Ya'qub ibn Ibrahim al-Ansari (Arabic: يعقوب بن إبراهيم الأنصاري, romanizedYaʿqūb ibn Ibrāhīm al-Anṣārī) better known as Abu Yusuf (Arabic: أبو يوسف, romanizedAbū Yūsuf) (d.798) was a student of jurist Abu Hanifa[3] (d.767) who helped spread the influence of the Hanafi school of Islamic law through his writings and the government positions he held.

Abu Yusuf
TitleHead Student of Imam Abu Hanifa
Died798 (aged 59–60)[2]
EraIslamic Golden Age
Main interest(s)Islamic Jurisprudence
Notable idea(s)Evolution of Islamic Jurisprudence
Muslim leader
Influenced by

He served as the chief judge (qadi al-qudat) during reign of Harun al-Rashid. His most famous work was Kitab al-Kharaj, a treatise on taxation and fiscal problems of the state.


Abu Yusuf lived in Kufa and Baghdad, in what is now Iraq, during the 8th century. His genealogy has been traced back to Sa'd ibn Habta, a youth in Medina in the time of the Prophet, and his birth date is estimated based on the date of his death to be around 113/729CE.[4]

Based on anecdotal stories, Abu Yusuf was raised poor but with a ferocious appetite for knowledge. His mother disapproved of his academic desires, insisting that he master some trade (the art of tailoring, according to some source) so as to help make ends meet. While it cannot be fully verified, stories suggest that he complied with his mother's wishes, but also kept up his academic studies.[5] His talent and commitment was eventually recognized by Abu Hanifa who became his mentor with Abu Yusuf as his star pupil. He is portrayed as an incredibly studious individual who was unceasing in his pursuit for knowledge and legal understanding.[5] While much of what is known of his early childhood relies on sometimes contradictory anecdotal evidence, it has been verified that he studied religious law and traditions in Kufa and Medina under a number of scholars including Abu Hanifa, Malik b. Anas, al-Layth b. Sa'd and others.[4] Under the guidance of Abu Hanifa, Abu Yusuf achieved incredible success and helped develop and spread the influence of the Hanafi school of Islamic law.

Abu Yusuf lived in Kufa until he was appointed Qadi in Baghdad.[4] It is unclear whether he was appointed by Mahdi, al-Hadi, or Harun al-Rashid. According to one story, Abu Yusuf was able to provide sound advice pertaining to religious law to a government official who rewarded him generously and recommended him to the caliph, Harun al-Rashid.[4] He continued to provide satisfactory legal opinions to the caliph who drew him into his inner circle and eventually appointed him Qadi. While this version of events is probable, it is not necessarily authentic and cannot be independently verified. What is known is that Abu Yusuf became a close acquaintance of Abbasid caliph, Harun al-Rashid, who eventually granted him the title of Grand Qadi, or Qadi 'l-qudat; the first time such a title had been conferred upon someone in Islamic history.[4] While at the time it was meant as an honorific title, the Caliph frequently consulted Abu Yusuf on legal matters and financial policy and even bestowed upon him the ability to appoint other Qadis in the empire. This made the position of Grand Qadi analogous to a modern-day chief justice. Abu Yusuf held the position of Grand Qadi until his death in 182/798CE.[4]

Literary worksEdit

During his lifetime, Abu Yusuf created a number of literary works on a range of subjects including Islamic jurisprudence, international law, narrations of collected traditions (ahadith), and others. The Kitāb al-Fihrist, a bibliographic compilation of books written in the 10th century by Ibn al-Nadim, mentions numerous titles authored by Abu Yusuf.[4] With one exception, none of these works listed in the Fihrist have survived. The exception is his book entitled Kitāb al-Kharāj, a treatise on taxation and financial issues facing the empire written at the request of the caliph, Harun al-Rashid.[6] The Islamic empire was at the height of its power at the time of his writing and in his treatise, he sought to advise the caliph on how to appropriately conduct financial policies in accordance with religious law. While the caliph took some suggestions and ignored others, the overall effect was to limit the ruler's discretion over the tax system.[7] A selection of other works credited to him that do not appear in the Fihrist have also survived. The Kitab al-Athar is a collection of Kufian traditions (ahadith) which he narrated.[4] Kitab Ikhtilaf Abi Hanifa wa Ibn Abi Layla is a comparison of the opinions between the legal authorities, Abu Hanifa and Abu Layla.[4] Kitab al-Radd ‘Ala Siyar al-Awza’i is a "reasoned refutation with broad systematic developments," of the opinions regarding the laws of war of the famous Syrian scholar, al-Awza’i.[4] Some excerpts from his various other works that have not survived in their totality were incorporated in texts written by his disciples and were passed on through succeeding generations. For example, excerpts from Abu Yusuf's book, Kitabal-Hiyal (Book of Legal Devices) were incorporated in the book, Kitabal-Makharidj fi 'l-Hiyal written by his disciple, Muhammad al-Shaybani.[4]

