Monday, November 5, 2007

Imam Hambal

The grand Durbar of the greatest of the Abbasid Caliph, Mamoon-ar-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.

Born at Baghdad on the Ist of Rabi-ul-Awwal, 164 A.H. 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 later.

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 Qadi Abu Yusuf. His principal teacher was Sufyan ibn Uyayna, an authority on the School of Hejaz. Later, he was much influenced by Imam Shafi'i 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 (saw). He made five pilgrimages to the holy cities.

According to Imam Shafi'i, 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 Abbasid Caliphs for fifteen years immortalised him as one of the greatest men of the times. The Abbasid 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.

The Abbasid 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 Qur'an. 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 Abbasid 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.

The sufferings 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 Abbasid 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. 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.

Imam Ahmad laid greater emphasis on Traditions. His monumental work is Musnad, an encyclopaedia containing 50,000 to 70,000 Traditions of the Prophet (saw) 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).

Though the 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 jurisprudence.

1 comment:

the visitor said...

MasyaAllah, "severely flogged and thrown into prison". Defending his beliefs steadfastly and he gets treated like this. May Allah s.w.t. reward him abundantly for what he stood for.