This is fourth Fiqhi school of Ahlus Sunnah attributed to Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal. Fiqh Hanbali falls in the last in historical order. The personality of Imam Ahmad is more Muhaddith than Faqeeh, therefore this aspect seems to dominate his Fiqh. Imam Shafi’i who accumulated all the Fiqhi trends and interpretations, was his main teacher. He paid most of his attention to Hadith. So he became a genius Muahddith and compiled the great encyclopedia of Hadith 'Al-Musnad'. Despite the fact that he was enjoying the virtues of Fiqh and Ijtehad, he did not like to compile his opinions and interpretations. But, it was destined that his Fiqhi School not only survived but also developed in the Islamic world as one of the dominant Fiqhi schools of Ahlus Sunnah. The Hanbali Fiqh was evolved and passed through all the stages of development in Iraq.
Imam Ahmad bin Hanbali
His name is Ahmad bin Hanbal bin Hilal Zuhli Shaibani. He was born in 164 H in Baghdad and grew up in orphan-hood. His father was a prominent soldier, but he died in Imam Ahmad's childhood. He was not financially strong, so he inherited hard work, determination and firmness against troubles. To begin with, he memorized the Glorious Quran. Then, he busied himself in learning in Baghdad and paid special attention to Haidth. He attended the famous Muhaddith of Baghdad Hushaim bin Bashir. Then, he started traveling from place to place in search of Hadith. He journeyed five times to Basra and five times to Hijaz. He learnt from Imam Shafi’i in Baghdad and acquired the knowledge of Fiqh and Hadith. When Imam Shafi’i was leaving Baghdad he said that Ahmad bin Hanbal has a leading position in seven things: Quran, Hadith, Fiqh, Linguistics, asceticism, dispense with the world and piety. Similarly, he learnt from Sufyan bn Uyainanh, Abu Bakr bin Ayyash, Waki bin Jarrah, Abdur Rahman bin Mahdi and Saeed bin Qattan. The historic incident of his life is the matter of 'Khalq-e-Quran' which he faced with determination and courage. The Caliph Mamoon asked him to believe that 'Quran is a creature of Allah' with so strictness that the most valorous people were shaken. But, Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal demanded proof from the Quran and Hadith. He was given severest of punishments and put in trouble for a long period, but he stood firm. This incident was written with golden ink in the History of safeguarding the beliefs and faith of Muslims.
Characteristics & Important Features
Fiqh Hanbali owns some characteristics as other Fiqhi schools have special qualities. Though, Imam Ahmad was expert of Hadith and Fiqh, but Hadith was his favourite subject. Therefore, instead of compiling his Fiqhi views and fatwas he took interest in compiling Hadith. From his early age, he started compiling Hadith. His 'Musnad' consists of more than forty thousand traditions. His interest in Sunnah was so established that it dominated his school of Fiqh. So, he regarded the Holy Quran and Hadith as basic source and benefited from the fatwas of the companions. Then, he would refer to Weak and Mursal Ahadith (that were not directly narrated by the Prophet). Finally, he resorted to analogy.
The main characteristic of Fiqh Hanbali is that they, unlike other Fiqhi Schools, have regarded wisdom (Hikmat) more important than reason (Illat). They have utilized the rule of 'Isteshab' which means that the already proved matter will be maintained until there happens something contradictory. Then, they have the principles of 'public interest' and 'shutting down the door of evils'.
As mentioned above, Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal did not like to compile his Fiqhi opinions and interpretative judgments. But, his able students, among whom are his two sons as well; Salih bin Ahmad and Abdullah bin Ahmad, who recoded it. The most brilliant among his students are Abu Bakr Ahmad bin Muhammad bin Hani, Ahmad bin Hajjaj Marwazi and Ishaq bin Ibrahim known as Ibn Rahwaih. The trios have authored 'Kitabus Sunan' in Fiqh. But, the credit of recording and compiling all the fatwas and views of Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal goes to Abu Bak Khallal who compiled his fatwas in two hundred parts. This was later summarized by Abul Qasim Kahrqi and Abdul Aziz bin Jaffar Ghulam Khallal. The summary of Kharqi earned so popularity that three hundred commentaries were written on it, among which the 'Al-Mughni' of Ibn Qudamah stands out as most distinguished one.
Style of Derivation
Imam Ahmad's style of derivation was so that he used to put the Quran and Hadith foremost. Thereafter, he preferred the fatwas of the companions. Then, he would turn to Weak and Mursal Ahadith (that were not directly narrated by the Prophet). At last, he resorted to analogy. To him analogy was the last option in unavoidable circumstances. He used to state: I like Weak Hadith in comparison to applying reason.
Translated and partly prepared by:
Mufti Obaidullah Qasmi, Maulana Afzal Qasmi, Mufti Muhammadullah Khalili Qasmi