Ahmad ibn Hanbal

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Abū ʿAbdallāh Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Hanbal al-Shaibānī (أبو عبد الله أحمد بن محمد بن حنبل الشيباني, DMG Abū ʿAbdallāh Aḥmad ibn Muḥammad ibn Ḥanbal aš-Shaibānī ; born 780 in Baghdad ; d. 855 ibid.), often referred to as Ahmad or Ibn Hanbal for short in literature , was an Islamic traditionalist , theologian and faqīh who worked in Basra and Baghdad. He was the youngest among the founders of the four established schools of law ( madhhab ) of Islamic law ( fiqh ) in Sunni Islam , namely the school of theHanbalites .

The mosque dedicated to Ahmad ibn Hanbal in Medina , Saudi Arabia ; in Saudi Arabia the Hanbali teaching direction predominates


Ibn Hanbal's family came from Basra and later moved to Merw . His father, a member of the Arab tribe Banu Shayban of the Rabīʿa , served in the Abbasid army in Khorasan and settled with his family in Baghdad. Ibn Hanbal studied regularly with Huschaim b. Bashir and with Sufyan ibn ʿUyaina. Ibn Hanbal is also said to have attended the lessons of the Hanafi Kadis Abū Yūsuf († 798), who was a student of Abū Ḥanīfa. Abū Yūsuf had little influence on Ibn Hanbal. To say that Ibn Hanbal was also said to have been a disciple of Muhammad ibn Idrīs al-Shāfidī is an exaggeration. Ibn Hanbal probably met al-Shafid only once in 810 in Baghdad.

In 795 Ahmad went on extensive study trips that took him to Syria , Yemen , Khorasan , Mecca and Medina . Several authorities of the hadith literature of the early 9th century had a great influence on his education, among them Sufyan ibn ʿUyaina († 811) in Mecca, Abd al-Rahman ibn Mahdi († 813) in Basra and Waki 'ibn al- Jarrah († 812) in Kufa , the then undisputed representatives of the Ashāb al-hadīth .

Ahmad's closeness to theology determined his fate during the Mihna , when al-Mamun declared the Jahmitic doctrine of the composition of the Koran to be state doctrine. In September 834 he and other representatives of the ahl al-sunna had to appear at the caliph's court and submit to the Mihna. He was flogged, imprisoned and placed under house arrest. Only under al-Mutawakkil ʿalā Llāh (from 847) could he teach undisturbed and appear in public. Eight years later he died in Baghdad after a brief illness.

His son Salih has his father's life under the title سيرة أحمد بن حنبل / Sīrat Aḥmad b. Ḥanbal  / 'The biography of Ahmad ibn Hanbal' summarized. The book first appeared in print in 1995 in Riyadh .


  • al-Musnad, his best-known work, is a monumental collection of more than 29,000 hadiths of the Prophet Mohammed , which he collected according to many sources and passed on to his sons. According to its structure, the work bears the simple title al-Musnad. It is a collection that Ibn Hanbal put together after the key witnesses, the Prophet's Companions ( sahaba ), who heard the statements of the Prophet directly from him. The work begins with the traditions handed down by the first caliphs after the Prophet, followed by the Meccan emigrants ( muhadschirun ), al-Ansar , the so-called helpers and the Prophet's companions , who found themselves in the Muslim foundations in the provinces (Kufa, Basra, Syria, etc.) settled during the Islamic conquest . At the end of this collection, which lacks any thematic order of the hadith , there are the traditions of anonymous people and women who conveyed statements about Muhammad. The work in six volumes was first printed in Būlāq (Cairo) in 1895 and reprinted several times. There are also several new editions that replace the old Būlāq edition with a modern font.
  • The Kitāb al-Sunan (also: al-Sunna) deals with dogmatic questions in the strict interpretation of the Sunnis . In this collection of two volumes, written in the form of responsa , Ibn Hanbal gives information on how prophetic traditions and their narrators from the point of view of the ahl as-sunna wal-jamaʿa represented by himأهل السنة والجماعة / ahl as-sunna wa-ʾl-ǧamāʿa  / 'the followers of the Sunna and the unity of the Muslims' are to be judged in detail.
  • The Kitāb ar-Radd ʿalā l-Ǧahmīya wa-z-zanādiqa is a rejection of the teachings of Jahm ibn Safwān, as well as various views influenced by Manichaeism .
  • The Kitāb al-Ašriba ("Book of Drinks") is exclusively dedicated to those traditions that deal with the Koranic alcohol ban in Islam and its interpretation. It is therefore a treatise with a limited subject matter of only 60 printed pages (Bagdad 1967).
The legal questions from Abū Dāwūd al-Siǧistānī to Ibn Ḥanbal. One of the oldest literary manuscripts in the Islamic world, produced in Rabīʿ I. 266 (October 879)
  • Al-Masāʾil is a collection of answers to legal, dogmatic and ethical questions. The individual questions were collected by his successors - among them his sons Salih, who later became Qadi of Isfahan , († 878) and Abdallah, who devoted himself to hadith literature (d. 903) - and edited towards the end of the 9th century . One of these collections goes back to Abū Dāwūd as-Sidschistānī († 888 in Basra). It is preserved in the National Library - al-Zahiriya - (today: Maktabat Asad ) of Damascus and was last printed in Medina in 1994. Abū Dāwūd later created a collection of legal questions, in the assessment of which he deviated from Ahmad ibn Hanbal. This work is also preserved in the Damascus library and is one of the oldest manuscripts in the Islamic world from the year 879. The manuscript is probably an autograph (see photo).

