” A Master piece”
Aboo Haneefah (d. 150H)
He is the Imaam, the faqeeh, the Scholar of al-’Iraaq, Aboo Haneefah an-Nu’maan Ibn Thaabit Ibn Zawtaa at-Taymee al-Koofee, the master of Banee Taymullaah Ibn Tha’labah, it was said that he was from the sons of al-Faras. He was born in the year 80H during the lifetime of the younger Companions, and he saw Maalik Ibn Anas when he came to them in al-Koofah. However, not a single letter from them has been confirmed from him.
Ahmad al-’Ijlee said, “Aboo Haneefah at-Taymee was from a group of oil dealers, he used to buy and sell silken fabrics.”
And ‘Umar Ibn Hammaad Ibn Abee Haneefah said, “As for Zawtaa, then he is from the people of Kaabil and he was born firm upon Islaam. And Zawtaa was in possession of the tribe of Taymullaah Ibn Tha’labah. So he was old and his allegiance was to them, then to the tribe of Qifl.” He said, “And Aboo Haneefah was a fabrics merchant, and his shop was known in Daar ‘Amr Ibn Hareeth.”
And Nadr Ibn Muhammad al-Marwazee said, “From Yahyaa Ibn Nadr who said, “The father of Abee Haneefah was from Nisaa.”
And Sulaymaan Ibnur-Rabee’ relates from al-Haarith Ibn Idrees who said, “The origin of Aboo Haneefah is from Tirmidh.”
And Aboo ‘Abdur-Rahmaan al-Muqree said, “Aboo Haneefah was from the people of Baabil.”
And Aboo Ja’far Muhammad Ibn Ishaaq Ibnul-Bahlool relates from his father, from his grandfather who said, “Thaabit, the father of Aboo Haneefah was from the people of an-Anbaar.”
From Mukrim Ibn Ahmad al-Qaadee who said, Ahmad Ibn ‘Abdullaah Ibn Shaadhaan al-Marwaazee informed us from his father, from his grandfather: I heard Ismaa’eel saying, Ismaa’eel Ibn Hammaad Ibn Abee Haneefah an Nu’maan Ibn Thaabit Ibnul-Marzabaan informed us from the sons of Faaris al-Ahraar, by Allaah, softness never fell upon us. “My grandfather was born in the year 80H, and Thaabit went to ‘Alee whilst he was young. So he supplicated for his blessing and for his offspring and we hope that this supplication from ‘Alee was answered through us.”
Muhammad Ibn Sa’d al-’Awfee said: “I heard Yahyaa Ibn Ma’een saying, ‘Aboo Haneefah was reliable (thiqah), and he did not relate any hadeeth, except those that he had memorized, and he did not relate those that he had not memorized.”
And Saalih Ibn Muhammad said, ‘I heard Yahyaa Ibn Ma’een saying, ‘Aboo Haneefah was thiqah in hadeeth.’ And Ahmad Ibn Muhammad Ibnul-Qaasim Ibn Mahraz relates from Ibn Ma’een, ‘There was no problem in Aboo Haneefah.’ And he said another time, ‘He was from the people of truthfulness according to us, and he was not faulted with lying.’ Indeed Ibn Hubayrah left the judiciary to him, so my father used to be a judge.’
From Shu’ayb Ibn Ayoob as-Sareefeenee, Aboo Yahyaa al-Himaanee informed us, ‘I heard Abaa Haneefah saying, ‘I saw a dream that terrified me. I saw that I was digging up the grave of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم). So I came to al-Basrah, so I commanded a man to ask Muhammad Ibn Seereen, so he asked him. So he said, ‘This man is digging up the narrations of the Messenger of Allaah (صلى الله عليه وسلم).”
The muhaddith, Mahmood Ibn Muhammad al-Marwazee said, Haamid Ibn Aadam informed us, Aboo Wahb Muhammad Ibn Mujaahim informed us saying, ‘I heard ‘Abdullaah Ibnul-Mubaarak saying, ‘If Allaah had not aided me through Abee Haneefah and Sufyaan, I would have been like the rest of the people.”
