Saturday, 24 September 2011

Imam Ahmad Bin Hanbal

Assalaamu'alaikum wa rahmatullah!

I would like to introduce an Imam of the four salaafus-saaleh and he is the imam which I put on my naqal on most of my method of religious practices. He is the honorable Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal bin Helal bin Asad al-Marwazi of Baghdad whose idea founded the Hanbali school of jurisprudence and one of sunnah ulama. Hanbali school of jurisprudence is a school which influenced the fiqh of people in Hejaz such as in Saudi Arabia. He had also influenced Ibnu Taimiyyah and Ibnu Qayyim. My mum kept a book about all of these honorable imams, and I read some but this article is based from online articles. 

Try to get more books about these imams dear brethren. We must know our imams and teachers. We do not want to be just mere followers who only know how to nod and to shake head, to say this is right or wrong only because our syeikh says so. That makes us regarding our syeikhs a level the same as the God, and in the same time we without any shame accuse people like Christians and Jews for taking their priests and cohens as the God, na'udzubillah.

Family Background

He was originally an Arab of banu Shayban tribe. His family hometown is in Basra, Iraq. His father served as an officer in the Abbasid army based in Khurasan before settled with his family in Baghdad. Baghdad is the place where imam Ahmad was born. Imam Ahmad father died when he was three years old and his mother is a patient mother. I think I must mention about his mother too. Never look down on our mothers, they are teachers although they might not have degree or master or phd. 

His eldest son, became a judge in Isfahan. Imam Ahmad was very close to his sons, especially his eldest son, Saaleh. According to some report, Imam Ahmad always recite surah al-Kahfi. He used to recite the surah over a bowl of water and ordered his son to drink from it whenever his son felt ill. Another son of him, who is 'Abdullah also reported many things about this honorable imam. By the way, he married at the age of 40 years old. So, I wonder why so many people asking me about marriage and suggesting me to get marry now? Even the Arab guy I dunno of which country who read Syeikh Muhammad bin Abdul Wahhab book on the Three Principles asked me the same boring question.

Study Life

Imam Ahmad moved to Iraq and study a lot in the city of Baghdad. He completed his Quranic memorization while he was 15 years of age. After that he concentrates on hadith and prophetic tradition especially of prophet Muhammad s.a.w. Later, he always travel to further his study in other area. 

He was interested in the knowledge of hadith and traveled a lot through Iraq, Syria, and Arabian Peninsula to get the knowledge of religion and collecting sunnah of the prophet Muhammad s.a.w. He travels for several years and while returning home, he studied under honorable Imam Syafi'ie on jurisprudence and Imam Syafi'ie also learned from him. According to Abu Zur'ah, Imam Ahmad memorized a million hadith.

Due to that he was a scholar of hadith and sunnah, so he focused more on textual views on religion, and he oppose any kind of bida'ah or innovation. Imam Syafi'ie may Allah be merciful to him, who was also a great scholar in his own right, mentioned:

"I left Baghdad, and I didn't leave behind me a man better, having more knowledge, or greater fiqh (understanding), nor having greater taqwa (piety) than Ahmad bin Hanbal."

Ahmad bin Hanbal spent 40 years of his life in acquiring knowledge about religion, and only thereafter he assume the position of a mufti (guide). How about us? Be shameful, please :'( By this time, he had mastered six or seven Islamic disciplines. This is according to the report by Imam Syafi'ie, one of his own teacher. He became a leading authority in hadith and left an extensive hadith encyclopedia called al-Musnad. This is a living proof of his proficiency and devotion to his discipline and science of religion.

He has a significant contribution in the most balanced critic of hadith in his time. He established himself as the imam in the sciences of the Quran, authoring works in exegesis, and nasikh wal mansukh (science of abrogation). He also knows different modes of Quranic recitations where he prefers some modes and he expressed his disliking for the recitation of Hamza for the exaggerated elongation of vowels. I love simple recitation but accurate pronunciation too :) 

Imam Ahmad became a principal specialist in jurisprudence as he had the advantage of benefiting from some of the famous early jurists and their heritage such as Imam Abu Hanifah, Imam Malik bin Anas, Imam Syafi'ie and many others.

His learning, piety, and faithfulness to sunnah gathered a host of disciples and admirers around him. He further improvised and developed upon previous schools, and becoming the founder of the Hanbali school of jurisprudence. He was also an expert in Arabic language, poetry, and grammar. I read something in the book about this honorable imam that he had also corrected his daughter speech when she talked in colloquial manner. Some scholars for example Qutaiba bin Sa'id trying to compare him to scholars of tabi'in period like Sufyan ath-Thauri, Malik, al-Awza'i and Laith bin Sa'ad. I think all of scholars have their own special traits. We do not have to compare them if they possess knowledge and efforts but we try to emulate good traits that they have. It's better than being a fanatic out of no reason.

Among of His Teachers
1) Honorable Isma'il bin Ja'afar as-Sadiq
2) Abbad bin Abbad al-'Ataky
3) 'Umari bin 'Abdullah bin Khalid
4) Hushaim bin Bashir bin Qasim bin Dinar as-Sulami
5) Honorable Imam Syafi'ie
6) Waki' bin Jarrah
7) Isma'il bin Ulaiyah
8) Sufyan bin 'Uyainah
9) Ibrahim bin Ma'qil

Among His Students
Most of Ahlil Hadith or Sunnah adherents studied under his supervision, his teachers also learned from him. Unlike today, teachers do not learn from students, because of ego. Among Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal students are:

1) Imam Bukhari
2) Muslim
3) An-Nasa'i
4) Abu Dawud
5) Tirmidzi
6) Ibnu Majah
7) Honorable Imam Syafi'ie
8) His sons, Saaleh and Abdullah
9) His nephew, Hanbal bin Ishaq

Mihneh Event

It means inquisition or ordeal, a political attempt of the Abbasid caliph, al-Ma'mun around 883 C to impose his theological views on his subjects. It's including the inquisition on scholars including imam Ahmad bin Hanbal whether Quran is created or not. If we learn STPM (A-Level) Islamic History, we perhaps might a little bit come across this topic.  

