Imam Abu Yusuf and His reliability in transmitting Hadith
1. Imam Abu Yusuf Ya’qub ibn Ibrahim al-Qadi’s Reliability in Narrating Hadith
Imam Abu Yusuf (113 – 182), the foremost student of Imam Abu Hanifah and the first chief judge in Muslim history, was also a hafiz of hadith as he is included in Imam al-Dhahabi’s Tadhkirat al-Huffaz, and as is clear from his works like Kitab al-Kharaj, which is in print, in which he narrates many hadiths. His reliability in hadith was accepted by most of the scholars of narrator-criticism. I will quote authentic reports from them below:
1. ‘Ali ibn al-Madini (161 – 235 H), the Imam of al-Jarh wa l-Ta’dil
Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi narrates: Al-Azhari and Muhammad ibn al-Hasan al-Maliki informed me: ‘Abd Allah ibn ‘Uthman al-Saffar narrated to us: Muhammad ibn ‘Imran ibn Musa al-Sayrafi reported to us: ‘Abd Allah ibn ‘Ali ibn ‘Abd Allah al-Madini narrated to us: I heard my father say: “Abu Yusuf al-Qadi came to Basra twice. First in the year, 176 and I did not come to him. The second, in the year 180 and we would come to him, and he would narrate ten hadiths and ten opinions [of fiqh at a time], and I did not find anything [objectionable in his hadiths] except the hadith of Hisham on the stone. He was reliable (saduq), and he did not narrate from Hisham besides this hadith.” (Tarikh Baghdad 16:374)
This isnad is sahih or hasan. All the narrators in this chain are reliable: Al-Azhari is ‘Abd Allah ibn Ahmad ibn ‘Uthman al-Sayrafi (355 – 435), and is saduq according to al-Khatib (Misbah al-Arib 2:303); Ali ibn Muhammad ibn al-Hasan al-Maliki (350 – 437 H) is saduq (Tarikh Baghdad 13:584); ‘Abd Allah ibn ‘Uthman ibn Muhammad al-Saffar (d. 382) is thiqah (Tarikh Baghdad 11:225-6); Muhammad ibn ‘Imran ibn Musa al-Sayrafi (d. 315) is thiqah according to Daraqutni (Tarikh Baghdad 4:226).
Ibn al-Madini, a strict critic of narrators and one who spent time with Abu Yusuf and heard hadith from him directly, acknowledged his reliability in the narration of hadith.
2. Ahmad ibn Hanbal (164 – 241 H), the Imam of hadith and fiqh
Al-Khatib narrates: Abu Sa‘id Muhammad ibn Musa al-Sayrafi reported to us: I heard Abu l-‘Abbas Muhammad ibn Ya‘qub al-Asamm say: I heard ‘Abd Allah ibn Ahmad ibn Hanbal say: My father (Ahmad ibn Habal) said: “Abu Yusuf is reliable (saduq), but it is not appropriate to narrate anything from the companions of Abu Hanifah.” (Tarikh Baghdad 16:380)
This isnad is sahih. Al-Sayrafi (d. 421) is thiqah according to al-Dhahabi (Misbah al-Arib 3:238); al-Asamm (247 – 346) is a famous Hafiz from whom al-Hakim narrated in his Mustadrak and he is thiqah; ‘Abd Allah ibn Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Hanbal (d. 290) is a narrator of al-Nasa’i, and thiqah according to Taqrib.
Imam Ahmad does not hide his bias against Imam Abu Hanifah and his companions, but because Abu Yusuf was his first teacher from whom he wrote hadith, he had some level of respect for him, which is why he referred to him as saduq (reliable) and munsif (fair) in hadith.
Al-Khatib narrates: Al-Azhari reported to us: ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn ‘Umar narrated to us: Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn Ya‘qub narrated to us: My grandfather narrated to us: I heard Yayha ibn Ma‘in say: “I wrote [hadiths] from Abu Yusuf, and I narrate [hadiths] from him.” And my grandfather said: I heard Ahmad ibn Hanbal say: “The first from whom I wrote hadith is Abu Yusuf and I do not narrate from him.” (Tarikh Baghdad 16:380)
This isnad is hasan. ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn ‘Umar ibn Ahmad ibn Muhammad known as Ibn Hammah (d. 397) is thiqah according to al-Khatib and al-‘Atiqi (Tarikh Baghdad 11:608); Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn Ya‘qub ibn Shaybah (254 – 331) is thiqah according to al-Khatib (Tarikh Baghdad 2:248). He heard from his grandfather, the famous trustworthy hafiz Ya‘qub ibn Shaybah (180 – 262), author of the Musnad, as a child.