From Ahmad Ibn Zubayr, Sulaymaan Ibn Abee Shaykh informed us, Hujr Ibn ‘Abdul-Jabbaar informed me saying, ‘It was said to al-Qaasim Ibn Ma’n, ‘Are you pleased to be from amongst the boy servants of Aboo Haneefah?’ He said, ‘The people have not sat in circle more beneficial than that of Abee Haneefah.’ So al-Qaasim said to him, ‘Come with me to him.’ So when he came to him, he stuck to hiim, and he said, ‘I have not seen the likes of this.’
And Bishr Ibnul-Waleed relates from al-Qaadee Aboo Yoosuf who said, ‘Once when I was walking with Aboo Haneefah, I heard a man saying to another, ‘This Aboo Haneefah does not sleep at night.’ So Aboo Haneefah said, ‘By Allaah, do not relate from me that which I do not do.’
‘Abdur-Rahmaan Ibn Muhammad Ibnul-Mugheerah said, ‘I saw Aboo Haneefah pronouncing verdicts for the people at a mosque in al-Koofah, upon his head was a long black hood.’
And Ibnul-Mubaarak said, ‘I have not seen a man more dignified in his gathering, nor having better manners and mildness than Aboo Haneefah.’
Yazeed Ibn Haaroon said, “I have not seen anyone more easy going than Aboo Haneefah.”
Wakee’ said, ‘I heard Abee Haneefah saying, ‘Urinating in the mosque is better than some analogical deduction (qiyaas).”
And from Mu’aawiyah ad-Dareer who said, “Loving Abee Haneefah is from the Sunnah.”
And from Mugheeth Ibn Badeel who said, ‘Aboo Haneefah was called by al-Mansoor to the judiciary, so he refused. So he said, ‘Do you desire that which we have?’ So he said, “No, I am not appropriate.” He said, ‘You have lied.’ He said, “So the Leader of the Believers has ruled that I am not appropriate. Since I am a liar, then I am not appropriate. And if I was truthful, I would have informed you that I was not appropriate.” So he was detained. And Ismaa’eel Ibn Abee Uways relates something similar from ar-Rabee’ al-Haajib, and in it Aboo Haneefah said, “By Allaah, I am not safe from pleasure, so how could I be safe from anger? So I am not appropriate for that.” So al-Mansoor said, ‘You have lied. Rather, you are appropriate.’ So he said, ‘How is it lawful for you to give authority to one who lies?’ And it was said that Aboo Haneefah worked for him. So he judged in one affair and remained for two days, then he complained for six days and died.’
And the faqeeh, Aboo ‘Abdullaah as-Saymaree said, “He did not accept the position of judge. So he was beaten and detained and he died in jail.’ And Hayyaan Ibn Moosaa al-Marwazee said, ‘Ibnul-Mubaarak was asked, ‘Is Maalik better in fiqh, or Aboo Haneefah?’ He said, ‘Aboo Haneefah.” And al-Khuryabee said, ‘No one finds fault with Aboo Haneefah, except one who is jealous, or an ignoramus.’
And Yahyaa Ibn Sa’eed al-Qattaan said, “We do not lie in front of Allaah. We have not heard anything better than the opinion of Abee Haneefah. And indeed we have taken many of his statements.”
And ‘Alee Ibn ‘Aasim said, “If the knowledge of Imaam Aboo Haneefah was weighed against the knowledge of the people of his era, he would have outweighed them.”
And Hafs Ibn Ghiyaath said, ‘The speech of Abee Haneefah in fiqh is more intricate than poetry. No one finds fault with it except an ignorant person.’
And Jareer said, ‘Mugheerah said to me, ‘Sit with Aboo Haneefah to gain fiqh, since if Ibraaheem an-Nakha’ee was living, he would sit with him.’ And Ibnul-Mubaarak said, “Aboo Haneefah had more fiqh than the rest of the people.”
[Taken from Siyar A’laamun-Nubalaa (6/394-403), slightly adapted, from the book, The Creed of the Four Imaams]
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Maalik Ibn Anas (d. 179H)
He is the Shaykh of Islaam, the evidence of the Ummah, the Imaam of Daarul-Hijrah (i.e. al-Madeenah), Aboo ‘Abdullaah Maalik Ibn Anas Ibn Maalik Ibn Abee ‘Aamir Ibn ‘Amr Ibnul-Haarith Ibn Ghaymaan Ibn Khuthayl Ibn ‘Amr Ibnul-Haarith – and he is Dhoo Asbah Ibn ‘Awf Ibn Maalik Ibn Zayd Ibn Shaddaad Ibn Zur’ah. And he is Himeer al-Asghar al-Himeeree, then al-Asbahee al Madanee, an ally from the tribe of Taym from Quraysh. So they were the allies of ‘Uthmaan the brother of Talhah Ibn ‘Ubaydullaah, one of the ten (guaranteed Paradise). And his mother is ‘Aaliyah Bint Shareek al-Azdiyyah. And his maternal uncles are Aboo Suhayl Naafi’ and Uways, and ar-Rabee’ and an-Nadr, the children of Abee ‘Aamir.
