11-27-2005, 11:00 PM
Benefits from the Life & Works of Imaam Ahmad bin HanbalReply
By Shaykh Saalih ibn 'Abdil-Azeez Aal ash-Shaykh
Taken from a recorded lecture entitled Min Ma'eenil-Imaam Ahmad
Translation and footnotes by Abul-‘Abbaas
The praise is for Allaah, the One who keeps a group of scholars available during the times when there is no messenger, scholars who bring those who have strayed back to the Guidance, curing their blindness and bringing them back to life using Allaah's Book. For how many have they brought back to life from those killed by Iblees? And how many strayed and then were guided by the scholars?
What great effects they have on the people! And how filthy are the effects of the people on them! They expel from the Religion of Allaah the perversions of the people of falsehood, the twisted explanations of the ignoramuses, and the plagiarism of those who have strayed, those who bear the flags of innovation and dispute over the Book of Allaah.
I praise Allaah, the Mighty and Exalted, and I thank Him. I testify that there is no deity worthy of worship except Allaah, and that He is alone without any partners, and I further testify that Muhammad is His Servant and Messenger, His pure one, His chosen friend. May Allaah raise his rank and the rank of all his family members and Companions, and may He grant them an abundance of peace.
To proceed: I ask Allaah, the Mighty and Exalted, that He grants me and all of you beneficial knowledge, righteous actions, and submissive hearts. O Allaah! Teach us what will benefit us, and benefit us by what you teach us, and increase us in knowledge, good deeds, guidance, and adherence to the Sunnah! Hear our call, as You are the Most Merciful One!
This lecture has been entitled From the Fountains of Imaam Ahmad. What is intended from this title is that Imaam Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Hanbal, the one born in the year 164, the one who passed away in the year 241, was described as being like water that flowed from a spring. Like the spring that a thirsty person goes to in order to quench his thirst, he was like the spring that those who have been overcome by sins go in order to cleanse their souls. So all kinds of people used to go to him to quench their thirsts, and they would all be able to fulfill their various needs by going to him.
The people have agreed that Imaam Ahmad was an Imaam of guidance, the very head of the Imaams of Ahlus-Sunnah wal-Jamaa'ah. They have also agreed that loving him and studying his history is an indication of someone's love for those who studied the Sunnah of the Prophet (sall-Allaahu 'alayhi wa sallam).
The people of the past were tested regarding their love for Imaam Ahmad. Whoever loved him was considered someone on the Sunnah; whoever spoke ill of him was someone of innovation and misguidance.
This is not something strange, since the life story of Imaam Ahmad, from his earliest years to the end of his life, is the history of a companion of the Sunnah, someone who followed the Sunnah devoutly. His is the history of an Imaam, a scholar of Hadeeth and Fiqh, a person of knowledge who spent his days and nights in acts of obedience worshipping Allaah.
Dedicating One's Youth to Worship
Since his childhood, Imaam Ahmad (may Allaah have Mercy on him) could be seen with signs of nusuk on him. Ma'roof Al-Karkhee (may Allaah have Mercy on him) said:
"I saw Ahmad ibn Hanbal when he was a young boy, and he had signs of nusuk on him. I used to hear him making statements that were full of benefit."
This statement describes how he was upon guidance even as a young boy. He used to be seen with signs of nusuk on him. What is meant by nusuk is worship and acts of obedience. The effects of worship and obedience are not only physical ones seen in the appearance and dress, but their effects are also found in one's speech, manners, in the acts of worship and obedience themselves, and in one's preference for the next life over this one.
Imaam Ahmad said about his own self:
"I did not marry until after I reached 40 years of age."
His companions said that this was because he used to be busy traveling to seek knowledge before that. He went to Makkah, and from there to San'aa'. There is a story about this trip:
He set out with his companion, Yahyaa ibn Ma'een, for Hajj. He said to Yahyaa:
"When I finish Hajj, verily I am going to Yemen to meet the scholar of Yemen, the scholar of Hadeeth, 'Abdur-Razzaaq ibn Hammaam As-San'aanee."
As-San'aanee died in the year 210 after Hijrah.
When they reached Makkah, they found that 'Abdur-Razzaaq was making Hajj that year as well. So Yahyaa knew who he was and met him. He saw him going around the Ka'bah, and since he knew him, he went and greeted him. Yahyaa said to 'Abdur-Razzaaq, and they knew each other: "This is Ahmad ibn Hanbal." So 'Abdur-Razzaaq became happy about this and said: "It has reached us that he is a person who has a lot of goodness."
When they prayed their two rak'ahs after making tawwaaf, Yahyaa said to Imaam Ahmad:
"Ahmad, our provisions for the journey to San'aa' have been used. And here is 'Abdur-Razzaaq, so let us stay with him so we can take some narrations from him."
Ahmad said to Yahyaa ibn Ma'een:
"My intention is still present, and I will not oppose it. So I will continue on to San'aa'."
This shows the effects of his commitment to the hardships of seeking knowledge. A trip to San'aa' in that time was not made in cars or airplanes or the likes, rather it was only made with great hardships, the realities of which can not be described.
Ma'roof said, "I saw Ahmad ibn Hanbal when he was a young boy and he had signs of nusuk on him." In reality, this is what we should see in our children that they work hard to correct themselves in their youth, in their early years. Because at this, if they do not build upon this foundation with what is correct, with acts of worship and obedience, then it will be very difficulty after that, except for those whom Allaah, the Mighty and Exalted, excludes.
Whoever holds to His Religion in his youth, firmness will return to him. Someone being devout or obedient is not just a claim or a verbal ascription to something, nor is it something seen only from the outside. Rather devoutness in the Religion entails one taking on serious rituals, he must worship, and he must be obedient.
This leads us to the story when Imaam Ahmad once hosted one of his students in Hadeeth, 'Abdus-Samad ibn Sulaymaan. When he was hosting him in his house, and it came time to sleep, he brought him some water to make wudhoo' from or for general use. Then he went to sleep. When the morning came, Imaam Ahmad saw that all of the water was still there, so he asked about it. 'Abdus-Samad replied: "I did not use the water." Imaam Ahmad said, "A student of the narrations who does not do anything at night?!"
He meant, "All the way to the morning, you did not pray in the night?! You did not worship!? You did not even pray two rak'ahs?!" 'Abdus-Samad replied, "Verily I am a traveler." He said, "Even as a traveler!"
Meaning, "Where is the witr? Where is the prayer?"
So without a doubt, if this was important in that day and time for cultivating one's soul and getting set in the proper direction, then we are in more need of it today. This is the case especially with the youth who seek knowledge, or those holding tight to their guidance, or those who display the effects of prayer, or those who are keen in doing good deeds.
One must keep his soul tied to some acts of worship. No doubt, one must keep his soul tied to some acts of obedience. If you force the soul to be obedient, it will become obedient. If you abandon it, then it will be a soul that gravitates toward wrongdoing.
It has been related that the Prophet (sall-Allaahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said:
"Whoever shows enduring patience, Allaah will make him firm upon patience. Whoever seeks knowledge, Allaah will teach him. Whoever hunts for good, he will be given it. Whoever expects evil, he will be made to fall into it."
Therefore, this description of Imaam Ahmad proves that he had an upbringing based on obedience to Allaah and acts of worship, so much so that he used to force his soul to shun many worldly things and to take on great hardships. The result of this was that he established his soul firmly upon obedience to Allaah, the Mighty and Exalted.
Speaking Only About Beneficial Matters
Aboo Daawood Sulaymaan ibn Ash'ath, the author of Sunan Abee Daawood, was a student of Imaam Ahmad who related many issues from him, issues that are published today. He said, describing the Imaam:
"I have not seen anyone like Imaam Ahmad ibn Hanbal. He never used to talk about the things that the people talk loosely about from the worldly affairs, but if some affair of knowledge was mentioned, he would talk."
To repeat the quote, "I have not seen anyone like Imaam Ahmad ibn Hanbal. He never used to talk about the things that the people talk loosely about from the worldly affairs, but if some affair of knowledge was mentioned, he would talk."
This attribute is certainly an attribute of the great Imaams of the most pious people, those who sternly dedicate their lives to what benefit the people. The one who speaks about every affair does not have the noble silence of the people of knowledge, nor the silence of the people of righteousness.
So therefore, a righteous person whose heart is attached to the Next Life should be known by his silence when he does not speak, and he should be known by his speech when he talks. His speech is only about good things, and he keeps silent of evil affairs, as Allaah, the Mighty and Exalted, says:
“There is no good in most of their private gatherings, except for those who order the people to give charity or order other acts of kindness, or those who mend broken ties between people.”
Imaam Ahmad used to sit with his brothers occasionally, and sometimes with his companions and students. He would also mix with the common people as well. They would talk about a number of affairs. But Imaam Ahmad would only speak if there was something beneficial to be said. The benefit could be his teaching the people or ordering them with righteousness. They said:
"If some affair of knowledge was mentioned, he would talk."
In reality, this concept has been put to the test. The heart is not able to contain too many things, too many conflicting things inside a person's character. So it is binding on the student of knowledge to dedicate himself wholeheartedly to knowledge, first and foremost. He must stay away from vain talk and wasting his time. If he contemplates something, then he contemplates over some issue related to knowledge. If he speaks, then he speaks about knowledge. This will cause his life to take the task of seeking knowledge head-on, and it will give him a strong desire to study.
As a result of this, the student's speech will differ from the speech of other people. Why? That is because the student speaks the language of the people of knowledge. He lives with the Companions and their students. He lives with Maalik, Ash-Shaafi'ee, Ahmad, and Sufyaan. He lives with Al-Bukhaaree and the Imaams like Ibn Khuzaymah and Shaykhul-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah. He lives with the Imaams of Islaam. He speaks with their words as he discusses issues with them. He is immersed in their oceans of knowledge.
Hearing everything that the people talk about, and then engaging in that talk with them, and then reading things from just anyone and passing it on, all of this has an effect on the heart of the Muslim in general, specifically it has a bigger effect on the heart of the student of knowledge.
This means that a person must make a mental note to himself that he must not allow his heart to be receptive to every single thing. Rather he must define its course and clarify his methodology within himself, and then he takes that path. And the greatest methodology is that of the inheritors of the Prophet (sall-Allaahu 'alayhi wa sallam), those who he spoke about, saying:
"Verily the prophets do not leave behind dirhams or deenaars, rather they leave behind knowledge. So whoever receives some of it, verily he has received an expansive treasure."
What a great accomplishment it is for a man to contemplate about his Religion, about knowledge, about that which brings him benefit! And when he speaks, he only speaks about an issue that will benefit him in his Religion, like ordering righteousness, commanding the people to give charity, teaching, learning, and the likes. Even in his everyday conversations, his desire for knowledge is evident.
A man is raised in rank when he harnesses his eagerness for things. The soul is eager for many different things, so do not let it go to whatever it craves, force it to go after the things that Allaah, the Mighty and Exalted, has sought from you.
