May 18, 2024
Hanbali madahab

In the Name of Allah—the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful.

A Brief History of the Hanbali Madhab

A Brief History of the Hanbali Madhab

The Hanbali Madhab is one of the four major Sunni schools of Islamic jurisprudence, named after its founder, Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal (d. 855 CE). Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal (may Allah have mercy on him) was a prominent scholar of Islamic law and Hadith who lived in Iraq during the early Islamic period.

The Hanbali School of Law is known for its strict adherence to the Quran and the Hadith, as well as a conservative approach to legal reasoning and interpretation. The school also places a strong emphasis on the practice of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his companions.

Imam Ahmad (may Allah have mercy on him) was
known for his strict adherence to the Quran and the Hadith, and he rejected any
kind of innovation or personal opinion in matters of Islamic law. He emphasized
the importance of the literal interpretation of the Quran and the Hadith and
discouraged the use of analogy (qiyas) and personal opinion (ra’y) in religious
matters.

Imam Ahmad ibn
Hanbal
(may Allah have mercy on
him)
discouraged the excessive use of analogy (qiyas) and personal opinion (ra’y) in religious
matters because he believed that the Quran and the Sunnah were the legitimate primary
sources of Islamic law. He emphasized adherence to these sources strictly and
rejected the use of any kind of reasoning or opinion that was not compatible
with the Quran and the Sunnah.

Imam Ahmad’s opposition to the frequent
use of analogy and personal opinion was rooted in his belief that they were
sources of innovation and deviation from the true teachings of Islam. He
believed that the Quran and the Hadith were clear and comprehensive in their
guidance and that any attempt to supplement or modify their teachings was
unnecessary and potentially harmful to the purity of the Islamic faith and law.

Moreover, Imam Ahmad was concerned
that the excessive use of analogy and personal opinion could lead to arbitrary
and subjective interpretations of Islamic law. He believed that relying on
these sources could result in conflicting and contradictory legal rulings,
which would undermine the unity and coherence of the Islamic legal system.

Instead, Imam Ahmad (may Allah have mercy on him) encouraged a strict adherence to the
text of the Quran and the Hadith and a reliance on the teachings of the early
Muslim community (the salaf) for guidance in religious matters. He
believed that by adhering to these sources, Muslims could maintain the purity
and authenticity of Islamic law and avoid the pitfalls of innovation and
deviation.

Inquisition

As I mentioned
earlier, Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal
(may Allah have
mercy on him)
was
a prominent theologian as well as a jurist. He was a fierce opponent of the
Muʿtazila, a rationalist school of Islamic theology that emerged during the
Abbasid era. The Muʿtazila emphasized the overuse of reason and logic in
understanding Islamic doctrine, and they argued that the Quran was created
rather than eternal.

Imam Ahmad (may Allah have mercy on him) and his followers, on the other hand,
rejected the Muʿtazila’s emphasis on ra’i (personal opinion), and they
upheld the traditionalist view that the Quran was eternal and uncreated. This
put Imam Ahmad at odds with the Abbasid caliph al-Maʾmun, who was a supporter
of the Muʿtazila and who launched an inquisition (known as the mihna) to
enforce their views.

During the mihna, Imam Ahmad (may Allah have mercy on him) was imprisoned and tortured for his
refusal to conform to the Muʿtazila’s views. However, he remained steadfast in
his beliefs, and his refusal to compromise his principles won him widespread
admiration and support among the Muslim community.

Eventually, the mihna came to
an end, and the Muʿtazila’s influence waned. Imam Ahmad
(may Allah have mercy on him) emerged as a hero of traditionalist
Islam and a symbol of resistance against tyrant rulers.

Baghdad: The Birth Place of Hanbali Madhab

Baghdad, located in
modern-day Iraq, was a bustling center of Islamic scholarship during the time
of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal
(may Allah have
mercy on him). In the 8th and 9th centuries
CE, the Abbasid Caliphate was in power, and Baghdad was its capital city. The
Abbasid Caliphate was known for its patronage of the arts and sciences, and it
attracted scholars from all over the Islamic world.

Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal (may Allah
have mercy on him) was born in Baghdad in 780 CE, during the early years of the
Abbasid Caliphate. He grew up in a scholarly family, and he began studying the
Quran and the Hadith at a young age. He was known for his piety and his
dedication to the Islamic faith.

As a young man, Imam Ahmad (may Allah have mercy on him) traveled
to other Islamic centers of learning, including Medina and Damascus, where he
studied with some of the most renowned scholars of his time. He was
particularly influenced by Imam Al-Shafi’i, who was known for his systematic
approach to the study of Islamic law.

After completing his studies, Imam
Ahmad returned to Baghdad, where he began teaching and preaching. He became
known for his strict adherence to the Quran and the Hadith and his rejection of
any kind of innovation or personal opinion in matters of Islamic faith and law.
His teachings attracted a large following, and he became one of the most
influential scholars of his time.

Imam Ahmad (may Allah have mercy on him) was known for his strong adherence to the Quran and the Sunnah,
and he discouraged the writing down of his own opinions and sayings because he
believed that only the words of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and
the companions should be recorded and followed. He feared that if his own
opinions were written down, they could be confused with the authentic teachings
of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and the companions, leading to potential
misguidance and innovation in the religion.

Additionally,
Imam Ahmad believed that knowledge should be transmitted orally, through direct
teacher-student relationships, rather than through books or written records. He
saw this as a way to ensure the authenticity and accuracy of the knowledge
being transmitted, as well as to maintain the integrity of the Islamic
tradition. Therefore, he discouraged his followers from writing down his
sayings, preferring instead that they learn directly from him and his
teachings.

