All praise is for Allah Lord of the worlds. Peace and blessings be upon Muhammad (Salallahu-a'laihi wassallam), his pure family, his companions and all those who strive to follow in their footsteps till the last day. To proceed :
Abu `Abdullah Ahmad bin Muhammad bin Hanbal, Al-Shaybani Al-Baghdadi (d. 241). Al-Dhahabi says of him: "The true Shaikh of Islam and leader of the Muslims in his time, the hadith master and proof of the Religion. He took hadith from Hushaym, Ibrahim ibn Sa`d, Sufyan ibn `Uyayna, `Abbad ibn `Abbad, Yahya ibn Abi Za'ida, and their layer. From him narrated Imaam Al-Bukhari, Imaam Muslim, Abu Dawud, Abu Zur`a, Mutayyan, `Abdullah bin Ahmad, Al-Baghawi, and a huge array of scholars. His father was a soldier one of those who called to Islam and he died young."
He was chiefly interested in acquiring knowledge of ahadith and traveled extensively through Iraq, Syria, Arabia and other places in the Middle East studying religion and collecting the ahadith of Prophet Muhammad (Salallahu-a'laihi wassallam). His travels occupied several years of his early life.
After returning home, he became a student of Imam Shafi'ee who taught him the subject of Islamic Fiqh and its fundamentals. This and the fact that he was a scholar of hadith, were responsible for his deep devotion to the textual views on Islam, and his opposition to innovation of any kind.
The strength of his faith in Allah and the steadfastness on his understanding of the Deen were tested when under Khalifah al-Mamum and the Khalifah al-Mu'tasim, a Fitnah or a kind of 'inquisition court' was created to deal with people among whom were many acknowledged scholars who would not profess the doctrine of "the creation of the Quran". Imaam bin Hanbal too, suffered as a result when he was arrested and brought in chains before the court. But he patiently submitted to corporal punishment and imprisonment and resolutely refused to deviate from his beliefs.
His trial, and the Ummah's for that matter, were to come to an end on the hands of the Khalifah al-Mutawakkil who did not believe in the doctrine of 'the creation of the Quran'. From then onwards the Imam was accorded honor befitting his greatness. His steadfastness helped preserve the correct Islamic belief regarding the Book of Allah. His fame spread far and wide. His learning, piety and unswerving faithfulness to traditions gathered the Ummah and its scholars around his understanding and teachings. He died in Baghdad in the year 855 CE (241 AH).
Among the works of Imam bin Hanbal is the great encyclopedia of ahadith called al-Musnad, compiled during his life time, completed by his son Abdullah, and amplified by supplements. Al-Musnad contains more than thirty thousand ahadih. His other works include "Kitab-us-Salah", on the discipline of making salah and "Kitab-us-Sunnah", on matters of aqeedah as they are understood from the hadith of the prophet, (Salallahu-a'laihi wassallam) and the sayings and commentaries of the companions of the Prophet, (Salallahu-a'laihi wassallam).
Imaam Adh-Dhahabi related many of the praises stated by the scholars who knew Ibn Hanbal personally. The biography of Ibn Hanbal spread over at least 113 pages of Adh-Dhahabi's, "Siyar A'lam an-Nubala".
Abdullah bin Ahmad, the Imam's son, said: "I heard Abu Zur'ata Rrazi say: 'Your father had memorized a million hadith, which I rehearsed with him according to the topic,'"
Harmala said: "I heard ash-Shafi'ee say: 'I left Baghdad and did not leave behind me anyone more virtuous, more learned, more knowledgeable than Ahmad bin Hanbal.'"
Imaam Ibn Al-Jawzi relates in al-Manaaqib (p. 192) "Imaam Ahmad was the foremost among the Imaams in collecting the Sunnah and sticking to it."
Ibrahim al-Harbi said: "I held Imaam Ahmad as one for whom Allah had gathered up the combined knowledge of the first and the last."
Imaam Ash-Shafi`ee said "You (addressing Imaam Ahmad bin Hanbal) are more knowledgeable about Hadith than I, so when a hadith is Sahih, inform me of it, whether it is from Kufah, Basrah or Syria, so that I may take the view of the hadith, as long as it is Sahih. Related by Ibn Abi Haatim in Aadaab ash-Shaafi'i (pp. 94-5),
Abu `Ubayd said: "The Science at its peak is in the custody of four men, of whom Ahmad bin Hanbal is the most knowledgeable."
Some great scholars who followed the madhab of Imaam Ahmad Bin Hanbal.
Ibn ul-Qayyim al-Jawziyyah reported in his book Imaam Al-Bukhari, Imaam Muslim and Imaam Abu Dawood were strong followers of Imaam Ahmad bin Hanbal. Other great Imaams who followed the teachings of Imaam Ahmad include Shaikh-ul-Islam Taqi ad-Deen Ibn Taymiyyah, AbdulQadir Jillaani, Ibn ul-Qayyim al-Jawziyyah, Al-Haafidh Zaynud-Deen Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali, Imam Muhammed Bin Abdul Wahab and Imam Ibn ul Jawzi.
Imaam Ahmad was imprisoned and tortured for twenty-eight months under the Abbasid caliph al-Mu`tasim in an effort to force him to publicly espouse the [Mu`tazila] position that the Holy [Quran] was created, but the Imam bore up unflinchingly under the persecution and refused to renounce the belief of Ahl- us-Sunna that the [Quran] is the uncreated word of Allah, after which Allah delivered and vindicated him. When Ahmad died in 241/855, he was accompanied to his resting place by a funeral procession of eight hundred thousand men and sixty thousand women, marking the departure of the last of the four great mujtahid Imams of Islam."
List of Scholars