s books. Abdullah bin Mubarak said, “I have not seen another specialist as learned as Abu Hanifah in the knowledge of fiqh.” Sufyan al-Thawri encapsulated all of the qualities of the imam in this statement, “This man holds a high rank in knowledge, and if I did not stand up for his knowledge I would stand up for his age, and if not for his age then for his religious cautiousness (wara’), and if not for his religious cautiousness then for his jurisprudence (fiqh).”