Published in  
October 12, 2020

Cheat Sheet to the Hanbali Madhab

أنا حنبلي. ما حييت، فإن أموت فوصيتي للناس أن يتحنبل

His Life

Imam Ahmad Ibn Muhammad Ibn Hanbal al-Shaybani al-Baghdadi.
His lineage meets the Prophet’s at Mizar Ibn Ma’ad Ibn Adnan. This makes the Imam an Adnani Arab from the tribe of the Quraysh.

Imam Ahmad was orphaned around 1-3 years of age. His grandfather was the Governor for the Umayyid Caliphate and later for the Abbasid Caliphate at the border of modern day Iran and Turkmenistan. Imam Ahmad was born and died in Baghdad which was the seat of the Caliphate. He was born 20 Rabi al-Awwal 164 AH. He passed away on Friday, 10 Rabi al-Awwal 241 AH at the age of 77 years. His mother’s name was Safiyyah Bint Maymunah Bint Abdul Malik al-Shaybani.

He lived through 8 Abbasid Caliphs. Al-Mahdi, Al-Hadi, Harun Ar-Rasheed, Al-Ameen, Al-Ma’mun, Al-Mu’tasim, Al-Wathiq, Al-Mutawakkil. Imam Ahmad suffered under the rule of Al-Ma’mun, Al-Mu’tasim and Al-Wathiq. His persecution was brought to an end by Al-Mutawakkil.

Imam Ahmad married twice but it needs to be noted that he didn’t marry till he reached the age of 40 because he wanted to free his mind and heart for knowledge. His first wife was Abbasa Bint al-Fadl who was the mother of his first child, Saleh. She passed away during his lifetime. Imam Ahmad said that they were married for 30 years and they didn’t have an argument.  When his wife passed away, he got married the next day. Later he married Raihanah from whom he had Abdullah.

  • Saleh passed on the Fiqh of Imam Ahmad
  • Abdullah passed on the Narrations of Imam Ahmad

Imam Ahmad had a concubine by the name Husn. From her he had al-Hassan, Muhammad, Saeed and Zaynab. Imam Ahmad died at the age of 77, yet this woman gave birth to Saeed, 50 days before the Imam passed away.

Imam Ahmad studied under the scholars of Baghdad. He started studying Hadith at the age of 16 (~179 AH). This was the same year Imam Malik passed away. Hammad Ibn Zayd, the Imam of Basra also passed away in the same year. Then he travelled to Kufa, Basra, Makkah, Madinah, Yemen, Shaam, Northern Iraq.

Imam Ahmad is an Imam in Hadith as well as an Imam in the Sunnah. Sunnah here means the Aqeedah of the Ahlus Sunnah. Such was his stature that he is called Imam of Ahlus Sunnah wal Jama’ah. He was also an Imam in Fiqh. His being an Imam of Hadith and Sunnah is a matter of ijma without any contradiction.

There are a few unworthy people who raise a question on his position as an Imam of Fiqh. Their words are disregarded but are responded to accordingly to put the matter to rest. Not his students, but rather his teachers who were known fuqaha bestowed the title of faqeeh upon Imam Ahmad. Rather he is at the forefront of fiqh and not a mere muhaddith as some claim. Their false understanding arises because whenever Imam Ahmad was asked a question, he would narrate a chain of narration with a Hadith. He wouldn’t answer except that he had a chain of narration to back his answer.

It is said the Imam Ahmad had memorized a million ahadith with their respective chains. Imam Ibn al-Qayyim says the number is more. Abdullah ibn Ahmad, his son, said: “I heard Ar-Razi say: ‘Your father memorised a million hadith, which I rehearsed with him according to the topic.’ ”

Imam Ahmad made Hajj 5 times in his life. Ibn al-Jawzi said of these 3 times was on foot. His son Abdullah reports that Imam Ahmad walked on foot to Yemen. Such was the Ikhlas and effort put in by this giant.

Of the teachers of Imam Ahmad is Qadhi Abu Yusuf, the famous student of Imam Abu Hanifa. Imam Shafi’i was also a very important and beloved teacher of Imam Ahmad. He told Imam Shafi’i’s son that his father was one of the 6 he made dua for before dawn.
Other teachers include Yahya al-Kattan, Abdul Rahman al-Mahdi, Ibn Ulayyah, Ibn Harun and many others.

Imam al-Shafi`i said, “I left Baghdad and did not leave behind me anyone more virtuous, more learned, more knowledgeable than Ahmad ibn Hanbal.”

