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.’
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.