[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 
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 
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 
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 ān) 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.