Imaam Ahmad Benefits From his Life and Works

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    Benefits From the Life and Works of Imam Ahmad
    Shaykh Saalih ibn 'Abdil-'Azeez Aalish-Shaykh
    Source: A recorded lecture entitled Min Ma'eenil-Imam Ahmad,
    Translated exclusively for www.bakkah.net(1/3)

    [ Part One ] - [ Part Two ] - [ Part Three ]

    Part One

    The praise is for Allaah, the One who keeps a group of scholars available during the times when there is no messenger, scholars who bring those who have strayed back to the Guidance, curing their blindness and bringing them back to life using Allaah's Book. For how many have they brought back to life from those killed by Iblees? And how many strayed and then were guided by the scholars?

    What great effects they have on the people! And how filthy are the effects of the people on them! They expel from the Religion of Allaah the perversions of the people of falsehood, the twisted explanations of the ignoramuses, and the plagiarism of those who have strayed, those who bear the flags of innovation and dispute over the Book of Allaah.

    I praise Allaah, the Mighty and Exalted, and I thank Him. I testify that there is no deity worthy of worship except Allaah, and that He is alone without any partners, and I further testify that Muhammad is His Servant and Messenger, His pure one, His chosen friend. May Allaah raise his rank and the rank of all his family members and Companions, and may He grant them an abundance of peace.

    To proceed: I ask Allaah, the Mighty and Exalted, that He grants me and all of you beneficial knowledge, righteous actions, and submissive hearts. O Allaah! Teach us what will benefit us, and benefit us by what you teach us, and increase us in knowledge, good deeds, guidance, and adherence to the Sunnah! Hear our call, as You are the Most Merciful One!

    Dear brothers,

    This lecture has been entitled From the Fountains of Imam Ahmad. What is intended from this title is that Imam Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Hanbal, the one born in the year 164, the one who passed away in the year 241, was described as being like water that flowed from a spring. Like the spring that a thirsty person goes to in order to quench his thirst, he was like the spring that those who have been overcome by sins go in order to cleanse their souls. So all kinds of people used to go to him to quench their thirsts, and they would all be able to fulfill their various needs by going to him.

    The people have agreed that Imam Ahmad was an Imam of guidance, the very head of the Imams of Ahlus-Sunnah wal-Jamaa'ah. They have also agreed that loving him and studying his history is an indication of someone's love for those who studied the Sunnah of the Prophet (sallallaahu 'alayhe wa sallam).

    The people of the past were tested regarding their love for Imam Ahmad. Whoever loved him was considered someone on the Sunnah; whoever spoke ill of him was someone of innovation and misguidance.

    This is not something strange, since the life story of Imam Ahmad, from his earliest years to the end of his life, is the history of a companion of the Sunnah, someone who followed the Sunnah devoutly. His is the history of an Imam, a scholar of Hadeeth and Fiqh, a person of knowledge who spent his days and nights in acts of obedience worshipping Allaah.



    Dedicating One's Youth to Worship

    Since his childhood, Imam Ahmad (may Allaah have Mercy on him) could be seen with signs of nusuk on him. Ma'roof Al-Karkhee (may Allaah have Mercy on him) said, "I saw Ahmad ibn Hanbal when he was a young boy, and he had signs of nusuk on him. I used to hear him making statements that were full of benefit."

    This statement describes how he was upon guidance even as a young boy. He used to be seen with signs of nusuk on him. What is meant by nusuk is worship and acts of obedience. The effects of worship and obedience are not only physical ones seen in the appearance and dress, but their effects are also found in one's speech, manners, in the acts of worship and obedience themselves, and in one's preference for the next life over this one.

    Imam Ahmad said about his own self, "I did not marry until after I reached 40 years of age." His companions said that this was because he used to be busy traveling to seek knowledge before that. He went to Makkah, and from there to San'aa'. There is a story about this trip:

    He set out with his companion, Yahyaa ibn Ma'een, for Hajj. He said to Yahyaa, "When I finish Hajj, verily I am going to Yemen to meet the scholar of Yemen, the scholar of Hadeeth, 'Abdur-Razzaaq ibn Hammaam As-San'aanee." As-San'aanee died in the year 210 after Hijrah.

