1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Aḥmad ibn Ḥanbal

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AḤMAD IBN ḤANBAL (780–855), the founder, involuntarily and after his death, of the Ḥanbalite 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 (hadīth, sunna) there and on a student journey through Mesopotamia, Arabia and Syria. After his return to Bagdad he studied under ash-Shāfī‛ī between 195 and 198, and became, for his life, a devoted Shāfi-‛ite. But his position in both theology and law was more narrowly traditional than that of ash-Shāfī‛ī; he rejected all reasoning, whether orthodox or heretical in its conclusions, and stood for acceptance on tradition (naql) only from the Fathers. (See further on this, Mahommedan Religion and Mahommedan Law.) In consequence, when al-Ma’mūn and, after him, al-Mo‛tasim and al-Wāthiq tried to force upon the people the rationalistic Mo‛tazilite doctrine that the Koran was created, Ibn Ḥanbal, 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 Ḥanbal, 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 Goldziher in ZDMG, l. 465 ff. For his life and works generally see W. M. Patten, Ahmed ibn Hanbal and the Mihna; C. Brockelmann, Geschichte der Arab. Lit. i. 181 ff.; F. Wüstenfeld, Schäfi’iten, 55 ff.; M‘G. de Slane’s transl. of Ibn Khallikan, i. 44 ff.; MacDonald, Development of Muslim Theology, 110, 157, index.
 (D. B. Ma.)