Ahmad said: “Do
not write the sayings of Malik, Sufyan, al-Shafi’i, Ishaq bin Rahawayh, or Abu
Ubaid al-Qasim (may Allah have mercy on all of them)”
.

[Tabaqat
al-Hanabilah
, 1/57
]

Although Imam
Ahmad
(may Allah have mercy on
him)
discouraged the
writing down of his own opinions and sayings, his rulings and legal opinions (fatwas)
were recorded by his students who attended his classes and transmitted his
teachings orally. These students were known as the “people of hadith”
and were known for their strict adherence to the authentic teachings of the
Prophet Muhammad
(peace be upon him) and his companions.

Many of these students compiled their
notes and teachings into books, which became the basis for the Hanbali School
of Jurisprudence. Books of Al-Masa’il were compiled by several students of Imam Ahmad that are
collections of his legal opinions and fatwas. The manuscript of these
collections have been discovered in ancient libraries and are now available in
published form.

In addition to
his direct students, there were other scholars and jurists who studied Imam
Ahmad’s teachings and recorded them in their own books, which also helped to
preserve his teachings and rulings for future generations.

Who Compiled Hanbali Madhab?

Imam Ahmad’s teachings and legal
opinions were recorded by his students and later compiled into the Hanbali
Madhab. The Hanbali Madhab gained popularity in the Arabian Peninsula,
especially in the city of Baghdad, where it became the dominant school of
thought.

The following are some prominent scholars who
were direct students of Imam Ahmad and they studied Fiqh with him.

Imam Abdullah bin Ahmad ibn Hanbal

Imam Abdullah bin Ahmad bin
Hanbal (213 AH / 828 CE – 290 AH / 903 CE) was Abu Abdullah, Abdul Rahman
Abdullah bin Ahmad bin Muhammad bin Hanbal Al-Shaybani Al-Baghdadi (may Allah
have mercy on him). He was a hadith scholar from Baghdad and the son of the
famous Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal. His mother’s name was Rayhana and Imam Ahmad
married her after the death of his first wife, Abbasah bint Abdullah, who was
the mother of his son Saleh bin Ahmad bin Hanbal. Rayhana gave birth to Imam
Ahmad’s son, Abdullah bin Ahmad bin Hanbal.

Imam Abdullah ibn Ahmad (may
Allah have mercy on him) was the luckiest of Imam Ahmad’s students to record
maximum knowledge of his father. He was the person who compiled Musnad Ahmad in
its present form and some other books attributed to Imam Ahmad including Kitab
al-Tafsir
, Kitab al-Sunnah, Kitab al-Ilal, Kitab al-Zuhud,
Musnad ahl al-Bayt, Fadhail al-Sahabah. He also compiled Imam Ahmad’s
Fatawa (rulings) with the title
al-Masail Imam
Ahmad
.

Imam Abdullah bin Ahmad bin
Hanbal (may Allah have mercy on him) spent his life in recording and spreading
Imam Ahmad’s narrations and rulings. His works are highly regarded and
appreciated by Hanbali scholars. The Hanbali Madhab owes a great deal to his efforts
and outstanding works.

Imam Saleh bin Ahmad ibn Hanbal

Imam Saleh bin Ahmad bin
Hanbal (may Allah have mercy on him) was a qadi (judge) in Isfahan. His full
name was Saleh bin Ahmad bin Muhammad bin Hanbal bin Hilal bin Asad. He was the
eldest son of Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal and was known by the nickname “Abu
al-Fadl”. He was born in Baghdad in the year 203 AH / 818 CE and was
raised in the presence of his father, Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal (may Allah have
mercy on him), from whom he learned. Later, he was appointed as a judge in
Isfahan where he passed away in 266 AH / 879 CE.

He also compiled Imam
Ahmad’s Fatawa (rulings) with the title
al-Masail
Imam Ahmad
. This work is three times lengthier than Imam
Abdullah bin Ahmad’s. Actually, Imam Abdullah bin Ahmad (may Allah have mercy on
him) had more inclination to Hadiths and their examination, while Imam Saleh bin
Ahmad was inclined to fiqh so he focused on his father’s rulings. That
is why his number of recorded rulings exceeds his brother’s.

Imam Ishaq bin Ibrahim bin Hani al-Nishapuri
al-Hanbali

 Imam Ishaq bin Ibrahim bin Hani al-Nishapuri (may
Allah have mercy on him) was born on the first day of the month of Ramadan in
the year 218 AH / 833 CE. He was Imam Ahmad’s servant, and he began serving him at
the age of nine. He compiled Imam’s Fatawa with the
title al-Masail Imam Ahmad.

Imam Ishaq bin Rahwayh al-Hanzali
al-Marwazi

Imam Ishaq ibn Ibrahim ibn
Makhled ibn Ibrahim (may Allah have mercy on him), also known as Abu Ya’qub
al-Hanzali al-Marwazi, and famously known as Ibn Rahwayh, was one of the Imams
of the Muslims and a known figure among the scholars of religion. He
was proficient in hadith, jurisprudence, memorization, honesty, piety, and
asceticism, and he traveled to Iraq, Hijaz, Yemen, and Syria in search of knowledge
of Hadith. His famous work on Hadith is titled Musnad Ishaq ibn Rahwayh.

