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Imaam Ahmad ibn Muhammad Hambal RA
Commonly known as Ibn Hanbal, was the founder of the Hanbali Madhhab. Ibn Hanbal was born in Baghdad in November 780 CE. He belonged to the family of Shayban. Ibn Hanbal studied under various masters, and travelled extensively in order to study Hadith and Fiqh. In his youth, he studied Fiqh under Imam Abu Yusuf, and learnt Hadith from Hisham, Sufyan ibn Aina and others. He was particularly disposed towards the study of Hadith, so he went to Makkah, Yemen, etc. in order to hear Hadith from the Muhaddithin of those places.
After he returned home, he took lessons in Fiqh from Imam ash-Shafi’i. His understanding of religious matters was determined by the traditional views, but under the Caliphs al-Ma’mun, al-Mu’tasim and al-Wasiq, he was put under pressure to subscribe to the Mu’tazilite doctrine of the Quran being a ‘creation’ and not a ‘Wahy’ (Revelation). He refused to subscribe to this teaching, thus he and several other acclaimed theologians were subjected to persecution. Whilst he was being led in chains to the Caliph al-Ma’mun at Tarsus, news came of the Caliph’s death. Under the Caliph’s successor, he patiently submitted to corporal punishment and imprisonment.
Later, the Caliph al-Mutawakkil ordered a return to the orthodox beliefs, and Imam Ibn Hanbal’s torments ceased. Subsequently, he was honoured by the Caliph on several occasions and invited to the Court; a pension was even granted to his family without his knowledge. The fame of his learning, piety and justice caused a host of disciples and admirers to gather around him. In fact, he was more a Muhaddith than a jurist, but it is his fame as a jurist which has endured. Imam Ibn Hanbal died in Baghdad on 13 July 855 CE. It is said that eight hundred thousand men and sixty thousand women attended his funeral. He was buried in the Martyrs cemetery in the Harbiyah quarter of Baghdad.
Imam Ibn Hanbal was the last of the Four Imams of the Sunni Schools who, through his study of Fiqh and Hadith, contributed towards the body of legal knowledge in Islam.
Imaam-As-Sunnah, Imaam Ahmad Bin Hanbal
Imaam Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Hanbal, Abu `Abd Allah al-Dhuhli al-Shaybani al-Marwazi al-Baghdadi (d. 241). Al-Dhahabi says of him: “The true Shaykh of Islam and leader of the Muslims in his time, the hadith master and proof of the Religion. He took hadith from Hushaym, Ibrahim ibn Sa`d, Sufyan ibn `Uyayna, `Abbad ibn `Abbad, Yahya ibn Abi Za’ida, and their layer. From him narrated al-Bukhari [two hadiths in the Sahih], Muslim , Abu Dawud , Abu Zur`a, Mutayyan, `Abd Allah ibn Ahmad, Abu al-Qasim al-Baghawi, and a huge array of scholars. His father was a soldier one of those who called to Islam and he died young.” Al-Dhahabi continues:
Ibn al-Jawzi relates in al-Manaaqib (p. 192) “Imaam Ahmad was the foremost among the Imaams in collecting the Sunnah and sticking to it.”
`Abd Allah ibn Ahmad said: “I heard Abu Zur`a [al-Razi] say: ‘Your father had memorized a million hadiths, which I rehearsed with him according to topic.’”
Hanbal said: “I heard Abu `Abd Allah say: ‘I memorized everything which I heard from Hushaym when he was alive.’”
Ibrahim al-Harbi said: “I held Ahmad as one for whom Allah had gathered up the combined knowledge of the first and the last.”
Imaam al-Shafi`i said “You (addressing Imaam Ahmad ibn Hanbal) are more knowledgeable about Hadith than I, so when a hadith is sahih, inform me of it, whether it is from Kufah, Basrah or Syria, so that I may take the view of the hadith, as long as it is sahih. Related by Ibn Abi Haatim in Aadaab ash-Shaafi’i (pp. 94-5),
Harmala said: “I heard Imaam al-Shafi`i say: ‘I left Baghdad and did not leave behind me anyone more virtuous (afdal), more learned (a`lam), more knowledgeable (afqah) than Ahmad ibn Hanbal.’”
