[Many thanks for the following contribution. It seems to be copied from a web page somewhere.] From the life and works of Imaam Ahmad Bin Hanbal By Shaikh Saalih bin AbdulAziz Ala Shaikh In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful, the All-Merciful, may His Peace and Blessings be upon His Final Messenger, to proceed: Dedicating One's Youth to Worship Humbling Oneself and Rejecting Popularity Praying at Night Identifying Innovation and Staying Away From it Speaking Only About Beneficial Matters Seeking Safety and Good Health When Supplicating Memorizing the Quran The Effect of Knowledge in One's Writings Loving and Hating for the Right Reasons Recognizing the Position of the Scholars Living in Fear of Allah Seeking Knowledge Until Death Dedicating One's Youth to Worship Since his childhood, Imaam Ahmad (may Allah have Mercy on him) could be seen with signs of nusuk on him. Ma'roof Al-Karkhee (may Allah have Mercy on him) said, "I saw Ahmad bin Hanbal when he was a young boy, and he had signs of nusuk on him. I used to hear him making statements that were full of benefit." This statement describes how he was upon guidance even as a young boy. He used to be seen with signs of nusuk on him. What is meant by nusuk is worship and acts of obedience. The effects of worship and obedience are not only physical ones seen in the appearance and dress, but their effects are also found in one's speech, manners, in the acts of worship and obedience themselves, and in one's preference for the Next Life over this one. Imaam Ahmad said about his own self, "I did not marry until after I reached 40 years of age." His companions said that this was because he used to be busy traveling to seek knowledge before that. He went to Makkah, and from there to San'aa'. There is a story about this trip: He set out with his companion, Yahyaa ibn Ma'een, for Hajj. He said to Yahyaa, "When I finish Hajj, verily I am going to Yemen to meet the scholar of Yemen, the scholar of Hadith, 'AbdurRazzaq bin Hammaam As-San'ani." When they reached Makkah, they found that 'AbdurRazzaq was making Hajj that year as well. So Yahyaa knew who he was and met him. He saw him going around the Ka'bah, and since he knew him, he went and greeted him. Yahyaa said to 'AbdurRazzaq, and they knew each other, "This is Ahmad bin Hanbal." So 'AbdurRazzaq became happy about this and said, "It has reached us that he is a person who has a lot of goodness." When they prayed their two rak'ahs after making tawwaaf, Yahyaa said to Imaam Ahmad, "Ahmad, our provisions for the journey to San'aa' have been used. And here is 'AbdurRazzaq, so let us stay with him so we can take some narrations from him." Imaam Ahmad said to Yahyaa bin Ma'een, "My intention is still present, and I will not oppose it. So I will continue on to San'aa'." This shows the effects of his commitment to the hardships of seeking knowledge. A trip to San'aa' in that time was not made in cars or airplanes or the likes, rather it was only made with great hardships, the realities of which can not be described. Ma'roof said, "I saw Ahmad bin Hanbal when he was a young boy and he had signs of nusuk on him." In reality, this is what we should see in our children, that they work hard to correct themselves in their youth, in their early years. Because at this age, if they do not build upon this foundation with what is correct, with acts of worship and obedience, then it will be very difficult after that, except for those whom Allah, the Mighty and Exalted, excludes. Whoever holds to His Religion in his youth, firmness will return to him. Someone being devout or obedient is not just a claim or a verbal ascription to something, nor is it something seen only from the outside. Rather devoutness in the Religion entails one taking on serious rituals, he must worship, and he must be obedient. This leads us to the story when Imaam Ahmad once hosted one of his students in Hadith, 'AbdusSamad bin Sulaymaan. When he was hosting him in his house, and it came time to sleep, he brought him some water to make wudhoo' from or for general use. Then he went to sleep. When the morning came, Imaam Ahmad saw that all of the water was still there, so he asked about it. ''AbdusSamad replied, "I did not use the water." Imaam Ahmad said, "A student of the narrations who does not do anything at night?!" He meant, "All the way to the morning, you did not pray in the night?! You did not worship!? You did not even pray two rak'ahs?!" 'AbdusSamad replied, "Verily I am a traveler." He said, "Even as a traveler!" Meaning, "Where is the witr? Where is the prayer?" So without a doubt, if this was important in that day and time for cultivating one's soul and getting set in the proper direction, then we are in more need of it today. This is the case especially with the youth who seek knowledge, or those holding tight to their guidance, or those who display the effects of prayer, or those who are keen in doing good deeds. One must keep his soul tied to some acts of worship. No doubt, one must keep his soul tied to some acts of obedience. If you force the soul to be obedient, it will become obedient. If you abandon it, then it will be a soul that gravitates toward wrongdoing. It has been related that the Prophet (sallallaahu 'alayhe wa sallam) said, "Whoever shows enduring patience, Allah will make him firm upon patience." [Sahih Al-Bukhari] Therefore, this description of Imaam Ahmad proves that he had an upbringing based on obedience to Allaah and acts of worship, so much so that he used to force his soul to shun many worldly things and to take on great hardships. The result of this was that he established his soul firmly upon obedience to Allah, the Mighty and Exalted. [Back up to top] Humbling Oneself and Rejecting Popularity From the guidance that we will take from the fountains of Imaam Ahmad that do not dry up, is the statement of Muhammad bin Hasan