Abul-Hasan ‘Alee Ibn ‘Abdul-Ghanee al-Mu’dal informed us, ‘Abdul-Lateef Ibn Yoosuf informed us, Ahmad Ibn Ishaaq informed us, Muhammad Ibn Abil-Qaasim al-Khateeb informed us, saying, Abul-Fath Muhammad Ibn ‘Abdul-Baaqee informed us, ‘Alee Ibn Muhammad Ibn Muhammad al-Anbaree informed us, ‘Abdul-Waahid Ibn Muhammad Ibn ‘Abdullaah Ibn Mahdee informed us, Muhammad Ibn Makhlad informed us, Aboo Yahya Muhammad Ibn Sa’eed Ibn Ghaalib al-’Attaar informed us, Ibn ‘Uyaynah informed us from Ibn Khurayj, from Abuz-Zubayr, from Abee Saalih, from Abee Hurayrah reaching the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) who said, “The people will mount the backs of camels in search of knowledge. So they will not find a Scholar more knowledgeable than a Scholar in al-Madeenah.” [Related by Ahmad (2/299), at-Tirmidhee (no. 2682), Ibn Hibbaan (no. 2308), al-Haakim (1/91) and al-Bayhaqee (1/286). So at-Tirmidhee declared it hasan and it was authenticated by Ibn Hibbaam and al-Haakim, and adh-Dhahabee agreed.]
And Abul-Mugheerah al-Makhzoomee said that it means the people will keep seeking knowledge. They will not find anyone more knowledgeable than a Scholar in al-Madeenah. So this could be Sa’eed Ibnul-Musayyib, then whoever is after him from the teachers of Maalik, then Maalik, then whoever comes after him in knowledge, and he was the most knowledgeable of his contemporaries.
Ibnul-Madeenee said, ‘I heard ‘Abdur-Rahmaan Ibn Mahdee saying, Wuhayb – and he was from the most perceptive of people in hadeeth and narrators – informed me that he arrived in al-Madeenah.’ He said, ‘So I did not see anyone except that he was being commanded and prohibited, except for Maalik and Yahyaa Ibn Sa’eed al-Ansaaree.’ [From the introduction to al-Jarh wat-Ta’deel (1/13)]
‘Abdur-Rahman said, ‘No one has preceded Maalik in the authenticity of hadeeth.’
Ibn Mahdee said, ‘The imaams of the people in their time were four: ath-Thawree, Maalik, al-Awzaa’ee and Hammaad Ibn Zayd.’ And he said, ‘I have not seen anyone more intelligient than Maalik.’ [From the introduction to al-Jarh wat-Ta’deel (1/13)]
And from Maalik who said, ‘The shield of a Scholar is ‘I do not know,’ so if he neglects it, his statement is attacked.’ [al-Intiqaa’ (p.38)]
And al-Haytham Ibn Jameel said, ‘I heard Maalik being asked about eighty-four issues. So he answered thirty two of them with, ‘I do not know.” And from Khaalid Ibn Khadaash who said, ‘I came to Maalik with forty issues. So he did not answer me anything except for five issues.’
Ibn Wahb relates from Maalik, that he heard ‘Abdullaah Ibn Yazeed Ibn Hurmuz saying, ‘It is befitting for the Scholar that he passes on to his students the statement, ‘I do not know,’ until that becomes the foundation that they flee to.’
