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Debating skills of a master- lessons from Imam Abu Hanifa

July 28, 8:22 PM · J. Samia Mair - Baltimore Muslim Examiner

 Imam Abu Hanifa is the founder of one of the four great schools of Islamic fiqh (the science of the application of the Shari’a). According to most sources, he was born in Kufa, Iraq in 699 CE/80 AH and died 767 CE/150 AH.

Abu Hanifa was a great scholar who suffered persecution to maintain his religious integrity. When he refused to accept the position of qadi (Chief Judge of the State), he was imprisoned and tortured. Most accounts report that he died in prison as a result of his punishment.

When he told the ruler that he was unfit to serve as qadi, the ruler stated, “You lie, you are fit. ”To which, Abu Hanifa replied, “I have declared myself unfit so how can it be lawful for you to appoint someone who is a liar as qadi?”

Abu Hanifa was a master of debate. Among his many skills was the ability to take what someone was using against him and immediately turn it around. Below is one example mentioned in the book, The Four Imans: Their Lives, Works, and their Schools of thought:

Ad-Dahhak ibn Qays al-Khariji, who rebelled in the Umayyad era, entered the mosque of Kufa and said to Abu Hanifa, “Repent.”

“Of what?” Abu Hanifa asked.

He answered, “Of your allowing arbitration.”

Abu Hanifa asked, “Will you kill me or debate with me?”

“I will debate with you,” he said.

“And if we disagree on anything in the debate, who will decide between us?” Abu Hanifa continued.

He replied, “I will accept whomever you wish.”

Abu Hanifa said to one of ad-Dahhak’s companions, “Sit and judge between us if we disagree.” Then he turned and asked ad-Dahhak, “Are you content for this one to decide between us?”

“Yes,” he replied.

Abu Hanifa said, “Then you have allowed arbitration, so desist.

Game, Set, Match!


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