Memoirs from the life of Imam Ahmad


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In an interesting book, Wadâ’ ar-Rasul li `Ummatihi, Shaykh Al-Qahtâni recalls the final words that Rasul Allâh said on his deathbed.

After living a life of Jihad, Da’wah, and Ibâdah, Rasul Allâh ﷺ gathered the
people around him on his deathbed and said,

 “ “I have left two things that you shall
not go astray after them so long as you stick to them: the Book of Allâh and My

After Rasul Allâh ﷺ moved onto Ar-Rafîq al-`Alâ, the Ummah was tested with humans that tried to corrupt, discredit, or amputate the Sunnah from Islam.

And from the depths of the Ummah’s men and women, Allâh ta’ala – from His mercy to the Ummah of Muhammad – raised up warriors that would stand in the face of the most vicious of the enemies of the Sunnah.

From those people that Allâh ta’ala raised was a young boy named Ahmad. Ahmad lived in Baghdad over a thousand years ago. On those cold wintry nights, his mother –
the blessed Mu’minah that she was – would wake long before Fajr to warm the water for her son. Then – again long before Fajr – she would wake him to make Wudu, then she would wrap him in shawls and off through the molten dark alleys of Baghdad they would carefully make their way to the Masjid.

There was no male to escort him (he was an orphan), so Ahmad’s mother would take him that early so that he could get a good seat in the Hadith halaqah after Fajr. Then she would wait for him long after the sun rose to safely escort him back home. Her son grew up to be one of these warrior defenders of the Sunnah, one of the four Imams of this Dîn, Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal.

In his collection, al-Musnad alone, he narrated from over 280 teachers. He grew up under the shade of the Sunnah and he lived the Sunnah. It was reported that he said,

  “I’ve never written a hadith that I did not try to implement.”

And he raised his children like this too. When you see other fathers throwing a
baseball with their young Muslims that Allâh entrusted them with, remember this example:

Abdullâh, Imam Ahmad’s son, taught his students that when he was young his father
would play with him,

  “Take any chapter you wish from the Musannaf of Wakî’. Ask me any hadith and I’ll tell you the chain of narrators, or tell me any chain of narrators and I’ll tell you the hadith!”

He was challenged in his Dîn like few other humans have been challenged. His name remains engraved in our admiration till today – across hundreds of years, across thousands of miles, across thousands of nations – because of his love for the Sunnah
and his stand against those that would seek to corrupt it.

Reading through his life, I came across an event that brought back sad memories. How do you feel when your father is swore at in public. Imam Ahmad once prayed Asr and he sat with his son in the Masjid alone with another man by the name of Muhammad ibn Sa’îd Al- Khuttalî. Al-Khuttalî then remarked,

  “Did you (O Ahmad) tell the people to boycott Zayd ibn Khalaf?”

Imam Ahmad replied,

  “I received a letter from his people asking about his affair, so I replied explaining his Madhhab and what he has innovated (in the Sunnah) and commanded that they not sit with him..”

Al-Khuttalî exploded in Imam Ahmad’s face, red with anger,

  “I’m going to make sure you go back to prison. I’m going to have them crush your ribs…”

The vulgarity grew louder and louder. Imam Ahmad turned to his son,

  “Don’t reply to what he says and don’t speak to him.”

Imam Ahmad took his sandals – al-Khuttali swearing from behind his back – and told
his son,

  “Tell the neighbors to not speak to him nor to reply him.”

Imam Ahmad stepped away as Al-Khuttali continued in the background cursing and shouting profanity.

When the Khalifah al-Mu’tasim heard that Imam Ahmad had not agreed with him and his court Muftis on a specific issue, they brought him and questioned him in the courtyard of the Khalifah. They would debate with him and like a gladiator with a spear he would hit back with bigger and stronger arguments. The Muftis would shout,
“O khalifah, he has done Kufr!” Until the Al-Mu’tasim was convinced and in came the

They stripped Imam Ahmad and each of the strongest guards would take turns lashing
Imam Ahmad until he fell unconscious. Regardless of his state, they continued the lashing. The sun went down that day and Imam Ahmad had not relented in his faith.
That day he became an icon for all followers of Sunnah.

Qutaybah said,

  “If you ever see someone that loves Imam Ahmad, know that they are a follower of the Sunnah.”

Al Hasan ibn Arafah narrated,

  “I visited Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal after he was whipped and tortured. I said to him, “O Abu Abdillâah, you have reached the station of the Prophets!” He said, “Keep quiet. Verily, I saw nothing more than people selling
their Dîn. And I saw scholars that were with me sell their Faith. So I said to myself, `Who am I, what am I. What am I going to say to Allâh tomorrow when I stand in front of Him and He asks me, “Did you sell your Dîn like the others did?” So I looked at the whip and the sword and chose them. And I said, “If I die I shall return to Allâh and say: `I was told to say that one of Your Characteristics was something created but I did not.’ After that, it will be up to Him – either to punish me or forgive me.”

Al-Hasan ibn Arafah then asked,

  “Did you feel pain when they whipped you?”

He said

  “Yes, I felt the pain up to 20 lashes then I lost all feeling (They whipped him over
eighty times). After it was over I felt no pain and that day I prayed Dhuhr standing.”

[In fact he prayed as the blood soiled his clothes.]

Al-Hasan ibn Arafah started weeping when he heard what had happened. Imam Ahmad questioned him,

  “Why are you crying? I did not lose my Iman. After that
why should I care if I lose my life.”

[Qul lan yusîbana illa mâ kataballâhu lana, huwa Mowlâna, wa ala Allâhi falyatawakkalil mutawakkilun.]

Before – when Imam Ahmad was being led off to the Khalifah – people had tried to
dissuade him from a most certain execution. His student: Al-Marrudhî had told him,
“O teacher, Allâh says, [Do not kill yourselves].” Imam Ahmad had replied, “O
Marrudhî, go outside and tell me what you see.”
Al-Marrudhî went to the wall of the Khalifahs court and saw an ocean of students with their pens and scrolls in their hands.

Al-Marrudhî asked some of them, “What are you waiting here for?” They said, “We are waiting to see what Ahmad will say and then transcribe it.” Al-Marrudhî went back to Imam Ahmad and told him what he had seen. “O Marrudhî,”he said, “what shall I gain by misguiding all those people?”

Imam Ahmad lived a life of poverty. When others eat lavishly remember there were
days – as Abdurrazzaq recalls – that Imam Ahmad would make a mistake in Salah. When Abdurrazzaq inquired further he learnt that Imam Ahmad had not eaten for 3 days.

In this life of poverty, hardship and trials, Abdullah asked his father one day,
“Abi when will we ever relax?” His father, one of the greatest revivers of the Sunnah, a role model for all Muslims, looked him in the eye and said, “With the first step we take into Jannah.”

Rahim Allâhu Al-Imam Ahmad.

(NOTE: If you want to build a strong and powerful relationship with Allah, check out Islamia TV, where you can watch Islamic speakers from across the globe deliver inspiring and motivational courses. Learn more at

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