Ibn ‘Abdul-Barr said, ‘It is authentically related from Abud-Dardaa’ that ‘I do not know,’ is half of knowledge.’ [Refer to Tarteebul-Madaarik (1/144) and Jaami’ Bayaanul-‘Ilm wa Fadlihi (1/54)]
Muhammad Ibn Rumh said, ‘I saw the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) [in a dream], so I said, ‘O Messenger of Allaah, verily Maalik and al-Layth differ, so from which of the two should I take? He said, ‘Maalik, Maalik.” [al-Intiqaa’ (p.38)]
Muhammad Ibn Jareer said, ‘Indeed Maalik was beaten with the whip, and there was differing in regards to the reason for that. So al-’Abbaas Ibnul-Waleed related to me, Ibn Dhakwaan related to us from Marwaan at-Tataaree that Ja’far prohibited Maalik from the hadeeth, “There is no divorce for the one who is forced.” Then he plotted to ask him about it, so he related it to the leaders of the people. So he was beaten with the whip.
And al-’Abbaas informed us, Ibraaheem Ibn Hammaad informed us that he used to look at Maalik when he stood for his gathering. He would carry one hand with the other.
And al-Qa’nabee said, ‘I heard them saying, ‘Maalik’s age was eighty nine years, he died in the year one hundred and seventy nine.”
And Ismaa’eel Ibn Abee Uways said, “Maalik became sick, so I asked some of our people about what he said at the time of his death. They said, ‘He recited the tashahhud (testification of faith), then he recited,
“Their affair is for Allaah, before and after.” [Sooratur-Room 30:4]‘
And he died on the fourteenth of Rabee’ul-Awwal, in the year one hundred and seventy nine. So the leader, ‘Abdullaah Ibn Muhammad Ibn Ibraaheem Ibn Muhammad Ibn ‘Alee Ibn ‘Abdullaah Ibn ‘Abbaas al-Haashimee prayed over him.
And Aboo Mus’ab az-Zuhree said, “He died after the tenth of Rabee’ul-Awwal, after ninety years.” Muhammad Ibn Sahnoon said, “He died upon the thirteenth of Rabee’ul-Awwal.”
[Taken from Siyar A’laamun-Nubalaa (8/47-130), slightly adapted, from the book, The Creed of the Four Imaams]
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Ash-Shaafi’ee (d. 204H)
He is Muhammad Ibn Idrees Ibnul-’Abbaas Ibn ‘Uthmaan Ibn Shaafi’ Ibnus-Saa’ib Ibn ‘Ubayd Ibn ‘Abd Yazeed Ibn Haashim Ibnul-Muttalib Ibn ‘Abd Manaaf Ibn Qusee Ibn Kilaab Ibn Murrah Ibn Ka’b Ibn Lu’ee Ibn Ghaalib, the Imaam. the Scholar of his era, the protector of Hadeeth, the Faqeeh of the Religion, Aboo ‘Abdullaah al-Qurashee, then al-Muttalibee ash-Shaafi’ee al-Makkee, al-Ghazziyee by birth, a relative of the Messenger of Allaah (صلى الله عليه وسلم) by marriage, and the descendant of his paternal uncle. So al-Muttalib is the brother of Haashim who is the father of ‘Abdul-Muttalib.
It is agreed that the Imaam was born in Ghazzah, and his father, Idrees, died as a youth. So Muhammad grew up as an orphan under the guardianship of his mother. So she feared the [effect of the] land upon him, so she took him to his place of origin whilst he was a boy of two years. So he grew up in Makkah and he began to throw arrows until he excelled over his contemporaries. And he was able to hit nine out of ten targets. Then he began to study the Arabic language and poetry, so became proficient in that. Then he fell in love with fiqh, so he became the master of the people in his era in it.
And al-Muzanee said, ‘I have not seen anyone with a better face than ash-Shaafi’ee – may Allaah bestow mercy him – and whenever he took hold of his beard, then there was nothing more excellent than his taking hold of it.’
And ar-Rabe’ al-Mu’adhdhin said, ‘I heard ash-Shafi’ee saying, ‘I used to shoot arrows until the doctor said to me, ‘I fear that you will contract pulmonary tuberculosis due to the amount of time you spend in the heat.’ He said, ‘And I used to hit nine out of ten targets.”
Ahmad Ibn Ibraaheem at-Taa’ee al-Aqtaa’ said, al-Muzanee informed us that ash-Shaafi’ee said, ‘I memorized the Qur’aan when I was eight years old, and I memorized al-Muwatta’ when I was ten years old.’