to teach

Ahmad ibn Hanbal endeavored to derive all laws from the Koran , the Sunna and the consensus ( idschmāʿ ) of the first generations. The sources of fiqh defined by ash-Shāfiʿī - the conclusion by analogy ( qiyās ) and the independent doctrinal opinion ( ra'y ) lost their importance for him. This is primarily due to the fact that Ahmad ibn Hanbal was more in circles of hadith scholars than in those of jurists. In contrast to Ash-Shāfidī, Ahmad did not consider an uninterrupted chain of trades right up to the Prophet to be necessary for hadiths ; he also invoked mursal traditions.

On the theological level, Ahmad ibn Hanbal represented anthropomorphic teachings (tašbīh). He affirmed that God has a human form with a face, eyes, hair, voice, breath, hands, fingers, feet, and even loins. While anthropomorphic ideas about God were widespread among Muslim scholars in his day, they were later viewed as false teachings in Sunni Islam. The Hanbalites also turned away from these teachings. Ibn al-Dschauzī (d. 1200) tried in his work Dafʿ šubhat at-tašbīh bi-akuff at-tanzīh (" Avoidance of the suspicion of anthropomorphism with the means of transcendentalism") to provide evidence that Hanbali scholars who continue to be anthropomorphic Doctrines represented, could not rely on their law school founder. The Kitāb Dafʿ šubah min šabbah wa-tamarrad wa-nasab ḏalik ilā al-imām Aḥmad ("Book to avert the pseudo arguments of those who insolently compare God with man and ascribe this to Imam Ahmad") had a similar intention Syrian scholar Taqī ad-Dīn al-Hisnī († 1426).


  • Ignaz Goldziher : On the history of the Hanbali movements. In: Journal of the German Oriental Society. 62/1908, pp. 1-28.
  • Miklós Murányi : Fiqh. In: Helmut Gätje (Hrsg.): Outline of Arabic Philology. Volume II: Literary Studies. P. 320: The Hanbalīya, Dr. Ludwig Reichelt Verlag, Wiesbaden 1987.
  • Walter M. Patton: Ahmad b. Hanbal and the Mihna. Heidelberg 1897.
  • Fuat Sezgin : History of Arabic Literature. Volume IS 502-509. Brill, Leiden 1967.
  • Wesley Williams: "Aspects of the creed of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal: a study of anthropomorphism in early Islamic doctrine", in: International Journal of Middle East Studies 34 (2002) 441-463.

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Henri Laoust : Ahmad b. Hanbal. In: Encyclopaedia of Islam. 2nd edition, Volume 1, p. 272.
  2. Fuat Sezgin (1967) p. 510.
  3. Cf. Sezgin: History of Arabic literature. 1967, Volume I., p. 507.
  4. Cf. Sezgin: History of Arabic literature. 1967, Volume I., p. 507.
  5. Fuat Sezgin (1967) p. 152
  6. M. Muranyi (1987). P. 320
  7. Cf. Birgit Krawietz: The hierarchy of legal sources in traditional Sunni Islam. Duncker & Humblot, Berlin, 2002. p. 148.
  8. See Williams: "Aspects of the creed of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal". 2002, p. 449.
  9. See Williams: "Aspects of the creed of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal". 2002, p. 444.