AHMAD IBN HANBAL (780-855), the founder, involuntarily and after his death, of the Hanbalite school of canon law, was born at Bagdad in A.H. 164 (A.D. 780) of parents from Merv but of Arab stock. He studied the Koran and its traditions (hadith, sunna) there and on a student journey through Mesopotamia, Arabia and Syria. After his return to Bagdad he studied under ash-Shafi’i between 195 and 198, and became, for his life, a devoted Shafi-‘ite. But his position in both theology and law was more narrowly traditional than that of ash-Shafi’i; he rejected all reasoning, whether orthodox or heretical in its conclusions, and stood for acceptance on tradition (naql) only from the Fathers. In consequence, when al-Ma’mun and, after him, al-Mo’tasim and al-Wathio tried to force upon the people the rationalistic Mo’tazihte doctrine that the Koran was created, Ibn Hanbal, the most prominent and popular theologian who stood for the old view, suffered with others grievous imprisonment and scourging. In 234, under al-Motawakkil, the Koran was finally decreed uncreated, and Ibn Hanbal, who had come through this trial better than any of the other theologians, enjoyed an immense popularity with the mass of the people as a saint, confessor and ascetic. He died at Bagdad in 241 (A.D. 855) and was buried there. There was much popular excitement at his funeral, and his tomb was known and visited until at least the 14th century A.D.
On his great work, the Musnad, a collection of some thirty thousand selected traditions, see Goldzther in ZDMG, l. 463 ff. For his life and works generally see W. M. Patten, Ahmed ibn Hanbal and the Mihna; C. Browkelmann, Geschichte der Arab. Lit. i. 181 ff.; F Wustenfeld, Schfai’iten, 55 ff.; M‘G. de Slane’s transl. of Ibn Khallikan, i. 44 ff.; Macdonald, Development of Muslim Theology, 110, 157, index.
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