Ahmad ibn Hanbal (Makers of the Muslim World) by Christopher Melchert

By Christopher Melchert

Christopher Melchert examines the forefather of the fourth of the 4 imperative Sunni colleges of jurisprudence, the Hanbali. Upholding the view that the Qur'an used to be uncreated and the direct notice of God, Ahmad ibn Hanbal (780-855) notion that the holy textual content might be learn actually, rejecting any danger for metaphorical or revisionist interpretation. Melchert assesses the significance of ibn Hanbal's teachings and analyses their relevance in smooth Sunni Islam.

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He was apparently one of the experts on whom Shafi‘i relied, although without ever mentioning him by name. So far as I am aware, Ahmad never used the term mutawatir and on principle would not debate with the Mu‘tazilah. It was presumably his view that even if most hadith reports were transmitted by four or fewer Companions (no more than the four Evangelists), all Companions were sufficiently virtuous not to have conspired to deceive. As for later transmitters, hadith criticism could demonstrate who was reliable.

Ahmad’s position was to stress the use of criticism to distinguish between reliable and unreliable hadith, and practiced it intensely himself. He was apparently one of the experts on whom Shafi‘i relied, although without ever mentioning him by name. So far as I am aware, Ahmad never used the term mutawatir and on principle would not debate with the Mu‘tazilah. It was presumably his view that even if most hadith reports were transmitted by four or fewer Companions (no more than the four Evangelists), all Companions were sufficiently virtuous not to have conspired to deceive.

When his friends searched him out, they found his clothes had been stolen and so he could not go out in public. He was offered loans and gifts but refused them. He was finally prevailed on to earn a little money copying some notebooks and so was able to replace his stolen clothing (TMD 5:249). He once financed a journey between Mecca andYemen by hiring himself out to some camel herders (Jarh 1:301). Walking to Tarsus, he gathered fallen fruit (Manaqib, 225 308). One alternative to being supported by one’s teachers was private wealth.

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