Living in Fear of Allaah
Al-Marwoodee was one of Imaam Ahmad's companions and students, and he relayed many issues from him. He said to Imaam Ahmad:
"O Abaa 'Abdilllaah! There are so many people that call on you!" He looked at him and said, "I fear this may be something that gradually leads me to something evil."
His student said to him, and he was truthful in what he said, "O Abaa 'Abdillaah! There are so many people that call on you!" He replied, "I fear this may be something that gradually leads me to something evil." This kind of statement can only come from a heart that fears Allaah and is fearful of meeting Him. It can only come from one who knows that the heart changes states. It can only come from someone who knows that this worldly life is nothing, and that the Next Life is the reality.
Most of us, moreover all of us, except those whom Allaah has exempted, if it was mentioned to us that the people are praising us, or that the people are calling on us, we would be happy and cheerful, perhaps we would even be delighted with ourselves.
So Imaam Ahmad said, remedying his soul,"I fear this may be something that gradually leads me to something evil." The statement, "I fear," shows that his heart had combined hope and fear, that he had hoped, but was also afraid. When he heard something related to a reward for his work, he said, "I fear this may be something that gradually leads me to something evil." He meant,
"Verily, Allaah, the Mighty and Exalted, may be gradually leading me into a punishment by this, testing me to see if I am delighted with myself or not. Maybe Allaah, the Mighty and Exalted, is gradually leading me to a punishment,"
as our Lord Himself, the Mighty and Exalted, describes how he gradually punishes some people:
“And we will punish them gradually from places they know not, so leave them to Me! Verily My Plan is strong!”
So they were destroyed. Therefore, this is what is binding on the heart of the person of Tawheed, the believer, that it always remains in fear. These days, the talks about the meaning of hope, they are… OK. But the people have gone overboard with it, to the point that many people rely on their hope in Allaah so much so that they have lost any fear of Allaah, they rarely fear Him.
Everyone is hoping! The rewards for good deeds are mentioned, along with the rewards for obedience. Some are working, some making 'umrah, others are praying, some are reciting, etc. All of this is from the understanding of hope. But where is the fear? Where is the fear of Al-Jaleel, the Mighty and Exalted, may His Names be exalted?
It is Allaah who described His Angels as being His Servants, and that they are not overburdened. Even their breathing glorifies Allaah, their actions are all actions of obedience, as the Prophet (sall-Allaahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said:
"The sky is full of sounds, and it should be. There is no space the width of four fingers except that there is an angel in it standing, bowing, or prostrating."
All of this, while Allaah describes His Angels:
“They fear their Lord from above them, and they do as they are ordered.”
So let every one of us examine our own selves in regards to this statement of Imaam Ahmad. Where is the fear of Allaah in our hearts? We have neglected obligations, and we all know our own selves, so where is the fear? We have fallen into sins, while Allaah has full knowledge of them, so where is the fear? We have neglected the rights of others, so where is the fear?
We have neglected the rights of our believing brothers, by backbiting and slandering them, by jealousy and envy, and by oppression, so where is the fear of Allaah, the Mighty and Exalted? Let every one of us motivate our own selves to have fear in our actions! For verily fear will cause a heart to have humility, submissiveness, and an eagerness to prepare for the meeting with Allaah, the Mighty and Exalted.
This is indeed a great statement, the one said by Imaam Ahmad in response to his student's remark about how many people call on him, "I fear this may be something that gradually leads me to something evil." May Allaah have Mercy on him, for what great vision he had! His was a great affair!
In most of the gatherings that Imaam Ahmad attended, he would sit with his head between his knees. It was said that this was the position of a person of humility, one who contemplates about his own self and his future, while remaining seated in a posture that a person can not become haughty by it, nor seek to be seen by it.
When death approached Imaam Ahmad, the doctor saw the excessive amount of blood in his urine and said: "This does not happen except due to a fearful heart." He meant that the time of death had caused him to reach that state.
Recognizing the Position of the Scholars
From his other noteworthy sayings, may Allaah have Mercy on him, elevate his and our positions, and reward him with the best reward, the most plentiful and loftiest one:
"Whatever the scholars of Ahlus-Sunnah have detested, then it is evil."
He said (repeating), "Whatever the scholars of Ahlus-Sunnah have detested, then it is evil." He meant that the scholars of Ahlus-Sunnah are to be referred to in affairs of what is to be considered evil and what is not.
So whatever the scholars of Ahlus-Sunnah have detested in the issues of 'aqeedah, then it is evil. Whatever the scholars of Ahlus-Sunnah have detested with regards to manners, then it is evil. Whatever the scholars of Ahlus-Sunnah have detested in affairs of ordering righteousness and forbidding evil, then it is evil. This means that a man must return to the scholars of the Sunnah if he wants to know about the affairs of the Sunnah, about the proper understanding of righteousness and evil.
So whatever the scholars of Ahlus-Sunnah have detested, then it is an evil thing, the evil of which we have no doubt in. This is indeed a great lesson from Imaam Ahmad for every Muslim, that he must follow and take guidance from the scholars of Ahlus-Sunnah, those who have great concern for the Sunnah of the Prophet (sall-Allaahu 'alayhi wa sallam).
This goes for all aspects of Tawheed, as well as acts of worship, business transactions, manners, education, work, and all dealings between people in the society. You must refer to the scholars of Ahlus-Sunnah in these affairs. This will free your heart from your desires. This will cause your heart to be detached from what your intellect likes and dislikes. Therefore it is binding for us to be followers, for us to return often to the people of knowledge, to the people of the Sunnah for religious rulings.
For whatever the scholars of Ahlus-Sunnah detest, then it is an evil thing. That means that you do not classify things as being evil according to your own opinion, nor do you get to know affairs by way of your opinions, rather you must refer to the scholars of Ahlus-Sunnah regarding the current and future affairs.
This is something that there is no doubt about, since the scholars of Ahlus-Sunnah are the inheritors of the prophets and the guides to the Sharee'ah. They are the ones that Imaam Ahmad spoke of in the introduction to his book:
"The praise is for Allaah, the One who keeps a group of scholars available during the times when there is no messenger, scholars who bring those who have strayed back to the Guidance, curing their blindness and bringing them back to life using Allaah's Book."
Therefore, they are the ones we refer to. The affairs are not about, "Is this a bad thing or not? Should I reject it or not? Should I respond or not? Is this correct or not?" These things must not come from a person's independent judgments from his own opinions, rather he must refer these matters back to the scholars of Ahlus-Sunnah.
Why? That is because these things are affairs of 'aqeedah, affairs of the Religion. Everyone claims that they understand the affair of enjoining good and forbidding evil. The Khawaarij claimed it, and thus stood up against the Imaams. The Mu'tazilah claimed it, and thus viewed the opposition of the Imaams as being a good thing. Like them, many groups claimed to be enjoining good and forbidding evil, and thus stood up against the Imaams. However, the affair is to be according to the judgment of the scholars of Ahlus-Sunnah, and whatever they have classified as being an evil thing.
Loving and Hating for the Right Reasons
From the noteworthy sayings of Imaam Ahmad about the scholars of Ahlus-Sunnah is his statement:
"Love the people of the Sunnah according to the degree that they are upon the Sunnah."
This means that your love should be based on the Sunnah, that you do not love for petty reasons, nor for some worldly reasons. Real love is for those who are upon the Sunnah. It could be that a person of the Sunnah, a person of the correct 'aqeedah, does some evil things. However, due to his correct 'aqeedah, his clarity, and his submission to Allaah's Book and the Sunnah of His Messenger (sall-Allaahu 'alayhi wa sallam), you find that he is a person whose heart is free of innovation and doubts.
He said, "Love the people of the Sunnah according to the degree that they are upon the Sunnah." What is understood from this also is that a man hates the people of innovation according to the degree of their innovations. This means that if they perform some acts of worship, or they are known for their distance from worldly things, or they have conveyed some important knowledge, then they are not to be hated for these things. Rather they are to be hated because they have gone against the Sunnah of our beloved one, Muhammad (sall-Allaahu 'alayhi wa sallam).
Similarly, Aboo Ad-Dardaa', may Allaah have Mercy on him and be pleased with him, used to say, "O how great is fasting!" mocking them, "Rather how great are the people who sleep deeply at night and do not fast in the daytime! How could you be so unfair about the fool and how he stays up at night and how he fasts in the daytime?! For verily an atom's weight of righteousness along with taqwaa and conviction is greater than a mountain's weight of worship performed by conceited people!"
The scholars have said, explaining these words of Aboo Ad-Dardaa', that he was encouraging the people to love the one who sleeps all night without praying, as well as the one who does not fast any optional days. Why? They said that this kind of person, upon the Sunnah with conviction, his affair is good. He said, "An atom's weight of righteousness along with taqwaa and conviction is greater than a mountain's weight of worship performed by conceited people!"
If a person is upon the Sunnah with conviction, then verily Allaah, the Mighty and Exalted, will bless his small efforts. A person may perform a lot of worship, be he is haughty and self-righteous about his worship, his lengthy recitation, or his many days of fasting. He looks at the people as if they are nothing. He does not even realize the effects of his behavior, nor does he know how his actions will be at the time of his death.
The Prophet (sall-Allaahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said:
"Verily a man may perform the deeds of the people of Paradise until there remains only a handspan's distance between him and it, and then what is written for him overtakes him, and he performs the deeds of the people of the Hellfire, and thus enters it."
"And verily a man may perform the deeds of the people of the Hellfire until there remains only a handspan's distance between him and it, and then what is written for him overtakes him, and he performs the deeds of the people of Paradise, and thus enters it."
Because of this hadeeth, many of the Salaf used to cry upon thinking about the book that contains what is written for them, saying, "My heart in suspended, what has preceded me? (What is written for me?)"
Others, when they used to think about their final actions as mentioned in this hadeeth, that what is written for him will overtake him, they would say, reflecting over these final deeds, "Our hearts are suspended according to our final actions, what will we be taken upon?"
Therefore, when a person worships, he must worship with fear, fearing that perhaps Allaah will not accept that deed from him. Some of the Salaf said about this, "I only wish that I could offer two rak'ahs that I know would be accepted." Why? That is because Allaah, the Mighty and Exalted, says:
“Verily it is only the deeds of the people of taqwaa that Allaah accepts.”
We see here that Imaam Ahmad was establishing the relationship between every Muslim and Ahlus-Sunnah, between every Muslim and those of the correct beliefs in Tawheed, those who do not contradict the Sunnah with their intellects, nor do they contradict the Sunnah with their desires.
If something from the speech of the Prophet (sall-Allaahu 'alayhi wa sallam) reaches you, that which gives details to the Qur'aan, or if something reaches you from the actions of the Companions (Radiya ‘Llahu ‘anhum) or their speech, then it is the truth. The scholars are those who sufficed themselves with the reports of the Companions, acted by their way, and lived according to their guidance. Whoever takes from other than this is on the brink of destruction.