    When they reached Makkah, they found that 'Abdur-Razzaaq was making Hajj that year as well. So Yahyaa knew who he was and met him. He saw him going around the Ka'bah, and since he knew him, he went and greeted him. Yahyaa said to 'Abdur-Razzaaq, and they knew each other, "This is Ahmad ibn Hanbal" So 'Abdur-Razzaaq became happy about this and said, "It has reached us that he is a person who has a lot of goodness."

    When they prayed their two rak'ahs after making tawaaf, Yahyaa said to Imam Ahmad, "Ahmad, our provisions for the journey to San'aa' have been used. And here is 'Abdur-Razzaaq, so let us stay with him so we can take some narrations from him."

    Ahmad said to Yahyaa ibn Ma'een, "My intention is still present, and I will not oppose it. So I will continue on to San'aa'." This shows the effects of his commitment to the hardships of seeking knowledge. A trip to San'aa' in that time was not made in cars or airplanes or the likes, rather it was only made with great hardships, the realities of which can not be described.

    Ma'roof said, "I saw Ahmad ibn Hanbal when he was a young boy and he had signs of nusuk on him." In reality, this is what we should see in our children, that they work hard to correct themselves in their youth, in their early years. Because at this, if they do not build upon this foundation with what is correct, with acts of worship and obedience, then it will be very difficulty after that, except for those whom Allaah, the Mighty and Exalted, excludes.

    Whoever holds to His Religion in his youth, firmness will return to him. Someone being devout or obedient is not just a claim or a verbal ascription to something, nor is it something seen only from the outside. Rather devoutness in the Religion entails one taking on serious rituals, he must worship, and he must be obedient.

    This leads us to the story when Imam Ahmad once hosted one of his students in Hadeeth, 'Abdus-Samad ibn Sulaymaan. When he was hosting him in his house, and it came time to sleep, he brought him some water to make wudhoo' from or for general use. Then he went to sleep. When the morning came, Imam Ahmad saw that all of the water was still there, so he asked about it. 'Abdus-Samad replied, "I did not use the water." Imam Ahmad said, "A student of the narrations who does not do anything at night?!"

    He meant, "All the way to the morning, you did not pray in the night?! You did not worship!? You did not even pray two rak'ahs?!" 'Abdus-Samad replied, "Verily I am a traveler." He said, "Even as a traveler!" Meaning, "Where is the witr? Where is the prayer?"

    So without a doubt, if this was important in that day and time for cultivating one's soul and getting set in the proper direction, then we are in more need of it today. This is the case especially with the youth who seek knowledge, or those holding tight to their guidance, or those who display the effects of prayer, or those who are keen in doing good deeds.

    One must keep his soul tied to some acts of worship. No doubt, one must keep his soul tied to some acts of obedience. If you force the soul to be obedient, it will become obedient. If you abandon it, then it will be a soul that gravitates toward wrongdoing.

    It has been related that the Prophet (sallallaahu 'alayhe wa sallam) said:

    "Whoever shows enduring patience, Allaah will make him firm upon patience. Whoever seeks knowledge, Allaah will teach him. Whoever hunts for good, he will be given it. Whoever expects evil, he will be made to fall into it." [1]

    Therefore, this description of Imam Ahmad proves that he had an upbringing based on obedience to Allaah and acts of worship, so much so that he used to force his soul to shun many worldly things and to take on great hardships. The result of this was that he established his soul firmly upon obedience to Allaah, the Mighty and Exalted.



    Speaking Only About Beneficial Matters

    Aboo Daawood Sulaymaan ibn Ash'ath, the author of Sunan Abee Daawood, was a student of Imam Ahmad who related many issues from him, issues that are published today. He said, describing the Imam, "I have not seen anyone like Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal He never used to talk about the things that the people talk loosely about from the worldly affairs, but if some affair of knowledge was mentioned, he would talk."

    To repeat the quote, "I have not seen anyone like Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal He never used to talk about the things that the people talk loosely about from the worldly affairs, but if some affair of knowledge was mentioned, he would talk."

    This attribute is certainly an attribute of the great Imams of the most pious people, those who sternly dedicate their lives to what benefit the people. The one who speaks about every affair does not have the noble silence of the people of knowledge, nor the silence of the people of righteousness.