Doctrine and MethodologyEdit

As a disciple of Abu Hanifa, Abu Yusuf's doctrine largely presupposes that of his mentor. His writings and prominent political positions helped advance the Hanafi school of Islamic law throughout the Islamic empire.[6] While most of his legal opinions (fatwas) were firmly rooted in the doctrine and methodology espoused by his former teacher, there are some points on which he diverged and revealed his own legal thought. Abu Yusuf's greatest legacy is in affirming and advancing the Hanafi legal school as the predominant source of legal thought in the Islamic empire and providing a legal framework for defining and restricting caliphal authority in regard to fiscal policy.

List of worksEdit

  • Kitab al-Kharaj, his most famous work, is a treatise on taxation and fiscal problems of the state prepared for the caliph.[8][page needed]
  • Usul al-fiqh - the earliest known work of principles of Islamic jurisprudence. A portion of his works were devoted to international law.[8][page needed]
  • Kitab ul-Aathar, a collection of traditions (ahadith) he narrated.
  • Kitab Ikhtilaf Abi Hanifa wa Ibn Abi Layla, one of the early works on comparative fiqh
  • Kitab al-Radd ‘Ala Siyar al-Awza’i, a refutation of the famous Syrian jurist and tradition, al-Awza’i on the law of war. These 3 books were published by Al Ihya Al Ma'arif an N'omaniya under the guidance of Abul Wafa Al Afghani

