In our shaykh Mawlānā ʿAbd al-Ḥalīm al-Nuʿmānī’s invaluable foreword to Mullā ʿAlī al-Qārī’s Mirqāt al-Mafātīḥ – modestly entitled al-Biḍāʿat al-Muzjāt li man Yuṭāliʿu al-Mirqāt (Scanty Merchandise for the One who Studies the Mirqāt) – the erudite hadith scholar Imam ʿAbd al-Bārī ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhāb al-Anṣārī al-Laknawī is quoted from a passage of his prolegomena to his al-Taʿlīq al-Mukhtār ʿalā Kitāb al-Āthār. In the lengthy passage, al-Laknawī provides the following suggested curriculum of study for the “Ḥanafī muḥaddith”:
- Muwaṭṭā Mālik, in particular the transmission of Imam Muḥammad ibn al-Ḥasan al-Shaybānī. Al-Laknawī notes, “It is the soundest book after the Book of Allah according to Imam al-Shāfiʿī, may Allah have mercy on him, and that is sufficient as an example to be followed.”
- Musnad Abī Ḥanīfah through the transmission of Muḥammad ibn al-Ḥasan al-Shaybānī, more recognized as Kitāb al-Āthār. In it, Imam Muḥammad transmits the hadith he heard through Imam Abū Ḥanīfah, most of them through what is proclaimed by some to be the “soundest of chains”: Abū Ḥanīfah from Ḥammād from Ibrāhīm from the students of ʿAbd Allāh ibn Masʿūd from ʿAbd Allāh ibn Masʿūd as well as through other Companions, may Allah be pleased with them all. Investigate hadith scholars will admit that the composition of such sanads in a book would qualify it to be counted in the same category as the six canonical hadith collections.
- Kitāb al-Ḥujjah ʿala Ahl al-Madīnah by Muḥammad ibn al-Ḥasan al-Shaybāni, in which the Imam weighs the strength of the legal hadith arguments of the scholars of Madīnah and the teachers of Imam Mālik on one hand and the arguments of the scholars of ʿIrāq and the teachers of Imam Abū Ḥanīfah on the other.
- Jāmiʿ al-Masānīd, the collection of Imam Abū Ḥanīfah’s various musnads by the hadith master, jurist, and chief justice Abū al-Muʾayyad Muḥammad ibn Maḥmūd ibn Muḥammad al-Khawārizimī, may Allah have mercy on him.
- Sharḥ Maʿānī al-Āthār of the critical, erudite hadith and fiqh master Abū Jaʿfar Aḥmad ibn Muḥammad ibn Salāmah ibn ʿAbd al-Malik ibn Salamah ibn Sulaymān ibn Khabbāb al-Azdī al-Miṣrī al-Ṭaḥāwī.
- Sharḥ Mushkil al-Āthār by Imam Abū Jaʿfar al-Ṭaḥāwī.
Upon studying these works, Imam ʿAbd al-Bārī al-Laknawī suggests then the study of the two Ṣaḥīḥs, the Jāmiʿ of Imam al-Tirmidhī, the four Sunans of Ibn Mājah, al-Nasāʾī, al-Dārimī, and Abū Dāwūd al-Sijistānī, the Musnad of Abū Dāwūd al-Ṭayālisī, the Sunan of al-Dāraquṭnī, and if they can be acquired (which they can now) the Muṣannafs of ʿAbd al-Razzāq and Ibn Abī Shaybah, as well as the muʿjams of al-Ṭabarānī and Ibn al-Athīr’s Jāmiʿ al-Uṣūl. He also states that the study of the Kanz al-ʿUmmāl will encompass for students a large chunk of the content of the chapters of the aforementioned works.
Lastly, al-Laknawī considered it highly beneficial for the Ḥanafī student of hadith to read Imam ʿAbd al-Ḥaqq al-Dihlawī’s Fatḥ al-Mannān, Imam Murtaḍā al-Zabīdī’s ʿUqūd al-Jawāhir al-Munīfah, the Musnad al-Imām (Abī Ḥanīfah) with the transmission of al-Sindī (I believe he means Imam ʿAbid al-Sindī’s commentary on al-Musnad), Imam Badr al-Dīn al-ʿAynī’s commentary on Ṣāḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, and both Mullā ʿAlī al-Qārī and ʿAbd al-Ḥaqq al-Dihlawī’s commentaries on Mishkāt al-Maṣābīḥ (entitled Mirqāt al-Mafātīh and Lamaʿāt al-Tanqīḥ respectively). (See al-Laknawī’s muqaddamat al-taʿlīq al-mukhtār pg.100, Lucknow edition 1333 AH)
Of course, many beneficial works on hadith from a Ḥanafī legal hermeneutical framework have since been published, including several indispensable commentaries on most of the six canonical works by Indian hadith masters and the now renowned encyclopedia of Ḥanafī hadith proofs, Iʿlā al-Sunan. Suffice it to say, however, that if a student were able to critically and thoroughly study Imam ʿAbd al-Bārī al-Laknawī’s suggested reading list these days, it would be a rare feat indeed.