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There's a message circulating around about Imaam Abu hanifah (rahimahullaah) saying that he debated a Roman. Here's the message:

There was once an occasion when a Roman asked three questions to the people.

‘Who was there before God, which direction is God facing right now, and what is God doing right now?’.

No one in the crowd could answer these three questions.

Abu Hanifa at that time was only about 10-12 years old , but knew how to respond.

He said asked the Roman to count backwards from 10. The Roman counted until he reached zero.

Abu Hanifa asked him ‘what’s before zero?’ the Roman replied ‘nothing’.

Abu Hanifa then said

`So how can the Lord and creator of all the world’s not be the beginning of everything if common sense dictates that there is nothing before zero.

Abu Hanifa continued onto the second question, (‘Which direction is God facing right now?’) and asked the Roman “If you light up a candle, what do you see?”

The Roman answered:

‘Light.’

Abu Hanifa responded, ‘In which direction is the candlelight facing?’ The Roman replied ‘It’s not facing in any particular direction’. So Abu Hanifa asked, ‘Then what do you say about Allah who is the light of lights’.

Abu Hanifa moved onto the third question.

‘What is God doing right now?’

He told the Roman to trade places with him so Abu Hanifa can speak in the same high location as the Roman did. The Roman thought that this was fair. So they traded places.

Abu Hanifa finally answered the last question,

‘You asked me what Allah is doing right now… right now he is making the one who is on falsehood come down from the pulpit and the one full of success to answer and prove you wrong’.]

Is this story authentic? Is there any Ulaama who has spoken about this issue?

  • Nobody knows about abu Hanifa's early life -more than the fact that he was a mercer and the necessary information about his birth and origin- until he was inspired and started visiting the lessons or courses of Hammad ibn Salamah (at the time he was in his forties) – Medi1Saif Feb 16 '18 at 6:42
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There is no account of this particular debate in any of the major Hanafi books. Safar Al-Hawali in Sharh al-'Aqīda at-Tahawiyya, Vol. 1, pp. 1059, commented on this story:

ويُحكى عن أبي حنيفة كلمة "يحكى" أو "يُقال" معناها: أن الخبر فيه كلام، فليس موثوقاً، والحقيقة أن هذه الواقعة لا تتصور أنها تصح عن الإمام أبي حنيفة لأنه لا يمكن أن يتجرأ أحد من الملاحدة في عهد الإمام أبي حنيفة وفي أوائل القرن الثاني، ويقول أنا أنكر وجود الله، ثُمَّ يؤتى به إِلَى الكوفة إلى عالم من أكبر علمائها ويقول له: أنا أريد أن أناظرك

NOTE: My own translation, so treat with care:

[The khabar starts with] "and it is told that Abi Hanifa." The word "it is told" or "it is said" means that the khabar is doubtful, not trustworthy. The truth is this event cannot even be imagined to have been attributed to Imam Abi Hanifa for no atheist during his time in the beginning of the second [Hijri] century dared to say he denied Allah's existence and would be brought to al-Kufa to one its biggest scholars and told him: "I want to debate you."

— Sharh al-'Aqīda at-Tahawiyya, Vol. 1, pp. 105

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