And there occurs in Manaaqibush-Shaafi’ee of al-Aaburee, ‘I heard az-Zubayr Ibn ‘Abdul-Waahid al-Hamdhaanee saying that ‘Alee Ibn Muhammad Ibn ‘Eesa informed us, I heard ar-Rabee’ Ibn Sulaymaan saying, ‘Ash-Shaafi’ee was born upon the day that Aboo Haneefah died, may Allaah bestow mercy upon both of them.”
And from ash-Shaafi’ee who said, ‘I came to Maalik when I was thirteen years old – and it is as he says, even though he seemed as if he was twenty three years old – he said, ‘So I came with the son of my uncle to al-Madeenah. So Maalik spoke, so he said, ‘I seek someone to read for you.’ I said, ‘I will read,’ so I read to him. So whenever he would ask me about something which he had already passed, ‘Count it,’ then I would relate it from memory. So it was as if he was amazed. Then he asked me about an issue, so I answered, then another issue. So he said, ‘You would love to be a judge!”
Aboo ‘Ubayd said, “I ahve not seen anyone more intelligent than ash-Shaafi’ee,” and likewise, Yoonus Ibn ‘Abdul-A’laa said, “If the Ummah was gathered up, his intelligence would be more than what they put forth.”
And az-Zubayr al-Istiraabaadhee said, Muhammad Ibn Yahyaa Ibn Aadam of Egypt informed us, Ibn ‘Abdul-Hakam informed us, ‘I heard ash-Shaafi’ee saying, ‘If the people knew what was contained in kalaam from desires they would have fled from it just as one would flee from a lion.”
Yoonus as-Sadafee said, “I have not seen anyone more intelligent than ash-Shaafi’ee. I debated with him one day about an issue, then we parted ways. When we met again, he took me by my hand, then he said, “O Abaa Moosaa, is it not correct that we be brothers, even though we do not agree upon an issue?” I say, this shows the completeness of this imaam’s intellect and his understanding of his self; since debaters never cease to differ.”
Aboo Ja’far at-Tirmidhee: Abul-Fadl al-Waashjirdee informed us, ‘I heard ‘Abdullaah as-Saaghaanee say, ‘I asked Yahyaa Ibn Aktham about Abee ‘Ubayd and ash-Shaafi’ee: Which of them is more knowledgeable? He said, “Aboo ‘Ubayd used to come to us often. He was a man, who if he had the good fortune of receiving books, he would improve the form of their writing. He would organize them with beautifu phrases due to his high aptitude in the Arabic language. As for ash-Shaafi’ee, then we were with Muhammad Ibnul-Hasan for many discussions, and he was a man who was Qurashee in his understanding and intellect, he was quick in correction. And if he had not heard anymore hadeeths, he would have been sufficient for the Ummah of Muhammad (صلى الله عليه وسلم) over the other fuqahaa’ (jurists).’”
Ma’mar Ibn Shabeeb said, ‘I heard al-Ma’moon saying, ‘Indeed I tested Muhammad Ibn Idrees in everything, so I found him to be complete.”
Ahmad Ibn Muhammad Ibn Bintush-Shaafi’ee said, “I heard my father and my uncle saying, ‘Whenever a man came to Sufyaan Ibn Uyaynah with something of tafseer of fataawaa, he would pass it onto ash-Shaafi’ee and say, “Deal with this.”
Indeed, ash-Shafi’ee (rahimahullah) was from the most knowledgeable of the people with respect to the meanings of the Book and the Sunnah and from the severest of people with regards to holding firmly to the two of them. He was from the most excellent of people with regards to giving attention to knowledge and hoping for goodness. He used to say, ‘I desired that the people would learn this knowledge, and nothing from it would ever be attributed to me. So they would receive rewards and I would not be praised.’
He used to say, ‘If I say something, then something is authenticated from the Messenger of Allaah (صلى الله عليه وسلم) in contradiction to my statement, then that has more right to be followed and do not blindly follow me.’ And he said, ‘If I relate an authentic hadeeth from the Messenger of Allaah (صلى الله عليه وسلم) and I do not act upon it, then bear witness that my intellect has left me.’ And he said to Ahmad Ibn Hanbal (rahimahullah) ‘You are more knowledgeable about the authentic narrations than us. So if there is an authentic narration, then inform me of it; whether it has come from Koofah, Basrah, or Shaam.’
