Ibn 'Abd al- Barr relates in al-Intiqa', 'Abd Allah ibn Ahmad al-Dawraqi said: "Ibn Ma'inn was asked about Abu Hanifah as I was listening, so he said "He is trustworthy (thiqatun), I never heard that anyone had weakened him" No less than Shu'ba wrote to him (for narrations), and ordered him to narrate hadith'. Ibn Hajar said in Kharija ibn al Salt's notice in Tahdhib al-Tahdhib, Ibn Abi Khaythama said: "If al Shu'bi narrates from someone and names him, that man is trustworthy (thiqa) and his narration is used as proof (yuhtajju bi hadithihi)".
Many well known shuyukh narrated from Imam Abu Hanifah, to name but a few: al Thawri, ibn al-Mubarak, Hammad ibn Zayd and 'Abd al-Razzaq (one of Iman al-Bukhari's shaykh) Al Mizzi in Tahdhib al-Kamal names about one hundred names of those who narrated from Imam Abu Hanifah.
Imam as-Shafi (rh) is recorded to have stated: "All men of fiqh are Abu Hanifah's children," "...I would not have acquired anything of knowledge had it not been for my teacher. All men of knowledge are children of the ulema of Iraq, who were the disciples of the ulema of Kufa, and they were the disciples of Abu Hanifah".
The Hanafi madhab, entitled after the Imam, spread far and wide during the time of the Ottaman Empire. Today, more than half the Muslims on the earth perform their ibabdah according to the Hanafi madhab. The Hanafi school has decided court cases in the majority of Islamic lands for the greater part of Islamic history, including the Abbasis and Ottoman periods.
Not only was Imam Abu Hanifah's extraordinary mind and knowledge something to be admired but so too was his exemplary character and piety. Dhahabi writes "Accounts of his piety and devotion have reached a degree of tawatur" (i.e. an unbroken chain of uncontradicted narrations).
He was given the title of the 'Peg' by some, for his continuous standing in prayer, often reciting the entire Qur'an in his nightly rakahs. He performed the Fajr prayer with the ablution made for the Isha prayers for forty years, (due to him praying the whole night through). It is reported that he had recited the whole Qur'an seven thousand times in the place where he died.
He earned his living through trade, sending goods to other places and with the earnings he met the needs of his students. He gave much to charity and every Friday he would distribute twenty gold coins to the poor for his parents' souls.
In the year 146 A.H, Abu Hanifah was sent to prison by Mansur, the leader at the time, after the Imam's refusal to state that Mansur was the rightful khalifa, as well as refusing the position of presidency of the supreme court in recompense. Whilst in prison Imam Abu Hanifah was thrashed with a stick. Mansur repented and sent the Imam money, only to be refused again. By now Imam Abu Hanifah had become well known and thousands flocked to meet and seek his opinion wherever he went. His imprisonment far from reduced his popularity, and Mansur realized that he would have to treat the Imam carefully, thus he allowed him to teach whilst still in prison. Mansur finally decided to do away with the great Imam and had him poisoned. Abu Hanifah feeling the effects of the poison, bent down in prayer and died in the month on Rajab. News of the Imam's death reached far and wide, and thousands gathered at the prison. The city Qadi washed his body, and kept repeating "by God you were the greatest faqih and the most pious man of our time...".
By the time the bathing was finished so many people had assembled that the funeral prayer was performed attended by fifty thousand people.
The Great Imam died in Baghdad in 150 A.H at the age of seventy. May Allah swt. be pleased with him. Ameen.