He was a direct student of
Imam Ahmad (may Allah have mercy on him) and compiled his rulings with the title al-Masail
Imam Ahmad.
This work has been published in moderately thick two volumes.

 

Imam Abu Dawood Sulayman al-Sijistani

Abu Dawud
Sulayman (d.275 AH / 889 CE) was a scholar of prophetic hadith and a compiler
of the Sunan Abu Dawud, the third of the six “canonical” hadith
collections. He was of Persian-Arab descent and was born in Sijistan and died
in 889 in Basra. Abu Dawud traveled extensively to collect hadith from scholars
in various regions, including Iraq, Egypt, Syria, Hijaz, Tihamah, Nishapur, and
Merv. He was particularly interested in fiqh al-Hadith and his
collection included 4,800 hadiths.

He was Imam
Ahmad’s direct student and learned fiqh and hadith from him.
He also compiled Imam Ahmad’s Fatawa (rulings) with
the title
al-Masail Imam Ahmad.

Imam Harb ibn Ismail al-Karmani al-Hanbali

Imam Abu Muhammad
Harb ibn Isma’il ibn Khalaf al-Kermani al-Hanbali (d. 280 AH / 894 CE) was a
renowned scholar of hadith and one of the teachers of Imam Bukhari. He was born
in Kerman, Iran, and traveled extensively in pursuit of knowledge, studying
under many eminent scholars of his time. He was known for his expertise in the
field of hadith, and his collection of narrations was highly regarded by his
contemporaries.
He studied fiqh and hadith with Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal and
compiled his notes with the title
al-Masail Imam Ahmad.

Imam Abu Bakr Ahmad bin Muhammad al-Athram al-Hanbali

Imam Abu Bakr,
Ahmad bin Muhammad bin Hani’ al-Iskafi Al-Athram al-Ta’i one of the prominent
figures, and a devoted student of Imam Ahmadibn Hanbal (may Allah have mercy on
him). He wrote a book titled al-Saunan, in which he collected certain Hadiths,
Fatawa of the Prophet’s companions, and Imam Ahmad’s rulings. His reports from Imam
Ahmad (may Allah have mercy on him) are highly regarded by the Hanbali
scholars.

He had an exceptionally strong memory even Imam Yahya bin Ma’in (may Allah have mercy on
him) used to say about him, due to his strong memorization:  any one of his two parents might be a jinn
(ghost). Imam al-Zahabi said he died near about in the year 270 AH / 883 CE in
the city of
Iskaf. He was the teacher of Imam
al-Nasai’, the author of al-Sunan, one of the books of Sahah Sittah.

[Siyar
A’lam al-Nubala
]

Imam Abubakr Ahmad ibn Muhammad al-Marwazi
al-Hanbali

Al-Marwazi (d.
295 AH / 907 CE) was a Hanbali scholar who was known for his knowledge of
hadith and Islamic law. He was a close companion and student of Imam Ahmad. And he is one of the prominent companions of Ahmad
in his piety and virtue. Imam Ahmad was at ease with him and enjoyed his
company. He was the one who closed his eyes when Ahmad passed away and
performed his funeral washing.

He is counted among the
foremost students of Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal (may Allah have mercy on him). He
benefited greatly from his knowledge and remained associated with him until the
Imam’s death. Many narrations are attributed to him, and he authored numerous
works in Hadith, Sunnah, and Fiqh.

Imam Abu Bakr al-Khallal al-Baghdadi al-Hanbali

Abu Bakr al-Khallal
(d.311 AH / 923) was a renowned medieval Muslim jurist and Hadith scholar. He
was born Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Harun ibn Yazid al-Baghdadi (may Allah have
mercy on him) but was more commonly known as Abu Bakr al-Khallal. He was a
student of five of Ahmad ibn Hanbal’s direct students, including Ibn Hanbal’s
son Abdullah. He also wrote a detailed book on Hanbali Aqidah with the title
Kitab al-Sunnah, in three volumes.

His study and
documentation of Ibn Hanbal’s views eventually led to the preservation of the
Hanbali School of Islamic law, and his work Al-Jamai’ reached twenty
volumes. Abu Bakr al-Khallal (may Allah have mercy on him) was considered the
principal Hanbalite scholar of his time, and his contributions to Islamic
jurisprudence are still studied and revered today.

Imam Abu Bakr
al-Khallal (may Allah have mercy on him) unified notes of his teachers who were
direct students and of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal., as some of them have been
introduced earlier. He tried his best to reach out to each and every student of
Imam Ahmad and gathered whatever they have learned from him, focusing on legal
rulings.

Imam Abu Bakr Abd
al-Aaziz ibn Ja’afar al-Hanbali

Imam
Abu Bakr Abd al-Aziz ibn Ja’afar al-Hanbali
,
may Allah have mercy on him,(285-363 AH) was a reputed student of Imam Abu
Bakr al-Khallal and was known as Ghulam
al-Khallal
(Servant of al-Khallal), due to his devotion and adherence to
his teacher. He played a key role in preserving and promoting his teachers’ valuable
works. He has been frequently quoted in Tabaqat al-Hanabilah, a
collection of Imam Ahmad’s rulings arranged in the chronological order of the
narrators. He was an outstanding jurist and second to none after Abu Bakr
al-Khallal. His students included prominent Hanbali jurists, listed among
Ibn Butta, Abu Ishaq ibn Shaqla, Abu Hafs al-Ukbari, Abu
al-Hasan al-Tamimi, Abu Hafs al-Barmaki, and Abu Abdullah ibn Hamid (may Allah
have mercy on all of them).

