Imam Muhammad Ibn al Hasan al Shaibani, 'alayhi al-rahmah wa'l ridwan (d.189H/805CE)
An eminent Hanafi scholar of his time, who also served as the Chief Justice in Baghdad. Imam al-Muhammad b. al-Hasan Shaibani was born in 135 Hijri and passed away in 189 Hijri. He attended for about 2 years the lectures of Imam Abu Hanifah alayhir rahman, and upon the latter's death, he completed his education under Abu Yusuf alayhir rahman. He also studied for 3 yrs the Muwatta of Imam Malik alayhir rahman under the great Imam himself, in Madina. The great Imam, Imam Shafi'i alayhir rahman said:
"Whenever Imam Muhammad expounded a point of law, it seemed as if the revealing Angel had descended upon him."
"I acquired from Imam Muhammad a camel-load of learning"
Ibn Hajar alayhir rahman quotes Imam Shafi'i as having said:
"....I used to visit him (Muhammad b. Hasan). I told myself that he was of high rank in fiqh too. Therefore, I made it a point to attend upon him, and I used to take down his lectures."
[note: In his early days Ibn Taymiyyah denied that Imam Shafi'i alayhir rahman was a pupil of Imam Muhammad, but hundreds of historical books and rijal bear witness that Imam Shafi'i associated with Imam Muhammad]
On somebody asking the great Imam, Imam Ahmad Hanbal alayhir rahman where he had learnt all the subtle points of law he used to make, he replied, "From the books of Muhammad b. Hasan." (Tahdhib al- Asma' wa'l-Lughat by IMAM AL-NAWAWI).
Again, similar to his teachers, most of his fame rests with his work in fiqh but he had the rank of mujtahis in exegesis, Tradition and literature also. Imam Shafi alayhir rahman is reported to have said: I have not come across a man more learned in the Qur'an than Imam Muhammad." (Al-Jawahir al- Mudiyyah). His complete grasp on literature and Arabic linguistics is seen questions of fiqh based upon grammatical points in his Jami' Kabir. 'Jami Kabir' is a voluminous work where the dicta of Imam Abu Hanifah alayhir rahman, Imam Abu Yusuf alayhir rahman and Imam Zufar alayhir rahman are quoted with the questions and arguments. Later Hanafi scholars used this book as the basis of the methodological reasoning employed by the Hanafi school.
Shaykh al-Kadi, a latter day scholar said in a talk (Fiqh and Fuqaha) that fiqh is the fruition of all the other Islamic sciences such as hadith, Exegesis, Grammer, History and so forth. These two great Imams were recognized mujtahids in all the sciences making them mujtahid mutalaqs of the madhab. The same holds true for the other madhabs. Many scholars consider some of Imam Shafi alayhir rahman students to be mujtahid mutlaqs also. The genius of Imam Abu Hanifah alayhir rahman in operationalizing the Qur'an and Sunnah was nurtured and matured under the genius of his students.
As time went by, scholars who were masters in the Hanafi madhab methodology and its basis became the madhabs custodians, such as Imam Abideen alayhir rahman. We lay Muslims are indebted to these great Scholars for allowing creating and maintaining a vehicle for us to traverse and protect us on the "Straight Path" to our Lord and Creator, based on the teachings of Allah's beloved, our Beloved Prophet and leader in this world and the next, Muhammad, Peace and choisest blessings be upon Him and the Ahl al Bait.
This information has been obtained and adapted from the english translation of "Sirat-i-Numan" by Allama Shibli Nu'mani translated by M. Hadi Hussain.
What al Shaibani said : On fiqh -
''Every Muslim has to learn the two hundred thousand branches of knowledge of fiqh teaching harams and halals. After the fard, the most valuable worship is to learn knowledge and fiqh.''