Identifying Innovation and Staying Away From it
From Imaam Ahmad's other noteworthy sayings, (Rahimahu ‘Llah), is his statement:
"I do not know any people more in need of learning hadeeth than the people in our time." They asked him, "And why is that?" He replied, "Innovation has spread, so whoever does not have the Sunnah, or the narrations, then he will fall into innovation."
Why would a person ignorant of the narrations of the Sunnah fall into innovation? Because innovation is something beloved to a person's soul, since the person only does it trying to get close to Allaah, the Mighty and Exalted.
An example of this is what is reported about Ibn Mas'ood (Radiya ‘Llahu 'anhu). He went to a gathering where one of those present would say to the rest, "Glorify Allaah 100 times," and they would say, "Subhaanallaah," 100 times. He would say, "Praise Allaah 100 times," and they would say, "Al-hamdu lillaah," 100 times. Then he would say, "Declare Allaah's Greatness 100 times," and they would say, "Allaahu akbar," 100 times, all of this with stones in front of them to keep count with. So Ibn Mas'ood (Radiya ‘Llahu 'anhu) came to them when he was informed of this. He rebuked them, saying, "Verily you people are either more rightly guided than the Companions of the Messenger of Allaah (sall-Allaahu 'alayhi wa sallam), or you are upon a branch of misguidance! These are the dishes of the Messenger of Allaah (sall-Allaahu 'alayhi wa sallam) that are not yet even broken, and his wives have not yet even passed away…" This shows that this event occurred shortly after the death of the Prophet (sall-Allaahu 'alayhi wa sallam). They said to him, and they were good people, "O Abaa 'Abdir-Rahmaan! We only intended good!" They declared that they did not intend except good, to glorify Allaah, to praise Him, and to declare His Greatness. And you all know the hadeeth teaching us to do this every day. They said, "O Abaa 'Abdir-Rahmaan! We only intended good!" Ibn Mas'ood said, "How many have intended good, but never accomplish it?" He meant that a person must hold to the Sunnah in his affairs, as innovation is built upon the idea of intending good, just as those people said, "We only intended good!"
People intend good in every type of innovation that you see, like innovations in our belief for example, like denying some of Allaah's Names and Attributes. You find them saying, "We were denying such and such an attribute to establish Tawheed." They were only intending good. They negated an Attribute that Allaah, the Mighty and Exalted, is worthy of, something that is part of His Perfection, while they say, "We only intended good!" They only intended to exalt Allaah .
The Mu'tazilah considered the negation of Allaah's Attributes to be from tahweed.
Others named their negation of Allaah's Attributes "ta'weel" and explained them as something else. What did they intend by this? They intended to exalt Allaah, the Mighty and Exalted. However, the statement of 'Abdullaah ibn Mas'ood applies, "How many have intended good, but never accomplish it?"
Certainly this is an important principle. How can a man be saved from this? How can someone be saved from worshipping with innovation, or admiring the innovative worship of others, or approving of their novelties in worship? These acts can seem outwardly good, they can seem to be ways to get close to Allaah. Perhaps they are acts of humility, the person may even be crying. How can he be saved from this confusion? He must have knowledge of the Sunnah, the narrations, and the statements of the people of knowledge.
One of Imaam Ahmad's companions used to sit with Al-Haarith Al-Muhaasibee frequently. Imaam Ahmad's companion said to him, "Al-Haarith is saying this and that, and he has humility in his worship, and he has great acts of worship…" Ahmad said, "When does he visit you?" He replied, "He visits me after Maghrib." Imaam Ahmad said, "Then I will also come, but allow me to sit in a place where I can hear his talk but I do not see him nor does he see me. I want to hear his talk while he does not see me." So Imaam Ahmad went and hid himself. After praying Maghrib, they sat down and their host brought food. Then they prayed 'Eshaa', returned to the house, and sat down again. They sat for a long time and Al-Haarith did not speak. Rather he sat in humility, in a way that fear, humbleness, and humility could be felt from him. One of Al-Haarith's companions asked him something, and then he began to talk, using good manners and softening their hearts. He continued talking as some of his companions reached states of humility, and others began to weep.
The companion of Imaam Ahmad said, "Then I went to see Imaam Ahmad, and I found him crying. So I said, 'O Abaa 'Abdilllaah! What about this talk that you heard?' He replied, 'I have not heard any speech finer than this! However, do not sit with him!'"
He said, "I have not heard any speech finer than this! However, do not sit with him!" Why? Because this kind of speech had not been in accordance with the guidance of the people of the Sunnah who preceded them. He was coming with a new manner of speech and a new manner of humility that had not been known to the scholars, a new style that the people before them had not known. So due to this, Imaam Ahmad was afraid that, with these new things, if they would have continued sitting with them, they would have strayed toward some innovation. Imaam Ahmad prohibited the people from befriending Al-Haarith and from sitting with him, due to what reached him about some of his other erroneous statements.
He said, "I have not heard any speech finer than this," referring to the talk that affected the people's hearts, "However, do not sit with him!" He said that because Al-Haarith's style of presenting knowledge was not the way of the people of knowledge.
Let us return to what Imaam Ahmad said about that era,"I do not know any people in more need of learning hadeeth than the people of our time." They asked him, "Why is that?" He replied, "Innovation has spread, so whoever does not have the Sunnah, or the narrations, will fall into innovation."
With regard to our current condition, this is something that everyone should take note of. Because, in our times, everyone loves the Religion, everyone wants to be religious and obedient, everyone wants to have humility in their hearts. But all of this must be done according to the Sunnah, since any act of worship that is not in accordance to the Sunnah is rejected. Allaah, the Mighty and Exalted, says:
“He is the One who created life and death in order to test you, which of you are best in deeds.”
Al-Fudhayl ibn 'Iyyaadh said, explaining this verse, "The best deeds are the most sincere and correct ones." It was said, "We all know about sincerity, but what is the meaning of correctness?" He replied, "That it is in accordance with the Sunnah of the Prophet (sall-Allaahu 'alayhi wa sallam)."
This is the meaning of the hadeeth of the Prophet (sall-Allaahu 'alayhi wa sallam):
"Whoever performs an action that is not in accordance with our affair shall have it rejected." Imaam Muslim collected this hadeeth in his Saheeh.
Therefore the affairs is not simply about someone softening the people's hearts, benefiting the people, or reminding the people of the Prophet (sall-Allaahu 'alayhi wa sallam). "This is a fine thing, it is nothing but good," the people may say. It is sufficient to reject it that it is not in accordance with the Sunnah. Why is that? Because the Prophet (sall-Allaahu 'alayhi wa sallam), the one we take as our example, said:
"Whoever performs an action that is not in accordance with our affair shall have it rejected."
There are some actions that were invented after the time of the Prophet (sall-Allaahu 'alayhi wa sallam), and they are considered innovations, novelties, and misguidance. There are other actions that were introduced after the time of the Prophet (sall-Allaahu 'alayhi wa sallam), however the scholars do not count them among the blameworthy innovations. So what is the criterion that separates the two cases?
How can a person distinguish between what is considered innovation and what is not? The distinguishing factor is this: Do you see a precedence for it in the time of the Prophet (sall-Allaahu 'alayhi wa sallam), or an incentive for it in the Sunnah? If there was an incentive for it in the time of the Prophet (sall-Allaahu 'alayhi wa sallam) and he did not do it, then that action is not legislated. Allaah has said:
“Today I have perfected for you your Religion…”
Imaam Maalik said, "Whoever believes that there is a good innovation in the Religion, then he has accused Muhammad (sall-Allaahu 'alayhi wa sallam) of betraying the trust of the message." And the refuge is only with Allaah.
Therefore, as long as there was an incentive to do the action in the time of the Prophet (sall-Allaahu 'alayhi wa sallam), and in the time of the Companions, then this proves that performing the action is an innovation. Why is that? Because the incentive was present in his time, in ours, and in the times between.
So this action, if it was something legislated, then it would have been legislated in the time of the Prophethood. So since it was not legislated in the time of the Prophethood, this shows it is a misguided innovation.
As for the second category (of things introduced into the Religion), they are those actions that did not have an incentive for them in the time of the Prophet (sall-Allaahu 'alayhi wa sallam), there was nothing warranting these actions. Let us look at some examples of both the first and second categories.
To mentions something well known, the first category would include the various innovative parties and gatherings, like celebrating the night of Al-Israa' and Al-Mi'raaj, the night of Al-Badr, or the birthday of the Prophet (sall-Allaahu 'alayhi wa sallam), and this is the most serious of them.
What is the goal behind all of these celebrations? The intention behind them is to instill a love for the Prophet (sall-Allaahu 'alayhi wa sallam) in the souls of the people, and to let people hear the history of the Messenger (sall-Allaahu 'alayhi wa sallam), so that they will love him. These intentions are all good.
But weren't these incentives present in the time of the Prophet (sall-Allaahu 'alayhi wa sallam)? The people in the time of the Companions and the Prophet (sall-Allaahu 'alayhi wa sallam), all the Companions, all the Bedouins, all the people around Al-Madeenah, weren't they all in need of reflecting? Didn't they all need to love Al-Mustafaa (sall-Allaahu 'alayhi wa sallam)? They were in need of that.
Then why was that action not done? No doubt, abandoning certain actions is from the Religion. Just as receiving an order and obeying it is from the Religion, to avoid doing something that had an incentive in the time of the Prophet (sall-Allaahu 'alayhi wa sallam) is also from the Religion. Otherwise, there would exist some things in our Religion that get us closer to Allaah, the Mighty and Exalted, that our Prophet (sall-Allaahu 'alayhi wa sallam) did not convey to us.
The second category includes actions that have incentives that came after the time of the Prophet (sall-Allaahu 'alayhi wa sallam), and there was no incentive to perform that action in the time of the Prophet (sall-Allaahu 'alayhi wa sallam), or something preventing it from being done.
An example of this is the compilation of the Qur'aan into one book.
Another example is Taraaweeh Prayer. The Prophet (sall-Allaahu 'alayhi wa sallam) prayed with them some nights, and then left it off, fearing that it may be taken as an obligation by the people. So when he passed away (sall-Allaahu 'alayhi wa sallam) and the time of 'Umar came (Radiya ‘Llahu 'anhu), there was no longer anything preventing them from the action.
As for the compilation of the Qur'aan into one book, the Qur'aan was still coming down in the time of the Prophet (sall-Allaahu 'alayhi wa sallam). So if it had been compiled into one book during his lifetime, then every time a new verse was revealed, they would have had to add it into the sides or bottoms of the pages, thus the mus-haf would be in disarray.
Or they would have had to rewrite the mus-haf every time Allaah revealed a verse, as Allaah orders the affairs however he likes, they would have had to keep rewriting the mus-haf. For this reason, Aboo Bakr (Radiya ‘Llahu 'anhu), began the compilation of the Qur'aan into one book after the death of the Prophet (sall-Allaahu 'alayhi wa sallam).