bin Haaroon, "I saw that when Abu 'Abdullah walked the streets, he hated that someone would walk behind him." Furthermore, 'Abdullah, the son of Imaam Ahmad, said, "When he went out to Juma'ah prayer, my father would not allow anyone to follow behind him, and he used to stop until the people following him would pass him up." Why was that? Because this is a trial for the one being followed, and a form of humiliation to the follower. Imaam Ahmad knew that if someone followed him, he would benefit, either from his supplications, or perhaps he would ask a question, but, from his keenness to remedy his soul, he disliked to be tested by having a group of people following behind him. A simple affair from something everyone does - he would not be pleased with anyone following him, rather he loved to walk by himself. He was so keen on keeping himself pure, by going out to the prayer and returning to his house alone. These manners will help everyone who has been tested by Allah with a following of people, whether the people look up to him because of knowledge, status, or even worldly things. He must humble himself and not assist the Shaytan in destroying his own self. He must shun all avenues leading to this. If he sees within himself any amazement or pride with himself pride, or that he sees himself as being great, then he must lower himself and be humble so that he can set himself straight. This is because pride is a huge thing, one of the major sins. The Prophet (sallallaahu 'alayhe wa sallam) said, "The one who has even the smallest particle of pride in his heart will not enter Paradise." [Reported by Imaam Muslim in his Sahih #263] This is what is binding on all those that the people follow, that they know this is a test from Allah and they dedicate themselves to lowering themselves and having humility. And those who follow them should be careful as well, they should not go against someone trying to work by this advice. So if a person finds a scholar trying to be humble like this, then let him be easy on him. Let him benefit from him in any environment he finds him in, at study circles, in classrooms, etc., however, he must not follow him to every place as he may detest that. Every sincere scholar dedicated to the education of the people hates to have the people follow him, and he hates that they say great things about him, since praise is something that he fears will affect his heart. Ibn Masud (Radhiallahu Án) said, advising his students, prohibiting them from following him, "This is a belittlement of the followers and a trial for the one being followed." [Back up to top] Praying at Night One of Imaam Ahmad's students, 'Abd-us-Samad bin Sulaymaan, said, "I stayed with Ahmad bin Hanbal. He left for me a container of water. In the morning he found that I had not used it. He said, 'A companion of the narrations, and he has no activity in the night?!' I told him, 'I am a traveler.' He replied, 'Even as a traveler!'" This is an outstanding lesson from Imaam Ahmad! The student of knowledge must keep himself upon some rites of worship, he must have an eagerness to get close to Allah, the Mighty and Majestic. How will he memorize the Sunnah? How will he gain knowledge? How will he learn? How will he gain understanding? How will he comprehend the meanings of the Quran? How will he understand its explanation? How will he memorize the Quran when he does not keep himself firm upon acts of worship and obedience? He must dedicate himself specifically to praying at night, with whatever is easy for him. Allah says: "Stand the night except for a little" [Quran Surah Al-Muzzammil #73 Verse #2] Then, Allah the Exalted says in the last part of the same chapter: "Then recite from the Quran what is easy " [Quran Surah Al-Muzzammil #73 Verse #20] This means that you stand for a time that is easy on you, even if it is only three rak'ahs. Stand for whatever is easy for you. It can not be that the norm for the student of knowledge is that he does not pray tahajjud at night, that he does not dedicate himself to some worship. The righteous man, the one who seeks to correct himself, must have a special concern for this great act of worship, standing in the night. Praying at night is one thing. These days we need to talk about something even more serious. We have to talk about offering the Far prayer in congregation! If the people of the past were advised to take care of their prayers at night, then where are we?! in these times when many of the people who ascribe to righteousness can not even master praying the Far prayer in congregation! Then how will our affair be, and what should we be talking about? No doubt the affair is not easy, so let every one of us inspect our own selves. Let us repent sincerely, without delay, from every sin. If we have been negligent of our duties, then repentance is obligatory. If we have been negligent of recommended things, then a person renews his commitment to seek Allah's great Bounties. Allah the Exalted has described the people of taqwaa in Surah Ath-Thaariyaat : " Verily the pious will be in gardens and springs, Receiving what Allah has given them, Verily they used to do good works before that, They used to sleep little at night, And they used to seek forgiveness in the morning " [Quran Surah Ath-Thaariyaat #51 Verses #14-18] Al-Hasan Al-Basri (may Allah have Mercy on him) spoke about these two verses "They used to sleep little at night, And they used to seek forgiveness in the morning ", with some very remarkable comments. He said, "They stood the night praying, and when the early morning came they sought forgiveness, fearing that their prayers would not be accepted from them." These are the kinds of statements that come from those who have live hearts. We may have no part in the affair except to convey the narration, as the ones who we narrate to may be more receptive and understanding of them than the narrator.