Some followers call him al-Im?m al-Aam ("The Greatest Imam") and Sir?j al-a?imma ("The Lamp of the Imams") in Sunni Islam.
Born to a Muslim family in Kufa, Abu Hanifa is known to have travelled to the Hejazregion of Arabia in his youth, where he studied in Mecca and Medina. As his career as a theologian and jurist progressed, Abu Hanifa became known for favoring the use of reason in his legal rulings (faq?h dh? ra?y) and even in his theology. Abu Hanifa's theological school is claimed to be what would later develop into the Maturidi school of Sunni theology.
His grandfather Zuta is said to have been brought as a slave from Kabul and transported to Kufa, where Abu Hanifa was born. He studied at Kufa and gradually gained influence as an authority on legal questions, founding a moderate rationalist school of Islamic jurisprudence that was named after him.
It's being said that his family emigrated from Charikar north of Kabul to Baghdad in the eighth century.
His ancestry is generally accepted as being of Persian origin as suggested by the etymology of the names of his grandfather (Zuta) and great-grandfather (Mah). The historian Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi records a statement from Im?m Ab? ?an?fah's grandson, Ismail bin Hammad, who gave Ab? ?an?fah's lineage as Thabit bin Numan bin Marzban and claiming to be of Persian origin. The discrepancy in the names, as given by Ismail of Ab? ?an?fah's grandfather and great-grandfather, are thought to be due to Zuta's adoption of the Arabic name (Numan) upon his acceptance of Islam and that Mah and Marzban were titles or official designations in Persia, with the latter, meaning a margrave, referring to the noble ancestry of Ab? ?an?fah's family as the SasanianMarzbans (equivalent of margraves). The widely accepted opinion, however, is that most probably he was of Persian ancestry .
In 763, al-Mansur, the Abbasid ruler offered Abu Hanifa the post of Chief Judge of the State, but he declined the offer, choosing to remain independent. His student Abu Yusuf was later appointed Qadi Al-Qudat (Chief Judge of the State) by the Caliph Harun al-Rashid.
In his reply to al-Mansur, Ab? ?an?fah said that he was not fit for the post. Al-Mansur, who had his own ideas and reasons for offering the post, lost his temper and accused Ab? ?an?fah of lying.
"If I am lying," Ab? ?an?fah said, "then my statement is doubly correct. How can you appoint a liar to the exalted post of a Chief Qadi (Judge)?"
Incensed by this reply, the ruler had Ab? ?an?fah arrested, locked in prison and tortured. He was never fed nor cared for. Even there, the jurist continued to teach those who were permitted to come to him.
On 15 Rajab 150 (August 15, 767), Ab? ?an?fah died in prison. The cause of his death is not clear, as some say that Ab? ?an?fah issued a legal opinion for bearing arms against Al-Mansur, and the latter had him poisoned. The fellow prisoner and Jewish Karaite founder, Anan Ben David, is said to have received life-saving counsel from the subject. It was said that so many people attended his funeral that the funeral service was repeated six times for more than 50,000 people who had amassed before he was actually buried. On the authority of the historian al-Khatib, it can be said that for full twenty days people went on performing funeral prayer for him. Later, after many years, the Ab? ?an?fah Mosque was built in the Adhamiyah neighbourhood of Baghdad. Ab? ?an?fah also supported the cause of Zayd ibn Ali and Ibrahim al Qamar both AlidZaidi Imams.
His most famous student was Im?m Abu Yusuf, who served as the first chief justice in the Muslim world. Another famous student was Im?m Muhammad al-Shaybani, who was the teacher of the Shafi'i school of jurisprudence founder, Im?m Al-Shafi'i. His other students include:
The sources from which Abu Hanifa derived Islamic law, in order of importance and preference, are: the Qur'an, the authentic narrations of the Muslim prophet Muhammad (known as hadith), consensus of the Muslim community (ijma), analogical reasoning (qiyas), juristic discretion (istihsan) and the customs of the local population enacting said law (urf). The development of analogical reason and the scope and boundaries by which it may be used is recognized by the majority of Muslim jurists, but its establishment as a legal tool is the result of the Hanafi school. While it was likely used by some of his teachers, Abu Hanifa is regarded by modern scholarship as the first to formally adopt and institute analogical reason as a part of Islamic law.
As the fourth Caliph, Ali had transferred the Islamic capital to Kufa, and many of the first generation of Muslims had settled there, the Hanafi school of law based many of its rulings on the prophetic tradition as transmitted by those first generation Muslims residing in Iraq. Thus, the Hanafi school came to be known as the Kufan or Iraqi school in earlier times. Ali and Abdullah, son of Masud formed much of the base of the school, as well as other personalities from the direct relatives (or Ahli-ll-Bay?) of Mo?ammad from whom Abu Hanifa had studied such as Muhammad al-Baqir. Many jurists and historians had reportedly lived in Kufa, including one of Abu Hanifa's main teachers, Hammad ibn Abi Sulayman.
Ab? ?an?fah is regarded by some as one of the Tabi'un, the generation after the Sahaba, who were the companions of the Islamic prophet, Muhammad. This is based on reports that he met at least four Sahaba including Anas ibn Malik, with some even reporting that he transmitted Hadith from him and other companions of Muhammad. Others take the view that Ab? ?an?fah only saw around half a dozen companions, possibly at a young age, and did not directly narrate hadith from them.