Therefore, what a great piece of advice Imaam Ahmad (Radiya ‘Llahu 'anhu) left for us! From his advice about sticking to the Sunnah, he said, "I do not know any people more in need of learning hadeeth than the people of our time." When they asked him why, he said, "Because innovation has spread."
So if that was just about innovation in teaching styles and manners, then what about those that are related to affairs of belief? For example, what about issues of leadership, issues of enjoining the good and forbidding the evil, issues of obeying the rulers and not opposing the leaders, and the likes?
Many people have contradicted the Sunnah in these affairs and followed their opinions. So for this reason, what a great need we are in for the Sunnah! Reflect over what Imaam Ahmad said in the end of this statement, "So whoever does not have the narrations will fall into innovation."
So whoever holds to the Sunnah and submits to the narrations, then Allaah, the Mighty and Exalted, will protect him from the newly invented matters by His Bounty and Generosity.
Praying at Night
One of Imaam Ahmad's students, 'Abdus-Samad ibn Sulaymaan, said something that I mentioned earlier in this lecture, "I stayed with Ahmad ibn Hanbal. He left for me a container of water. In the morning he found that I had not used it. He said, 'A companion of the narrations, and he has no activity in the night?!' I told him, 'I am a traveler.' He replied, 'Even as a traveler!'"
This is an outstanding lesson from Imaam Ahmad! The student of knowledge must keep himself upon some rites of worship, he must have an eagerness to get close to Allaah, the Mighty and Majestic.
How will he memorize the Sunnah? How will he gain knowledge? How will he learn? How will he gain understanding? How will he comprehend the meanings of the Qur'aan? How will he understand its explanation? How will he memorize the Qur'aan when he does not keep himself firm upon acts of worship and obedience?
He must dedicate himself specifically to praying at night, with whatever is easy for him. Allaah says:
“Stand the night except for a little.”
Then, Allaah the Exalted says in the last part of the same chapter :
“Then recite from the Qur'aan what is easy.”
This means that you stand for a time that is easy on you, even if it is only three rak'ahs. Stand for whatever is easy for you.
It cannot be that the norm for the student of knowledge is that he does not pray tahajjud at night, that he does not dedicate himself to some worship. The righteous man, the one who seeks to correct himself, must have a special concern for this great act of worship, standing in the night.
Praying at night is one thing. These days we need to talk about something even more serious. We have to talk about offering the Fajr Prayer in congregation! If the people of the past were advised to take care of their prayers at night, then where are we in these times when many of the people who ascribe to righteousness can not even master praying the Fajr Prayer in congregation!
Then how will our affair be, and what should we be talking about? No doubt the affair is not easy, so let every one of us inspect our own selves. Let us repent sincerely, without delay, from every sin. If we have been negligent of our duties, then repentance is obligatory. If we have been negligent of recommended things, then a person renews his commitment to seek Allaah's great Bounties.
Allaah the Exalted has described the people of taqwaa in Soorah Ath-Thaariyaat:
“Verily the pious will be in gardens and springs, receiving what Allaah has given them, verily they used to do good works before that, they used to sleep little at night, and they used to seek forgiveness in the morning.”
Al-Hasan Al-Basree (Rahimahu ‘Llah) spoke about these two verses: “…they used to sleep little at night, and they used to seek forgiveness in the morning.” with some very remarkable comments. He said, "They stood the night praying, and when the early morning came they sought forgiveness, fearing that their prayers would not be accepted from them."
These are the kinds of statements that come from those who have live hearts. We may have no part in the affair except to convey the narration, as the ones who we narrate to may be more receptive and understanding of them than the narrator.
Memorizing the Qur'aan
From the noteworthy sayings of Imaam Ahmad (Rahimahu ‘Llah) is his statement: "'Azeezun 'alayya that the dunyaa melts the hearts of men whose chests comprehend the Qur'aan!"
He said (repeating), "It is hard for me to accept that the dunyaa could melt the hearts of men whose chests comprehend the Qur'aan."
If a man is able to carry the Qur'aan with him in his chest, then verily Allaah has given him a great bounty indeed. On the Day of Judgment it will be said to the recitor of the Qur'aan:
"Read, ascend, and recite with rhythm as you used to recite rhythmically in the dunyaa! For verily your place will be determined by the last verse you recite."
The one who memorizes the Qur'aan is the most deserving of the people to be obedient. The one who memorizes the Qur'aan is the most deserving of the people to possess humility. He is the most deserving of the people to be one who strives hard for Paradise and flees from the Hellfire. The one who memorizes the Qur'aan is the most deserving of the people to not be swept under by the dunyaa.
This is why the Imaam (Rahimahu ‘Llah) said, "'Azeezun 'alayya that the dunyaa melts the hearts of men whose chests comprehend the Qur'aan!" For the person of understanding, which is better - the dunyaa or the Qur'aan? Is there anything comparable to it? Is there anything similar?
Allaah, the Mighty and Exalted, has said in Soorah Yoonus:
“Say: Let them rejoice over Allaah's Bounty and His Mercy, As it is better than everything they gather!”
Aboo Haatim reported a story in explanation of this verse, saying:
"When the camels that people paid their zakaah with arrived, one of 'Umar's servants (Radiya ‘Llahu 'anhu) said, 'O Commander of the Believers! Could we take a look at the camels of zakaah?' So they went to see the camels that were kept caged in the outskirts of Al-Madeenah. When they saw the camels, the servant became fascinated by their great number and said, "O Commander of the Believers! This is Allaah's Bounty and His Mercy!" 'Umar (Radiya ‘Llahu 'anhu) looked at him and said, "You have lied! Allaah's Bounty and His Mercy is the Qur'aan! (“Say: Let them rejoice over Allaah's Bounty and His Mercy, As it is better than everything they gather!”) Rather these camels are what the people gather!"
Rarely could the dunyaa melt the one who memorizes the Qur'aan, learns its explanation, has a special relationship with it, prays with it, or leads the people in prayer with it. Rarely could he be someone who follows his desires! Rarely could he slip into doubts or fall victim to his lusts! Rarely could the one who memorizes the Qur'aan, the one known by the Qur'aan, be a person of disobedience and neglect while Allaah has honored him by causing his heart to contain the Speech of Allaah, the Mighty and Exalted.
What a great statement! He was grieving, "'Azeenun 'alayya," meaning it is a great burden on him, "That the dunyaa melts the hearts of men whose chests comprehend the Qur'aan."
What is the dunyaa anyway with its lofty status? What is the dunyaa with all its wealth and women? What is the dunyaa and everything in it compared to the Speech of Allaah, the Mighty and Exalted?!
The Prophet (sall-Allaahu 'alayhi wa sallam) described the two rak'ahs before the Fajr Prayer:
"The two rak'ahs of Fajr are better than the dunyaa and everything in it."
This is for the one who understands the reality of the Religion and the reality of the return to Allaah.
Seeking Knowledge Until Death
Imaam Ahmad had two sons, 'Abdullaah and Saalih. They were half-brothers, meaning that each of them had a different mother.
Saalih, the son of Imaam Ahmad, said, "A man saw my father carrying a mih-barah." A mih-barah was a wooden inkwell that students used to carry along with their pens. He said, "A man saw my father was carrying a mih-barah, and said, 'O Abaa 'Abdillaah!' Look at how the all the people were fascinated by him, even the elders of the people! He said, "O Abaa 'Abdillaah! You have reached this position, you are the Imaam of the Muslims!" He had a problem seeing Imaam Ahmad carry his mih-barah as the young students would carry it, or that he would still read books or shoulder the same responsibilities that the youth did. Imaam Ahmad replied with a statement that nullified this man's whole understanding. He said, "With the mih-barah all the way to the maq-barah (the graveyard)." What did he mean? He meant, "I will be busy with knowledge until I die."
Another narration mentions that he said it at another occasion to another group of people. "As for me," he said, "I will seek knowledge until I am placed in the grave."
When the time of his death came near, he said to those around him, "Get me the hadeeth of Hushaym." So they told him the hadeeth. This Hushaym was Hushaym ibn Basheer, Imaam Ahmad's first teacher. He met him in the year 179, when he began seeking knowledge at the age of 16. He was between 15 and 16, as he was born in the year 164 and began seeking knowledge in 179. So they read the hadeeth. It mentioned that Ibn Seereen used to dislike a person groaning from pain. At that time, Imaam Ahmad had became very ill and he used to groan due to the pain. When they informed him that Ibn Seereen used to dislike groaning, he did not groan again until he died.
This is the reality of his statement, "I will seek knowledge until I am placed in the grave." Meaning, "I must continue benefiting from knowledge." So if you have left your youth behind and become a teacher or an educator, or a lecturer or professor in the university, or an author, and you say, "I have finished seeking knowledge." This is the situation of someone who does not know the reality of the affair.
Al-'Ilm is knowledge of what? It is knowledge of the Speech of Allaah and the speech of His Messenger (sall-Allaahu 'alayhi wa sallam). Has anyone reached a level of awareness of the meanings of the Speech of Allaah and His Messenger (sall-Allaahu 'alayhi wa sallam), and also the statements of the scholars explaining the Book and the Sunnah, a level of awareness that is sufficient?
No one has reached that level. No one who has the right intention and a proper heart has reached that level. Regarding this, Imaam Ahmad said, "With the mih-barah all the way to the maq-barah." He was addressing everyone, advising us to continue seeking knowledge and not to give it up for any petty reason.
In the study circles of our masjids we have seen a great number of students who are eager to learn for two months, and then they abandon it. Three months or so only. What is this?! Some of them seek knowledge for 3, 4, 5, or 7 years and then they abandon it.
Why is that? Is it because the dunyaa has come to you, so you are finished and now you head off into the dunyaa? Is it because a position was offered to you and you took it? Is it because you have reached a certain status, you have become a school director or professor in the university? For this you stop seeking knowledge? No! You must continue seeking knowledge until you die. This is what will correct the society's problems, if their scholars take this advice. As for the students of knowledge, then they must hold fast to this advice, "With the mih-barah all the way to the maq-barah." He must stay with his book until he dies, reading, learning, memorizing, reviewing, teaching, until his end.
What are the people saying these days? The rulings related to prayer, we know them, no problem. If you asked them about many of the rulings, you will find that they do not know them. Why is that? It is because they have become satisfied with the knowledge they have, even delighted that they have the knowledge they have. We ask Allaah that He excuses us and that He is pleased with us.
If you asked them about affairs even greater than the prayer, issues of 'aqeedah, issues of Tawheed, you will find that they have not fully grasped the issues, and they used to be students of knowledge! Why is that? Because they were negligent, and thus abandoned it. Knowledge is honor, if you abandon it, it will abandon you. If you take the task seriously, you will be given some of it, from what Allaah has decreed for you.