And his strict adherence to the Sunnah reached the point that he used to advise his companions to stick to it, so he used to say, ‘Stick to the people of Hadeeth, since they are the most correct from amongst the people.’ And he said, ‘If I see a man from amongst the people of Hadeeth, then it is as if I have seen a man from the Companions of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم). May Allaah reward them with good, they preserved the foundations for us, so they have an excellence over us.’ And he recited the following verses of poetry,
‘All forms of knowledge besides the Qur’aan are a pre-occupation;
Except for the Hadeeth and knowing the fiqh (jurisprudence) of the Religion;
Knowledge is that which contains, ‘He said…’ or ‘He informed us…’
Anything other than that is from the whisperings of the Devil.’
Indeed, more than one from amongst the major scholars have praised ash-Shafi’ee. From them is ‘Abdur-Rahmaan Ibn Mahdee and he asked him to write a book about the usool for him. So he wrote a book for him, and it became the first book written about this science. So after that, Ibn Mahdee used to supplicate for him in the Prayer. And from those who praised him in a similar fashion is his Shaykh, Maalik Ibn Anas and Qutaybah Ibn Sa’eed. And he said, ‘He is an Imaam.’
And from those who praised him are: Sufyaan Ibn ‘Uyaynah, Yahyaa Ibn Sa’eed al-Qattaan, Aboo ‘Ubayd Ibn Sallaam, and he said, ‘I have not seen anyone more eloquent, nor intelligent, nor more abstemious than ash-Shaafi’ee. And from amongst those who praised ash-Shaafi’ee are: Yahyaa Ibn Aktham al-Qaadee, Ishaaq Ibn Raahawayh and Muhammad Ibnul-Hasan.
Ahmad Ibn Hanbal supplicated for him in his Prayer for the span of forty years, and he used to say about the hadeeth that is related by Aboo Daawood, from the hadeeth of Abee Hurayrah (رضي الله عنه) from the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم), “Verily Allaah sends for this Ummah at the head of every one hundred years one who revives its Religion for them.” [Related by Aboo Dawood (no. 4291), al-Haakim (4/522)] He said, ‘So ‘Umar Ibn ‘Abdul-Azeez came at the head of the first one hundred years and ash-Shafi’ee came at the head of the second one hundred years.’ Ahmad used to say, ‘Ash-Shafi’ee was like a sun for the world and like a pardon for the people.’ Aboo Thawr said, ‘I have not seen the likes of ash-Shaafi’ee, nor has he seen the likes of himself.’
And ar-Rabee’ said, ‘Ash-Shaafi’ee died on Thursday and we performed his Funeral Prayer on Thursday night. So we saw the moon of Sha’baan in the year two hundred and four, and he was seventy two years old.’ [Refer to al-Bidaayah wan-Nihaayah (10/251) of Ibn Katheer]
[Taken from Siyar A’laamun-Nubalaa (10/5-99), slightly adapted, from the book, The Creed of the Four Imaams]
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Ahmad Ibn Hanbal (d. 241H)
He is the true Imaam, and the Shaykhul-Islaam, Aboo ‘Abdullaah Ahmad Ibn Muhammad Ibn Hanbal Ibn Hilaal Ibn Asad Ibn Idrees Ibn ‘Abdullaah Ibn Hayyaan adh-Dhuhlee ash-Shaybaanee al-Marwazee, then al-Baghdaadee, one of the outstansing Imaams. His father was from the soldiers of Marw, he died as a youth, and Ahmad was raised as an orphan. And it is said that his mother departed from Marw and took him with her. He was born in Rabee’ul-Awwal in the year 164H.
The teacher, the Imaam, the Shaykhul-Islaam, Aboo ‘Uthmaan Ismaa’eel Ibn ‘Abdur-Rahmaan as-Saaboonee an-Naysaabooree – may Allaah be pleased with him – informed us as he came to us in Damascus, in Rajab of the year 432H, he said, ‘Aboo Muhammad al-Hasan Ibn Ahmad ash-Shaybaanee, commonly known as al-Makhadee, may Allaah be pleased with him, said in the year 387H, ‘Aboo Bakr ‘Abdullaah Ibn Muhammad Ibn Muslim al-Isfaraayeenee informed us; reading: Abul-Fadl Saalih Ibn Ahmad Ibn Hanbal said, ‘I heard my father saying, ‘I was born in the year 164H, in the beginning of Rabee’ul-Awwal.”