`Ali ibn al-Madini said: “Truly, Allah reinforced this Religion with Abu Bakr al-Siddiq the day of the Great Apostasy (al-Ridda), and He reinforced it with Ahmad ibn Hanbal the day of the Inquisition (al-Mihna).”
Abu `Ubayd said: “The Science at its peak is in the custody of four men, of whom Ahmad ibn Hanbal is the most knowledgeable.”
Ibn Ma`in said, as related by `Abbas [al-Duri]: “They meant for me to be like Ahmad, but by Allah! I shall never in my life compare to him.”
Muhammad ibn Hammad al-Taharani said: “I heard Abu Thawr say: ‘Ahmad is more learned or knowledgeable than al-Thawri.’”
Al-Dhahabi concludes: “Al-Bayhaqi wrote Abu `Abd Allah’s biography (sîra) in one volume, so did Ibn al-Jawzi, and also Shaykh al-Islam [`Abd Allah al-Harawi] al-Ansari in a brief volume. He passed on to Allah’s good pleasure on the day of Jum`a, the twelfth of Rabi` al-Awwal in the year 241, at the age of seventy-seven. I have two of his short-chained narrations (`awâlîh), and a licence (ijâza) for the entire Musnad.” Al-Dhahabi’s chapter on Imam Ahmad in Siyar A`lam al-Nubala’ counts no less than 113 pages.
Some great scholars who followed the madhab of Imaam Ahmad Bin Hanbal.
Ibn ul-Qayyim al-Jawziyyah reported in his book Imam Bukhari, Imaam Muslim and Imaam Abu Dawood were strong followers of Imam Ahmad ibn Hambal. Other great Imaams who followed the teachings of Imaam Ahmad include Shaikh-ul-Islam Taqi ad-Deen Ibn Taymiyyah, AbdulQadir Jillaani, Ibn ul-Qayyim al-Jawziyyah, Al-Haafidh Zaynud-Deen Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali, Imam Muhammed Bin Abdul Wahab and Imam Ibn ul Jawzi.
The biographical notice on Imam Ahmad in the Reliance of the Traveller reads: “Out of piety, Imam Ahmad never gave a formal legal opinion (fatwa) while Shafi`i was in Iraq, and when he later formulated his school of jurisprudence, he mainly drew on explicit texts from the [Qur’an], hadith, and scholarly consensus, with relatively little expansion from analogical reasoning (qiyâs). He was probably the most learned in the sciences of hadith of the four great Imams of Sacred Law, and his students included many of the foremost scholars of hadith. Abu Dawud said of him: ‘Ahmad’s gatherings were gatherings of the afterlife: nothing of this world was mentioned. Never once did I hear him mention this-worldly things.’ … He never once missed praying in the night, and used to recite the entire [Qur’an] daily. Imaam Ahmad was imprisoned and tortured for twenty-eight months under the Abbasid caliph al-Mu`tasim in an effort to force him to publicly espouse the [Mu`tazila] position that the Holy [Qur’an] was created, but the Imam bore up unflinchingly under the persecution and refused to renounce the belief of Ahl al-Sunna that the [Qur’an] is the uncreated word of Allah, after which Allah delivered and vindicated him. When Ahmad died in 241/855, he was accompanied to his resting place by a funeral procession of eight hundred thousand men and sixty thousand women, marking the departure of the last of the four great mujtahid Imams of Islam.”
Ibn al-Jawzi narrates from Bilal al-Khawass that the latter met al-Khidr and asked him: “What do you say of al-Shafi`i?” He said: “One of the Pillar-Saints (Awtâd).” “Ahmad ibn Hanbal?” “He is a Siddîq.”
Ibn al-Jawzi also narrates that Imaam Ahmad ibn Hanbal said “Whoever rejects a statement of the Messenger of Allaah (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) is on the brink of destruction.” and was the foremost in sticking to the sunna and sahih hadith.
Main sources: al-Dhahabi, Siyar A`lam al-Nubala’ 9:434-547 #1876 and Tadhkira al-Huffaz 2:431 #438