Ahmad ibn Hanbal
|Abu Abdullah Ahmad ibn Muhammed ibn Hanbal al-Shaybani|
Ahmad bin Muhammad bin Hanbal Abu `Abd Allah al-Shaybani with Islamic calligraphy
|Born||Rabi-ul-I, 164 AH/November, 780
Baghdad, Iraq 
|Died||12 Rabi'-ul-I, 241 AH/ 2 August, 855(aged 74-75)
|Era||Islamic Golden Age|
|Occupation||Scholar of Islam|
|Main interest(s)||Fiqh, Hadith, Aqeedah|
|Notable idea(s)||Hanbali madhhab|
|Notable work(s)||Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal|
Aḥmad bin Muḥammad bin Ḥanbal Abū ʿAbd Allāh al-Shaybānī (Arabic: احمد بن محمد بن حنبل ابو عبد الله الشيباني; 780–855 CE/164–241 AH), often referred to as Aḥmad b. Ḥanbal or Ibn Ḥanbal for short, was an Arab Muslim jurist, theologian, and hadith traditionist. An enormously influential and vigorous scholar during his lifetime, Ibn Hanbal went on to become "one of the most venerated" and celebrated personalities in the tradition of Sunni Islam, within which he was often referred to by such reverent epithets as Sheikh al-Islām and Imam of Baghdad. He has been retrospectively described as "the most significant exponent of the traditionalist approach in Sunni Islam," with his "profound influence affecting almost every area of" orthodox Sunni thought. One of the foremost classical proponents of the importance of using hadith literature to govern Islamic law and life, Ibn Hanbal is famous for compiling one of the most important Sunni hadith collections, the celebrated Musnad Ibn Hanbal, an enormous compendium of prophetic traditions that has continued to wield considerable influence in the field of hadith studies up to the present time. Additionally, Ibn Hanbal is also honored as the founder of the Hanbali school of Sunni jurisprudence, which is one of the four major orthodox legal schools of Sunni Islam.
Having studied fiqh and hadith under many teachers during his youth, Ibn Hanbal became famous in his later life for the crucial role he played in the Mihna, the inquisition instituted by the Abbasid Caliphate al-Ma'mun towards the end of his reign, in which the ruler gave official state support to the Mutazilite dogma of the Quran being created, a view that contradicted the orthodox doctrine of the Quran being the eternal, uncreated Word of God. Suffering physical persecution under the caliph for his unflinching adherence to the traditional doctrine, Ibn Hanbal's fortitude in this particular event only bolstered his "resounding reputation" in the annals of Islamic history.
Throughout Islamic history, Ibn Hanbal was venerated as an exemplary figure in all the traditional schools of Sunni thought, both by the exoteric ulema and by the mystics, with the latter often designating him as a saint in their hagiographies. As there exist historical sources indicating patently "mystical elements in his personal piety" and documented evidence of his amiable interactions with early Sufi saints such as Maruf Karkhi, later Hanbali biographers of his life, such as Ibn al-Jawzi, often spoke at length of his gifts as a miracle worker and of the efficacy of his relics. Regarding this last point, it is also important to note that Ibn Hanbal himself also seemed to have "believed in the power of relics," for traditional accounts of his life relate that he often carried "a purse ... in his sleeve containing ... hairs from the Prophet ... [which he] later ordered ... [were to] be buried with [him] ... one on each eye and a third on his tongue."
In the modern era, Ibn Hanbal's name has became a controversial one in certain quarters of the Islamic world due to the influence he is believed by some to have had upon the Hanbali reform movement known as Wahhabism, which cites him as a principal influence along with the thirteenth-century Hanbali reformer Ibn Taymiyyah. However, it has been argued that Ibn Hanbal's own beliefs actually played "no real part in the establishment of the central doctrines of Wahhabism," especially as there is evidence that "the older Hanbalite authorities had doctrinal concerns very different from those of the Wahhabis," rich as medieval Hanbali literature is in references to saints, grave visitation, miracles, and relics.