    So therefore, a righteous person whose heart is attached to the Next Life should be known by his silence when he does not speak, and he should be known by his speech when he talks. His speech is only about good things, and he keeps silent of evil affairs, as Allaah, the Mighty and Exalted, says [2]:

    ( There is no good in most of their private gatherings, except for those who order the people to give charity or order other acts of kindness, or those who mend broken ties between people )

    Imam Ahmad used to sit with his brothers occasionally, and sometimes with his companions and students. He would also mix with the common people as well. They would talk about a number of affairs. But Imam Ahmad would only speak if there was something beneficial to be said. The benefit could be his teaching the people or ordering them with righteousness. They said, "If some affair of knowledge was mentioned, he would talk."

    In reality, this concept has been put to the test. The heart is not able to contain too many things, too many conflicting things inside a person's character. So it is binding on the student of knowledge to dedicate himself wholeheartedly to knowledge, first and foremost. He must stay away from vain talk and wasting his time. If he contemplates something, then he contemplates over some issue related to knowledge. If he speaks, then he speaks about knowledge. This will cause his life to take the task of seeking knowledge head-on, and it will give him a strong desire to study.

    As a result of this, the student's speech will differ from the speech of other people. Why? That is because the student speaks the language of the people of knowledge. He lives with the Companions and their students. He lives with Maalik, Ash-Shaafi'ee, Ahmad, and Sufyaan. He lives with Al-Bukhaaree and the Imams like Ibn Khuzaymah and Shaykhul-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah. He lives with the Imams of Islaam. He speaks with their words as he discusses issues with them. He is immersed in their oceans of knowledge.

    Hearing everything that the people talk about, and then engaging in that talk with them, and then reading things from just anyone and passing it on, all of this has an effect on the heart of the Muslim in general, specifically it has a bigger effect on the heart of the student of knowledge.

    This means that a person must make a mental note to himself that he must not allow his heart to be receptive to every single thing. Rather he must define its course and clarify his methodology within himself, and then he takes that path. And the greatest methodology is that of the inheritors of the Prophet (sallallaahu 'alayhe wa sallam), those who he spoke about, saying:

    "Verily the prophets do not leave behind dirhams or deenaars, rather they leave behind knowledge. So whoever receives some of it, verily he has received an expansive treasure." [3]

    What a great accomplishment it is for a man to contemplate about his Religion, about knowledge, about that which brings him benefit! And when he speaks, he only speaks about an issue that will benefit him in his Religion, like ordering righteousness, commanding the people to give charity, teaching, learning, and the likes. Even in his everyday conversations, his desire for knowledge is evident.

    A man is raised in rank when he harnesses his eagerness for things. The soul is eager for many different things, so do not let it go to whatever it craves, force it to go after the things that Allaah, the Mighty and Exalted, has sought from you.



    Living in Fear of Allaah

    Al-Marwoodee was one of Imam Ahmad's companions and students, and he relayed many issues from him. He said to Imam Ahmad, "O Abaa 'Abdilllaah! There are so many people that call on you!" He looked at him and said, "I fear this may be something that gradually leads me to something evil."

    His student said to him, and he was truthful in what he said, "O Abaa 'Abdillaah! There are so many people that call on you!" He replied, "I fear this may be something that gradually leads me to something evil." This kind of statement can only come from a heart that fears Allaah and is fearful of meeting Him. It can only come from one who knows that the heart changes states. It can only come from someone who knows that this worldly life is nothing, and that the Next Life is the reality.

    Most of us, moreover all of us, except those whom Allaah has exempted, if it was mentioned to us that the people are praising us, or that the people are calling on us, we would be happy and cheerful, perhaps we would even be delighted with ourselves.

    So Imam Ahmad said, remedying his soul, "I fear this may be something that gradually leads me to something evil." The statement, "I fear," shows that his heart had combined hope and fear, that he had hoped, but was also afraid. When he heard something related to a reward for his work, he said, "I fear this may be something that gradually leads me to something evil."

