Imaam Ahmad ibn Hambal (Rahmatullahi Alaihi)

Introduction

Imaam Ahmad (Rahmatullahi Alaihi) was born in the year 164 A.H., and passed away on the morning of Friday, the 12th of Rabi-ul-Awwal, 241 A.H. at the age of 77. [1]

His Expertise

A reputed Muhaddith, Ebrahim Al-Harbi (Rahmatullahi Alaihi) (d.285 A.H.) says: “I had the opportunity of seeing Imaam Ahmad ibn Hambal (Rahmatullahi Alaihi). It seemed as if his heart was a treasure-chest containing all the knowledge granted to human beings, past and present. He could reveal whatever he saw relevant, and hold back what he did not desire to divulge.” Abu Zur’ah (Rahmatullahi Alaihi) says: “Imaam Ahmad (Rahmatullahi Alaihi) was a Hafiz of one million Ahaadith.” Someone asked: “How do you know?” He said: “I revised with him, and noted the chapters from him.” Imaam Abdurrazzaaq said: “I never saw anyone greater in Fiqh and Wara’ (caution in matters of Deen) than Imaam Ahmad ibn Hambal.”[2]

Harmala has reported that I heard Imaam Shaafiee say: “At the time when I left Baghdaad, I did not leave any person behind who was greater than Imaam Ahmad in knowledge and Fiqh.”[3]

Ali bin Madeeni (Rahmatullahi Alaihi) said: “At the time of crisis, Allah Ta’ala had supported this Deen with two personalities. With Abu Bakr (Radhiallahu Anhu) on the day when the tribes had turned apostate, and with Imaam Ahmad bin Hambal (Rahmatullahi Alaihi) at the time the Ummah was tested with the fitnah of Khalqul Qur’an.[4]

Muhammad bin Hammaad At Tahraani said that I heard Abu Thaur say: “Imaam Ahmad was greater than Sufyaan Thauri in Fiqh.”[5]

Ibn Ma’een (Rahmatullahi Alaihi) said: “People wish that I become like Imaam Ahmad. I take a qasm in the name of Allah Ta’ala, I can never be like Imaam Ahmad.[6]

His Humility and Character

Muhammad ibnul-Hasan ibn Haroon said: “I saw Abu Abdillah (Imaam Ahmad) when he was walking. He disliked that anyone should follow him.”[7]

Imaam Yahya ibn Ma’in (Rahmatullahi Alaihi) says: “I never saw the like of Imaam Ahmad. We accompanied him for fifty years. He never once flaunted himself for the good that he possessed.”[8]

Trials and Tribulations

Imaam Ahmad (Rahmatullahi Alaihi) was unimaginably harassed and tortured by the rulers of his time. During Ramadhaan 221 A.H. when he was 57 years of age, he was prisoned by Mu’tasim and lashed. This was only due to a mas’ala which he adhered to, which some of the deviant sects did not concur with. (i.e. the issue of khalqul Qur’an). He was lashed eighteen severe lashes, which caused him to lose consciousness. Thereafter he was thrown down upon his face, a mat was placed over him, and his body was trampled. When he regained consciousness and food was placed before him, he refused to eat as he was fasting. Each one of those who took part or witnessed the lashing was forgiven by him, except those who were in deviance. He used to say: “What benefit do you derive out of your Muslim brother being punished because of you?” Later, Allah Ta’ala guided Mu’tasim, who thus repented and showed tremendous remorse over his behaviour.”[9]

The Period after the Trial

The Caliph Mutawakkil succeeded Caliph Waathiq in 232 A.H. He held Imaam Ahmad in high esteem, but Imaam Ahmad remained cautious since he regarded the favours of the king as a temptation towards evil. Once Mutawakkil sent him a bag of ten thousand dirhams and about two hundred dinaars. It was emphasized that he should accept it lest the king would be offended if the gift was refused. Imaam Ahmad (Rahmatullahi Alaihi) did not even look at it. At Maghrib time, he called his son Saalih and said, “Keep this by you.”

Before dawn the next morning, Imaam Ahmad called for his son who immediately came. He said to him, “I haven’t slept last night”, and began to weep. He continued, “All my life I remained safe from the rulers and kings. Now, in old age, I am being tested with them. I have decided to distribute this wealth in the morning. That morning, he continued distributing the money to the various factions of the poor and needy until the entire amount was spent. He then also gave the bag away to a destitute person. His son says: “We were experiencing such poverty (at the time) which only Allah Ta’ala knew.”[10]

His Piety

His son Abdulllah relates: “My father used to perform three hundred rak’aat daily. When he became ill due to the lashes which weakened him, he used to perform one hundred and fifty rakaat. At that time he was close to eighty years of age. He used to recite one-seventh of the Qur’an daily, thereby completing the Qur’an in seven days. Besides the salaah of the day, he used to complete one recital in seven nights as well. After performing Esha salaah, he used to have a light nap, then stay awake up to the morning performing salaah and making duaa. My father performed Hajj five times, three on foot and two by conveyance. On one of his journeys of Hajj he spent only twenty dirhams.”[11]

Ibrahim bin Shammaas (Ramatullahi Alaihi) says: “I knew Imaam Ahmad as a child, staying awake during the night (in Ibaadah).”[12]

Poetry of Imaam Shaafiee regarding Imaam Ahmad

قالوا يزورك أحمد و تزوره ** قلت الفضائل لا تفارق منزله

ان زارني فبفضله او زرته ** فلفضله فالفضل في الحالين له

The people say (to me) that (we notice that) Imaam Ahmad visits you and you visit him. I reply saying that (though he visits me, however it is an honour for me as) virtue does not separate from his high and lofty position.

If he visits me, then it is out of his grace, and if I visit him, then it is due to acquiring his virtue and good. In both situations, grace and virtue belongs to him (not me).[13]

His Adab (Respect) in Deen

Imaam Ahmad bin Hambal (Rahmatullahi Alaihi) never called any of his asaatidha by their names out of respect for them. Rather, he would refer to them by their titles.[14]

Once, Imaam Ahmad (Rahmatullahi Alaihi) was lying down due to some illness. In the middle of the discussion someone mentioned the name of Ibraheem bin Tahmaan (Rahmatullahi Alaihi). On listening to this name, Imaam Ahmad (Rahmatullahi Alaihi) immediately sat up out of respect. Thereafter he remarked, “It is inappropriate that the names of the elders are mentioned whilst we are sitting and relaxing.”[15]

 


[1] Sifatus Safwah 487/1

[2] Sifatus Safwah 479/1

[3] Siyar 446/9

[4] Ibid

[5] Siyar 447/9

[6] Ibid

[7] Siyar 465/9

[8] Siyar 458/9

[9] Who are the blind followers pg. 38

[10] Sifatus Safwah 486/1

[11] Sifatus Safwah 484/1

[12] Siyar 466/9

[13] Deewaan of Imaam Shaafiee pg. 322

[14] Aadaabul Muta’allimeen

[15] Ibid

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