Seeking Safety and Good Health When Supplicating
Al-Khallaal was a student of Imaam Ahmad. I tried to bring a statement from each one of Imaam Ahmad's students who narrated something noteworthy, so if I did not fully accomplish this, then know that his history was rich, his sayings were many, and his school deserves that you study it and reflect over it. You will find that he was truly the Imaam of Ahlus-Sunnah in his speech and actions.
Al-Khallaal said, "I heard Ahmad ibn Hanbal saying, 'I had memorized the Qur'aan. Then when I began seeking the narrations, I became busy.'" When he began seeking and memorizing the narrations, he became too busy to keep track of the Qur'aan, and forgot some of it due to his occupation with the narrations.
"I had memorized the Qur'aan," said Imaam Ahmad, "But when I began seeking the narrations, I became too busy for it, and it got away from me. So I asked Allaah, the Mighty and Exalted, to grant me its memorization, but I did not add, 'in safety and good health.'"
He said, "O Allaah! Grant me the memorization of the Qur'aan," without adding, "in safety and good health." He was saying that what is more befitting is to ask, "O Allaah! Grant me the memorization of the Qur'aan in safety and good health."
He said, "So then I did not memorize the Qur'aan until I was shackled in prison. If you ask Allaah for something, ask for it in safety and good health."
Firstly, the imprisonment of Imaam Ahmad was something that assisted and benefited the Sunnah. It was something that made the truth prevail, it made the 'aqeedah of the Salaf prevail during a time when the people were being tried by those who claimed that the Qur'aan was a created thing.
So he was jailed in the way of the Sunnah, and he benefited the people greatly, as he guided the people to the Sunnah of the Prophet (sall-Allaahu 'alayhi wa sallam) and the correct belief regarding the Qur'aan not being created.
Even though he was imprisoned for this great reason, prison is still not a place of safety or good health. Imaam Ahmad said, "I did not say, 'in safety and good health.' I asked Allaah to allow me to memorize the Qur'aan, and I did not add, 'in safety and good health.' So I did not memorize it until I was in prison and in chains."
Without a doubt this is a great statement, showing that a man must think throughout his supplications and always ask Allaah to pardon him and cause him to be in safety and good health.
So if you seek something from your Lord, the Mighty and Exalted, then ask Him to grant you safety and good health, since you do not know what is going to happen.
Perhaps you may not receive what you ask for except at a time when a sickness has made you bedridden. Perhaps you will not receive what you ask for except after you have lost your children and family and you are sitting alone in your house. Perhaps you will not receive what you ask for except after being exiled from your homeland, something that you are not happy about and you did not choose it. So therefore, always ask Allaah to give you what you ask for in a state of safety and good health.
Similarly, we should seek refuge in Allaah from trials, trials that cause people to go astray. So a person should include in his supplications that Allaah, the Mighty and Majestic, keeps these trials away from him.
The scholars have said that what is best is to seek refuge in Allaah from the trials that lead people astray. The supplicant should say, "O Allaah! I seek refuge in you from the trials that lead people astray!" or "O Allaah! I seek refuge in you from being tried in my Religion!" or the likes.
This is because even good things are trials, the family is a trial, money is a trial. These are things that a person must deal with, he has to get married, he is going to have children, he has to have money, etc. These trials are good things in their origins, but they may cause some people to go astray. So a person must seek refuge in Allaah, the Mighty and Exalted, from all trials that may lead one astray.
The Effect of Knowledge in One's Writings
'Abdullaah, the son of Imaam Ahmad, said, "A baby was born to my father. 'Abdul-A'laa gave me a letter of congratulations to give to my father." 'Abdul-A'laa was one of the scholars of hadeeth at that time. "He read it," continued 'Abdullaah, "And then tossed it aside." "This is not the writing of a scholar, nor a muhaddith," said Imaam Ahmad, "This is the merely the writing of an average writer."
Imaam Ahmad was teaching his son a lesson, detesting what this scholar wrote, as no knowledge could be felt in his writing.
In reality, this is also something we complain of in this day and time. The language of the people of knowledge in letters of correspondence, letters of congratulations, etc. has been lost, or the very least we can say is that there is not enough concern to use it.
What is binding on the scholar, the student of knowledge, and the teacher is that his knowledge should make a presence in what he writes, even in simple letters of congratulation. He must not write like newspaper columnists, nor like common people, nor people engulfed in this worldly life, rather he must convey himself in a befitting way in his speech as well as his writings.
So when 'Abdul-A'laa failed to write in this way, Imaam Ahmad tossed his letter aside, saying, "This is not the writing of a scholar, nor a muhaddith. This is the merely the writing of an average writer." By its style, the letter was not something to be expected from a person of knowledge. The style of the people of knowledge contains supplications and narrations from the Sunnah while presenting the focus of the letter, as well as some additional benefits that would be appropriate.
Humbling Oneself and Rejecting Popularity
The last point of guidance that we will take from the fountains of Imaam Ahmad that do not dry up, is the statement of Muhammad ibn Hasan ibn Haaroon, "I saw that when Aboo 'Abdillaah walked the streets, he hated that someone would walk behind him."
Furthermore, 'Abdullaah, the son of Imaam Ahmad, said, "When he went out to Jumu'ah prayer, my father would not allow anyone to follow behind him, and he used to stop until the people following him would pass him up."
Why was that? Because this is a trial for the one being followed, and a form of humiliation to the follower. Imaam Ahmad knew that, if someone followed him, he would benefit, either from his supplications, or perhaps he would ask a question, but, from his keenness to remedy his soul, he disliked to be tested by having a group of people following behind him.
A simple affair from something everyone does - he would not be pleased with anyone following him, rather he loved to walk by himself. He was so keen on keeping himself pure, by going out to the prayer and returning to his house alone.
These manners will help everyone who has been tested by Allaah with a following of people, whether the people look up to him because of knowledge, status, or even worldly things. He must humble himself and not assist the Shaytaan in destroying his own self.
He must shun all avenues leading to this. If he sees within himself any amazement or pride with himself pride, or that he sees himself as being great, then he must lower himself and be humble so that he can set himself straight. This is because pride is a huge thing, one of the major sins.
The Prophet (sall-Allaahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said:
"The one who has even the smallest particle of pride in his heart will not enter Paradise."
This is what is binding on all those that the people follow, that they know this is a test from Allaah and they dedicate themselves to lowering themselves and having humility. And those who follow them should be careful as well, they should not go against someone trying to work by this advice.
So if a person finds a scholar trying to be humble like this, then let him be easy on him. Let him benefit from him in any environment he finds him in, at study circles, in classrooms, etc., however, he must not follow him to every place as he may detest that. Every sincere scholar dedicated to the education of the people hates to have the people follow him, and he hates that they say great things about him, since praise is something that he fears will affect his heart.
Ibn Mas'ood said, advising his students, prohibiting them from following him, "This is a belittlement of the followers and a trial for the one being followed."
I ask Allaah, the Mighty and Exalted, to make me and all of you from those who hold firm to taqwaa, those who push themselves against what their desires crave.
I ask Allaah, the Glorified One, to reward the Imaam of Ahlus-Sunnah, Ahmad ibn Hanbal, the best reward for how much we have gained from him. For verily he was to the people of his time as Aboo Bakr (Radiya ‘Llahu 'anhu) was to the people of his time. As the people faced the apostates in the time of Aboo Bakr, they faced the evil fitnah of those who tried to introduce the idea of the Qur'aan being a created thing, as well as other trials that led many astray, in the time of Imaam Ahmad. As the first group had Aboo Bakr, the latter had Imaam Ahmad to make them firm, by Allaah's Bounty and His Blessing.
O Allaah! Reward the Imaams of Islaam and the scholars of the Religion with the best reward for the great amount of knowledge and beneficial guidance we have inherited from them!
O Allaah! Make us from those guided by your Prophet, those who are made firm by his Sunnah, those who tread the path of the Companions of your Prophet (sall-Allaahu 'alayhi wa sallam)!
O Allaah! Grant us firmness upon the Sunnah and good closing deeds! O Allaah! Make us firm upon what you are pleased with until we meet you while you are pleased with us!
O Allaah! Give us good closing actions! O Allaah! Give us shelter from the lowliness of this life, and from the punishment of the Hereafter! O Allaah! I seek refuge in you from slipping into disobedience or from being made to slip into disobedience, from going astray or being led astray by others, from oppressing or being oppressed, from being ignorantly or having others behave ignorantly to us!
O Allaah! Correct those who are in charge of our affairs, and grant them success doing what you love and are pleased with, and make us and them from those who cooperate upon righteousness and piety.
And may Allaah raise the rank of our Prophet Muhammad and grant him peace
12-21-2006, 03:14 PM
Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal By Abuz Zubair from IslamicAwakening.
Imam Ahmad b. Muhammad b. Hanbal al-Shaibani, Abu ‘Abdullah, was conceived in Merv in current day Turkmenistan. His mother carried him in her womb, on route to Baghdad, where he was born in the year 164 AH. His father passed away when he was little more than years old, and thereafter he was raised by his mother.
He was a distinguished child known for his piety, cleanliness and asceticism. Once, his uncle sent him with several documents containing information about some people to the Caliph's office. Ahmad took those papers and did not see his uncle for a long time. When his uncle eventually met him, he asked him about the documents and discovered that Ahmad – who was then a boy – did not deliver them. When asked why, Ahmad replied: "I wouldn’t hand in those reports, and I have thrown them in the sea!" To this, his uncle replied: "This little boy fears Allah so much! What then of us?" Thus, Ahmad refused to act as an informant, even on behalf of his uncle, due to the fear of Allah that had been instilled in his heart from such a young age.
Youth and Education
He started his career by learning jurisprudence (Fiqh
) under the celebrated Hanafi judge, Abu Yusuf, the renowned student and companion of Imam Abu Hanifah. He then discontinued his studies with Abu Yusuf, in the pursuit of Hadith, travelling around the Islamic Khilafa, at the tender age of 16. As a student, he was held in awe by his teachers
, to the same degree that they would respect their own.. Ibn al-Jawzi states that Imam Ahmad had 414 Hadith masters whom he narrated from. Imam al-Shafi’i was from the most beloved of Ahmad’s teachers, held in high esteem by him for his deep insight into jurisprudence. Al-Shafi’i equally admired Ahmad, for his expertise in jurisprudence and Hadith. He would often say to Imam Ahmad: “Tell us if you know of an authentic Hadeeth so that we may act on it.” What demonstrates Imam Ahmad’s love and admiration for al-Shafi’i is that when the latter would pass by him riding a mule, Imam Ahmad would follow al-Shafi’i on foot to enquire about various issues of jurisprudence. The great affectopm and regard between the two Imams is clearly reflected in the resemblance between the Shafi’i and Hanbali schools of jurisprudence.
Imam Ahmad did not suffice himself with seeking knowledge, but he also adorned it with actions, 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
The Imam 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, Imam Ahmad had become a leading authority in six or seven Islamic disciplines, according to al-Shafi'i.
