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Ahmad ibn Hanbal
country of citizenship:
language of expression: Arabic, Persian
occupation: muhaddith, faqih, theologian, philosopher
student of: Al-Shafi‘i, Sufyan ibn `Uyaynah, ‘Abd ar-Razzaq as-San‘ani, Abu Yusuf, Yahya ibn Ma'in, Bihz ibn Asad
Aḥmad Ibn Muḥammad Ibn Ḥanbal Abū ʿAbdullāh Ash-Shaybānī (Arabic: احمد بن محمد بن حنبل ابو عبد الله الشيباني; 780–855 CE/164–241 AH), often referred to as Aḥmad ibn Ḥanbal or Ibn Ḥanbal for short, was an Arab Muslim jurist, theologian, ascetic, hadith traditionist, and founder of the Hanbali school of Sunni jurisprudence — one of the four major orthodox legal schools of Sunni Islam.A highly influential and active scholar during his lifetime, Ibn Hanbal went on to become "one of the most venerated" intellectual figures in Islamic history, who has had a "profound influence affecting almost every area of" the traditionalist (hadith-oriented) perspective within Sunni Islam. One of the foremost classical proponents of relying on scriptural sources as the basis for Islamic law and way of life, Ibn Hanbal compiled one of the most important Sunni hadith collections, the Musnad, which has continued to exercise considerable influence in the field of hadith studies up to the present time.Having studied fiqh and hadith under many teachers during his youth, Ibn Hanbal became famous in his later life for the crucial role he played in the Mihna, the inquisition instituted by the Abbasid Caliphate al-Ma'mun towards the end of his reign, in which the ruler gave official state support to the Mutazilite dogma of the Quran being created, a view that contradicted the orthodox doctrine of the Quran being the eternal, uncreated Word of God. Suffering physical persecution under the caliph for his unflinching adherence to the traditional doctrine, Ibn Hanbal's fortitude in this particular event only bolstered his "resounding reputation" in the annals of Islamic history.
Throughout Islamic history, Ibn Hanbal was venerated as an exemplary figure in all the traditional schools of Sunni thought, both by the exoteric ulema and by the mystics, with the latter often designating him as a saint in their hagiographies. The fourteenth-century hadith master al-Dhahabi referred to Ibn Hanbal as "the true Shaykh of Islām and leader of the Muslims in his time, the ḥadīth master and Proof of the Religion."In the modern era, Ibn Hanbal's name has become controversial in certain quarters of the Islamic world, because the Hanbali reform movement known as Wahhabism has cited him as a principal influence along with the thirteenth-century Hanbali reformer Ibn Taymiyyah. However it has been argued by certain scholars that Ibn Hanbal's own beliefs actually played "no real part in the establishment of the central doctrines of Wahhabism," as there is evidence, according to the same authors, that "the older Hanbalite authorities had doctrinal concerns very different from those of the Wahhabis," rich as medieval Hanbali literature is in references to saints, grave visitation, miracles, and relics. In this connection, scholars have cited Ibn Hanbal's own support for the use of relics as simply one of several important points upon which the theologian's opinions diverged from those of Wahhabism.
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