Al-Mukhtasar: The First Textbook of the Hanbali Madhab

The first
complete work on Islamic law in the Hanbali Madhab, al-Mukhtasar, was
not compiled until the beginning of the tenth century by Abu al-Qasim Umamr ibn
al-Husayn al-Khiraqi,
may Allah have
mercy on him
(d.334 AH / 945
CE),
may Allah have mercy on
him,
after one and
half century of Imam Ahmad’s death. This work became the foundation of the
Hanbali school’s legal system and helped to establish it as a legitimate school
of Islamic jurisprudence. Al-Mukhtasar represents the opinions of the earliest
Hanbali scholars who were the peers and pioneers of the Hanbali Madhab.

Imam Umar bin Al-Husayn Abu
Al-Qasim Al-Khiraqi (may Allah have mercy on him) learned Islamic knowledge
from Imam Abu Bakr Al-Marwadhi, Imam Harb Al-Karmani, Imam Saleh, and Imam Abdullah,
the sons of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal (may Allah have mercy on all of them). He
authored many books on the Hanbali Madhab, but only his summarized book on fiqh
al-Mukhtasar gained exceptional popularity. More than 2300 rulings have
been recorded in this concise textbook.

Hanbali Madhab
existed with Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal, while he passed rulings on the issues
presented before him. Imam Abu Bakr al-Khallal died 23 years before Imam Abu
al-Qasim al-Khiraqi
(may Allah have
mercy on him)
which
means his al-Jami was compiled before al-Mukhatasar. So all the requirements
of compiling textbooks on the madhab were fulfilled.

Al-Mukhtasar
al-Khiraqi
,
as it is renowned, played a crucial role in spreading the Hanbali Madhab
(school of law) in laypeople and helped guide them to follow the teachings of
the Quran and Sunnah through a convenient approach. Prior to its compilation,
the teachings of Ahmad ibn Hanbal, the founder of the Hanbali Madhab, were
scattered throughout various books and documents, making it difficult for the
layperson to follow and practice.

Abu al-Qasim al-Khairaqi (may Allah have mercy on him) recognized this issue and took on the
task of compiling the teachings of Ahmad ibn Hanbal into a single,
comprehensive work. The result was Al-Mukhtasar, a concise and
easy-to-understand manual that summarized the key teachings of the Hanbali
Madhab. The book covered a wide range of topics, including acts of worship,
financial transactions, marriage and divorce, and criminal law.

Al-Mukhtasar‘s concise and user-friendly format
made it an ideal tool for spreading the Hanbali Madhab to a wider audience. Its
popularity grew quickly, and it became one of the most widely used texts in
Islamic jurisprudence in the Arabian Peninsula.

Al-Khiraqi’s
efforts in compiling Al-Mukhtasar helped establish the Hanbali Madhab as
an independent school of law and played a crucial role in preserving and
spreading its teachings. The book continues to be a popular and widely used
reference for students of Islamic law and scholars alike.

Al-Mukhtasar al-Khiraqi follows a thematic structure, organizing the legal rulings
according to topics such as purification, prayer, fasting, and so on. Within
each section, the rulings are arranged in a logical order, beginning with the
basic principles and progressing to more detailed and specific rules. The text
also includes brief explanations and clarifications of certain rulings, as well
as references to the source texts.

Later on, over 300
eminent Hanbali scholars wrote commentaries on al-Mukhtasar al-Khirqi,
including the
magnum opus of Islamic
jurisprudence—al-Mughni
by Imam ibn Qudamah al-Maqdasi al-Hanbali [547-620 AH]. Imam ibn Qudamah al-Hanbali gave detailed shreds of evidence and reasons on which Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal based his rulings.

Scholars who
wrote commentaries on the book:

1) The
explanation of the author himself. He was the first one to write a legal
textbook in the school and the first one to write a commentary on it.

2) Abu Ishaq
b. Shaqla (d. 369 AH)

3) Abu Hafs
al-‘Ukbari (d. 387 AH)

4) Al-Hasan
b. Hamid (d. 403 AH)

5) Ibn Abi
Musa (d. 428 AH)

6) Al-Qadi
Abu Ya’la (d. 458 AH) (some parts have been published)

7) Abu ‘Ali
b. al-Banna’ (d. 471 AH) (published)

8) Ibn
Zaghuni (d. 527 AH)

9) Abu Hazim
Muhamad b. Abi Ya’la (d. 527 AH)

10) Muwaffaq
al-Din Ibn Qudamah (d. 620 AH) in al-Mughni. This is the most famous commentary
on Mukhtasar al-Khiraqi (published)

11) Ibn Abi-l
Hija (d. 661 AH) in his work al-Muntasar Sharh al-Mukhtasar

12) ‘Abdullah
al-Harbi (d. 681 AH) in his work al-Muhimm.

13) Abu Talib
Abd al-Rahman b. ‘Umar al-Darir (d. 684 AH). He has two commentaries on it
known as al-Kafi and al-Wadih.

14) Al-Tufi
(d. 716 AH). His commentary is on half the book.

15) Al-Hibal
(d. 749 AH). His commentary is extremely brief.

16)
Al-Zarkashi (d. 772 AH) (published). He has a second commentary which he
summarised from his first commentary but he didn’t complete it.

17) Qadi-l
Aqalim ‘Abd al-‘Aziz b. Abi al-‘Izz al-Maqdisi (d. 846 AH)

18) Ibn
al-Mibrad Ahmad b. Hasan b. Ahmad b. ‘Abd al-Hadi (d. 895 AH). Most of it is
complete.