He said: I heard saying, ‘My father said, ‘I studied hadeeth when I was sixteen years old.”
My father said, “And Hushaym died whilst I was a youth of twenty years. And I had memorized what I had heard from him. So people came to the door of Ibn ‘Uyaynah, and with him were the books of Hushaym. So he placed them in front of me and I said, ‘The isnaad for this is such and such.’ So al-Mu’aytee came, and he used to memorize, so I said to him, ‘I have answered him about what has come, and I know from hadeeth what I have not yet heard (being read by Ibn ‘Uyaynah). And I left for al-Koofah in the year in which Hushaym died, the year 183H. It was the first year in which I traveled. And ‘Eesaa Ibn Yoonus arrived in al-Koofah after me in the same year, and he did not perform Hajj after that.”
He said, “And the first trip that I undertook was to al-Basrah, in the year 186H. I said to him, ‘In which year should I go to Sufyaan Ibn ‘Uyaynah?’ He said, ‘In the year 187H.’ So we arrived, and Fudayl Ibn ‘Iyaad had already died, and it was the first year in which I performed Hajj.’ And Waleed Ibn Muslim performed Hajj in the year 191H, and in the year 196H. And I performed it in the year 197H, and I left in the year 198H. And I stayed with ‘Abdur-Razzaaq in the year 199H, and the deaths of Sufyaan and Yahyaa Ibn Sa’eed and ‘Abdur-Rahmaan Ibn Mahdee died in the year 198H.”
My father said, “If I had fifty dirhams with me, I would always travel to Jareer Ibn ‘Abdul-Hameed in ar-Rayyee. So some of our companions left and it was not possible for me to go, since I did not have anything with me.”
My father said, “And I left for al-Koofah. So I had milk in the house below my head. So I heated it and returned to my mother, may Allaah have mercy upon her, and I had not sought her permission.”
I heard Saalih, saying, ‘I said to my father, ‘A hadeeth could state ‘The Messenger of Allaah – may the prayers and peace of Allaah be upon him – said…’ However, a person may write, ‘The Prophet – may the prayers and peace of Allaah be upon him – said…’ He sai, ‘I do not see a problem in it.”
I heard Saalih saying, “When my father wanted to make ablution for the Prayer, he would not refuse anyone who wished to drink his water. He would drink with his hand. And I used to hear him reciting Sooratul-Kahf often. And whenever I felt ill, he used to take water in a drinking bowl, then he would recite over it. Then he used to say to me, ‘Drink from it and wash your face and hands from it.’ And whenever he went out to do the groceries, he would buy a bundle of wood and something else and he would carry it.”
Imaam ash-Shafi’ee (d.204H) – rahimahullah – said, “I left Baghdaad, and I did not leave behind me a man better, having more knowledge, or greater fiqh (understanding), nor having greater taqwaa (piety) than Ahmad Ibn Hanbal.”
Aboo Dawood (d.257H) – rahimahullah – said, “The lectures of Ahmad were sittings of the Hereafter. He would not mention in them anything of the worldly affairs; and I never saw him mention this world.”
‘Alee Ibnul-Madeenee (d.234H) – rahimahullah – said, “Indeed Allaah aided this Religion through Aboo Bakr as-Siddeeq on the day of apostasy; and through Ahmad Ibn Hanbal on the day of the trial.”
Qutaybah Ibn Sa’eed (d.240H) – rahimahullah – said, “If you see a man loving Ahmad, then know that he is a person of the Sunnah.”
And Abul-Hasan al-Ash’aree (d324H) – rahimahullah – said, “Our statement which we hold and take as our Religion is: Clinging to the Book of Allaah, our Lord the Mighty and Majestic, and to the Sunnah of our Prophet, Muhammad (صلى الله عليه وسلم), and what is narrated from the Companions, the Taabi’een and the Imaams of Hadeeth. This is what we cling to, and also that to which Aboo ‘Abdullaah Ahmad Ibn Muhammad Ibn Hanbal – may Allaah enlighten his face, raise up his rank and grant him a magnificent reward – used to say, distancing ourselves from those who oppose his statement. Since he was the noble and complete Imaam, by whom Allaah made the truth clear, and removed the misguidance, and made the manhaj (methodology) clear, and through whom Allaah annihilated the innovation of the innovators, the deviation of the deviant and the doubts of the doubters. So may Allaah have mercy upon him, the foremost Imaam.” [al-Ibaanah ‘an-Usoolid-Diyaanah (no.24) of Abul-Hasan al-Ash’aree]
Taajud-Deen as-Subkee (d.770H) – rahimahullah – said, “Abul-Hasan al-Ash’aree is the foremost of Ahlus-Sunnah and Ahmad Ibn Hanbal…”
Ibraheem al-Harbee (d.285H) – rahimahullah – said, “I saw Aboo ‘Abdullaah, and it was as if Allaah had gathered for him the knowledge of the earlier people and the later people.”