Early life and family
Ahmad ibn Hanbal's family was originally from Basra, Iraq, and belonged to the Arab Banu Shayban tribe. His father was an officer in the Abbasid army in Khurasan and later settled with his family in Baghdad, where Ahmad was born in 780 CE.
Education and work
Ahmad Ibn Hanbal studied extensively in Baghdad, and later traveled to further his education. He started learning jurisprudence (Fiqh) under the celebrated Hanafi judge, Abu Yusuf, the renowned student and companion of Imam Abu Hanifah. After finishing his studies with Abu Yusuf, ibn Hanbal began traveling through Iraq, Syria, and Arabia to collect hadiths, or traditions of the Prophet Muhammad. Ibn al-Jawzi states that Imam Ahmad had 414 Hadith masters whom he narrated from. With this knowledge, he became a leading authority on the hadith, leaving an immense encyclopedia of hadith, the al-Musnad. After several years of travel, he returned to Baghdad to study Islamic law under Al-Shafi'i. He became a mufti in his old age, but is remembered most famously, as the founder of the Hanbali madhab or school of Islamic law, which is now most dominant in Saudi Arabia, Qatar as well as the United Arab Emirates. Unlike the other three schools of Islamic jurisprudence (Hanafi, Maliki, and Shafi), the Hanbali madhab remained largely traditionalist or Athari in theology.
In addition to his scholastic enterprises, ibn Hanbal was a soldier on the Islamic frontiers (Ribat) and made Hajj five times in his life, twice on foot.
Ahmad Ibn Hanbal died on Friday, 12 Rabi-ul-I, 241 AH/ 2 August, 855 at the age of 74-75 in Baghdad, Iraq. Historians relate that his funeral was attended by 800,000 men and 60,000 women and that 20,000 Christians and Jews converted to Islam on that day.
Ibn Hanbal was famously called before the Inquisition or Mihna of the Abassid Caliph al-Ma'mun. Al-Ma'mun wanted to assert the religious authority of the Caliph by pressuring scholars to adopt the Mu'tazila view that the Qur'an was created rather than uncreated. According to Sunni tradition, ibn Hanbal was among the scholars to resist the Caliph's interference and the Mu'tazila doctrine of a created Qur'an—although some Orientalist sources raise a question on whether or not he remained steadfast Ibn Hanbal's stand against the inquisition by the Mu'tazila (who had been the ruling authority at the time) led to the Hanbali school establishing itself firmly as not only a school of fiqh (legal jurisprudence), but of theology as well.
Due to his refusal to accept Mu'tazilite authority, ibn Hanbal was imprisoned in Baghdad throughout the reign of al-Ma'mun. In an incident during the rule of al-Ma'mun's successor, al-Mu'tasim, ibn Hanbal was flogged to unconsciousness. However, this caused upheaval in Baghdad and al-Ma'mun was forced to release ibn Hanbal.[dead link] After al-Mu’tasim’s death, al-Wathiq became caliph and continued his predecessor's policies of Mu'tazilite enforcement and in this pursuit, he banished ibn Hanbal from Baghdad. It was only after al-Wathiqu's death and the ascent of his brother al-Mutawakkil, who was much friendlier to the more traditional Sunni beliefs, that ibn Hanbal was welcomed back to Baghdad.
The following books are found in Ibn al-Nadim's Fihrist:
- Usool as-Sunnah : "Foundations of the Prophetic Tradition (in Belief)"
- asSunnah : "The Prophet Tradition (in Belief)"
- Kitab al-`Ilal wa Ma‘rifat al-Rijal: "The Book of Narrations Containing Hidden Flaws and of Knowledge of the Men (of Hadeeth)" Riyad: Al-Maktabah al-Islamiyyah
- Kitab al-Manasik: "The Book of the Rites of Hajj"
- Kitab al-Zuhd: "The Book of Abstinence" ed. Muhammad Zaghlul, Beirut: Dar al-Kitab al-'Arabi, 1994
- Kitab al-Iman: "The Book of Faith"
- Kitab al-Masa'il "Issues in Fiqh"
- Kitab al-Ashribah: "The Book of Drinks"
- Kitab al-Fada'il Sahaba: "Virtues of the Companions"
- Kitab Tha'ah al-Rasul : "The Book of Obedience to the Messenger"
- Kitab Mansukh: "The Book of Abrogation"
- Kitab al-Fara'id: "The Book of Obligatory Duties"
- Kitab al-Radd `ala al-Zanadiqa wa'l-Jahmiyya "Refutations of the Heretics and the Jahmites" (Cairo: 1973)
- Tafsir : "Exegesis"
- Musnad of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal
- It is said that, when told that it was religiously permissible to say what pleases his persecuters without believing in it at the time of mihna, Ahmad said "If I remained silent and you remained silent, then who will teach the ignorant?".