Ab? ?an?fah was born 67 years after the death of Muhammad, but during the time of the first generation of Muslims, some of whom lived on until Ab? ?an?fah's youth. Anas bin Malik, Muhammad's personal attendant, died in 93 AH and another companion, Abul Tufail Amir bin Wathilah, died in 100 AH, when Ab? ?an?fah was 20 years old. The author of al-Khairat al-Hisan collected information from books of biographies and cited the names of Muslims of the first generation from whom it is reported that the Abu Hanifa had transmitted hadith. He counted them as sixteen, including Anas ibn Malik, Jabir ibn Abd-Allah and Sahl ibn Sa'd.
Map of the Muslim world. Hanafi (grass green) is the Sunni school predominant in Turkey, the Northern Middle East, many parts of Egypt, Central Asia and most of the Indian subcontinent
He attained a very high status in the various fields of sacred knowledge and significantly influenced the development of Muslim theology. During his lifetime, he was acknowledged by the people as a jurist of the highest calibre.
Outside of his scholarly achievements, Abu Hanifa is popularly known amongst Sunni Muslims as a man of the highest personal qualities: a performer of good works, remarkable for his self-denial, humble spirit, devotion and pious awe of God.
His tomb, surmounted by a dome erected by admirers in 1066 is still a shrine for pilgrims. It was given a restoration in 1535 by Suleiman the Magnificent upon the Ottoman conquest of Baghdad.
The honorific title al-Imam al-A'zam ("the greatest leader") was granted to him both in communities where his legal theory is followed and elsewhere. According to John Esposito, 41% of all Muslims follow the Hanafi school.
Abu Hanifa also had critics. The Zahiri scholar Ibn Hazm quotes Sufyan ibn `Uyaynah: "[T]he affairs of men were in harmony until they were changed by Abù Hanìfa in Kùfa, al-Batti in Basra and Màlik in Medina". Early Muslim jurist Hammad ibn Salamah once related a story about a highway robber who posed as an old man to hide his identity; he then remarked that were the robber still alive he would be a follower of Abu Hanifa.
Connection with the family of Muhammad and Shi'ism
In one hadith, Abu Hanifah once said about Imam Ja'far: "I have not seen anyone with more knowledge than Ja'far ibn Muhammad." However, in another hadith, Abu Hanifah said: "I met with Zayd (Ja'far's uncle) and I never saw in his generation a person more knowledgeable, as quick a thinker, or more eloquent than he was."
Opposition to deviations in belief
Imam Abu Hanifa is quoted as saying that Jahm ibn Safwan (d. 128/745) went so far in his denial of anthropomorphism (Tashbih) as to declare that 'God is nothing (Allah laysa bi shay')'. And Muqatil ibn Sulayman's extremism (d. 150/767), on the other side, likened God with His creatures.
^Mohsen Zakeri (1995), Sasanid soldiers in early Muslim society: the origins of 'Ayy?r?n and Futuwwa, p.293 
^ abcdS. H. Nasr (1975), "The religious sciences", in R.N. Frye, The Cambridge History of Iran, Volume 4, Cambridge University Press. pg 474: "Ab? ?an?fah, who is often called the "grand imam"(al-Imam al-'Azam) was Persian
^ abcCyril Glasse, "The New Encyclopedia of Islam", Published by Rowman & Littlefield, 2008. pg 23: "Abu Hanifah, a Persian, was one of the great jurists of Islam and one of the historic Sunni Mujtahids"
^See: *Reuben Levy, Introduction to the Sociology of Islam, pg. 236-237. London: Williams and Norgate, 1931-1933. *Chiragh Ali, The Proposed Political, Legal and Social Reforms. Taken from Modernist Islam 1840-1940: A Sourcebook, pg. 280. Edited by Charles Kurzman. New York City: Oxford University Press, 2002. *Mansoor Moaddel, Islamic Modernism, Nationalism, and Fundamentalism: Episode and Discourse, pg. 32. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005. *Keith Hodkinson, Muslim Family Law: A Sourcebook, pg. 39. Beckenham: Croom Helm Ltd., Provident House, 1984. *Understanding Islamic Law: From Classical to Contemporary, edited by Hisham Ramadan, pg. 18. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 2006. *Christopher Roederrer and Darrel Moellendorf [de], Jurisprudence, pg. 471. Lansdowne: Juta and Company Ltd., 2007. *Nicolas Aghnides, Islamic Theories of Finance, pg. 69. New Jersey: Gorgias Press LLC, 2005. *Kojiro Nakamura, "Ibn Mada's Criticism of Arab Grammarians." Orient, v. 10, pgs. 89-113. 1974
^Nadwi, Sayyid Ijteba. Nuqoosh-e-Tabinda. (in Urdu) (1994 First ed). Jamia Nagar: Dar Irnaws p. 254
^Camilla Adang, "This Day I have Perfected Your Religion For You: A Zahiri Conception of Religious Authority," p.33. Taken from Speaking for Islam: Religious Authorities in Muslim Societies. Ed. Gudrun Krämer and Sabine Schmidtke. Leiden: Brill Publishers, 2006