Imam Ahmad’s son, Saleh narrates that his father wrote over a million ahadith. From the Imam’s way of teaching was that he would teach and narrate only from written sources so as to avoid any mistakes and be accurate in the narrations.

Imam Abu Dawud says that the classes of Imam Ahmad were circles and gatherings of the Akhirah. There were no discussions of the dunya.

From the students of Imam Ahlus Sunnah, Ahmad Ibn Hanbal are:
Imam Bukhari [Author of Sahih al-Bukhari]
Imam Muslim [Author of Sahih Muslim]
Imam Abu Dawud [Author of Sunan Abi Dawud]
Imam at-Tirmidhi [Author of  Jami’ at-Tirmidhi]

When Imam Bukhari completed his Sahih, he chose Imam Ahmad to review it for him.

Ali Ibn al-Madini said, “Truly, Allah reinforced this Religion with Abu Bakr al-Siddiq the day of the Great Apostasy (al-Ridda), and He reinforced it with Ahmad ibn Hanbal the day of the Inquisition (al-Mihna).”


The Usul of the Madhab are 5:

1. Texts: Quran and Sunnah.
They reign supreme in the Madhab. As per Hanbali Usul, the Sunnah cannot abrogate an Ayah of the Quran. Qur’an is stronger and the Ahadith are a level below that.

2. Statements of the Sahaba.
They are best placed to explain the Qur’an and Sunnah. The Hanbali Madhab gives preference to the text narrated by the companion over the fatwa of the companion if there is conflict or contradiction between the two.

3. Statements of the Sahaba which is more in sync with the texts.
This is when there is a difference of opinion between the sahaba.

If 2 narrations seemingly contradict each other then the Hanbali Madhab tries it’s level best to reconcile between them instead of rejecting one of them.
Next level is to check if there is any of the narrations has been abrogated.
Next level is to give preference to one narration over the other.
Out of all these Imam Ahmad would prefer using those which were the most authentic or had the strongest isnad. If there is a difference between narrations, then the Hanabila turn to Ikhtilaf al-Haal (Differences because of Circumstances). They say that the differences occurred because of the different scenarios and there is no inherent contradiction.

4. Mursal/Weak Ahadith
If nothing can be found from the Quran, Sunnah or the Statements of the Sahaba, then Imam Ahmad would prefer these narrations over using qiyas or ijtihad. Hanabila use weak ahadith and not false or rejected ahadith. What is meant here are those ahadith which are not very weak meaning not munkar or mawdu. There shouldn’t be anything else which may overpower this narration. Ex: A stronger narration.
There must be some sort of evidence to aid or back this week hadith which is under consideration.

5. Qiyas
Imam Ahmad preferred the qiyas of the earlier generations in comparison to later opinions.

Ijma is accepted also but we see Imam Ahmad not actively pushing it for he was afraid people would use the opinion of the majority of the scholars and pass it off as an ijma.


Development of The Hanbali Madhab

Level 1: المتقدمون – The Earliest

From the death of Imam Ahmad in 241 AH to the death of Sheikh Hassan Ibn Hamid in 403 AH.

Abu Bakr al-Khallal (311 AH)
Abu Muhammad al Barbahari (319 AH)
Abu Bakr al Ajurri (320 AH) – Author of Kitab al Shari’ah
Abul Qasim al-Khiraqi (334 AH) – Mukhtasar al-Khiraqi is the book Imam Ibn Qudamah explained in his al-Mughni
‘Abdurrahman Ibn Abi Hatim al Razi (d. 337)
al-Hassan Ibn Hamid al-Baghdadi al-Warraq (403 AH) – Abu Ya’la’s teacher


Level 2: المتوسطون – The Middle

This period ranges from 403AH to 884AH.

al-Qadhi Abu Ya’la Ibn al-Farrā (458 AH) – Tabaqat al-Hanabila
Abu Isma’il al Harawi (481 AH) – Author of Manazil al-Sa’irin
Abu al-Khattab Al Kalwadzani (510 AH)
Abu al-Wafa Ibn Aqeel (513 AH)
Abdul Qadir al Jilani (561 AH)
Abul Faraj ‘Abdurrhaman Ibn al-Jawzi (597 AH)
Taqi ad-Din ‘Abdul Ghani al Maqdisi (600 AH)
Muwaffaq ad-Din Abdullah Ibn Qudammah (620 AH)
Abul Barakat Majd ad-Din Ibn Taymiyyah (653 AH)
Najm al-Dīn Aḥmad bin Ḥamdān al-Ḥarrānī (695 AH)
Najm al-Din al-Tufi (716 AH)
Taqi al-Din Ibn Taymiyyah (728 AH)
Shams al-Din Ibn Muflih al Maqdisi (763 AH) – Author of Adab al-Shar’iyyah, Kitab Usul al-Fiqh, Kitab al-Furu
Zaynuddin Ibn Rajab (795 AH) – Author of al Jami’, Fath al Bari, Lata’if al-Ma’arif
Burhan ad-Din Ibn Muflih (884 AH) – Author of al Mubdi fi Sharh Mughni


Level 3: المتأخرون – The Late

This period ranges from 885 AH till date.