- With regard to innovation within religion, Ahmad said “The graves of sinners from People of Sunnah is a garden, while the graves of the pious ascetics from the People of Innovation is a barren pit. The pious among Ahlus Sunnah are the Friends of Allah, while the sinners among Ahlul-Bidah are the Enemies of Allah.”
Ibn Hanbal has been extensively praised for both his work in the field of prophetic tradition and his defense of orthodox Sunni dogma. Abdul-Qadir Gilani stated that a Muslim could not truly be a wali of Allah except that they were upon Ibn Hanbal's creed; despite praise from his contemporaries as well, Yahya ibn Ma'in noted that Ibn Hanbal never boasted about his achievements.
His juristic views were not always accepted. Qur'anic exegete Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari, who at one time had sought to study under Ibn Hanbal, later stated that he did not consider Ibn Hanbal a jurist and gave his views in the field no weight, describing him as an expert in prophetic tradition only. Likewise, Andalusian scholar Ibn 'Abd al-Barr did not include Ibn Hanbal or his views in his book The Hand-Picked Excellent Merits of the Three Great Jurisprudent Imâms about the main representatives of Sunni jurisprudence. Thus, while Ibn Hanbal's prowess in the field of tradition appears to be undisputed, his status as a jurist has not enjoyed the same reception.
Early Islam scholars
|Early Islamic scholars|
- "مناهج أئمة الجرح والتعديل". Ibnamin.com. Retrieved 2010-03-21.
- Roy Jackson, "Fifty key figures in Islam", Taylor & Francis, 2006. p 44: "Abu Abdallah Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Hanbal ibn Hilal al-Shaybani was born in Baghdad in Iraq in 780"
- The History of Persia by John Malcolm – Page 245
- A Literary History of Persia from the Earliest Times Until Firdawsh by Edward Granville Browne – Page 295
- Spevack, Aaron (2014). The Archetypal Sunni Scholar: Law, Theology, and Mysticism in the Synthesis of Al-Bajuri. State University of New York Press. p. 143. ISBN 978-1-4384-5370-5.
- "CLASSICAL BOOKS / Hadeeth / Saheeh al-Bukhaaree (al-Jaami' as-Saheeh)". Fatwa-online.com. Retrieved 2010-03-21.
- Al-Bastawī, ʻAbd al-ʻAlīm ʻAbd al-ʻAẓīm (1990). Al-Imām al-Jūzajānī wa-manhajuhu fi al-jarḥ wa-al-taʻdīl. Maktabat Dār al-Ṭaḥāwī. p. 9.