Imam Ahmad became – unquestionably – 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 (Naqid) of his time.
Imam Ahmad 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, al-Shafi'i and many others. Imam Ahmad further improvised and developed upon previous schools, such that he became the founder of a new independent school, that was to be attributed to him as the Hanbali school. Some scholars, such as Qutaiba b. Sa’id noted that if Ahmad were to witness the age of Sufyan al-Thawri, Malik, al-Awza’i and Laith b. Sa’d, he would have surpassed them all.
Imam Ahmad, despite being bilingual, became an expert in the Arabic language, poetry, grammar. He gave great importance to the Arabic language, the proper application of grammar and correct pronunciation, such that he would often discipline his daughter for making a grammatical error in her everyday speech.
Imam Ahmad established himself as the Imam in the sciences of Quran, authoring works in exegesis (Tafsir
), science of abrogation (al-Nasikh wal-Mansukh
), as well as the different modes recitations (Qira’at
), preferring some modes of recitation over others, and even expressing dislike for the recitation of Hamza due to its exaggerated elongation of vowels.
Imam Ahmad notably evolved into the most celebrated theologian, to be known as the ‘Imam Ahl al-Sunnah’, the leading authority on the Orthodox doctrine. Imam Ahmad personified the theological views of the early orthodox scholars, and in particular, the founders of the three juristic schools before him, Hanafi, Maliki and al-Shafi’i. This proved to be historically significant, since the Hanbali doctrine remained the only school representing the views of the founders of the other three juristic schools, that later became dominated by Ash’arites or the Maturidis. What also gained him a resounding reputation was his vigorous refusal to accept the dogma of the ‘creation of the Quran’, in spite of going through a protracted, arduous period of severe persecution. He is often likened to Abu Bakr, as the lone champion of Islam during the wars of apostasy.
Imam Ahmad was equally considered to be a leading example in Zuhd
(material and spiritual asceticism), for he lived a very simple life, detached from worldly pleasures. His work on Zuhd
) is regarded to be the most profound contribution to the Islamic heritage. Abu Dawud, the famous compiler of Sunan, observed that sessions with Ahmad were sessions devoted to the Hereafter, for he would never mention anything of this world.
Ahmad’s Five Basic Juristic Principles
Despite being an exceptional jurist, Imam Ahmad detested that his opinions be written and compiled, fearing that it may swerve his students away from studying the sources of Law, the Quran and the Sunnah. Yet, as Ibn al-Jawzi comments, Allah knew the sincerity in his heart and raised around him faithful students who would record his opinions, such that an independent school of jurisprudence and theology was formed and attributed to Imam Ahmad.
Imam Ahmad employed exceptional caution while formulating juristic opinions and issuing verdicts, and would frequently warn his students of speaking in a matter in which you have no reputable predecessor. This prudent attitude is clearly demonstrated in the thought process applied by Ahmad in extrapolation of laws from the divine sources, which is as follows:
1) Divine text (Nass) from the Quran and the Sunnah was the first point of reference for all scholars of jurisprudence, and in this, Ahmad was not an exception. Whenever he noticed a divine textual evidence for an issue, he never referred to other sources, opinions of the Companions, scholars or resorted to analogical deduction (Qiyas).
2) Verdicts issued by the Companions were resorted to when no textual evidence was found in the Quran or the Sunnah. The reasons for ranking the verdicts of the Companions after the Quran and the Sunnah are obvious: The Companions witnessed the revelation of the Quran, and its implementation by the Prophet – SallAllahu ‘alaihi wa-sallam, who advised the Ummah to adhere to the rightly-guided caliphs, hence, the Companions ought to have a better understanding than the latter generations.
Imam Ahmad, would likewise, never give precedence to a scholarly opinion or analogical deduction (Qiyas) over that of the Companions’, to the extent that if they were divided into two camps over an issue, two different narrations would similarly be documented from Imam Ahmad.
3) In a case where the Companions differed, he preferred the opinion supported by the divine texts (Nass).
4) In instances where none of the above was applicable, Ahmad would resort to the Mursal Hadith (with a link missing between the Successor and the Prophet – SallAllahu ‘alaihi wa-sallam) or a weak Hadith. However, the type of weak Hadith that Ahmad relied on was such that it may be regarded as ‘fair’ Hadith due to other evidences (Hasan li Ghairihi
), not the type that is deemed very weak and thus unsuitable as an evidence for Law. This was due to the fact that, during his time, the Hadith was only categorised into ‘sound’ (Sahih
) and ‘weak’ (Dha’if
). It was only after Ahmad, that al-Tirmidhi introduced a third category of ‘fair’ (Hasan
5) Only after having exhausted the aforementioned sources would Imam Ahmad employ analogical deduction (Qiyas) due to necessity, and with utmost care.
Imam Ahmad is remembered as a legendary figure in the Islamic history for his uncompromising stance and for withstanding immense pressure during the trial of ‘the creation of the Quran’. The Caliph at the time, Ma’mun, subjected the scholars to severe persecution, at the behest of the Mu’tazilite theologians who attributed themselves to Imam Abu Hanifa in jurisprudence.
The Mu'tazilites were a heretical Muslim sect, who sanctified their intelligence above the revelation and espoused the belief that, even though, the Quran is the speech of Allah, He created that speech as a distinct entity and called it ‘the Quran’. This was in opposition to the orthodox belief that Allah spoke every word of the Quran, and indeed: ‘Allah spoke to Moses directly’, as Allah states in the Quran.
The Mu’tazilites were discredited throughout the Umayyad rule and never given the position of prominence and influence, until the Caliph al-Ma'mun came to power, during the ‘Abbasids, who took them into confidence and bestowed them with official positions within the state as judges. Bishr al-Marrisi and Ahmad b. Abi Du’ad were the two important figures behind the Mu’tazilite inquisition, which systematically placed many jurists and traditionists on trial until they were forced to acknowledge that the Quran is created, and their acknowledgement publicised in all major cities.
Nearly all the scholars of Baghdad from the jurists and the traditionists were tested, and all of them acknowledged the doctrine of the created Quran, with the exception of the two; Ahmad b. Hanbal and Muhammad b. Nuh. This greatly pained and angered Imam Ahmad, such that he boycotted some of the great traditionists for their acknowledgement, and often refused to narrate from them. Amongst those boycotted were a close companion and a colleague of Imam Ahmad, Yahya b. Ma’in, about whom, it is said that Imam Ahmad refused to speak to him until he died and composed the following lines of poetry censuring his acknowledgement of heresy:
Ya ibn al-madini al-ladhi 'uridat lahu
Dunya fa Jada bi dinihi li yanalaha
Madha da'aka li intihali maqalatin
Kunta taz'umu kafiran man qalaha
O Ibn al-Madini, to whom the world was offered,
So he strove to attain it at the expense of his religion
What made you embrace a dogma (about which)
You would impute disbelief on the one who adopts it!
Finally, Ahmad b. Hanbal and Muhammad b. Nuh were also put to the test on the order of al-Ma’mun, but they refused to acknowledge the creation of the Quran. Consequently, they were despatched 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.
He remained imprisoned in Baghdad until al-Mu’tasim assumed power. Al-Mu’tasim, unlike al-Ma’mun, was a destitute to knowledge. Nevertheless, he continued the Mu’tazilite inquisition as explicitly requested by al-Ma’mun in his will. His rule was perhaps the most brutal towards Sunni scholars in general, and Imam Ahmad in particular who intransigently continued to resist all attempts by the authorities to force him to acknowledge the creation of the Quran. The frustrated Caliph finally ordered Ahmad to be flogged in public, which resulted in Ahmad falling unconscious. Imam Ahmad was released shortly afterwards, when al-Mu’tasim feared that the commotion caused in Baghdad due to mistreatment of Ahmad may reach an uncontrollable pitch.
After al-Mu’tasim’s death, al-Wathiq took over the office of Khilafa
, and ordered his loyal Mu’tazili judge in Egypt, Ibn Abi al-Layth to press hard with the inquisition. This caused many to flee from Egypt, while the prisons became full of jurists and traditionists who resisted the government demands. In Baghdad, however, the general public had become enraged over the policies of the government, which made it difficult for al-Wathiq to pursue the inquisition with the same vigour. He therefore, instead of re-imprisoning Imam Ahmad, resolved on banishing him from Baghdad, saying: “Do not live with me on this earth!”, and henceforth, Ahmad b. Hanbal went into hiding.
Towards the end of al-Wathiq’s reign, a close student of al-Shafi’i, Ahmad b. Nasr al-Khaza’i was caught by the officials and charged for organising an uprising in Baghdad. When Ahmad al-Khaza’i was brought to al-Wathiq in chains, the latter, instead of asking him about his role in the uprising, questioned him about his belief in the creation of the Quran, to which Ahmad al-Khaza’i gave the standard Sunni reply. The enraged Caliph, upon hearing his response, personally decapitated him. His head remained in Baghdad, while his body remained on a crucifix in Samurra for six years, as a grisly warning to potential rebels.
After al-Wathiq’s death, his brother al-Mutawakkil took charge of the office. Al-Mutawakkil, unlike his predecessors had the utmost respect and admiration for the Sunni school, and through him, Allah decided to put an end to the inquisition. Promptly after assuming the position as Caliph, he sent orders throughout the Khilafa
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 instigator 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, on the other hand, showed his utmost reverence to the Sunni hero of the inquisition, Imam Ahmad b. Hanbal, and wished to take care of all his affairs. Ahmad, however, turned down the offers due to his general dislike of being close to the rulers. Al-Mutwakkil, knowing that Imam Ahmad would refuse his offerings, instead presented some gifts to his son, Salih b. Ahmad. When it came to his knowledge, Imam Ahmad showed strong disapproval and refused to consume anything from his son’s wealth.
Illness, Death and Funeral
After Imam Ahmad turned 77, he was struck with severe illness and fever, and became very weak, yet never complaining about his infirmity and pain until he died. In spite of his debilitation, he would urge his son, Salih b. Ahmad, to help him stand up for prayer. When he was unable to stand, he would pray sitting, or sometimes lying on his side. After hearing of his illness, the 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.
Once during his illness, an old man entered upon Imam Ahmad and reminded him of his account before Allah, to which Imam Ahmad began to weep profusely. On another occasion, a man who partook in the beatings inflicted on Imam Ahmad, came to Salih b. Ahmad, the son of the Imam, and begged him to seek permission from his father to allow him to enter, for he felt the guilt of his involvement in the suffering of the Imam. When he was finally given permission, he entered upon the Imam and wept, begging for his forgiveness. Imam Ahmad forgave him on the condition that he would never repeat his actions. The man left the Imam, and all those present, in tears.
