Amongst the earliest legal texts of the Hanafi madhhab is the Mukhtasar of the Hadith and Fiqh master, Imam Abu Ja’far al-Tahawi. The text, amongst the famous mutun (legal texts) of the school, despite its importance to the madhhab and the lofty status of its author, is not readily available or even studied.
After the famous Jami’ al-Saghir and other short texts of Imam Muhammad ibn al-Hasan al-Shaybani, the Mukhtasar of Imam Tahawi is considered the first mukhtasar (condensed collection of legal rulings) in the Hanafi school. This text was followed by the more recognized early legal texts such as the Mukhtasar of Imam Abu ‘l-Hasan al-Karkhi al-Baghdadi (died 340 a.h.), the Mukhtasar of Imam Abu Bakr al-Jassas al-Razi (died 370 a.h.), and the Mukhtasar of Imam Abu ‘l-Husayn Ahmad ibn Muhammad al-Quduri (died 428 a.h.).
Texts such as Tuhfat al-Fuqaha’, Bidayat al-Mubtadi, al-Hawi, al-Fiqh al-Nafi’, etc… were all authored much later in the sixth and seventh centuries.
The special attribute of the Mukhtasar of Imam Tahawi is that it is authored by an early master of the school, an imam who gained tremendous repute not only as a jurist (faqih) but also as a traditionist (muhaddith). The book is organized similar to the Mukhtasar of Imam Muzani, Imam Tahawi’s uncle who was the acknowledged successor of Imam Shafi’i and arguably his most capable student.
Like Imam Tahawi’s other books, in particular his Sharh Ma’ani al-Athar and Sharh Mushkil al-Athar, Mukhtasar al-Tahawi has escaped the interest of many a modern student of Hanafi fiqh and therefore deserves their special attention. As these early texts of the madhhab become more and more readily available through both print and electronic media, it is only fair now that students accord them the attention that they deserve.
Lastly, we owe special thanks to the honorable Mufti Husain Kadodia (may Allah preserve him) for providing us the link to this invaluable work.
Bilal Ali Ansari