Ahmad ibn Hanbal

Ahmad ibn Hanbal

region = Muslim scholar|
era = Islamic golden age|
color = #B0C4DE

image_caption =

name = Ahmad ibn Hanbal
birth = 164 AH [http://www.ibnamin.com/Manhaj/scholars.htm مناهج أئمة الجرح والتعديل ] ] in KhorasanThe History of Persia by John Malcolm - Page 245]
death = 241 AH in Baghdad A Literary History of Persia from the Earliest Times Until Firdawsh by Edward Granville Browne - Page 295]
school_tradition = Hanbali
main_interests = Fiqh, Hadith, and Aqeedah
influences = Imam Shafi'i
influenced = al-Barbahaaree [Explanation of the Creed, pg. 8] and Muhammad al-Bukhari [ [http://fatwa-online.com/classicalbooks/hadeeth/0000101.htm CLASSICAL BOOKS Hadeeth Saheeh al-Bukhaaree (al-Jaami' as-Saheeh) ] ]
notable_ideas =

Ahmed ibn Hanbal (Arabic: ‏‎‎‎‎‎‎‎‎أحمد بن حنبل‏‎‎‎‏‎‎‎ ‎‎‎‎‎‎‎ "Ahmad bin Hanbal" ) (780 - 855 CE, 164 - 241 AH) was an important Muslim scholar and theologian of Persian background [Islam the Straight Path: Islam Interpreted by Muslims by Kenneth W. Morgan Page 143] He is considered the founder of the Hanbali school of fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence). His full name was Ahmad bin Muhammad bin Hanbal Abu `Abd Allah al-Shaybani (أحمد بن محمد بن حنبل أبو عبدالله الشيباني).


Ahmad ibn Hanbal was born at Merv, in Khorassan, of the city in which his parents were natives, in 780 and died at Baghdad in 855.

Youth and Education

He started his career by learning jurisprudence ("fiqh") under the celebrated Hanafi judge Abu Yusuf, the renowned student and companion of Abu Hanifah. He then discontinued his studies with Abu Yusuf in the pursuit of hadith, travelling around the Caliphate, at the age of 16. It's said that as a student he highly impressed his teachers. Ibn al-Jawzi states that Ibn Hanbal had 414 hadith masters whom he narrated from. Imam al-Shafi’i was one of Ibn Hanbal's teachers with whom he had a mutual respect.

Ibn Hanbal did not content himself with seeking knowledge, he also acted, by making jihad, performing the guard duty at Islamic frontiers ("ribat") and making Hajj five times in his life, twice on foot.

Expertise in Various Sciences

Ibn Hanbal spent 40 years of his life in the pursuit of knowledge, and only thereafter did he assume the position of a mufti. By this time, he had mastered six or seven Islamic disciplines, according to al-Shafi'i. He became a leading authority in hadith and left a colossal hadith encyclopaedia, al-Musnad, as a living proof of his proficiency and devotion to this science. He is also remembered as a leading and the most balanced critic of hadith his time. Ibn Hanbal became a principal specialist in jurisprudence, since he had the advantage of benefiting from some of the famous early jurists and their heritage, such as Abu Hanifah, Malik ibn Anas, al-Shafi'i, and many others. His learning, piety and unswerving faithfulness to traditions gathered a host of disciples and admirers around him. He further improvised and developed upon previous schools, becoming the founder of a new independent school of jurisprudence, known as the Hanbali school. Some scholars, such as Qutaiba b. Sa’id, noted that if Ibn Hanbal had witnessed the age of Sufyan al-Thawri, Malik, al-Awza’i and Laith b. Sa’d, he would have surpassed them all. Despite being bilingual, he became an expert in the Arabic language, poetry, and grammar.

The Mihna

The Caliph Al-Ma'mun subjected scholars to severe persecution at the behest of the Mu'tazili theologians, most notably Bishr al-Marrisi and Ahmad b. Abi Du’ad, mainly to establish the notion that God created the Quran as a physical entity (rather than saying that Quran is God's speech in an indescribable way, as held by the orthodox view).

Almost all of the scholars in Baghdad acknowledged the creation-of-Quran doctrine, with the notable exceptions of Ibn Hanbal and Muhammad ibn Nuh. This greatly pained and angered Ibn Hanbal, so that he boycotted some of the great traditionists for their acknowledgement and often refused to narrate hadith from them. Amongst those boycotted were a close companion and a colleague of Ibn Hanbal, Yahya b. Ma’in, about whom it is said that Ibn Hanbal refused to speak to him until he died.

