One day Waki’ b. al-Jarrah, a prominent hadith scholar of the time, cited a ruling given by Abū Ḥanīfa when someone remarked that Abū Ḥanīfa had committed an error. “How could Abū Ḥanīfa commit an error,” Waki’ replied. “He had eminent men to assist him – in analogy Abū Yūsuf and Zafar [b. al-Hudhayl]; in hadith Yaḥya b. Zaʽidah, Hafs b. Ghiyath, Habban and Mundal; in lexicography and the Arabic language Qasim b. Ma’n; in devotion and piety Dawūd al-Ta’i and Fadl b. ʽIyād. How could one with such men at his side commit an error? Even if he were going to commit one, would these men let him do so?”
In the city of Kūfa, Abū Ḥanīfa had surrounded himself by some forty scholars–some of whom were considered mujtahīds (independent legal jurists) in their own right. They debated issues of fiqh and were free to agree or disagree with the Imam’s legal judgments. Yet, it appears through reported statements and their later writings that they often accepted Abū Ḥanīfa’s judgments. In fact, after his death they still held his rulings with great esteem and maintained that he was a prominent, if not the most prominent, legal authority of their time. Many of his students later went on to become respected scholars of not only fiqh but also hadith; some specializing in Asma’ al-Rijāl, the study of hadith narrators.