‘Ala al Din al Mardawi (885 AH) – Author of al- Insaf
Sharaf al Din Musa al Hajjawi (968 AH) – Author of Zaad al-Mustaqni, Al-Iqna’ li Talibi-l Intifa
Ibn al Najjar al Futuhi (980 AH) – Author of Muntaha al- Iradat
Mar’i Ibn Yusuf al-Karmi (1033 AH) – Author of Ghayatul Muntaha, Dalil al Talib
Mansur Ibn Yunus al Bahuti (1051 AH) – Author of Rawdatul Murbi, Sharhul Muntaha, Hāshiyah Al-Iqna’

Scholars like Ibn Badran, Bakr Abu Zaid etc differ on the classification but this is the basic skeleton of the figure heads.


The Timeline of the Madhab 

Imam Ahmad didn’t author a book of fiqh. Why? He wanted the focus to remain on the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of the Messenger. The Imam wasn’t a person who sought fame and also maybe because he was prevented from teaching for a large period of time.

Abu Bakr al-Marroodhi (275 AH) is one of the main transmitters. One of the most notable of his students was Abu Bakr al-Khallal (310 AH). The Hanbali Madhab has a lot of scholars named Abu Bakr. These two students of Imam al-Marroodhi did immense service to the magnum opus of their teacher, Ghulam al-Khallal’s Zaad al-Musafir is one of the oldest books of fiqh in the madhab.

Al-Khallal was a student of five of Imam Ahmad’s direct students, including his son Abdullah.

Imam al-Khallal’s student was Abu Bakr Abdul Aziz who was famously known as Ghulam al-Khallal (363 AH). Umar Ibn Hussain al-Khiraqi (334 AH) is another of Imam Khallal’s significant student. His Mukhtasar al-Khiraqi is the most taken care of book in the madhab. Ibn ‘Abd al-Hadi said in al-Durr al-Naqi that his teacher ‘Izz al-Din al-Misri said, ‘The Mukhtasar of al-Khiraqi has 300 commentaries written on it. The greatest commentary is Ibn Qudamah’s al-Mughni.

The Ghulam of al-Khallal wrote in his copy of the book, ‘In his Mukhtasar, Al-Khiraqi disagreed with me in 60 legal issues.’ He didn’t mention which ones. Ibn Abi Ya’la says in al-Tabaqat: “I looked into the differences between the two (the opinions of Ghulam al-Khallal and al-Khiraqi) and found that it was 98.”

The students of Imam Ahmad put together the opinions that they had recorded from Imam Ahmad. Imam Abu Bakr al-Khallal collects all these different opinions and fatawa from the different students with their chains of narration and compiles them in a 20 volume book called, Al-Jami’.

Abul Qasim al-Khiraqi took this book and rearranged them in the order of the Matn of a Fiqh book. This was called Mukhtasar al-Khiraqi. This was the first Hanbali book of Fiqh.

An interesting anecdote is narrated from Ghulam al-Khallal. He told his family to prepare for his janazah for the coming Friday. His family inquired how he could say that. He told them that his teacher al-Khallal died on Friday and he was 78 years old. His teacher al-Marroodhi died on a Friday and he was 78 years old. His teacher Imam Ahmad died on a Friday and he was 78 years of age. Interestingly, he indeed died that Friday himself at the age of 78.

al-Hassan Ibn Hamid al-Baghdadi al-Warraq (403 AH) was the student of Ghulam al-Khallal and the teacher of al-Qadhi Abu Ya’la. He marks the end of the first level of the Hanbali scholars and his student marks the beginning of the middle level of the Hanbali scholars.

Abu Ya’la had two famous students of which one is famous within the madhab and the other is famous even outside the madhab. Abu al-Khattab Al Kalwadzani (510 AH) is famous within the madhab. The other student was Ibn Aqeel (513 AH) who was an encyclopedia who was a verifier for the madhab. He wrote the commentary on Alfiyyah Ibn Malik in Nahw as well. One point to note is that in terms of Aqeedah his positions were not always in line with that of Imam Ahmad.

