Shaykh Muhammad Mustafa Al-A’zami رَحِمَهُ ٱللَّٰهُ
Abu ‘Abdullah Ahmad b. Muhammad b. Hanbal رَحِمَهُ ٱللَّٰهُ . His father Muhammad was a Mujahid who lived in Basra. He went to Marw as a Ghdzi, where Ahmad was born in 20th of Rabl’ al-Awwal 164 A.H. Later on, while Ahmad was still an infant, he was brought to Baghdad. His father died at the age of 30. His mother was Safiyah bint Maimuna bint ‘Abdul Malik ash-Shaibani.
He used to dye his hair, and was a tall, dark brown man. He began to study Ahadith in 179 A.H. when he was 16 years old and memorized a million ahadith in his lifetime. He is one of the leading personalities in Islamic history who combined knowledge of ahadith and law. He was sublime in his God-consciousness and in defending Islam. He challenged the Caliph and his religious authority, was imprisoned for a long time and was treated very harshly by the authorities. But he never surrendered. There are books written on his inquisition.
Ibn Hanbal and Mihna
The Mutazilites—so-called free thinkers in Islam—had great impact on the Caliphs Ma’mun, al-Mu’tasim and al-Wathiq who accepted the Mutazilite viewpoint, accepted it as their creed and made it the duty of the state to force it on all Muslims. Ibn Hanbal and other muhaddithin refused to profess it. Ibn Hanbal was brought before the inquisition from Baghdad to Tarsus in heavy chains.
Under Mu’tasim he patiently suffered corporal punishment and imprisonment. The Caliph Mu’tasim requested Ibn Hanbal again and again to accept the creed of the Mu’tazilites in which case the Caliph himself would free him of all the chains and follow his steps. After flat refusal Ibn Hanbal was trampled under the feet of Mu’tasim’s servants and some of his joints were dislocated. Later a large group of executioners were brought and each of them whipped Ahmad two stripes with all his strength. After a while Ahmad lost his consciousness. When he regained consciousness he was
offered some drink but refused it saying that he did not want to break his fast. However, this is not the proper place to discuss the suffering of Ibn Hanbal for the sake of Islam. A doctoral thesis has been written by Patton on the inquisition of Imam Ahmad. The most interesting thing in the character of Imam Ahmad is that when the Government’s policy was changed in the caliphate of Mutawakkil, in favour of the Muhaddithins’ doctrine, and he was approached to take revenge from those who caused his inquisition, he refused it totally. Imam Ahmad says that he was going through the meaning of a verse of the Our’an (Surah Shura 40) . He found that a great scholar of the first century, Hasan al Basri (21-110) explained its meaning saying that in the Hereafter all the nations of the world would be kneeling down in front of Allah. Then it would be proclaimed that those people should stand whose reward is due from Allah, upon which no one would stand except those who pardoned the wrongdoers in this world. Reading this passage Ibn Hanbal pardoned his wrongdoers and used to say what does a man lose, if Allah does not punish some one for his sake.
He refused any favor from the Government. Later on, without his knowledge and against his intention some pensions were offered to his sons and cousins. When he came to know of this he almost cut himself off from them. In the early days he used to borrow some things from their houses, but later he refused to have even his medicine and meals to be prepared on their stoves.
He compiled many works, some of which have been published and some of them have been lost, and some of them still need editing and publishing. Here is a list of some of his works:
- Al-‘Ilal wa Ma’rifat ar-Rijal
- An-Nasikh wal-Mansukh
- Ar radd ‘Ala az-Zanddiqa wa al-Jahmiya
Of all of his works, he is most famous for Musnad.
Nature of Musnad Works
Musnad works are not compiled in accordance with issues in Law. The only criteria is to collect ahadith of a certain companion in one place. However, the compilers differ in arrangements of the names of the companions. Some of them begin with the four righteous Caliphs Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, ‘Uthman and ‘All, followed by the remaining six of them who had tidings of Paradise from the Prophet. These are followed by the Companions who embraced Islam first, and so on. Some of the books are ar- ranged alphabetically and some according to regions. However, the Musnad
is not easy to use because there is no subject by subject arrangement of material at all. Thus it is very difficult to find a particular hadith.
Musnad was published in six volumes in 1313 A.H. A number of books have been compiled on the Musnad of Imam Ahmad. In this century two scholars contributed the best part of their lives in the service of this book. One was Shaikh Ahmad ‘Abdur Rahman as-Sa’ati father of Imam Hasan al-Banna, founder of the famous Society of Muslim Brothers, who arranged the original work according to chapters on legal matters. It has a good commentary and references to relative ahadith in other works. The book has been published in 24 volumes and is one of the best works on Musnad. The other scholar was Ahmad Shakir who intended to publish a critical edition of the work in its original form. He published about a quarter of the original work in 15 volumes before he died. However, up till now its ahadith have not been counted. Scholars estimate that there are between 30,000-40,000 ahadith. This is perhaps the biggest book on hadith at the present in our hands, or it might be the second biggest work. There have been many other works on hadith much larger than Musnad of Imam Ahmad but these are no longer extant. However, over 80 Musnads have been mentioned by Kattani in his book ar-Risalah al-Mustatrafah (p. 74) , some of them very voluminous. Ya’qub b. Shaiba made a plan to compile a musnad work. If he had been able to complete it this huge project would have exceeded 200 volumes. A tiny part of this grand book was discovered and has been published. A partial list of Musnads is given below:
Musnads by :
(1) ‘Abd b. Humaid
(2) Abu Ishaq
(3) Abu Ya’la (d.307)
(4) Al-Bazzar (d.292)
(5) Hasan b. Sufyart
(7) Ishaq b. Rahwaih
(9) Usama b.Harith
(10) Ya’qub, b. Shaibah (d.262)