Al-Khatib narrates: Al-Barqani reported to us: It was read to Ishaq al-Ni‘ali while I listened: ‘Abd Allah ibn Ishaq al-Mada’ini narrated to you: Hanbal ibn Ishaq narrated to us: I heard my uncle, i.e. Ahmad ibn Hanbal, say: “Ya‘qub Abu Yusuf would narrate from Hanzalah and the Meccans, and he was fair in hadith.” (Tarikh Baghdad 16:380)
The isnad is sahih. Al-Barqani is thiqah; Ishaq ibn Muhammad ibn Ishaq al-Ni‘ali (d. 364) is thiqah (Misbah al-Arib 1:199); ‘Abd Allah ibn Ishaq ibn Ibrahim al-Anmati al-Mada’ini (d. 311) is thiqah as said by al-Daraqutni and al-Khatib (Misbah al-Arib 2:240); Hanbal ibn Ishaq (d. 273) is saduq according to al-Daraqutni and thiqah according to al-Khatib (Misbah al-Arib 1:406)
3. Yahya ibn Ma’in (158 – 233), the Imam of al-Jarh wa l-Ta’dil
Al-Khatib narrates: ‘Abd Allah ibn Yahya al-Sukkari informed me: Muhammad ibn ‘Abd Allah al-Shafi‘i reported to us: Ja‘far ibn Muhammad ibn al-Azhar narrated to us: Ibn al-Ghalabi narrated to us: Yahya ibn Ma‘in said: “Abu Yusuf al-Qadi was not acquainted with hadith, and he is thiqah.”
This isnad is sahih or hasan. Abu Muhammad ‘Abd Allah ibn Yahya ibn ‘Abd al-Jabbar al-Sukkari (d. 417) is saduq according to al-Khatib (Tarikh Baghdad 11:454); Muhammad ibn ‘Abd Allah al-Shafi‘i (d. 353) is thiqah according to al-Khatib and al-Daraqutni; Ja‘far ibn Muhammad ibn al-Azhar known as al-Bawardi and al-Tusi (d. 299) is thiqah according to al-Khatib (Tarikh Baghdad 8:98); al-Mufaddal ibn Ghassan ibn al-Mufaddal Abu ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Ghalabi (no date of death) is thiqah (Tarikh Baghdad 15:156).
Ibn Ma’in’s comment that Abu Yusuf was not acquainted with hadith is probably due to the latter’s preoccupation with fiqh and qada, for otherwise, Abu Yusuf was a hafiz of hadith as is apparent from his works and from the number of his shuyukh. This comment is also contradicted by what was also narrated from Ibn Ma’in as mentioned by Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani in Lisan al-Mizan (8:518) that al-Tahawi narrated from Ibrahim ibn Sulayman ibn Dawud al-Asadi (d. 270) who is trustworthy according to Ibn Yunus (Misbah al-Arib 1:32) from Ibn Ma‘in that, “There is not amongst the champions of opinion [one with] more hadith, nor more firm than Abu Yusuf.” It is also mentioned above in the second narration from Ahmad that Ibn Ma’in would write and narrate from Abu Yusuf.
There is, however, an authentic narration from Ibn Ma’in as narrated by Ahmad ibn Sa’d ibn Abi Maryam that he said about Abu Yusuf, “his hadiths are not written.” (Tarikh Baghdad 16:378) However, al-Khatib counters this with his statement “[narrators] besides Ibn Abi Maryam narrated from Yahya that he declared [Abu Yusuf] thiqah.” Hence, it appears that according to al-Khatib the latter narration is shadh (anomolous) while the narrations from Ibn Ma’in supporting Abu Yusuf’s reliability are mahfuz (preserved).
From the above, it is clear al-Madini, Ibn Ma’in and Ahmad ibn Hanbal, who were contemporaries, and who would meet regularly to discuss hadiths, all agreed Abu Yusuf was either saduq or thiqah. Al-Khatib narrates with an authentic chain from Qadi Ahmad ibn Kamil (d. 305) that he said: “Yahya ibn Ma’in, Ahmad ibn Hanbal and ‘Ali ibn al-Madini did not differ on Abu Yusuf being thiqah in narration.” (Tarikh Baghdad 16:361) Although Ibn Kamil is weak in hadith, his statement is corroborated by the above evidence.
4. Al-Daraqutni (306 – 385 H)
Al-Barqani narrated in his Su’alat (no. 567) that al-Daraqutni said of Abu Yusuf “he is stronger than Muhammad ibn al-Hasan,” and as shown here al-Daraqutni said of Muhammad ibn al-Hasan he is from “the trustworthy huffaz” and “he does not deserve rejection.” Hence, Abu Yusuf is thiqah according to him.