Early Islam scholarsEdit

Muhammad (570–632 the Constitution of Medina, taught the Quran, and advised his companions
Abdullah ibn Masud (died 653) taughtAli (607–661) fourth caliph taughtAisha, Muhammad's wife and Abu Bakr's daughter taughtAbd Allah ibn Abbas (618–687) taughtZayd ibn Thabit (610–660) taughtUmar (579–644) second caliph taughtAbu Hurairah (603–681) taught
Alqama ibn Qays (died 681) taughtHusayn ibn Ali (626–680) taughtQasim ibn Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr (657–725) taught and raised by AishaUrwah ibn Zubayr (died 713) taught by Aisha, he then taughtSaid ibn al-Musayyib (637–715) taughtAbdullah ibn Umar (614–693) taughtAbd Allah ibn al-Zubayr (624–692) taught by Aisha, he then taught
Ibrahim al-Nakha’i taughtAli ibn Husayn Zayn al-Abidin (659–712) taughtHisham ibn Urwah (667–772) taughtIbn Shihab al-Zuhri (died 741) taughtSalim ibn Abd-Allah ibn Umar taughtUmar ibn Abdul Aziz (682–720) raised and taught by Abdullah ibn Umar
Hammad bin ibi Sulman taughtMuhammad al-Baqir (676–733) taughtFarwah bint al-Qasim Jafar's mother
Abu Hanifa (699–767) wrote Al Fiqh Al Akbar and Kitab Al-Athar, jurisprudence followed by Sunni, Sunni Sufi, Barelvi, Deobandi, Zaidiyyah and originally by the Fatimid and taughtZayd ibn Ali (695–740)Ja'far bin Muhammad Al-Baqir (702–765) Muhammad and Ali's great great grand son, jurisprudence followed by Shia, he taughtMalik ibn Anas (711–795) wrote Muwatta, jurisprudence from early Medina period now mostly followed by Sunni in Africa and taughtAl-Waqidi (748–822) wrote history books like Kitab al-Tarikh wa al-Maghazi, student of Malik ibn AnasAbu Muhammad Abdullah ibn Abdul Hakam (died 829) wrote biographies and history books, student of Malik ibn Anas
Abu Yusuf (729–798) wrote Usul al-fiqhMuhammad al-Shaybani (749–805)Al-Shafi‘i (767–820) wrote Al-Risala, jurisprudence followed by Sunni and taughtIsmail ibn IbrahimAli ibn al-Madini (778–849) wrote The Book of Knowledge of the CompanionsIbn Hisham (died 833) wrote early history and As-Sirah an-Nabawiyyah, Muhammad's biography
Isma'il ibn Ja'far (719–775)Musa al-Kadhim (745–799)Ahmad ibn Hanbal (780–855) wrote Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal jurisprudence followed by Sunni and hadith booksMuhammad al-Bukhari (810–870) wrote Sahih al-Bukhari hadith booksMuslim ibn al-Hajjaj (815–875) wrote Sahih Muslim hadith booksDawud al-Zahiri (815–883/4) founded the Zahiri schoolMuhammad ibn Isa at-Tirmidhi (824–892) wrote Jami` at-Tirmidhi hadith booksAl-Baladhuri (died 892) wrote early history Futuh al-Buldan, Genealogies of the Nobles
Ibn Majah (824–887) wrote Sunan ibn Majah hadith bookAbu Dawood (817–889) wrote Sunan Abu Dawood Hadith Book
Muhammad ibn Ya'qub al-Kulayni (864- 941) wrote Kitab al-Kafi hadith book followed by Twelver ShiaMuhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari (838–923) wrote History of the Prophets and Kings, Tafsir al-TabariAbu Hasan al-Ash'ari (874–936) wrote Maqālāt al-islāmīyīn, Kitāb al-luma, Kitāb al-ibāna 'an usūl al-diyāna
Ibn Babawayh (923–991) wrote Man La Yahduruhu al-Faqih jurisprudence followed by Twelver ShiaSharif Razi (930–977) wrote Nahj al-Balagha followed by Twelver ShiaNasir al-Din al-Tusi (1201–1274) wrote jurisprudence books followed by Ismaili and Twelver ShiaAl-Ghazali (1058–1111) wrote The Niche for Lights, The Incoherence of the Philosophers, The Alchemy of Happiness on SufismRumi (1207–1273) wrote Masnavi, Diwan-e Shams-e Tabrizi on Sufism
Key: Some of Muhammad's CompanionsKey: Taught in MedinaKey: Taught in IraqKey: Worked in SyriaKey: Travelled extensively collecting the sayings of Muhammad and compiled books of hadithKey: Worked in Persia

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "As-Sunnah Foundation of America".
  2. ^ Biography of Muslim Scholar – Al Qadhi Abu Yusuf
  3. ^ A.C. Brown, Jonathan (2014). Misquoting Muhammad: The Challenge and Choices of Interpreting the Prophet's Legacy. Oneworld Publications. p. 35. ISBN 978-1780744209.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Schacht, J. (1960). "Abū Yūsuf". In Gibb, H. A. R.; Kramers, J. H.; Lévi-Provençal, E.; Schacht, J.; Lewis, B. & Pellat, Ch. (eds.). The Encyclopaedia of Islam, New Edition, Volume I: A–B. Leiden: E. J. Brill. pp. 164–165. OCLC 495469456.
  5. ^ a b "Qadhi-ul-Qudhaat Al-Imam Abu Yusuf (rahimahullah): The great scholar of the Hanafi Fiqh". 2003. Retrieved February 14, 2011.
  6. ^ a b Shemesh, Aharon Ben. Taxation in Islam (Including Translation of Kitab al-Kharaj). 2nd Edition, revised. Brill Archive, 1967.
  7. ^ Coşgel, Metin, Rasha Ahmed and Thomas Miceli. "Law, State Power, and Taxation in Islamic History." Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization 71.3 (2009): 704-717.
  8. ^ a b John Esposito, The Oxford Dictionary of Islam, Oxford University Press, 2003