One of Abu Ya’la’s students Abul Khattab al-Kalwazani authored al-Intisar and al-Hidayah. al-Hidayah become the relied upon (Mu’tamad) book of the Madhab. He was of the teachers of Abdul Qadir al-Jeylani. Other scholars of this period include, Abu Ismail al-Harawi, Abu Wafa Ibn Aqeel, Abdul Qadir al-Jilani, Ibn al-Jawzi, Ibn Qudamah al-Maqdisi.

Abu al-Khattab and Ibn Aqeel were both teachers of Abdul Qadir al-Jeylani (561 AH). Ibn Qudamah was 19 or 20 years old when Abdul Qadir died and he had managed to study from him for 50 days. He had come from Damascus to study along with his cousin Abdul Ghani al-Maqdisi. Abdul Ghani collected the information of the narrators of the 6 Books of Hadith. Another important figure in the same period, but slightly younger to Abdul Qadir was Ibn al-Jawzi (597 AH). The two young scholars from Damascus then went to study with Ibn al-Jawzi after the death of Abdul Qadir. All the scholars mentioned till here were from Baghdad.

Of the teachers of Imam Ibn Qudamah, 3 female Shaykhas stand out in particular. Khadijah an-Nahrawaniyyah, Shuhdah al-Katibah, and Nafeesa al-Bazzaza.

Between Ibn Qudamah and Imam Ahmad are 7 people. 

To add a bit to Imam Ibn Qudamah; he was, Abu Muhammad, `Abdullah Ibn Ahmad Ibn Muhammad Ibn Qudamah (Ibn Miqdaam Ibn Nasr Ibn Abdillaah Ibn Hudhayfah Ibn Muhammad Ibn Ya’qoob Ibn al-Qasim Ibn Ibrahim Ibn Ismail Ibn Yahya Ibn Muhammad Ibn Salim Ibn `Abdillaah Ibn `Umar Ibn al-Khattaab al-Qurashi; al-Maqdisi; al-Jammaa`ili, then ad-Dimashqi; as-Saalihi

al-Qurashi: In ascription to the tribe of Quraish, since he was descended from Umar
al-Maqdisi: His family lived close to Baytul-Maqdis’ (Jerusalem).
al-Jamaa`ili: In ascription to the village of Jammaa’il where he was born; and it is a village on the hills of Nablus-a city about 40 miles north of Jerusalem in present day occupied Palestine.
ad-Dimashqi: In ascription to Damascus (in Syria) which is where his family migrated to, and where he lived for most of his life, and where he died.
as-Saalihi: In ascription to the Masjid of Saalihiyyah, near which they lived.

The curriculum prepared by Imam Ibn al-Qudamah includes:
1. al-Umdah: Basic primer with one textual proof.
2. al-Muqni': he most famous of the 2 narrations/opinions from Imam Ahmad and that which is the most correct opinion attributed to the Imam.
3. al-Kafi: More opinions are presented here with the evidences of the madhab.
4. al-Mughni: Differences of opinion within and outside the madhab including the other madhaib.
Imam al-Dhahabi quotes, Imam ’Izz al-Din Abd al-Salam, ”Out of all the Islamic books for knowledge, I’ve not seen any equal to the Muhalla of Ibn Hazim or the Mughni of al-Sheikh Muwaffaq al-Din.”

Ibn Qudamah purified Imam al-Ghazali’s al-Mustasfa from all its weaknesses in his Rawdatun Nadhir. One who has studied these 5 books is an alim who is at the level of ijtihad.

al-Muqni’ has a commentary called, Sharh al-Kabeer by the nephew of Ibn Qudamah named Shamsuddin Ibn Qudamah.
Sharafuddin Musa al-Hajjawi summarized al-Muqni’ called Zaad al-Mustaqni’. Sheikh Ibn al-Uthaymeen has a 20 volume caommentary titled, Sharh al-Mumti’ explaining this book.

Another major scholar of this period was Majduddin Ibn Taymiyyah (650AH), the grandfather of Sheikhul Islam Ibn Taymiyyah. He was a leading scholar who authored an explanation of al-Hidayah called al-Muharrar. It is said that when Muwaffaq and al-Majd agree on something then that is undoubtedly the madhab. When the Hanabila say “Shaykhan” then they are referring to Ibn Qudamah and Majduddin Ibn Taymiyyah. In reality, people relied so much on these 2, that people forgot the works of the scholars before them.