Abul-Fadl said, ‘And he presented to me the following will,
“With the Name of Allaah, the Merciful, the Bestower of Mercy,
This is what I – Ahmad Ibn Muhammad Ibn Hanbal – leave as a will. I testify that there is no true deity worthy of worship besides Allaah alone, without any partner. And that Muhammad is His servant and Messenger. He sent him (صلى الله عليه وسلم) with the guidance and the true Religion so that it may overtake all other religions, even though the disbelievers may dislike it. And he should advise those who obey him from his family and his close relatives that they worship Allaah as worshippers, and praise him as those who praise, and that they sincerely advise the community of the Muslims. And I am pleased with Allaah as a Lord, and with Muhammad (صلى الله عليه وسلم) as a Prophet. And ‘Abdullaah Ibn Muhammad, commonly known as Booraan, I gave him fifty deenaars, and he is truthful in what he says. So his money is to be paid by me from the proceeds of the house, if Allaah wills. So if I die, it will be given by my sons: Saalih and ‘Abdullaah Ibn Ahmad Ibn Muhammad Ibn Hanbal. So they will give everything mentioned and eleven daraahim after my death towards whatever I have for Ibn Muhammad.
Witnesses: Aboo Yoosuf, Saalih and ‘Abdullaah, sons of Ahmad Ibn Muhammad Ibn Hanbal.”
Abul-Fadl, “And he used to exert himself in fasting and he would not eat fat. And before that, I would buy fat for him with one dirham, and he would eat from that for one month. So he left off eating the fat. And he continued to fast and work, and I thought he was putting that upon his body because he was safe.”
And Ibn Doorah said, ‘Ahmad used to be a person of fiqh, memorization and knowledge of hadeeth and fiqh, and piety and abstemiousness (zuhd) and patience. Indeed, Imaam Ahmad was tested by the statement of the creation of the Qur’aan. And he was taken to Baghdaad, shackled, and he was detained. And he used to pray with the people of the jail whilst he was shackled. So when Ramadaan occurred in the year 217H, and that was fourteen years after the death of al-Ma’moon, he moved up to the house of Ishaq Ibn Ibraaheem, the governor of Baghdaad. Then al-Mu’tasim ordered the freeing of Imaam Ahmad after his punishment and debate. And it was said that al-Mu’tasim was regretful and bewildered until the affair was rectified. Then al-Mu’tasim and his son joined al-Waathiq. So there emerged whatever emerged from the trial, and al-Waathiq ordered that he must not meet with Imaam Ahmad, nor should he live in a land or town where the Caliph is. So the Imaam went into a state of hiding for the rest of the life of al-Waathiq.
And during the Khilaafah of al-Mutawakkil, Allaah made the Sunnah manifest. And the Caliph wrote ordering the raising of the trial. And al-Mutawakkil ordered in the year 237H, that the Imaam be brought to him. And until Imaam Ahmad died, not a day would pass by, except that the messenger of Mutawakkil would come to him.
The Imaam died in the year 241H, on Friday on the twelfth of Rabee’ul-Awwal. So the people shouted and the voices were raised with weeping, to the extent that it seemed that the world shook, and the sidewalks and the streets were full. And the funeral procession went out after the people from the Friday Prayer. So the people at his funeral manifested the Sunnah and cursed the people of innovations. So Allaah made easy upon the Muslims through that whatever they had of troubles, when they the majesty and high rank of Islaam and the suppression of the people of deviance.
[Biography mainly taken from the Seeratul-Imaam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal by Saalih Ibn Ahmad Ibn Hanbal (d.266H), from the book, The Creed of the Four Imaams]