Finally, Ahmad ibn Hanbal and Muhammad ibn Nuh were also put to the test on the order of al-Ma’mun, but they refused to acknowledge the literal creation of the Quran as created like other of Allah's creatures. Consequently, they were dispatched in irons to be dealt with by al-Ma’mun himself. On the way, Imam Ahmad supplicated to Allah to prevent him from meeting al-Ma’mun. His prayer was answered in the sudden death of al-Ma’mun, due to which they were both sent back. Muhammad b. Nuh passed away on their return journey, and there was none to prepare his funeral, pray over, and bury him except Imam Ahmad.

The policy endorsing the created-Quran premise was continued by al-Mu'tasim (who is reported to have had Ibn Hanbal flogged) and by al-Wathiq (who banished Ibn Hanbal from Baghdad).

This was ended, however, by al-Mutawakkil who, unlike his predecessors, had the utmost respect and admiration for the Sunni school. Promptly after assuming the position as Caliph, he sent orders throughout the Caliphate to put an immediate end to all discussions regarding the Quran, released all the prisoners of faith, dismissed the Mu’tazili judges, and more significantly deported the chief investigator of the inquisition, Ahmad b. Abi Du’ad along with his family. He further ordered that the Mu’tazili judges responsible for the inquisition be cursed from by the pulpits, by name. Al-Mutawakkil is said to have treated Ibn Hanbal in a special way.

Illness, Death and Funeral

After Ibn Hanbal turned 77, he was struck with severe illness and fever, and became very weak, yet never complained about his infirmity and pain. After hearing of his illness, masses flocked to his door. The ruling family also showed the desire to pay him a visit, and to this end sought his permission. However, due to his desire to remain independent of any influence from the authority, Ahmad denied them access.

He died in Baghdad in Rabi' al-Awwal, 241 AH (Friday, July 31, 855 CE). The news of his death quickly spread far and wide in the city and the people flooded the streets to attend his funeral. One of the rulers, upon hearing the news, sent burial shrouds along with perfumes to be used for the funeral. However, respecting Ibn Hanbal’s wishes, his sons refused the offering and instead used a burial shroud prepared by his female servant. Moreover, his sons took care not to use water from their homes to wash the body, as Ibn Hanbal had refused to utilise any of their resources because they had accepted the offerings of the ruler.

After preparing his funeral, his sons prayed over him, along with around 200 members of the ruling family, while the streets were teeming with both men and women, awaiting the funeral procession. The funeral was then brought out and the multitudes continued to pray over him outdoors, before and after his burial at his grave. According to the "Tarjamatul Imam", over 800,000 men and 60,000 women attended his funeral.


For information on his madhhab see:
* Hanbali madhahab and Hanbalites
* Hanbali Scholars


* In a well-known narration [Ibn al-Jawzi, Manaqib al-Imam Ahmad p. 24, Hajr 1988] his uncle sent Ibn Hanbal with several documents containing information about some people to the Caliph. He took the papers and when his uncle eventually met him, he discovered that he had not delivered them but rather threw them into the sea because, out of the fear of God, he didn't want to be an informant. To this, his uncle replied: "This little boy fears Allah so much! What then of us?"
*Al-Mutawakkil is said to have wished to take care of all Ibn Hanbal's affairs. Ibn Hanbal, however, turned down the offers due to his general dislike of being close to rulers. Al-Mutwakkil, knowing that Ibn Hanbal would refuse his offerings, instead presented some gifts to his son Salih. When it came to his knowledge, Ibn Hanbal showed strong disapproval and refused to consume anything from his son’s wealth.


*It is said that, when told that it was religiously permissible to say what pleases his persecuters without believing in it at the time of mihna, he said "If I remained silent and you remained silent, then who will teach the ignorant?".
*“The graves of sinners from People of Sunnah is a garden, while the graves of the pious ascetics from the People of Innovation is a barren pit. The sinners among Ahlus Sunnah are the Friends of Allaah, while the pious among Ahlul-Bidah are the Enemies of Allaah.” [Tabaqaat al-Hanaabilah (1/184)]

Further reading


* Ibn al-Jawzi, "Manaqib al-Imam Ahmad"
* Nadwi, S. A. H. A., "Saviors of Islamic Spirit" (Vol. 1), translated by Mohiuddin Ahmad, Academy of Islamic Research and Publications, Lucknow, 1971.
* Melchert, Christopher, Ahmad ibn Hanbal (Makers of the Muslim World), Oneworld, 2006.

See also

*Notable Hanbali Scholars
*Taba Taba'een


External links

* [http://www.momin.ca/biographies/Imaam%20Ahmad%20Ibn%20Hanbal.htm Biography of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal]
* [http://www.islamicawakening.com/viewarticle.php?articleID=1193& Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal: Life & Madhab]
* [http://www.islaam.com/Article.aspx?id=425 Developing Humility in Prayer I]
* [http://www.islaam.com/Article.aspx?id=426 Developing Humility in Prayer II]

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