Durbar of the greatest of the Abbaside Caliph, Mamunar Rashid, at Tarsus, was
packed to its capacity. A frail bodied person, with a resolute look and a calm
countenance, was carried forward by the guards through a long row of
distinguished courtiers, officials and religious scholars. The person was Ahmad
ibn Hambal who had been summoned by the Caliph, who, supported by several
religious scholars tried to argue with Ahmad bin Hambal but the Imam was adamant
and refused to change his views. He was therefore put behind the bars.
Imam Ahmad ibn
Muhammad ibn Hambal, the founder of the Hambali School of Muslim jurisprudence,
is one of the greatest personalities of Islam who profoundly influenced both the
historical development and modern revival. The celebrated theologian, jurist and
traditionalists, Ahmad ibn Hambal, was through his disciple Ibn Taimiya, the
distant progenitor of Wahabism. He inspirited also in certain degree the
conservation reform movement of the Salafiyya (Encyclopaedia of Islam).
Born at Baghdad
on the Ist of Rabi-ul-Awwal, 164 A.H. (December 780) Ahmad ibn Hambal was an
Arab, belonging to Bani Shayban of Rabia, who had played an important role in
the Muslim conquest of Iraq and Khorasan. His family first resided at Basra. His
grandfather Hambal ibn Hilal, Governor of Sarakhs, under the Omayyads had the
headquarters at Merv. Ahmad’s father Muhammad ibn Hambal, who was employed in
the Imperial Army in Khorasan, later moved to Baghdad, where he died three years
Ahmad, who had
become an orphan at a very early age, inherited a family estate of modest
income. He studied jurisprudence, Tradition and lexicography in Baghdad. There
he attended the lectures of Qazi Abu Yusaf. His principal teacher was Sufyan ibn
Uyayna, an authority on the School of Hejaz. Later, he was much influenced by
Imam Shafii and became his disciple. From 795 A.D., he devoted himself to the
study of Tradition and made frequent visits to Iran, Khorasan, Hejaz, Yemen,
Syria, Iraq and even to Maghrib in quest of authentic Traditions of the Prophet
(sws). He made five pilgrimages to the holy cities.
Imam Shafii, who taught Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) to Ahmad ibn Hambal, the
latter was the most learned man he had come across in Baghdad.
The way Imam
Ahmad ibn Hambal withstood the trials and tribulations of the Abbaside Calipsh
for fifteen years on account of his opposition to the officially supported
Mutazillite doctrine of the creation of Quran is a living tribute to the Imam’s
high character and indomitable will, which immortalised him as one of the
greatest men of the times.
Caliph, Mamoon-ar-Rashid, was much influenced in his last days by the doctrines
of Mutazillites, including that of the creation of Quran, and gave an official
support to it. The distinguish religious leaders and divines, one after another,
accepted the views of the Caliph. Imam Ahmad bin Hambal opposed this doctrine
vigorously and suffered as a result, which immensely added to his popularity and
immortalised him as one of the greatest men of all times.
Caliph, Mamoon-ar-Rashid died shortly after the imprisonment of Imam Ahmad. He
was succeeded by Al-Mutasim, who summoned the Imam and asked the same question
about the creation of Quran. Still he refused to accept the Mutazillite
doctrine. So he was severely flogged and thrown into the prison. He was however
allowed to return home after two years. During the reign of the succeeding
Abbaside Caliph, Wasiq, he was not permitted to preach his faith and was
compelled to live in retirement. All these hardships failed to detract him from
the path of righteous.
of the Imam ended when Al Mutawakkil became the Caliph. The Imam was invited and
enthusiastically welcomed by the Caliph, who requested him to give lessons on
Traditions to the young Abbaside Prince, Al-Mutazz. But the Imam declined this
offer on account of his old age and failing health. He returned to Baghdad
without seeing the Caliph and died at the age of 75 in Rabi-ul-Awwal of 241 A.H.
(July 855 A.D.). He was buried in the Martyrs cemetery, near the Harb gate of
Baghdad. ‘His funeral was attended by millions of mourners and his tomb was the
scene of demonstrations of such ardent devotion that the cemetery had to be
guarded by the civil authorities and his tomb became the most frequented place
of pilgrimage in Baghdad’ (Encyclopedia of Islam).
Imam Ahmad laid
greater emphasis on Traditions. His monumental work is Musnad, an encyclopaedia
containing 28,000 to 29,000 Traditions of the Prophet (sws) in which the
Traditions are not classified according to the subject as in the Sahihs of
Muslim and Bukhari, but under the name of the first reporter. His other notable
works are: Kitab-us-Salaat (Book of Prayer); Ar-radd alal-Zindika (a treatise in
refutation of Mutazillites, which he wrote in prison); and Kitab-us-Sunnah ( in
which he expounds his views).
fundamental purpose of the Imam’s teaching may be seen as a reaction against the
codification of Fiqh, his disciples collected and systematised his replies to
questions, which gave birth to the Hambali Fiqh, the fourth School of Muslim
School, which was exposed throughout its history to numerous and powerful
opponents came into prominence under the teachings of its greatest exponent,
Imam ibn Taimiya, who denounced the veneration of saints and worshipping of
tombs. Later, it was further developed by the Saudi Arabian reformer, Abdul
Wahab, who greatly popularised it in Saudi Arabia.
(From The Hundred Great Muslims, Ferozesons Ltd, Lahore)