|In the second half of the 2nd century AH, the eastern parts of Khurasan, the Balkh region in particular, had become home to a group who may be referred to as the Justice-Seeking Hanafites. This was owing to the missionary activities of a group of Abu Hanifah’s students who hailed from the eastern lands of Islam and who, in addition to propagating the fiqhi views of their master, spread his theological ideas in Khurasan and Transoxiana. Their efforts were so well received by the people of these regions that in the words of Safi al-Din Balkhi the troika of Abu Hanifah, irja’ and the people of Balkh had caused the city to be referred to as Murji Abad (the city of the Murji’ites). Salm b. Salim Balkhi was one such pupil of Abu Hanifah with widespread appeal who set in motion a broad movement of enjoining the good and forbidding the evil in addition to orchestrating a political campaign against the ruling caliph Harun.
Among the students of Abu Hanifah from Khurasan was Abu Muti` Balkhi who played a crucial role in the consolidation of the theological system of the school. In fact, it is through a reconstruction of his views reported in various sources that one may paint a picture of the earlier teachings of the school. For instance, on the subject of qadar he held a position near to that of the Mu`tazilites. He also believed in the eternity of heaven and hell. Among influential figures alongside Abu Muti` was Abu Muqatil Samarqandi who was another one of Abu Hanifah’s pupils and the principal channel for the transmission of latter’s al-`Alim wa ’l-muti`allim, including to Abu Muti` Balkhi – a work that may be viewed as the foundation stone of the theological system of the school. Also of significance is the transmission of the religio-heroic text of Maqtal Sa`id b. Jubayr by Abu Muqatil and its propagation in Khurasan and Transoxiana, which points to a deep link between this school and the pioneer of the Murji’ite enjoiner of the good. In the account of the disputation between Sa`id b. Jubayr and Hajjaj one may detect the school’s implicit stance of waqf with regards to Imam `Ali (PBUH) and a number of earlier personalities of Islam.
It appears that during this period in addition to the book of al-`Alim wa ’l-muti`allim the main source for theological teachings among Justice-Seeking Hanafites was that of al-Fiqh al-akbar qadim, attributed to Abu Hanifah. In the mid-3rd century AH, the Khurasani Justice-Seeking Hanafites viewed the divine names as separate from the divine essence and as created, were vehemently opposed to any form of tajsim (hypostatization) or tashbih (anthropomorphism), and suspended judgment (waqf) with regards to the created-ness of the Quran. In the teachings of this particular branch of Hanafism one could also find critical views about such Companions as Abu Hurayrah.
Very few works of the school have survived, among which mention may be made of the fragments reported in `Uthman b. Sa`id Darimi’s al-Radd `ala Bishr al-Murisi. In the 3rd century AH, the Hanafites of Khurasan and Transoxiana were strong believers in the possibility of gaining knowledge of God through rational means and rejected resorting to received knowledge (naql, i.e. transmission) and imitation (taqlid). It appears that the refutations of Fadl b. Shadhan Niyshaburi in his al-’Idah and the polemics of a number of 3rd-century Imami scholars of the east about the Murji’ah were targeted toward the followers of this school.