19)
Al-Asfahani

20) Ja’far
al-Siraj (d. 500 AH). This commentary was written as a poem.

(may Allah have mercy on
all of them)

https://www.thehanbalimadhhab.com/mukhtasar-al-khiraqi

Despite Imam Ahmad’s stance on
writing down his legal rulings, later scholars recognized the need for
textbooks to guide beginners in their studies. This recognition led to the
development of summarized versions of Imam Ahmad’s teachings, such as al-Mukhtasar
by Abu al-Qasim al-Khiraqi.

Textbooks like al-Mukhtasar played an important role
in providing a convenient approach to learning the Hanbali school of Islamic
law, particularly for laypeople. These works summarized the legal opinions of
Imam Ahmad
(may Allah have mercy on
him)
and other scholars, making them
accessible and easier to understand. They also helped to systematize the
teachings of the Hanbali Madhab and spread them among the wider Muslim community.

Thus, while Imam Ahmad (may Allah have mercy on him) discouraged the writing down of his legal rulings, the
subsequent development of textbooks and summaries helped to bridge the gap
between the rigorous study of the Quran and Sunnah and the needs of students
and laypeople who sought to understand and apply Islamic law.

Still, Imam Ahmad
encouraged his fellow scholars to derive the rulings from Quran, Sunnah, and
Prophet’s companions, giving a special preference to Ahl al-Bayt in case
of differences among companions. The Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence are
beyond the scope of this article, so
read other articles for details on the
subject.

Imam Abu al-Hasayn ibn al-Munadi al-Hanbali

Imam Abu
al-Husayn ibn al-Munadi al-Hanabli, may
Allah have mercy on him (256-336 AH / 870-947 CE) was a prominent student of
Imam Abdullah ibn Ahmad ibn Hanbal. He was mostly interested in Ulum
al-Quran
(Quranic sciences) and his vast knowledge gained a great
admiration and popularity for him.  He
was also interested in Hadith studies.

Imam Ibn al-Jawzi
al-Hanbali (1116-1201 CE) reported from Abu Yusuf al-Qazwini that he said: “Abu
al-Husayn ibn al-Munadi authored four hundred and forty books in the sciences
of the Quran, and there is no stupidity in his speech. Rather, it is pure
speech that combines narration and reasoning
.” [
Al-Muntazam, 14/66]

Imam Ibn al-Jawzi (may
Allah have mercy on him)
, who was himself a Hanbali scholar, praised
Imam Abu al-Husayn al-Munadi for his extensive knowledge of Quranic sciences
and encouraged people to read his works. Imam Ibn al-Jawzi quoted Imam
al-Munadi in his famous
Tafsir Zad al-Musir and appreciated his opinions.
Ibn Taymiyyah (may Allah have mercy on him) also praised and quoted Imam
al-Munadi repeatedly in his famous book ” Majmu’ al-Fatawa“.
Furthermore,
Ibn Taymiyyah, who is often associated with
a strict literalist approach, also acknowledged the importance of reason and
argued for the spherical (round) shape of the earth, a view that was supported
by Imam al-Munadi. [Majmu’ al-Fatawa ibn Taymiyyah:
25/195]

Imam Hasan ibn Ali al-Barbahari al-Hanbali

Imam Hasan ibnAli al-Barbahari al-Hanbali (329 AH / 941 CE) was a prominent Muslim theologian and
religious leader who lived during the 9th and 10th centuries CE. He was born in
Baghdad, Iraq, and received his education from the students of the renowned
Islamic scholar Ahmad ibn Hanbal. Al-Barbahari
(may Allah
have mercy on him)  wrote several books on creed and methodology
in order to refute the beliefs of certain deviant sects. His famous work Sharh al-Sunnah has been printed.

Al-Barbahari
became a champion of Ibn Hanbal’s views and teachings and played a significant
role in promoting the beliefs and practices of the Hanbali school of Islamic faith,
which emphasized strict adherence to the Quran and the Sunnah. Al-Barbahari’s
works were widely influential in his time and continue to be studied and cited
by scholars and students of Islamic theology and law today.

Imam Hasan ibn Ali
al-Barbahari
(may Allah have mercy on him) is considered a Hanbali activist, as he was known for his active
involvement in promoting and defending the Hanbali school of jurisprudence. He
wrote several works that aimed to promote the Hanbali doctrine and defend it
against the views of other schools and sects, including the Shias, Qadaris, and
the Mu’tazilites.

As an example of his
activism, Imam Hasan ibn Ali al-Barbahari was known for actively fighting
against deviant beliefs and practices during his time, particularly the
Mu’tazilites and Shias. He was a staunch supporter of the Hanbali school of
thought and was known to actively promote and defend its teachings.
Al-Barbahari wrote several books in which he refuted the beliefs of these
groups and defended the orthodox Sunni beliefs. He was also known to have
engaged in debates and discussions with individuals from these groups in order
to refute their beliefs and bring them back to the orthodox Sunni path.

Imam Hasan ibn Ali
al-Barbahari was a Hanbali activist who fought for Hanbali thought and practice,
leading masses of Hanbalis in actions to stop the sale of wine, destroy musical
instruments, and fight against deviant Shiism and Mu’tazilism. His followers
confiscated wine and musical instruments from shops and enforced female entertainers
to leave their practices. He did all this to enjoin the good and forbid the
evil.

