Ahmad Ibn Hanbal: One of the most venerated intellectual figures in Islamic history

History Contributor

Ahmad Ibn Hanbal (may Allah have mercy upon him) was born in the year 780 CE, in Baghdad. He was from Shaybaan tribe through both parents and he was of pure Arab lineage. His father died at the age of 30 when he was infant. He started studying traditions (Ahadeeth) of Prophet (PBUH) when he was only fifteen. He was aspiring of learning from great scholars of his day; he travelled to cities of Makkah, Hijaaz and Al-Madeenah in Arabia; Basrah and Kufah in Iraq; and to lands of Yemen and Syria. Ibn Hanbal may Allah have mercy upon him led a life of self-denial and modesty. Among his eight children, Saalih and Abdullah were closely associated with his intellectual work.

Ahmad bin Hanbal may Allah have mercy upon him struggled a lot and became so competent in the sciences of religion that al-imaam Ash-Shaafi’ee may Allah have mercy upon him said:

I left Baghdad and did not leave any man more knowledgeable than Ibn Hanbal.

Tribulations of Ibn Hanbal

Ibn Hanbal suffered a lot during trail, known as “al-mihnah”. In 833 CE the tribulation began, when the Caliph made mandatory upon all Muslims the belief that the Quran was created- a doctrine of the Mu’tazilities, rationalist Islamic school claimed that reasons were equal to revelation as a means to religious truth. In 1827 CE this belief was made as public profession by Caliph. Before this time, Quran was considered as the uncreated, everlasting words of Allah. The questioning was lead in Baghdad, in the province as well as in central location of the ‘Abbaasid Caliphs, ends during Caliphate of al-Mutawakkil, who guided people to the right path.

Ibn Hanbal may Allah have mercy upon him refused to accept Mu’tazilee doctrine. He was physically tortured for more than two years. When he got free, he did not restart his lectures until the inquisitions were revealed publicly at the end. In order to survive the trail, some scholars had denied, and later claimed that due to extreme danger they hide their feelings. Those scholars who were following the examples of Ibn Hanbal may Allah have mercy upon him deny to reject their beliefs.

In 833 CE, scholar, Muhammad bin Nooh, may Allah have mercy upon him and Ibn Hanbal may Allah have mercy upon him were supposed to appear for trial before al-Ma’moon because they refused to withdraw. They were sent to Baghdad; but the Caliph died after beginning their journey and on the way back to the capital, Ibn Nooh died as well.

Stood strong for his faith

Ibn Hanbal may Allah mercy upon him was commanded to appear before Caliph, al Mu’tasim… In a private conference with the Caliph who asked Ibn Hanbal may Allah have mercy upon him that he might grant him freedom if he yields at least a little. But Ibn Hanbal refuses his statement and replies the same as he made from beginning; he will not give up until some proof is provided to modify his faith derived from the tradition of Holy Prophet (PBUH) and Quran. Caliph became aggressive and ordered to take him away to be lashed. While continuously torturing him, the determinant spirit of Ibn Hanbal affected the Caliph. Nevertheless, Ibn Hanbal had to be suspended of Caliph Treatment, because of the extreme anger of public gathering.

It is to be noted, Ibn Hanbal earned great honor among the people involved in attack and palace. It was reported that Ibn Hanbal has been beaten by 150 lashers.

In the next Caliph, Al-Waathiq the inquisitions continued but he was left alone. After two years of inquisitions in the region of Caliph Al- Mutawakkil end in 848 CE. Ibn Hanbal saved Muslims from becoming unbelievers and earned great fame. He stood steadfast in in front of Mutazilities and he made a record in history of being a great scholar.

His Death

Ibn Hanbal may Allah mercy upon him was 77 years old when he passed away in 855 CE, in Baghdad. A huge number of people attended the funeral ceremony of Ibn Hanbal.