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Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal was born in Baghdad in 164 Hijri and was raised by his mother alone, as his father died while he was very young. His full name was Ahmad Ibn Muhammad Ibn Hanbal Ibn Hilal Ibn Asad Asy-Syaibani.
His mother had a great influence on him. She raised him under the influence of Islam, and her husband was an Islamic preacher. They belonged to the family of Dzuhli Ibn Syaiban, who hail from the tribe of Bakr Ibn Wail.
Teachers of Imam Ahmad
Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal was able to study under the influence of a great many teachers. In his book, Al Musnad, he writes down the names of more than 280 teachers. The ones who taught him the hadith are Imam Ash Shafi’i, Hushaim, Ibrahim Ibn Sa’d, Sufyan Ibn Uyaina, Abbad Ibn Abbad, and Yahya Ibn Abi Zaidah.
Students of Imam Ahmad
Among his prominent students, a few are Imam Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Daud, Abu Zur’ah, Mathin, Abdullah Ibn Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, and Abul Qasim Al Baghawi.
How was Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal?
There are a series of books available relating to his life and personality. He was a high-positioned Muslim of his time and forever.
Abu Zur’ah reports that he was such an intelligent man that he had memorized one million hadith.
Ibrahim Al Harbi praised him, saying he was a man who possessed knowledge of past and present people.
Imam Ash Shafi’i says no one was more humble, noble, and clever than Imam Ahmad.
Imam Ahmad was arrested
When the Caliph Al Makmun came to power, he forced the Muslims to proclaim that the Quran was a creature. He forcefully imposed the ideology of Mu’tazila. Those who refused to say so would be killed, poisoned, or imprisoned.
Four men stood not to say, and they were: Imam Ahmad, Muhammad Ibn Nuh, Al Qawariry, and Al Hasan Ibn Hammad.
Due to this very reason, they were imprisoned for days. However, when Al Mutawakkil became a caliph, Muslims again gained power. It was then that Imam Ahmad was given respect by the kingdom itself, and none could be appointed to the jury until Imam Ahmad approved.
The contribution of Imam Ahmad
Imam Ahmad greatly contributed to Islam. One of the most famous books is Al Musnad, a Hadith collection. In this book, he has compiled as many as 30,000 hadith.
Resala Shalat is another book that highlights the common mistakes that are made during prayers that take place in the mosque.
Al Masail is a book on fatwas compiled after hearing his son’s and students’ questions.
Another book named Fadhail Ash Shahabah throws a light on the life of companions of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. This book was written as an answer to Rafidha, who said that most of the companions of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ were disbelievers.
Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal and the baker
Once, Imam Ahmed bin Hanbal stopped by a town and stayed in one of its mosques while traveling. However, the mosque’s caretaker did not allow him to stay there for a night. Imam had not disclosed his identity to the caretaker.
As Imam was old, the caretaker dragged him out of the mosque. A baker saw that the old man had nowhere to go and was not even allowed to stay at the mosque and felt pity for him. He, also not knowing that the old man was Imam Ahmed, took him to his place for a night.
Imam Ahmed observed that the baker would recite استغفار now and then. So, Imam asked him if the practice of reciting استغفار turned out good for him.
Upon this, the baker said Allah had accepted all his wishes except one. Imam inquired about one dua, which is still not accepted. The baker replied that he had been asking Allah to give him a chance to meet Imam Ahmed bin Hanbal, a famous scholar.
The Imam then said that Allah has not only accepted your dua but also has driven Imam Ahmed out of the mosque so that he shall meet you.
The death of Imam Ahmad
Imam Ahmad died at the age of 77 on Friday, the 12th of Rabi’ul Awwal, 241 Hijri. People, students, and his faraway followers came to attend his funeral.
It is reported by Adz Dzahabi, from Bunan Ibn Ahmad Al Qashbani, that there were as many as 800,000 men and 60,000 women at his funeral.
When Caliph Al Mutawakkil issued orders to count the footprints to know the number of people at the funeral, they were recorded to be more than 2.5 million people at his funeral.