5. Imam al-Nasa’i (214 – 303 H), the author of the Sunan
Imam al-Nasa’i like Ibn al-Madini was from the mutashaddid (strict) critics of narrators, so when he says a narrator is reliable, his word is generally accepted. He wrote in his Kitab al-Du’afa, as mentioned in Lisan al-Mizan (8:519), “Abu Yusuf is trustworthy (thiqah).”
6. Ibn Hibban (270 – 354), the author of the Sahih
He included Imam Abu Yusuf in his list of trustworthy narrators (al-Thiqat) and said Abu Yusuf is a “proficient (mutqin) shaykh (of hadith).” “Mutqin” is equivalent to “thiqah” as mentioned in Tadrib al-Rawi and other books on Usul al-Hadith.
7. Ibn ‘Adi (277 – 365)
Ibn ‘Adi said about Abu Yusuf, despite his bigotry and bias against the Hanafi Imams, “there is no harm in him” (la ba’sa bihi) which is equivalent to “saduq.” (Lisan al-Mizan 8:519)
8/9. Imam al-Bayhaqi and Imam al-Hakim also declared Abu Yusuf trustworthy (thiqah) in their 2. works.
Based on the above, the statement of al-Bukhari in al-Tarikh al-Kabir, “they abandoned him,” will not be accepted.
Imam Abu Yusuf was, without doubt, thiqah (trustworthy) in the narration of hadith.
Taken with thanks from – HERE
2. Shu’ayb al-Arna’ut: Qadi Abu Yusuf is trustworthy
Here is an excerpts from Shaykh Shu’ayb al-Arna’ut’s research on Sharh Mushkil al-Athar of Imam Abu Ja’far at-Tahawi. He counted Qadi Abu Yusuf, the student of Imam Abu Hanifa, as trustworthy (thiqah).
2256: Ja’far bin Ahmad bin al-Walid al-Aslami — Bishr bin al-Walid al-Kindi — Abu Yusuf — ‘Ubaydullah bin ‘Umar — Usamah bin Zayd — ‘Irak bin Malik — Abu Hurayrah from the Messenger of Allah (pbuh), narrated a report similar to the previous one.  Its chain is Hasan due to Usamah bin Zayd al-Laythi. Rest of its narrators are trustworthy.
al-Arna’ut, Shu’ayb (editor), at-Tahawi’s Sharh Mushkil al-Athar, (Beirut: Mo’assasat ar-Resalah, 1994) vol.6 p.29
3. Ahmad Shakir: Criticism on Qadi Abu Yusuf is unjust
Renowned hadith scholar Shaykh Ahmad Shakir in annotations to a Hadith in his research on Musnad Ahmad defends the great jurist and the most prominent of the students of Imam Abu Hanifa, Imam Abu Yusuf al-Qadi, against criticism by some hadith scholars.
أبو يوسف القاضي : ثقة صدوق تكلموا فيه بغير حق ترجمه البخاري في ” الكبير ” 4 / 397 : 2 ، وقال : تركوه وقال في ” الضعفاء ” ص 38 : تركه يحيى وابن مهدي وغيرهما وترجمه الذهبي في ” الميزان ” 447 : 4 ، والحافظ في ” لسان الميزان ” 300 : 6 ، والخطيب في ” تاريخ بغداد ” ترجمة حافلة (14:242.262) ، وأعدل ما قيل فيه قول أحمد بن كامل عند الخطيب : ولم يختلف يحيى بن معين وأحمد بن حنبل وعلي بن المديني في ثقته في النقل
Abu Yusuf al-Qadi: Trustworthy, reliable. People have criticized him unjustly. Al-Bukhari mentions him in Tarikh al-Kabir 4/397 and said, “They have rejected him.” And in al-Du’afa p.38 he said, “He was rejected by Yahya and Ibn Mahdi and others.” Adh-Dhahabi makes a mention of him in al-Mizan 4/447 and al-Hafiz in Lisan al-Mizan 6/300. Al-Khatib gives his detailed account in Tarikh Baghdad 14/242-262. The most just saying about him is the statement of Ahmad bin Kamil given by al-Khatib, “Yahya bin Ma’in, Ahmad bin Hanbal and ‘Ali bin al-Madini did not differ in grading him as trustworthy in reporting.”
See, Ahmad Shakir (ed.), Musnad Ahmad, (Cairo: Dar al-Hadith, 1995) vol.6 p.268