“Abū Yūsuf’s Ikhtilāf Abī Ḥanīfa wa-Ibn Abī Laylā and the Transmission of Knowledge in the Formative Period of the Ḥanafī School.” Islamic Law and Society (2021): 1-33.



In this essay, I address the longstanding debate regarding the attribution of legal texts to formative-period authors by focusing on the transmission of a particular early text: the Ikhtilāf Abī Ḥanīfa wa-Ibn Abī Laylā, attributed to Abū Yūsuf (d. 182/798), and its reception by one early jurist: Abū Jaʿfar al-Ṭaḥāwī (d. 321/933). I argue that al-Ṭaḥāwī’s written work attests to the existence of multiple independent transmissions of Abū Yūsuf’s text and that these transmissions confirm the attribution of the text to Abū Yūsuf. I then reflect on the range of formative-period written material consulted by al-Tahawi and his contemporaries, arguing that their access to material from a period in which oral transmission was predominant gave them a unique standing in the eyes of classical-era jurists. Finally, I reflect on the role of digests (mukhtaṣars), particularly those of al-Ṭaḥāwī and al-Qudūrī (d. 428/1037), in sealing the movement from orality in the formative period to the fixed written texts in the classical period.


This article grew out of the first section of an essay I authored in 2012 as part of preparing for PhD applications. The second section of that essay eventually formed a previously published article that can be found here.

What I gained most from working on this article was a better understanding of the role of al-Ṭaḥāwī as a narrator of Hanafi doctrine. This is perhaps his most significant role in the Hanafi school, but one that I feel is often overlooked. By focusing on this role of al-Ṭaḥāwī’s, I feel the article does give a better sense of the incredible work that took place in assimilating various transmissions of legal doctrine into the early summarised mukhtaṣars of the legal schools.


Download: Sohail Hanif, Abu Yusuf’s Ikhtilaf and the Transmission of Knowledge in the Hanafi School

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