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Wednesday, August 6, 2008

IMAM AHMAD IBN MUHAMMAD HAMBAL (ra)

Abu Abdullah Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Hambal Shaibani Al-Maruzi was of pure Arab descent whose ancestery joins Hazrat Ebrahim (as). He was born in Baghdad in the month of Rabi-ul-Awwal, 164 A.H. He lost his father when he was only three years old. Baghdad being the Capital of the Muslim State was an important centre of learning during the Banu Abbas Era. Imam Ahmad Hambal (ra) completed Hifz of the Qur'an at an early age. In 180 A.H., when he was 16 years old, he began to persue the knowledge of Ahadith under the Imam Abu Yusuf (the most important pupil of Imam Abu Hanifa (ra)). He stayed with him for 3 years, during which time he recorded so much information, that the volumes filled 3 book shelves. Later he also attended the classes of Imam Muhammad (another prominent pupil of Imam Abu Hanifa (ra)). After accumlating knowledge from numerous scholars in Baghdad, he journeyed to Kufa, Basra, Makka, Madina, Yemen, Syria, Jazira in order to increase his knowledge of Ahadith. After meeting with over a hundred Shaikhs, he is reputed to have made a collection of over a million Ahadith. It was in 187 A.H. that he met Imam Shafi'ee (ra) in Makka for the first time. Later when Imam Shafi'ee came to Baghdad, Imam Hambal also joined him during the Imam's residence here and mastered from him Fiqah.

Imam Shafi'ee (ra) too on the other hand relied very much on the knowledge of Ahadith and Sunnah which Imam Ahmad Hambal (ra) possessed. It was in 204 A.H., only after he had reached the age of 40, that Imam Ahmad Hambal (ra) started conducting lessons and delivering lectures. Being a prominent figure, his lectures attracted a huge gathering of at least 5,000 students among whom nearly 500 took down notes daily. Imam Bukhari, Imam Muslim, and Imam Tirmizi (ra) were also amongst his noteworthy students. The Mu'tazila controversy regarding the "immortality and creation of the Qur'an" was the cause of much trial in the life of the Imam, who suffered much over a period of nearly 15 years. The Banu Abbas rulers - Al-Ma'moon and Al-Mu'tasim who were influenced by the Mu'tazila - tried to force the Ulama to accept the Mu'tazila doctrine. Being a devotee of the Sunnah, and an opposer of Bid'at it fell upon the shoulders of Imam Hambal (ra) to oppose this doctrine vigorously. Al-Mu'tasim even ordered the flogging and imprisonment of the Imam for several months.
Imam Hambal succumbed to the sufferings rather than deviate from the beliefs and practices of the Sunnah.


The sufferings of Imam Hambal ended when Al-Mutawakkil took over as ruler, restored the traditional teachings of Islam and accorded the Imam the honour befitting the great scholar.
Among his several works is the Encyclopaedia of Ahadith called Masnad, compiled by his son Abdulla from his lectures, and amplified by references to over 28,000 Ahadith. His other important works include a collection of his fatwas (Islamic rulings on religious matters) - covering over 20 volumes.

These fatwas form the basis of the Hambali School of Thought.
The Hambalis represent the smallest group in the four Sunni Schools of Fiqah.Imam Hambal (ra) died after a short illness in Baghdad, on Friday evening, 12 Rabi-ul-Awwal, 241 A.H. (855 A.C.) at the age of 77 years.

His Janaza Salaat was attended by nearly 1,000,000 people who came to pay their respects to this great scholar of Islam.

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