“Our belief, and the belief of everyone who is equitable in their perception of Imam Abu Ḥanifah [May Allaah be pleased with him], is that: If he had lived long enough to reach the period where the Shari’ah was compiled and logged, after the ḥufadh travelled the lands collating and recording [knowledge], and he was then acquainted with the compilations, [we believe] he would have taken the knowledge therein [of authentic narrations] in place of his analogical reasoning, and dependence on Qiyas would have been minimal in the Ḥanafi school like it is in the other schools.
However, considering the evidences in his time were vastly spread out among the students of the companions in different cities, villages, and frontiers, and had not yet been compiled, this warranted an inundation of Qiyas, in comparison to the other schools, but this is due to necessity considering the textual proofs [hadiths], that concerned the matters he resorted to resolve through analogical reasoning, were not then available in his locale.
This is contrary to the condition of the other Imams, because the ḥufadh collated narrations and textual proofs in their time, from the various cities and villages, and compiled the narrations into works, and the narrations accorded with one another. This was the main cause of the prodigious amount of Qiyas in the Hanafi school, and the relative minimal dependency on Qiyas in the other schools.”
→ “al-Nafi’ al-Kabir” – 1/135 | Imam Abu’l Hasanāt al-Luknawī al-Hanafī | Translated by: Abu Dawūd [Mustafa b. Saalih] al-Hushayshi
Disclaimer: this quotation is not the original wording of Imam al-Luknawī, he merely elaborated, elucidated and commented on this excerpt in his esteemed work. I do NOT endorse the writer of the original excerpt, hence my attribution of this quote to Imam al-Luknawī al-Hanafī.
Imam al-Albani said, “Then if this is the excuse of Abu Hanifah, concerning what transpired with regard to his unintentional variance with authentic narrations – then it is an accepted excuse, without a doubt, because Allaah does not burden a person beyond more than they can bear – it is NOT permissible to disparage him [for his unintentional variance with authentic narrations] like some ignorant individuals do, rather what is required is respecting him, because he is an Imam from the Imams of the Muslims, from those whom the deen was preserved through. He will be [by the will of Allaah] rewarded for his verdicts, whether he was correct or otherwise.
Likewise it is not permissible for his excessive praisers, who exaggerate in his praise, to [stubbornly] remain upon his statements that are averse to authentic narrations, because they are NOT from his Madhhab.
‘Our Lord, forgive us and our brothers who preceded us in faith and put not in our hearts [any] resentment toward those who have believed. Our Lord, indeed You are Kind and Merciful.’ – [59:10]”
→ Sifat Salatu’l Nabi – Pg. 48 | Imam al-Albani [Edition: al-Ma’arif, Riyadh] | Translated by: Abu Dawūd [Mustafa b. Saalih] al-Hushayshi