Al-Barbahari’s activism had
a significant impact on the religious and social landscape of his time. He was
successful in promoting literalist Hanbali thought and practice, and his
followers were able to enforce their views through mass demonstrations and
other means. Under his influence, the Caliphs Al-Muqtadir and Al-Qahir enforced
Sunni “orthodoxy” as the state creed, imprisoning al-Barbahari’s
enemies and even exiling renowned Muslim historian Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari.

Al-Barbahari’s activism and
strict literalist approach were not well-received by other schools of Islamic
law. Some criticized him for his intolerance towards other religious groups and
his encouragement of mass demonstrations was dubbed as mob violence. Others saw
his adherence to the teachings of Ahmad ibn Hanbal as overly rigid and
limiting.

The activism of
Al-Barbahari
(may Allah have mercy on him) and his followers
was one of the factors that contributed to the perception of the Hanbali Madhab
as rigid and violent by some outsiders. This perception was further reinforced
by the fact that the Hanbali Madhab was associated with the strict enforcement
of Islamic law in the form of Hudud punishments, which were seen as
harsh by some.

However, it is
important to note that the Hanbali Madhab, like other Islamic legal schools, is
not inherently violent or rigid. The actions of certain individuals or groups
cannot be used to characterize an entire school of thought. Furthermore, the
Hanbali Madhab has produced many notable scholars who have contributed
significantly to Islamic thought and jurisprudence, such as Ibn Qudamah, Ibn al-Jawzi, and Ibn Rajab,
(may Allah have mercy on him)  who had a comparatively lenient approach to
other schools of thought.

Just like any other school
of thought, there are different interpretations and approaches within the
Hanbali madhab. Some scholars emphasized strict adherence to a literal approach
to understanding the textual sources, while others allowed for the use of
reasoning and personal opinions within certain limits. It’s important to
understand and respect the diversity within any school of thought and avoid
generalizations or condemnation of any particular approach without a proper
understanding of the context.

While it is true that some
Hanbali scholars have been associated with a strict literalist approach, it is
important to note that this does not represent the entirety of the Hanbali
madhab. There are also Hanbali scholars who have emphasized the importance of
reason and understanding in interpreting texts.

Therefore, it is important
to avoid stereotyping the entire Hanbali madhab as being rigidly literalist.
Like any other madhab, it has a diverse range of scholars with varying
approaches and methodologies. It is more accurate to say that the Hanbali
madhab emphasizes a careful and thorough analysis of the text, while also
allowing for the use of reason and intellectual interpretation.

The difference in
Opinions Attributed to Imam Ahmad

It is true that in some cases
contradictory narrations have been attributed to Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal. The
reason behind these contradictions lies in several factors:

Multiple sources:

Imam Ahmad had a large number of
students who transmitted his teachings and narrations. These students, in turn,
had their own understanding and methods of transmitting information. As a
result, there could be variations or discrepancies in the way they reported and
interpreted Imam Ahmad’s statements.

Evolving opinions:

Imam Ahmad’s views and opinions
were not static and unchanging. Like other scholars, he engaged in continuous
study, research, and refinement of his understanding. Over time, he might have
modified or revised his opinions on certain matters based on further evidence
or scholarly discussions. These changes can lead to apparent contradictions in
the narrations attributed to him.

Different contexts:

Context plays a significant role
in understanding the statements of scholars. A particular narration attributed
to Imam Ahmad
(may Allah have mercy on him) may have been in response to a specific situation or question, and
its applicability might be limited to that particular context. When such
narrations are extracted and viewed in isolation, without considering the
specific circumstances, they can seem contradictory.

Attribution errors:

Attribution errors can occur during the process of recording and
transmitting narrations. Mistakes in the chain of narrators or
misinterpretations of the original sources can lead to contradictory narrations
being attributed to Imam Ahmad unintentionally.

It is important to note that scholars of Hadith and Fiqh are aware
of these factors, and they apply rigorous methodologies to analyze and
reconcile apparent contradictions in narrations, aiming to identify the most authentic
and representative positions of Imam Ahmad
(may Allah have mercy on him).

 

The Scholars of
Reasoning

The Hanbali
Madhab, one of the four major schools of Islamic jurisprudence, was not solely
transmitted by a single individual, but rather its development and transmission
involved a diverse group of scholars who were both peers and pioneers of the
Madhab. These scholars were not only recognized as experts in the Hanbali
school, but they also possessed extensive knowledge of the Quran and Sunnah.

In contrast to some other schools of
thought, where the teachings are primarily attributed to a single renowned scholar,
the Hanbali Madhab emerged through the contributions of multiple scholars who
excelled in their understanding of Islamic law. These scholars were highly
esteemed for their knowledge and intellectual abilities, and they played a
crucial role in the evolution and preservation of the Hanbali legal tradition.

What set these scholars apart was
their proficiency in Ijtihad, which refers to the process of legal
reasoning and independent interpretation of Islamic law. They possessed the
necessary skills and qualifications to derive legal rulings directly from the
primary sources of Islam, namely the Quran and the Sunnah, as well as the
consensus of scholars and analogical reasoning. Through their expertise in Ijtihad,
they were able to analyze and apply the principles of the Hanbali Madhab in a
variety of legal scenarios.

These scholars were not mere
transmitters of established rulings, but active participants in the development
of Islamic jurisprudence. They engaged in critical thinking, debated legal
issues, and contributed their own scholarly opinions to the body of Hanbali
law. Their extensive knowledge and understanding of the Quran and Sunnah, along
with their capacity for Ijtihad, allowed them to address new and complex
legal questions that arose over time.

