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    Posted: 18 March 2007 at 6:17pm

Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, Islam, Biographies

Related Category: Islam, Biographies

Ahmad Ibn Hanbal[A´mud ib´un han´bal] Pronunciation Key, 780–855, Muslim jurist and theologian. His disciples founded the fourth of the four major Sunni schools of jurisprudence, the Hanbali. Ibn Hanbal's conception of law was principally influenced by hadith which led him to reject the officially sanctioned theology that promoted the dogma of the creation of the Qur'an. He held the view, for which he was imprisoned, that the Qur'an was uncreated and largely abstained from teaching until the revival of Sunnism in 847. While the official recognition of the importance of his work was late in coming, Ibn Hanbal enjoyed wide popular support and was known as the imam of Baghdad. Among his most important works are the Musnad, a major collection of hadith traditions, and the Kitab as-Sunna, in which he laid out his dogmatic position. He advocated a literal interpretation of the Revealed Text, rejecting allegorizing exegesis and anthropomorphism. Belief in God, according to Ibn Hanbal, should leave to God the understanding of the Divine mystery. A derivative of his axiomatic acceptance of the Qur'an as the uncreated Word of God was to stress the dominance of the Qur'an and Sunna. He even objected to the codifying of his thought, for fear of infringing on the authority of these two sources. His political views targeted the dissenting groups within Islam, the Shiites and Kharijis. His thought, as transmitted by Ibn Taymiyya, has inspired many political-religious movements including Wahhabiyya (see Wahhabi) and Salafiyya.




The Hanbali school is the fourth orthodox school of law within Sunni Islam. It derives its decrees from the Qur'an and the Sunnah, which it places above all forms of consensus, opinion or inference. The school accepts as authoritative an opi nion given by a Companion of the Prophet, providing there is no disagreement with anther Companion. In the case of such disagreement, the opinion of the Companion nearest to that of the Qur'an or the Sunnah will prevail.



The Hanbali school of law was established by Ahmad b. Hanbal (d.855). He studied law under different masters, including Imam Shafi'i (the founder of his own school). He is regarded as more learned in the traditions than in jurisprudence. His status also derives from his collection and exposition of the hadiths. His major contribution to Islamic scholarship is a collection of fifty-thousand traditions known as 'Musnadul-Imam Hanbal'.
In spite of the importance of Hanbal's work his school did not enjoy the popularity of the three preceding Sunni schools of law. Hanbal's followers were regarded as reactionary and troublesome on account of their reluctance to give personal opinion on matters of law, their rejection of analogy, their fanatic intolerance of views other than their own, and their exclusion of opponents from power and judicial office. Their unpopularity led to periodic bouts of persecution against them.
The later history of the school has been characterised by fluctuations in their fortunes. Hanbali scholars such as Ibn Taymiyya (d.1328) and Ibn Qayyim al-Jouzia (d.1350), did display more tolerance to other views than their predecessors and were instrumental in making the teachings of Hanbali more generally accessible.
From time to time Hanbaliyyah became an active and numerically strong school in certain areas under the jurisdiction of the 'Abbassid Caliphate. But its importance gradually declined under the Ottoman Turks. The emergence of the Wahabi in the nineteenth century and its challenge to Ottoman authority enabled Hanbaliyyah to enjoy a period of revival. Today the school is officially recognised as authoritative in Saudi Arabia and areas within the Persian Gulf.



Hanbaliyyah does not possess a distinctive symbol system.



There are no official figures identifying the number of people associated with the school.

Main Centre


The school has no headquarters or main centre.




The Mu'tazilite school of theology emerged out of the question raised by the Kharijites whether works are integral to faith or independent of faith. On the question of the relationship between faith and works, the Mu'tazilites adopted the position that someone who commits a grave sin without repenting occupies a middle state between being a Muslim and not being a Muslim.
A second doctrine concerned the nature of God. God is pure Essence and, therefore, without eternal attributes such as hands. Passages in the Qur'an that ascribe human or physical properties to God are to be regarded as metaphorical rather than literal.
The Mu'tazilites also argued that the Qur'an was created and not eternal. The basis of this doctrine was the claim that the eternal coexistence of the Qur'an beside Allah gave the impression of another god beside Allah.
Human acts are free and, therefore, people are entirely responsible for their decisions and actions. Divine predestination is incompatible with God's justice and human responsibility. God, however, must of necessity act justly; it follows from this that the promises of reward that God has made in the Qur'an to righteous people and the punishments he had issued to evildoers must be carried out by him on the day of judgement.
Mu'tazilites are generally seen as responsible for the incorporation of Greek philosophical thought into Islamic theology. This is particularly apparent in their belief that knowledge of God can be acquired through reason as well as revelation.



The term Mu'tazilah derives from the Arabic al-mu'tazilah, which means the one who separated. It was applied to the school established in Iraq by Wasil b. 'Ata (699-749), a student of the distinguished scholar Hasn al-Basri (642-728).
At the time of the rise of the 'Abbasids in 750 the Mu'tazilites began to become prominent in the Islamic world. In the 9th century the 'Abbasid caliph, al-Ma'mun, raised Mu'tazilah doctrine to the status of the state creed. Openly supported by the caliphate, the Mu'tazilites became increasingly intolerant and began to persecute their opponents. On one occasion the eminent Sunni scholar and founder of one of the four orthodox jurisprudential schools, Ahmad b. Hanbal (d.855), was subjected to flogging and imprisonment for his refusal to subscribe to the Mu'tazilite doctrine that the Qur'an was created in time.
Always unpopular with the ordinary people, the Mu'tazilites' power gradually began to wane. They lost the support of the caliphs and by the 10th century the Traditionist (Sunni majority) opposition to Mu'tazilah found a spokesman in Abu al-Hasan al-Ash'ari (d.935), who himself had previously been a Mu'tazilite. Al-Ash'ari's new school of theology and the school of Abu Mansur al-Maturidi (d.945) provided the new basis of orthodox Islamic theology, leading to the complete disappearance of the Mu'tazile movement.



Mu'tazilah does not identify itself through the use of any symbol system.



The school has no contemporary adherents.

Main Centre


When the school was in existence its main centres were in Basra and Baghdad.



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