‘Abdullah b. Ahmad b. Hanbal narrates, that while Imam Ahmad was on his death bed, he kept drifting in and out of consciousness, and gesturing with his hands saying: ‘No… No… No…’ When enquired about it, Ahmad replied: ‘The Devil was standing near me, trying his hardest to mislead me, saying: ‘Come on, Ahmad!’, and I was replying back: ‘No… No…’
On Friday, the 12 of Rabi' al-Awwal 241 AH, the legendary Imam breathed his last. The news of his death quickly spread far and wide in the city and the people flooded the streets to attend Ahmad’s funeral. One of the rulers, upon hearing the news, sent burial shrouds along with perfumes to be used for Ahmad’s funeral. However, respecting the Ahmad’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 Imam Ahmad as he had refused to utilise any of their resources, for accepting 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. Imam Ahmad’s funeral was then brought out and the multitudes continued to pray over him in the desert, before and after his burial at his grave.
During the trial of Imam Ahmad, he would often say: “Say to the heretics, the decisive factor between us and you is the day of funerals”; meaning, the adherents to the orthodox doctrine always have a good end, for they earn the love of Allah, as well as the affection of the multitudes, and their death has a great impact on people’s lives. This is exactly what took place in this instance, for it is estimated that about 1 300 000 people attended his funeral. One of the scholars said in relation to this that such a massive attendance at a funeral has never been equalled in the history of the Arabs, neither in the pre-Islamic era (Jahiliyah
) nor in Islam. The masses were engulfed in the genuine popular emotion, while the scene of his grave became overwhelmed by such sentiments that the graveyard had to be guarded by the civil authorities.
Another scholar relates that when he attended the funeral of Ahmad, he wanted pray over him at his grave. But the crowds were so awe-inspiring that he didn’t reach the grave until after a week. The funerals of the famous opponents of Imam Ahmad, however, were in stark contrast, which where not attended by more than a handful. The funeral procession of the Ahmad ibn Abi Du’ad – the chief instigator of the inquisition – went largely unnoticed, with none willing to carry his funeral to the graveyard, except a few from the ruling family. Such was also the case with al-Harith al-Muhasibi – a theologian and an ascetic – who, despite being a bitter enemy of the Mu’tazilites, was still discredited by Imam Ahmad for his interests in Kalam
(speculative theology). Only three or four people prayed over al-Muhasibi, and a similar fate met Bishr al-Mirrisi.
In the Islamic history, Ahmad’s funeral is noted as the day when the Mu’tazilite doctrine was brought to a decisive and a humiliating end, whilst the Sunni Islam and the Prophetic guidance were the order of the day. Ahmad’s death had proven the ineffectiveness of the Caliph’s role in defining Islam, and further unquestionably acknowledged that it were the scholars, rather than the Caliphs, who were the true ‘inheritors of the Prophets’. Ahmad’s funeral was marked by the multitudes flocking, and openly cursing al-Karabisi and al-Marrisi, the chief heretics. This became a frequent practise amongst the subsequent Hanbali funerals throughout Islamic history, where the masses would rally behind prominent Hanbali funerals proclaiming: This day is for Sunnis and Hanbalis! Not Jahmis, Mu’tazilis or Ash’aris!
Notable Hanbali Scholars
Many celebrated personalities in the Islamic history received their tutelage in the Hanbali school, in Baghdad, Greater Syria (Sham
), Egypt and finally the Arabian Peninsula. The following is a very humble list comprising of some of the notable Hanbalis – bar the direct students of Imam Ahmad:
Ana Hanbaliyun Mahayiytu fa in amut
Fa wasiyati li al-Nasi an yatahanbalu
I am a Hanbali as long as I live, and when I die
My legacy to the people is to become Hanbalis
- Al-Khallal (d. 311) – A student of some of the closest companions and students of Imam Ahmad. He is remembered and honoured for collecting the responsa of Imam Ahmad from his students, who were scattered across the Muslim world.
- al-Khiraqi (d. 334) – (who summarised Jami' al-Khallal into a Fiqh manual, the mother of all Fiqh manuals in the Madhab)
- Ghulam al-Khallal (d. 363) – A servant and a devout student of al-Khallal, and author of many works in various sciences. It is reported that, days before his death, in his illness, he said to his companions: I am with you until this Friday. Upon being asked why, he said: al-Khallal informed me from Abu Bakr al-Marrudhi that Ahmad lived until he was 78 and died on Friday. Abu Bakr al-Marrudhi lived until he was 78 and died on Friday. Al-Khallal lived until he was 78 and died on Friday. On Friday, Ghulam al-Khallal breathed his last when he was 78.
- Ibn Hamid (d. 403) – He was a leading authority on the Hanbali school in his time, and known for his frequent performance of Hajj, such that he died on his way back from Makkah. He is regarded to be the last of the early class (Tabaqa) of the Hanbalis.
- al-Qadhi Abu Ya'la (d. 458) – He was born to a Hanafi family, but became a Hanbali after studying under Ibn Hamid. He became the leading authority on the school after Ibn Hamid, who is remembered for spreading the Madhab far and wide. His Hadith assemblies were very popular and attended by thousands of Traditionists, where he would sit on the chair of ‘Abdullah b. Ahmad b. Hanbal and narrate Hadith.
- Abu al-Khattab (d. 510) – A devout student of al-Qadhi Abu Ya’la, and author of many works in the Madhab, the most important of them: al-Intisar authored as a defence to various Hanbali juristic opinions in comparison to other schools. His students included many prominent Hanbali figures, such as ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jailani.
- Abu Isma’il al-Harawi (d. 481) – A celebrated Hanbali jurist and a theologian, known for his awe-inspiring personality, and ardent enmity towards the Ash’arites. He was one of the great Sufi figures in the history, who authored Manazil al-Sa’irin – a manual in Tasawwuf – which was later expounded by Ibn al-Qayyim in Madarij al-Salikin. He was a fearless defender of the Hanbali faith such that he would often say:
Nabiyi Ahmad wa Kadha Imami
wa Sheikhi Ahmad Ka al-Bahri Tami
wa ismi Ahmad Li Dhaka Arju
Shafa'ata Ashrafi al-Rusul al-Kirami
My Prophet is Ahmad, and so is my Imam
My Sheikh, Ahmad (b. Taymiya), is like an ocean abundant with knowledge
My name is Ahmad and henceforth I wish for
The intercession of the most noble of the Messengers
- Abul-Wafa ‘Ali ibn ‘Aqil (d. 488) – One of the most intelligent jurists the Hanbalis ever had within their ranks. He was, in his youth, influenced by the Mu’tazlites and showed admiration for al-Hallaj (a pantheist who pretended to be a Muslim), but soon repented and wrote various rebuttals against the Mu’tazlites and the Ash’arites. Ibn al-Jawzi relates that Ibn ‘Aqil once said: I say with utmost certainty that the Companions died having no knowledge of the atoms (Jawhar) or accidents (‘Aradh). Hence, if you feel that you should be like them, then be! But, if you think that the way of the Doctors of Kalam is better than the way of Abu Bakr and ‘Umar, then how evil is what you think! He left behind many works, amongst them voluminous al-Funun, of which only a small portion is found today.
- ‘Abdul-Qadir al-Jailani (d. 561) A Hanbali theologian, great preacher and, perhaps the most influential Sufi figure who founded the Qadiriyah way (Tariqa). Although, his life is regarded as a chain of miracles, so much has been claimed about his ‘sainthood’ by his passionate Sufi followers that very little of his biographical accounts can be verified. The only book one can attribute to al-Jailani with a level of surety is al-Ghunya, in which he spells out his strict adherence to the Hanbali dogma and Law.
- Ibn al-Jawzi (d. 597) A famous jurist, exegete, critic, preacher and a prolific author, with works on all subjects. He began his preaching career at a very young age and gained popularity amongst the masses. Although, he never met Ibn ‘Aqil, he did receive a fair amount of tutelage from his books, which left him perplexed about the orthodox doctrine of the Hanbali school; as reflected in his theological opinions that are often contradictory, and at times leaning towards allegorical exegesis (ta’wil) conflicting with the mainstream Hanbali position. His works in theology, thereafter, were criticised by the mainstream theologians of the Madhab, such as Ibn Qudama.
- Ibn Qudama al-Maqdisi (d. 620) One of the major Hanbali authorities and the author of the profound and voluminous book on Law, al-Mughni, which became popular amongst researchers from all juristic backgrounds. He was also an authority on Hanbali doctrine and a passionate opponent of the Ash’arites, but that did not prevent him from joining the military campaign of Salah al-Din al-Ayyubi, who was an Ash’ari, against the Crusaders in Palestine.
- Majd al-Din Ibn Taymiyah (d. 653) A great jurist, traditionist, grammarian and exegete of Harran. He was the grandfather of the celebrated Sheikh al-Islam Taqi al-Din Ibn Taymiyah. The well-known grammarian and the author of Alfiya, Ibn Malik would hold al-Majd in high regard. He also enjoyed an esteemed position in the Hanbali school, as the term ‘The Two Sheikhs’ (Sheikhan) would only refer to him and Ibn Qudama.
- Taqi al-Din Ibn Taymiyah (d. 728) – A legendary figure in the Islamic history, known by his friends and foes for his expertise in all Islamic sciences. Aside from being a celebrated scholar, he also gained much prominence due to his fearlessness, zealous activism, political and military campaigns in Damascus against the invading Tatar. Ibn Nasir al-Din al-Dimashqi in his book al-Radd al-Wafir mentions 87 scholars from all schools who referred to Ibn Taymiya as ‘Sheikh al-Islam’, a prestigious title given only to jurists and traditionists whose verdicts reached a high level of fame and acceptance. His fame also earned him many envious enemies who continued to conspire against him, until he was imprisoned in the citadel of Damascus and died therein. His funeral was attended by a mammoth number of inhabitants of Damascus, while the funeral prayer in absentia was prayed over him throughout the Islamic world. He is remembered for his invaluable contributions, not only to the Hanbali school of jurisprudence and theology, but also to the rich Islamic heritage. He also produced many students of high calibre. Names such as Ibn al-Qayyim, al-Dhahabi and Ibn Kathir are but some of his virtues.
- Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziya (d. 751) – The closest companion and a student of Ibn Taymiyah who shared with him the moments of ease and hardship, until the latter’s death in the citadel. His works in various Islamic sciences earned him much acceptance and fame. Some of his important works include Zaad al-Ma’ad in Seerah and Fiqh, I’lam al-Muwaqqi’in in Usul al-Fiqh, and al-Kafiyah fil-Intisar lil-Firqat al-Najiyah, an ode rhyming in the letter Nun on Hanbali theology, which is taught and studied in Hanbali schools until today.
- Ahmad ibn ‘Abdil-Hadi (d. 744) – A devout and close student of Ibn Taymiyah and an expert traditionist. He wrote at length the legendary accounts of his beloved teacher Ibn Taymiyah. He is also the author of al-Sarim al-Munki fi al-Radd ‘Ala al-Subki, a violent rebuttal of al-Subki’s attempt to justify taking long journeys for the visitation of the Prophet’s grave. Unfortunately, he died before completing this book at the age of forty.