The Hanbali Madhab owes its
comprehensive and nuanced legal framework to the collective efforts of these
learned scholars. Their intellectual contributions and dedication to
understanding and applying Islamic principles ensured the continued relevance
and adaptability of the Hanbali school, enabling it to meet the evolving needs
of the Muslim community.

In summary, the peers
and pioneers of the Hanbali Madhab were not merely transmitters of the legal
school but were esteemed scholars with deep knowledge of the Quran and Sunnah.
They possessed the ability to engage in Ijtihad and actively practiced
it, contributing to the development and refinement of the Hanbali legal
tradition. Their collective efforts and intellectual prowess ensured the
vitality and applicability of the Hanbali Madhab throughout history.

The particular
title for these scholars of reasoning is rendered Mujtahideen fil Madhab.
Imam Abu al-Hasan Ali ibn Sulayman al-Mardawi al-Hanbali,
may Allah
have mercy on him
(d.885 AH / 1480 CE), in his
outstanding work al-Insaf, describes four levels of Mujtahideen fi
Madhab
:

First Level

Imam Abu al-Hasan
Ali ibn Sulayman al-Mardawi al-Hanbali said:

The first scenario is when a person is not a
mere follower (muqallid) of his Imam in matters of legal rulings and evidence.
However, he follows his Imam’s methodology in independent reasoning (ijtihad)
and issuing legal verdicts (fatwa). He propagates his Imam’s school of thought
and extensively studies it, finding it to be correct and superior to others. He
has a stronger alignment with it and its methodology. Ibn Hamdan
(may Allah
have mercy on him)
said in his book Adab al-Mufti, that Ibn Abi Musa
claimed this in his book Shar al-Irshad, , and did Qadi Abu Ya’la al-Hanbali and
many others from the Shafi’i school. There are many such individuals. I (the
author) say: Among the earlier companions of Imam Ahmad (may Allah be pleased
with him), and among the later scholars are figures like the author of the book
(Imam Muwaffaq al-Din ibn Qudama al-Maqdasi) and Al-Majd (Imam Majd al-Din
Abdussalam ibn Taymiyah), among others. Their verdicts hold the same weight as
the verdicts of a Mujtahid al-Mutlaq (Absolute Jurisprudent), and their
opinions are considered in matters of consensus and divergence.

[Al-Insaf: 12/259-260]

Second Level

Imam Abu al-Hasan
Ali ibn Sulayman al-Mardawi al-Hanbali goes further:

“The second
scenario is when a person is a diligent scholar (mujtahid) in their Imam’s
school of thought. They independently determine legal rulings based on
evidence, but they do not exceed the principles and foundations of their
school. They have a comprehensive understanding of jurisprudence, its
principles, and the evidence for legal issues. They are knowledgeable in
analogy (qiyas) and similar methods, fully proficient, and capable of deducing
legal rulings and deriving legal conclusions. They are also able to apply
subsidiary matters (furū’) to the principles and foundations established by
their Imam.

[Al-Insaf:
12/260
]

Third Level

Imam Abu al-Hasan
Ali ibn Sulayman al-Mardawi al-Hanbali goes further:

“The third scenario is when
a person does not reach the level of the eminent scholars of the school, known as
Ashab al-Wujuh. However, they are a jurist in their own right, preserving the
school of their Imam, knowledgeable of its evidence, and adhering to its
rulings. They can present, clarify, explain, strengthen, differentiate, and
make reasonable judgments. However, they fall short of the rank of those
scholars either because they have not attained the same level of mastery in
preserving the school, or because they are not well-versed in the principles of
jurisprudence and similar matters to the extent that they possess a
comprehensive understanding of the preserved knowledge of jurisprudence and its
evidence from various aspects of the foundational principles and similar
matters. Alternatively, they may be lacking in other sciences that are tools
for independent reasoning, which the masters of the faces and paths possess.
This is a characteristic of many later scholars who categorized the schools,
formulated them, and authored works on them, which people today often engage
with. However, they did not include those who present the various perspectives
(Ashab al-Wujuh) and pave the way within the schools.

[Al-Insaf: 12/263]

Fourth Level

Imam Abu al-Hasan
Ali ibn Sulayman al-Mardawi al-Hanbali goes further:

“The fourth scenario is
when a person undertakes the preservation, transmission, and understanding of
the school. In this case, their narration and fatwa are relied upon regarding
what they narrate from the documented texts of their school, whether it be the
statements of their Imam or the derived opinions of the diligent scholars
within their school, as well as their citations
.”

[Al-Insaf: 12/263-264]

The Final Framework of the Hanbali Madhab

It is notable that not only direct students of Imam Ahmad in Hanbal (may Allah have mercy on him) were the scholars of reasoning (Ashab al-Wujuh), who have the capacity of the legal reasoning of the first level after Imam Ahmad, but some of later scholars had the same capacity.  Among them, as Imam al-Mardawi mentioned, two scholars are at the top of the list, Imam Muwaffaq al-Din Ibn Qudamah al-Madasi and Imam Madjd al-Din Abdussalam ibn Taymiyah (may Allah have mercy on all of them. Their verdicts hold the same weight as the verdicts of a Mujtahid al-Mutlaq (Absolute Jurisprudent), and their opinions are considered in matters of consensus and divergence.

A highly ranked Hanbali scholar Imam Ibn Rajab (736-795 AH/1335–1393 CEsaid:

“The scholars of our time and those before them, when it comes to matters of jurisprudence, they refer to the two Shaykhs: Al-Muwaffaq and Al-Majd.”