650 AH was a good year to die as in 655 AH, Baghdad succumbed to the onslaught of the Tartars. Baghdad which had been the seat of the Khilafa for nearly 500 years was never the same again. In 661 AH the famous Ibn Taymiyyah (728 AH), the grandson of al-Majd was born. Taqiuddin Ibn Taymiyyah (728 AH) called to going back to the works and sayings of Imam Ahmad. His students include Ibn al-Qayyim (751 AH), Ibn Abdul Hadi (744 AH), at-Tufi, Ibn Muflih (763 AH), Ibn Rajab (795 AH), Ibn Kathir, ad-Dahabi etc.

Ibn Muflih authored an important book called al-Furu’ which contains within it all the previous works of the madhab.

In this period, many books on Usul al-Fiqh were authored. The madhab spread to Sham and other places. The final relied upon work of this period was whatever Ibn Muflih mentioned in his al-Furu’.

It became difficult for the madhab to survive in Baghdad with the growing influence of the Shia. This pushed the Hanabila to move West towards al-Sham. Palestine primarily became the hub of the madhab and later followed by Damascus. The madhab continued to be dominated by scholars from Damascus and Jerusalem. From the time of Ibn al-Najjar and al-Buhuti the Egyptians started taking in. The madhab never left al-Sham completely for Egypt. They still had a significant presence.

After this is Imam al-Mardawi (885AH) who marks the beginning of the third level of the Hanbali scholars. He is famously known as al-Murajjih (the one who gives the correct answer), al-Musahhih (the one who corrects matters), al-Munaqqih (the one who investigates and examines). He is the foremost specialist of this period. He set the foundation of the madhab for the next 500-700 years.
He authored the famous, al-Insaf which was the commentary of al-Muqni’. He brought in this book all that came before him and then brings the correct position of the madhab.

Anything that which he authenticated becomes the Madhab. Ibn Najjar and Musa al-Hajjawi served the works of Imam al-Mardawi.

All those who come after this, rely upon 2 works. Ibn Qudamah’s al-Muqni’ and al-Mardawi’s Tanqih al-Mushbih’ fi Tahrir al-Muqni’. In this book al-Mardawi clarifies the differences of opinion and other matters which were mentioned in al-Muqni’.

Sharafuddin Musa al-Hajjawi (968 AH) who was a Mufti in Damascus complied these both together in al-Iqna.  Ibn Najjar al-Futuhi (980 AH) who was a Qadhi in Egypt compiled Muntaha al-Iradat which did the same service to the above 2 works.

Imam Mansur al-Buhuti is called the explainer of the Madhab. He wrote commentaries and explanations of the books.

al-Muqni’ is very authoritative in the madhab. Nearly everything that comes later in the madhab is in one way or the other related to it. This is till we had al-Iqna and Muntaha al-Iradat.

When it comes to larger books, Al-Iqna` and Munataha Al-Iradat and their commentaries are relied upon. Mari’ bin Yusuf has combined the two books in Ghayat Al-Muntaha, in the process reconciling the minor differences between them. Al-`Alama Al-Safarini when upon his death bed told his students: “You must study Al-Iqna` and Al-Muntaha, and whenever they differ you should refer to Ghayat Al-Muntaha.”

al-Iqna and al-Iradat till date have become the main and relied upon manuals for judiciary etc. The wording in al-Iqna is easier to understand in comparison. If there is any difference between the 2, then scholars give preference to Muntaha al-Iradat. After this period scholars either explained these books, combined between them or summarized them etc. al-Futuhi himself has an explanation of al-Iradat.

Imam al-Buhuti (1051 AH) explained al-Iqna in Kashaf al-Qina and explained Muntaha al-Iradat in Sharh Muntaha al-Iradat. Imam Mar`i bin Yusuf combined the two books in Ghayat Al-Muntaha.

The Hanabilah of today stick by 2 books for their verdicts and rulings:
1. al-Iqna’ by Imam Musa al-Hajjawi
2. Muntaha al-Iradat by Imam Ibn Najjar

Zaad al-Mustaqni is the summary of al-Muqni. Became very famous and also a part of the curriculum in many schools. Daleel al-Talib is like a summary of Muntaha al-Iradat. This was explained in Manar as-Sabeel. The evidences in Manar as-Sabeel were authenticated and put together by Sheikh al-Albani in Irwah al-Ghaleel. What al-Iqna and al-Iradat agree upon, then this is the final position of the Madhab.

No items found.
  • Our Latest
  • Instagram Posts