- Najm al-Din al-Tufi (d. 716) – The author of several important works, such as the summarisation of Rawdat al-Nadhir by Ibn Qudama, also known as al-Bulbul, widely taught until today. In spite of being a Hanbali in Fiqh, he would often refer to himself as an Ash’arite and extreme Shi’ite. He was chastised in public and imprisoned several times for his unorthodox views. Although, his repentance is reported; however, Ibn Rajab doubted the sincerity of his repentance.
- Shams al-Din b. Muflih (d. 763) – One of the leading authorities in Hanbali Law who received his tutelage amongst several prominent Hanbali figures, including Ibn Taymiyah. He gave particular attention to the juristic preferences of Ibn Taymiyah, and included them in his voluminous and renowned masterpiece on Hanbali jurisprudence known as al-Furu’.
- Ahmad b. Qadhi al-Jabal (d. 771) – A chief judge and a devout student of Ibn Taymiyah. He is regarded to be the leading Hanbali poet of his time. He would often recite the following:
- Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali (d. 795) – A prominent jurist, traditionist, ascetic and preacher, who authored several important works, largely commenting upon famous collections of traditions, such as al-Tarmidhi, al-Bukhari and the forty Hadith of al-Nawawi. His teachers include Ibn al-Qayyim, under whom he learnt his famous Hanbali ode al-Kafiyah.
- ‘Ala al-Din Al-Mardawi (d. 885) – A chief judge and one of the foremost specialists in the Madhab amongst the latter Hanbali generations. He is the author of al-Insaf, a rich commentary on al-Muqni’ of Ibn Qudama, where he lists the variance of opinion, then declares the correct position in the school.
- Sharaf al-Din Al-Hajjawi (d. 968) A distinguished figure amongst the latter Damascan Hanbali scholars, and the author of two important manuals that were to remain the basis for verdicts amongst the Hanbalis until today: Zad al-Mustaqni’, a summarisation of al-Muqni’; and al-Iqna’.
- Ibn al-Najjar al-Futuhi (d. 980) – A notable Egyptian Hanbali authority and the author of Muntaha al-Iradat, which were to become another widely accepted manual amongst the latter Hanbalis, along with al-Iqna’.
- Mar’i b. Yusuf al-Karmi (d. 1033) – A Palestinian born scholar who resided in Egypt and wrote extensively on various sciences. He is particularly remembered for making two important contributions to Hanbali Fiqh: i) Ghayat al-Muntaha, which came as a merger between the two relied-upon manuals, al-Iqna’ and Muntaha al-Iradat; and ii) Dalil al-Talib, a summarisation of Muntaha al-Iradat. This manual received various commentaries, the most famous of which is Manar al-Sabil, by Ibn Dhuwayan.
- Mansur b. Yunus al-Buhuti (d. 1051) An Egyptian jurist of great stature, held in much respect for his invaluable contribution to the Hanbali school. His works mostly comprise of commentaries on various manuals, such as al-Rawdh al-Murbi’, a commentary on Zad; Kashaf al-Qina’, a commentary on al-Iqna’; and a commentary on Muntaha al-Iradat. He became the centre of learning for the Hanbalis from Jerusalem, the Greater Syria and Najd.
- ‘Abd al-Baqi al-Hanbali al-Ba’li (d.1071) – A jurist and a traditionist who received his tutelage from al-Azhar. He assumed the position of Ifta for the Hanbalis in Jerusalem, and dedicated his life to learning and teaching various sciences.
- Ibn al-‘Imad (d. 1089) – A Syrian-Hanbali scholar and the author of a large biographical history, known as Shadharat al-dhahab fi akhbar man dhahab, covering the Hijra years one to 1000.
- Abu al-Mawahib al-Hanbali (d. 1126) – A Damascan Hanbali traditionist and a leading reciter of the Quran, who wrote extensively on various topics. Due to his known piety, he would often be asked to lead the prayer for rain (Salat al-Istisqa’), as occurred in the year 1108 when Damascus was hit by a drought. Abu al-Mawahib then led the masses in prayer, beseeching Allah for rain, and his prayer was instantly answered.
- Muhammad Al-Saffarini (d. 1188) – A traditionist and jurist and a profound writer on various issues. He is most commonly famous for his poetic treatise on Hanbali theology called: al-Durrah al-Mudhiyah fi ‘Aqd al-Firqat al-Mardhiyah, which generally falls in line with the mainstream Hanbali dogma, bar few instances. However, in his commentary, known as Lawami’ al-Anwar al-Bahiyah, he often tends to contradict his poem, in agreement with the mainstream Hanbali doctrine. His poem, nevertheless, still remains popular amongst Hanbali students.
- Muhammad b. ‘Abd al-Wahhab (d. 1206) A leading Hanbali jurist and a theologian of Najd; more notably remembered as the pioneer of the revivalist movement which began in the Arabian Peninsula, and continued to influence various Islamic movements until today. The focus of his call was to revive the true Islamic monotheism which – in Najd – had been tainted over the years with various pre-Islamic and pagan practises. After a period of persecution, he was finally triumphant, joining forces with the leader of al-Dar’iyah, Muhammad b. Su’ud (Saud).
- Sulaiman b. ‘Abd Allah b. Muhammad b. ‘Abd al-Wahhab (d. 1233) – Grandson of Muhammad b. ‘Abd al-Wahhab, who excelled in traditions, Fiqh and theology. He was brutally executed on the orders of the viceroy of Egypt, Ibrahim Pasha, by a firing squad in a graveyard. His flesh was then collected and buried.
- Fatima bint Muhammad al-Hanbaliyah (d. 1247) – A famous female scholar of traditions, Fiqh, an ascetic and a popular preacher. She died in Makkah and was buried in al-Mu’lla graveyard.
- ‘Abdullah Aba Butain (d. 1282) – The grand Mufti of the 13th Islamic century Najd, and an undisputable Hanbali authority on Fiqh, traditions and theology. He was also a great admirer and defender of Ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab.
- ‘Uthman b. Bishr al-Najdi (d. 1290) – A Najdi historian and a follower of Ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab, known for his work on history: Unwan al-Majd fi Tarikh Najd.
- Muhammad b. Humaid al-Najdi (d. 1295) – A Hanbali jurist, traditionist , historian, and an ardent enemy of Ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab’s followers, in spite of being a student of Aba Butain and a great admirer of Ibn Taymiyah and Ibn al-Qayyim. He is the author of al-Suhub al-Wabila ‘ala Dhara’ih al-Hanabilah, which is a continuation of Dhail Tabaqat al-Hanabila of Ibn Rajab.
- Hamad b. ‘Atiq (d. 1301) – A jurist and a judge in al-Kharaj, and then al-Aflaj, and an author of several works in theology and Fiqh.
- Ahmad b. ‘Isa al-Najdi (d. 1329) – A jurist, traditionist, theologian, a student of Aba Butain and a passionate follower and a propagandist of Ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab’s revivalist movement. He would travel to Makkah, the centre of the Islamic world, and would often discuss theology with various scholars of the Muslim world. He managed to earn great respect from the Sharif of Makkah, who, at his encouragement, demolished all the domed-tombs in al-Mu’alla graveyard. His invaluable contributions include his two volume commentary on al-Nuniyah of Ibn al-Qayyim in theology.
- ‘Abd al-Qadir b. Badran (d. 1346) – A Damascan scholar in Fiqh, Usul al-Fiqh, theology, grammar, and a great enthusiast for Ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab’s movement. He was initially a Shafi’i, and later, after much research and investigation decided to be a Hanbali. His invaluable contributions to the Madhab include: al-Madkhal ila Madhab al-Imam Ahmad, an all-round introduction to the Madhab; a commentary on Ibn al-Qayyim’s al-Nuniyah; a commentary on a Hanbali manual on Usul, Rawdhat al-Nadhir by Ibn Qudama, and many other works.
- Abu Bakr Khuqir (d. 1349) – A prominent Hanbali scholar of Makkah, and a student of Ahmad b. ‘Isa. He was an outspoken propagandist of Ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab’s movement, due to which he was imprisoned along with his sons, while the eldest of them died in prison. He was eventually released upon ‘Abd al-‘Aziz b. Su’ud’s conquest of Makkah, where he was, thereafter, appointed as a Mufti for Hanbalis. His contributions mainly comprised of works and rebuttals on theological issues.
- Ibrahim al-Duwaiyan (d. 1353) – A jurist, traditionist, genealogist and a judge in Qasim, most notably known for his commentary on Dalil al-Talib, called Manar al-Sabil.
- ‘Abd al-Rahman b. Nasir al-Sa’di (d. 1376) – A prominent jurist, exegete, grammarian with a great interest in poetry. He contributed many works in different subjects, the most of celebrated of them: Taysir al-Karim al-Mannan in exegesis; Manhaj al-Salikin a primer in Fiqh. His students include Muhammad b. Salih al-‘Uthaimin and ‘Abdullah b. ‘Aqil.
- Muhammad b. Ibrahim (d. 1389) – The Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, and a prominent Hanbali jurist. He played a leading role in the development of some important legal and educational institutes. His students include: Ibn Baz, Muhammad b. Abd al-Rahman al-Qasim and ‘Abd Allah b. Jibrin.
- ‘Abd al-Rahman b. Qasim (d. 1392) A prominent jurist, traditionist and a theologian, who is particularly esteemed for the most valued contribution to the Islamic heritage in this age, a 35-volume Majmu’ al-Fatawa of Ibn Taymiyah. His seven-volume commentary on al-Rawdh al-Murbi’ has also become considerably popular amongst the latter Hanbalis.
- ‘Abd al-'Aziz b. Baz (d. 1420) – The Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia after his teacher, Muhammad b. Ibrahim, and a leading figure in the Islamic Da’wah. He was a Mujtahid in Hanbali Madhab, and was referred to by some as the leading authority on orthodox Islam (Imam Ahl al-Sunnah).
- Muhammad b. Salih al-Uthaimin (d. 1421) – A leading jurist, grammarian, linguist, and a popular preacher. A close and devout student of ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Sa’di, and a commentator on Zad al-Mustaqni’; his commentary is known as al-Sharh al-Mumti’. His students include Ahmad al-Qadhi, Khalid al-Muslih, Khalid al-Mushayqih, and many others.
- ‘Abdullah b. ‘Aqil – A jurist and formerly chief justice in Saudi Arabia. One of the closest students of ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Sa’di, who is known today as Sheikh al-Hanabilah. His close students include: Dr. al-Shibl, Haitham al-Haddad and Anas b. ‘Aqil, his grandson.
- Bakr b. ‘Abd Allah Abu Zaid – A jurist, traditionist, linguist and a profound author of many works. His important contributions to the Hanbali Madhab include al-Madkhal al-Mufassal ila Fiqh al-Imam Ahmad b. Hanbal, a two-volume in-depth introduction to the Madhab, which serves today as one of the main reference work on the school.
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