[Al-Insaf: 1/17]

Imam al-Mardawi said:

“If the difference of opinion is mentioned literally, or it is from someone other than the relied-upon scholars who have been mentioned earlier, then the relied-upon position is what the two Shaykhs (referring to the author and Al-Majd) agreed upon, or if one of them agreed with the other in one of his choices.”

[Al-Insaf: 1/17]

Imam Al-Mardawi’s al-Insaf is a commentary on Imam ibn Qudamah’s text al-Muqni’. Imam al-Mardawi introduced al-Muqni’ in these words:

“The book al-Muqniʿ in Islamic jurisprudence is authored by Shaykh al-Islam Muwaffaq al-Din Abu Muhammad Abdullah ibn Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Qudamah al-Maqdisi, may Allah sanctify his soul. It illuminates his mausoleum as one of the greatest and most beneficial books. It is comprehensive, clear in indication, concise in expression, moderate in size, abundant in knowledge, detailed and branching in explanation, and organized and diversified in classification. It encompasses a vast majority of the fundamental issues of the Madhab (school of thought). Whoever attains it has indeed acquired a treasure and achieved their objective.”

[Al-Insaf: 1/3]

The second personality is Imam Abu al-Barakat Majd al-Din  Abd al-Salalm ibnTaymiyyah (1194 – 1255 CE), the grandfather of Taqi al-Din ibn Taymiyyah who was well-known as Ibn Taymiyyah (the most favorite scholar of the Saudi scholars). Imam Abu al-Barakat Majd al-Din ibn Taymiyyah was a direct student of Imam ibn Qudamah al-Madasi. So their agreement is considered decisive in case of differences of opinion among the Hanbali scholars.

Main Centers of the
Hanbali Madhab in History

Baghdad: A Center
of the Hanbali Madhab

Being the birth
pave of Hanbali Madhab, Baghdad played a significant role in the development and
spread of this school of law. The city was a center of learning and
intellectual discourse during the Abbasid Caliphate, and many prominent
scholars and jurists of the time were based in Baghdad. This created a fertile
environment for the Hanbali Madhab to take root and flourish.

The establishment of numerous Hanbali
schools and universities in Baghdad helped to solidify Madhab’s position in
the city. These institutions attracted students from all over the Islamic
world, and many of the leading scholars and jurists of the Hanbali Madhab were
trained in these schools.

Overall, the
prominence of Hanbali Madhab in Baghdad helped to shape the city’s intellectual
and cultural landscape. It also contributed to the spread of the Madhab
throughout the Islamic world, where it continues to be an important school of
Islamic law and theology to this day.

Jerusalem: A Center
of the Hanbali Madhab

It is true that
many eminent Hanbali scholars were born in Jerusalem throughout history. This
can be attributed to the presence of a strong scholarly tradition in Jerusalem
and the surrounding region, which fostered the development and dissemination of
Hanbali teachings. The city’s historical significance, including its religious
and cultural importance, likely contributed to its role as an active center for
the Hanbali Madhab.

The scholars of Jerusalem played a
significant role in preserving, studying, and spreading the teachings of the
Hanbali school. They produced numerous works on Hanbali jurisprudence,
theology, and other disciplines, leaving a lasting impact on the development
and practice of the Hanbali Madhab.

While it is
accurate to acknowledge Jerusalem’s importance as a center for Hanbali
scholarship, it is essential to note that the Hanbali Madhab has also thrived
in other regions and cities throughout the Islamic world. The influence of
Hanbali scholars extends beyond Jerusalem, and their contributions have been
recognized and studied by scholars from various backgrounds and geographical
locations.

Damascus: A Center
of the Hanbali Madhab

Damascus (also
known as Dimashq in Arabic, a capital city of Syria) has historically been
recognized as an important center for the Hanbali Madhab. The city of Damascus
has a rich Islamic scholarly tradition and has been home to numerous prominent
Hanbali scholars throughout history.

Many renowned Hanbali jurists and
scholars resided in Damascus and contributed significantly to the development,
teaching, and dissemination of the Hanbali Madhab. They produced influential
works, wrote commentaries on foundational Hanbali texts, and provided legal
opinions (fatwas) based on the Hanbali methodology.

The Hanbali Madhab gained prominence
in Damascus and enjoyed the support and patronage of various rulers and
institutions in the city. The Hanbali scholars of Damascus played a vital role
in preserving and transmitting the teachings of the school, and their
contributions continue to be studied and respected by scholars and
practitioners of the Hanbali Madhab worldwide.

Overall, Damascus
has a significant historical association with the Hanbali Madhab, and its
scholars have made substantial contributions to the development and propagation
of Hanbali jurisprudence and legal thought.

Today, the Hanbali Madhab continues to be practiced and followed predominantly in the Middle East, with particular prominence in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Kuwait. These nations have historically been strongholds of the Hanbali school, where its teachings and principles have had a significant influence on religious and legal practices. The Hanbali Madhab holds a special status in Saudi Arabia, and the country’s official legal system is based on a combination of Hanbali jurisprudence. Similarly, Qatar and Kuwait have notable Hanbali communities and institutions that uphold the traditions and principles of the Madhab. The Hanbali Madhab’s continued presence and influence in these countries serve as a testament to its enduring significance in the region and its enduring impact on the lives of Muslims in various aspects, including personal conduct, family matters, commercial transactions, and criminal law.

 

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