Imām Aḥmad

The Humble Heretic

‘Alī b. Abī Khālid – Allāh have mercy on him – reports:

I once said to Aḥmad, “This shaykh – referring to an older man who was with us – is my neighbor. I told him not to keep the company of a certain person, and he would like to hear what you have to say about him: I am referring to Ḥārith Al-Qaṣīr (Al-Ḥārith Al-Muḥāsibī). Many years ago, you saw me with him and told me not to sit with him nor speak with him. I have not spoken to him since that time. This shaykh, however, does sit with him. So what do you say?”

I saw Aḥmad go red with anger, his eyes bulging; I had never before seen him like this. He started to say, “Him! May Allāh do such-and-such to him! Only those well-informed of him know what he really is, only those who really know him know what he is. Al-Mughāzilī, Ya’qūb and so-and-so sat with him, and he caused them to adopt the views of Jahm (Ibn Ṣafwān, leader of the Jahmites). They were destroyed because of him.”

The old man said, “But Abū ‘Abdillāh, he reports ḥadīth, and he is mild and humble; he has done such-and-such [good works].” Abū ‘Abdillāh (Imām Aḥmad) became angry and began repeating, “Let not his humility and softness deceive you”. He also said, “Do not be fooled by his bowed head, he is an evil man; only those well-informed of him through experience know him. Do not speak to him – with all disrespect to him. Are you going to sit with everyone who narrates from Allāh’s Messenger – may the praise and peace of Allāh be upon him – though he be a heretic (mubtadi’)? No, with all disrespect.”

Ṭabaqāt Al-Ḥanābilah, article 325.

Studying Manners

It is reported that Abū Bakr Al-Maṭū’ī said:

I sat in the circle of Abū ‘Abdillāh Aḥmad b. Ḥanbal for twelve years while he read the Musnad to his children, and I never wrote a single ḥadīth, I only looked at his behavior, character and etiquette.

Ibn Al-Jawzī, Manāqib Aḥmad, article 210.

It is reported that Al-Ḥasan b. Ismā’īl said, ‘I heard my father say:

There would gather in the circle of Aḥmad five thousand people or more; less than five hundred would write, the rest would learn from him good manners and behavior.’

Ibid.

It is reported that Sufyān Al-Thawrī said:

A man who wanted to write ḥadīth would [learn] manners and worship for twenty years before starting.

Abū Nu’aym, Ḥilyatu Al-Awliyā`, 6:361.

From the Man­ners of a Wife with her Hus­band

It is reported that the wife of Imām Sa’īd b. Al-Musayyib – Allāh have mercy on him – said:

We only ever used to speak to our husbands like you address your commanders and leaders: [we would supplicate for them when talking to them] “May Allāh keep you right!”, “May Allāh keep you well!”

Abū Nu’aym, ilyatu Al-Awliyā` 5:198.

After the death of his wife Umm Ṣālih, Imām Aḥmad – Allāh have mercy on them, used to praise her. He once said:

In the thirty years she was with me, we never had a single word of disagreement.

Al-Khaṭīb Al-Baghdādī, Tārīkh Baghdād 16:626.

Knowledge on the Mind

It is reported that Imām Abū Dāwūd Al-Sijistānī – Allah have mercy on him – said:

Aḥmad b. Ḥanbal never used to involve himself in the things of this world that people involved themselves in; but when knowledge was mentioned, he would speak.

Ibn Al-Jawzī Ṣifatu Al-Ṣafwah 2:519.

It is reported that Al-Ḥusayn b. Muḥammad said:

Muḥammad b. Ismā`īl Al-Bukhārī was distinguished with three qualities – in addition to the rest of his praseworthy traits: He never spoke much, he never yearned for what people had. He would never occupy himself with other people’s affairs; all his attention was towards knowledge.

Al-Dhahabī, Siyar A’lām Al-Nubalā` 12:449

Imam Ahmad on Rebelling against Rulers

Abul-Ḥārith Aḥmad b. Muḥammad Al-Ṣā`igh, the close and respected friend of Imām Aḥmad, reports:

I asked Abū ‘Abdillāh (Imām Aḥmad) about something that had occurred in Baghdād, and [because of which] some people were considering revolting [against the ruler]. I said, “O Abū ‘Abdillāh, what do you say about taking part in the revolt with these people?” He decried it and started saying, “Subḥānallāh! The blood [of the people], the blood [of the people]! I do not believe in this and I do not tell others to do it. For us to suffer our situation in patience is better than the fitnah (tribulation) in which blood is spilt, property is taken, and the prohibited are violated (e.g. the honor of women). Do you not know what happened to the people (in the days of the previous fitnah)?” I said, “And the people today, Abū ‘Abdillāh, are they not in fitnah [because of the ruler]?” He replied, “If so, it is a limited fitnah, but if the sword is raised, the fitnah will engulf everything and there will be no way to escape. To suffer patiently this [current difficulty], where Allāh keeps your religion safe for you is better for you.” I saw him decry revolting against the leaders, and say, “[Do not spill the people’s] blood. I do not believe in this and I do not command it.”

Abū Bakr Al-Khallāl, Al-Sunnah article 89.