The question of whom Imaam Abu Hanifa [رحمه الله] followed is common, here Mawlana Ilyas Ghuman gives and adequate reply.
بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَـنِ الرَّحِيم
Ghair Muqalid: Mawlana, tell me is taqleed of an Imaam wajib?
Mawlana Ghuman: Off course it is wajib.
Ghair Muqalid: Don’t do taqleed
Mawlana Ghuman: One is sinful if he does not.
Ghair Muqalid: Who did Imaam Abu Hanifa follow?
Mawlana Ghuman: He does not follow anyone.
Ghair Muqalid: Is he not sinful?
Mawlana Ghuman: He does not follow anyone nor is he sinful.
Ghair Muqalid: Why?
Mawlana Ghuman: Let me ask you one thing, you tell me; is it obligatory on every individual to recite the kalimah of the Prophet [صلى الله عليه وسلم]?
Ghair Muqalid: Yes.
Mawlana Ghuman: Tell me, the Prophet [صلى الله عليه وسلم] was a comprehensive personality; did he recite the kalima of any Prophet?
Ghair Muqalid: He is a Prophet himself, why would he read the kalmia of someone else?
Mawlana Ghuman: Tell me this, praying in congregation [Salaah in Jama’ah]?
Ghair Muqalid: Indeed it is necessary.
Mawlana Ghuman: What is the meaning of praying in congregation?
Ghair Muqalid: A few people standing behind the Imaam and performing Salaah.
Mawlana Ghuman: Then do you, Ahle Hadith recite in congregation, and your Shaykh without congregation? Because you are behind the Imaam, which Imaam is he behind?
Ghair Muqalid: He is an Imaam himself.
Mawlana Ghuman: Have you now understood.
On every individual reciting kalimah of the Prophet [صلى الله عليه وسلم] is an obligation, the Prophet [صلى الله عليه وسلم] does not recite the kalimah of anyone else because he is a Prophet himself. Praying in congregation is necessary but the Imaam does not stand behind anyone because he is an Imaam himself. So to do taqleed of a mujtahid (one who is capable of ijtihad) is wajib (necessary), Imaam Abu Hanifa [رحمه الله] does not do so because he is an Imaam himself, why would he do taqleed.
Ghair Muqalid: Imaam Shafi, Imaam Malik, and Imaam Ahmed [رحمه الله] are also Imaams, why don’t you do taqleed of them and do it of him (Imaam Abu Hanifa).
Mawlana Ghuman: In Pulminas there were other mosques as well, why did you leave them and come here for Jumuah.
Ghair Muqalid: Those mosques are small and this mosque is big.
Mawlana Ghuman: Imaam Shafi and Imaam Malik [and Imaam Ahmed] are small and Imaam Abu Hanifa is big.
Ghair Muqalid: You don’t give proof you give examples.
Mawlana Ghuman: When your Shaykh comes I will give proof, when an ignorant person like you comes I will give examples. Scholars are given proof I don’t tell it to you, scholars are given proof and non-scholars are given examples. To who? Non scholars. If I call you ignorant you will become upset isn’t it? We call them ignorant.
We give proof to scholars and examples to non-scholars.
Video and Translation: Hanafi Fiqh Channel
Transcription and Editing: Friends of Deoband