- H. Laoust, "Ahmad b. Hanbal," in Encyclopedia of Islam, Vol. I, pp. 272-7
- Mohammed M. I. Ghaly, "Writings on Disability in Islam: The 16th Century Polemic on Ibn Fahd's "al-Nukat al-Ziraf"," The Arab Studies Journal, Vol. 13/14, No. 2/1 (Fall 2005/Spring 2006), p. 26, note 98
- Holtzman, Livnat, “Aḥmad b. Ḥanbal”, in: Encyclopaedia of Islam, THREE, Edited by: Kate Fleet, Gudrun Krämer, Denis Matringe, John Nawas, Everett Rowson
- 1st ed., Cairo 1311; new edition by Aḥmad S̲h̲ākir in publ. since 1368/1948
- Manāḳib, pp. 33-6; Tard̲j̲ama, pp. 13-24
- Christopher Melchert, The Ḥanābila and the Early Sufis, Arabica, T. 48, Fasc. 3 (Brill, 2001), p. 356
- Holtzman, Livnat, “Aḥmad b. Ḥanbal”, in: Encyclopaedia of Islam, THREE, Edited by: Kate Fleet, Gudrun Krämer, Denis Matringe, John Nawas, Everett Rowson; cf. Ibn al-Jawzī, Manāqib al-imām Aḥmad, ed. ʿĀdil Nuwayhiḍ, Beirut 1393/1973 and Christopher Melchert, The Ḥanābila and the Early Sufis, Arabica, T. 48, Fasc. 3 (Brill, 2001), pp. 55-56
- H. Laoust, "Ahmad b. Hanbal," in Encyclopedia of Islam, Vol. I, pp. 272-7; Christopher Melchert, The Ḥanābila and the Early Sufis, Arabica, T. 48, Fasc. 3 (Brill, 2001), p. 356
- Ibn al-Jawzī, Manāqib al-imām Aḥmad, ed. ʿĀdil Nuwayhiḍ, Beirut 1393/1973
- Michael Cook, “On the Origins of Wahhābism,” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, Third Series, Vol. 2, No. 2 (Jul., 1992), p. 198
- Christopher Melchert, The Ḥanābila and the Early Sufis, Arabica, T. 48, Fasc. 3 (Brill, 2001); cf. Ibn al-Jawzī, Manāqib al-imām Aḥmad, ed. ʿĀdil Nuwayhiḍ, Beirut 1393/1973
- H. A. R. Gibb et al., eds. (1986). "Aḥmad B. Ḥanbal". Encyclopaedia of Islam. A-B. 1 (New ed.). Brill Academic Publishers. p. 272. ISBN 90-04-08114-3.
Aḥmad B. Ḥanbal was an Arab, belonging to the Banū Shaybān, of Rabī’a,...
- Foundations of the Sunnah, by Ahmad ibn Hanbal, pg 51-173
- "Imam Ahmad Ibn #longliveasaptia Hanbal". islamawareness.net.
- al-Dhahabi, Siyar A`lam al-Nubala’ 9:434-547 #1876 and Tadhkira al-Huffaz 2:431 #438
- "Islamic schools of thought (madhabs).". tripod.com.
- Halverson, Jeffry R. (2010). Theology and Creed in Sunni Islam: The Muslim Brotherhood, Ash'arism, and Political Sunnism. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 34.
The Hanbalite madhhab, in contrast, largely maintained the traditionalist of Athari position.
- "Imaam Ahmad ibn Hanbal". Archived from the original on May 16, 2007.
- Ludwig W. Adamec (2009), Historical Dictionary of Islam, pp.136-137. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 0810861615.
- Brill, E.J., ed. (1965-1986). The Encyclopedia of Islam, vol. 7. pp. 3.
- Williams, W. Wesley (2008). Tajalli Wa-Ru'ya: A Study of Anthropomorphic Theophany and Visio Dei in the Hebrew Bible, the Qur'an and early Sunni Islam. p. 229. ISBN 0549816887.
- Tabaqaat al-Hanaabilah (1/184)
- Yaqut al-Hamawi, Irshad, vol. 18, pg. 57-58.
- Camilla Adang, This Day I have Perfected Your Religion For You: A Zahiri Conception of Religious Authority, pg. 20. Taken from Speaking for Islam: Religious Authorities in Muslim Societies. Ed. Gudrun Krämer and Sabine Schmidtke. Leiden: Brill Publishers, 2006.
|Arabic Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Ahmad ibn Hanbal.|
- Ibn al-Jawzi, Manaqib al-Imam Ahmad
- Nadwi, S. A. H. A., Saviors of Islamic Spirit (Vol. 1), translated by Mohiuddin Ahmad, Academy of Islamic Research and Publications, Lucknow, 1971.
- Melchert, Christopher, Ahmad ibn Hanbal (Makers of the Muslim World), Oneworld, 2006.
|Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Aḥmad ibn Ḥanbal.|