All of parties agreed that the Quran is unadulterated Speech of the God. However the issue was whether the Quran is the created or uncreated speech of the God, actually raised by the Jahmites. The position of the al-Ma'mun is that the Quran is created speech of the God. This issue to appear as almost similar to the issue of Christians philosophical and doctrinal arguments regarding the Word or Logos which refers to Jesus Christ and Ewungel (Gospel) around 4th-5th C. The response of those who were inquired is with consequence. Those who reject the doctrine of the Quran is created will be dismissed from public office, will be imprisoned, and flogged. This event lasted for about 15 years, even the successors of al-Ma'amun who were al-Mu'tasim and al-Wathiq. It ends around 861 under al-Mutawakkil, the nephew of al-Ma'amun.

Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal was firm with his position that the Quran is not a created speech but the literal words of the God. No more no less from what is described by the God Himself. It means that we should not go beyond the limit and speculate out of the description given to the us by the God. He was imprisoned and severely tortured until the succession of al-Mutawakkil. Many other fellow ulamas at that time had advised him to just show his agreement with the ruler although they too did not agree with the ruler but Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal responded with a hadith narration that people before him had died with their head being cut with the saw but never give up faith in every aspect. The hadith is recorded in Bukhari 12/281.   

So, this event is a point that makes us the adherents of Hanbali madzhab so strict with sunnah and innovations. But I would like to urge myself, and later brothers and sisters to study first before simply accusing others. Be extremely polite unless we see that something really is wrong like what happened to our honorable imam, Ahmad bin Hanbal. We are not even close to these salaf period imams (Abu Hanifah, Malik bin Anas, Syafi'ie and Hanbali) in term of religious science.     


Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal was struck with severe illness and fever and became very very weak. He never complain about his infirmity and pain until he died. I read in the book, it said that Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal urged people to take care of their own health and pray to the God for health. It is very important. He still asked his son, Saaleh to help him to stand up for prayer service though he was sick. He would pray in sitting posture or lying on his side if he was unable to stand up. 

People flocked to his house upon hearing about his illness. Ruling family also showed their desire to visit this imam and trying to get his permission. Since, he does not want to have any relation with any authority, he denied them access. This imam position is also my position and his personality that I read so much influenced me. I guess that's why those Tabligh kids saw me look like their people that make them decided to 'convert' me into their organization but I don't tie myself to anyone except to the God the Most Highest.

On Friday, the 12th of Rabi'ul Awwal 241 H, this imam passed away after 9 days struck by illness. His age at that time was 77 years old. His death news spread far and wide in the city, many people flooded the streets to attend his funeral. Before he passed away, he seems to be talking to someone. His son asked him and he told his son that satan came to deflect his creed before he passed away. Around 800,000 to 1,300000 or around 2 million people as was estimated by scholars attending his funeral. In the mass, there were about 60000 respectable women attending the funeral of this imam.  


Here are some of honorable imam Ahmad bin Hanbal works found by Ibnu an-Nadim Fihrist. I hope to read and study them all if I have the chance:

1. Kitab al-'Ilal wa Ma'rifah ar-Rijal - The Book of Narrations Containing Hidden Flaws and of Knowledge of the Men (of Hadith), Riyadh: al-Maktabah al-Islamiyah.

2. Kitab al-Manasik - The Book on Pilgrimage Rites.

3. Kitab az-Zuhud - The Book of Abstinence. Edited by Muhammad Zaghlul. Beirut: Darul Kitab al-'Arabi (1994).

4. Kitab al-Iman - The Book of Faith.

5. Kitab al-Masail - Issues in Fiqh.

6. Kitab al-Ashribah - The Book of Drinks.

7. Kitab al-Fadha'il Sahabah - Virtues of the Companions of Prophet Muhammad s.a.w.

8. Kitab Thaa'ah ar-Rasul - The Book of Obedience to the Messenger of the God.

9. Kitab Mansukh - The Book of Abrogation.

10. Kitab al-Fara'id - The Book of Obligatory Duties.

11. Kitab ar-Radd 'ala az-Zindiqah wal-Jahmiyyah - Refutations of the Heretics and the Jahmites. Cairo (1973).

He also wrote exegesis which is said by adz-Dzhahabi as lost and another book called the Musnad which is a compilation of 27 000 checked hadiths. Other is Fadha'il Ahlul Bayt or the Virtues of the Ahlul Bayt

Some scholars like Abu Dawud also quoted as saying that he never saw Imam Ahmad mentions anything about the world when sitting with him. He never boast to people with anything good characterized with him. Syeikh Abdul Qadir Jailani, may Allah be merciful to him also mentioned that there is no saint who has the creed as firm as imam Ahmad bin Hanbal. What I read from my mum's book, it says that Imam Ahmad never tie the world to his heart that makes demons or evil genies who possessed a person and making the person insane ran away. They only come back to the city of Basrah after the honorable imam passed away. Other than that, he had asked his son to give back bread given by a baker because he only takes whatever he pays. It is something like that, I would check the book again because all of these scholars have beautiful characteristics which could be emulated by commoners like us. So many things about this scholar, may we learn something beneficial from him, insyaallah.

Sealed with salawat and prayers for mercy, peace, and love, amin!

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