Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal (164–241 H)
His full name is “Ahmad Ibn Muhammad Ibn Hanbal Ibn Hilal Ibn Asad Asy-Syaibani”. His nickname was Abu Abdillah, since one of his son was named Abdullah. He originated from the family of Dzuhli Ibn Syaiban, a lineage that claimed themselves from the tribe of Bakr Ibn Wail. He was born in Baghdad, on 164 Hijri. He was an orphan at a very young age because his father died in his youth. His father was an activist in enjoining people to Islam. With her patience, his mother taught and directed him to learn religious knowledges. His mother had played important role in bringing him onto the excellent position due to his knowledge. (See: (Tarikh Tasyri` Al-Islami, Master Text Book of Mediu, page 181)
Teachers and Students of Imam Ahmad
He learned and wrote hadith from Imam Ash Shafi’i, Hushaim, Ibrahim Ibn Sa’d, Sufyan Ibn Uyaina, Abbad Ibn Abbad, Yahya Ibn Abi Zaidah, and from other scholars at their time. The teachers he cited only for the book Al Musnad alone, were more than 280 people. Whereas his senior students were Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Daud, Abu Zur’ah, Mathin, Abdullah Ibn Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, Abul Qasim Al Baghawi, and many more.
Praises for Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal
If we compiled praises of the scholars for Imam Ahmad, it would make a book itself. Due to the great number of his virtues and excellences, Imam Adz Dzahabi wrote about his biography in his work, Siyar A’lam An Nubala, from page 177 until 358. Beside him, many other scholars had written his biography in a distinct book, such as Imam Baihaqi and Ibn al Jauzi who wrote about his biography in one thick volume, whereas Sheikh al Islam Al Anshari wrote about his biography in several, thinner, volumes.
It indicates his excellences and his prominent position among muslims. Here are some praises of the scholars for him:
- From Abdillah, that he heard that Abu Zur’ah said, “Your father (Ahmad) memorized one million hadith.”
- From Hanbal, that he heard that Imam Ahmad said, “I memorize everything that I’ve heard from my teacher, Hushaim, during his life.”
- Ibrahim Al Harbi said, “I’ve seen Imam Ahmad. Allah has gathered in him knowledges of the past and present people.”
- Imam Ash Shafi’i said, “When I left Baghdad, I didn’t leave a nobler, smarter, and cleverer man than Ahmad Ibn Hanbal.”
- Ali Al Madini said, “Indeed, Allah has strengthened this religion with Abu Bakr Ash Shiddiq on the day of Riddah (when people returned to infidelity) and Allah has strengthened this religion with Ahmad Ibn Hanbal on the day of mihnah (when people were forced to say that the Qur’an is creature).
- Abu Ubaid said, “The peak of knowledge exists on four people; and the most knowledgeable one was Ahmad.”
- Ibn Ma’in said, “They wanted me to be like Ahmad Ibn Hanbal. By Allah, I could never be like him, forever!”
- Abu Hammam As Sukuni said, “Imam Ahmad, I’ve never seen a man like him.”
- Abu Thaur said, “Ahmad was more knowledgeable than Sufyan Ath Thauri.” (See: Tadzkirah Al-Huffazh, no. 438)
Trials for Imam Ahmad
At the time of Caliph Al Makmun, the muslims were tried by the ideology of Mu’tazila. They were forced to say that, “The Qur’an is creature.” Whoever among the public figures refused to say that the Qur’an is creature would be killed or prisoned. Saleh, the son of Imam Ahmad said, “All scholars admitted that the Qur’an is creature but four people: my father, Muhammad Ibn Nuh, Al Qawariry, and Al Hasan Ibn Hammad. Finally, Al Qawariry and A Hasan Ibn Hammad admitted that the Qur’an is creature. The rest, my father and Muhammad Ibn Nuh, were imprisoned for several days.” (See: “Siyar A`lam An-Nubala’”, page 238)
Imam Ahmad stood strong to defend the creed of ahlu sunnah wal jama’a, that the Qur’an is the word of Allah, and not a creature. After Al Mutawakkil became a caliph, Imam Ahmad was ennobled by the kingdom, to the extent that none of the juries and authorities were appointed before being consulted to Imam Ahmad.
The works of Imam Ahmad
Imam Ahmad had plenty of writings. Among his works are:
- Al Musnad. In this book, he collected many hadith based on the list of names of the narrator from the generation of the companions. This book contains 30.000 hadith.
- Resala Shalat. he wrote this small book as a part of his advices regarding mistakes of congregatory prayer performed at the mosque near his house.
- Al Masail. This book is a collection of fatwas issued by Imam Ahmad from the question of his son and his students. Thus there were many volumes of Al Masail based on the names of the questioner. For example Masail Abdullah, which contained the questions and answers between Imam Ahmad and his son, Abdullah; Masail Abu Daud, contained questions and answers between Abu Daud and Imam Ahmad.
- Al Ashriba. This book contains his explanations regarding intoxications and definitions of unlawful beverage.
- Fadhail Ash Shahabah. This book contains indications about the virtues of the companions. Basically, this book is a rebuttal for the Rafidha who claimed that majority of the companions were kufr.
The death of Imam Ahmad
He died on Friday, 12th of Rabi’ul Awwal, 241 Hijri, at the age of 77 years. When he died, many people prayed for his corpse. It was told by Adz Dzahabi, from Bunan Ibn Ahmad Al Qashbani that he attended the funeral prayer for Imam Ahmad, and people who prayed for Imam Ahmad were about 800.000 man and 60.000 woman. In another narration, from Abu Zur’ah, he received the news that Caliph Al Mutawakkil ordered someone to count the foot traces of people who prayed for the corpse of Imam Ahmad. It was told that the number of traces were more than 2.500.000 people, who prayed for him. May Allah have mercy on Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal. (See: Siyar A`lam An-Nubala’, page. 339–340)
- Adz-Dzahabi, “Siyar A`lam An-Nubala’”, volume 11, Muassasah Ar-Risalah, 1405 H.
- Adz-Dzahabi, “Tadzkirah Al-Huffazh”, Al-Maktabah Ash Shameela.
- Tarikh Tasyri` Al-Islami, Master Text Book of Mediu
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