1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Abū Ḥanīfa an-Nu‛mān ibn Thābit
ABŪ ḤANĪFA AN-NU‛MĀN IBN THĀBIT, Mahommedan canon lawyer, was born at Kufa in a.h. 80 (A.D. 699) of non-Arab and probably Persian parentage. Few events of his life are known to us with any certainty. He was a silk-dealer and a man of considerable means, so that he was able to give his time to legal studies. He lectured at Kufa upon canon law (fiqh) and was a consulting lawyer (muftī), but refused steadily to take any public post. When al-Manṣūr, however, was building Bagdad (145–149) Abū Ḥanīfa was one of the four overseers whom he appointed over the craftsmen (G. Le Strange, Baghdad during the Abbasid Caliphate, p. 17). In a.h. 150 (A.D. 767) he died there under circumstances which are very differently reported. A persistent but apparently later tradition asserts that he died in prison after severe beating, because he refused to obey al-Manṣūr’s command to act as a judge (cadi, qādi). This was to avoid a responsibility for which he felt unfit—a frequent attitude of more pious Moslems. Others say that al-Mahdī, son of al-Manṣūr, actually constrained him to be a judge and that he died a few days after. It seems certain that he did suffer imprisonment and beating for this reason, at the hands of an earlier governor of Kūfa under the Omayyads (Ibn Qutaiba, Ma‛ārif, p. 248). Also that al-Manṣūr desired to make him judge, but compromised upon his inspectorship of buildings (so in Tabarī). A late story is that the judgeship was only a pretext with al-Manṣūr, who considered him a partisan of the ‛Alids and a helper with his wealth of Ibrāhīm ibn ‛Abd Allāh in his insurrection at Kufa in 145 (Weil, Geschichte, ii. 53 ff.).
For many personal anecdotes see de Slane’s transl. of Ibn Khallikan iii. 555 ff., iv. 272 ff. For his place as a speculative jurist in the history of canon law, see Mahommedan Law. He was buried in eastern Bagdad, where his tomb still exists, one of the few surviving sites from the time of al-Manṣūr, the founder. (Le Strange 191 ff.)