    He meant, "Verily, Allaah, the Mighty and Exalted, may be gradually leading me into a punishment by this, testing me to see if I am delighted with myself or not. Maybe Allaah, the Mighty and Exalted, is gradually leading me to a punishment," as our Lord Himself, the Mighty and Exalted, describes how he gradually punishes some people [4]:

    ( And we will punish them gradually from places they know not, so leave them to Me! Verily My Plan is strong! )

    So they were destroyed. Therefore, this is what is binding on the heart of the person of tawheed, the believer, that it always remains in fear. These days, the talks about the meaning of hope, they are… OK. But the people have gone overboard with it, to the point that many people rely on their hope in Allaah so much so that they have lost any fear of Allaah, they rarely fear Him.

    Everyone is hoping! The rewards for good deeds are mentioned, along with the rewards for obedience. Some are working, some making 'umrah, others are praying, some are reciting, etc. All of this is from the understanding of hope. But where is the fear? Where is the fear of Al-Jaleel, the Mighty and Exalted, may His Names be exalted?

    It is Allaah who described His Angels as being His Servants, and that they are not overburdened. Even their breathing glorifies Allaah, their actions are all actions of obedience, as the Prophet (sallallaahu 'alayhe wa sallam) said:

    "The sky is full of sounds, and it should be. There is no space the width of four fingers except that there is an angel in it standing, bowing, or prostrating." [5]

    All of this, while Allaah describes His Angels [6]:

    ( They fear their Lord from above them, and they do as they are ordered )

    So let every one of us examine our own selves in regards to this statement of Imam Ahmad. Where is the fear of Allaah in our hearts? We have neglected obligations, and we all know our own selves, so where is the fear? We have fallen into sins, while Allaah has full knowledge of them, so where is the fear? We have neglected the rights of others, so where is the fear?

    We have neglected the rights of our believing brothers, by backbiting and slandering them, by jealousy and envy, and by oppression, so where is the fear of Allaah, the Mighty and Exalted? Let every one of us motivate our own selves to have fear in our actions! For verily fear will cause a heart to have humility, submissiveness, and an eagerness to prepare for the meeting with Allaah, the Mighty and Exalted.

    This is indeed a great statement, the one said by Imam Ahmad in response to his student's remark about how many people call on him, "I fear this may be something that gradually leads me to something evil." May Allaah have Mercy on him, for what great vision he had! His was a great affair!

    In most of the gatherings that Imam Ahmad attended, he would sit with his head between his knees. It was said that this was the position of a person of humility, one who contemplates about his own self and his future, while remaining seated in a posture that a person can not become haughty by it, nor seek to be seen by it.

    When death approached Imam Ahmad, the doctor saw the excessive amount of blood in his urine and said, "This does not happen except due to a fearful heart." He meant that the time of death had caused him to reach that state.



    Recognizing the Position of the Scholars

    From his other noteworthy sayings, may Allaah have Mercy on him, elevate his and our positions, and reward him with the best reward, the most plentiful and loftiest one, "Whatever the scholars of Ahlus-Sunnah have detested, then it is evil." He said (repeating), "Whatever the scholars of Ahlus-Sunnah have detested, then it is evil." He meant that the scholars of Ahlus-Sunnah are to be referred to in affairs of what is to be considered evil and what is not.

    So whatever the scholars of Ahlus-Sunnah have detested in the issues of 'aqeedah, then it is evil. Whatever the scholars of Ahlus-Sunnah have detested with regards to manners, then it is evil. Whatever the scholars of Ahlus-Sunnah have detested in affairs of ordering righteousness and forbidding evil, then it is evil. This means that a man must return to the scholars of the Sunnah if he wants to know about the affairs of the Sunnah, about the proper understanding of righteousness and evil.

    So whatever the scholars of Ahlus-Sunnah have detested, then it is an evil thing, the evil of which we have no doubt in. This is indeed a great lesson from Imam Ahmad for every Muslim, that he must follow and take guidance from the scholars of Ahlus-Sunnah, those who have great concern for the Sunnah of the Prophet (sallallaahu 'alayhe wa sallam).

    This goes for all aspects of tawheed, as well as acts of worship, business transactions, manners, education, work, and all dealings between people in the society. You must refer to the scholars of Ahlus-Sunnah in these affairs. This will free your heart from your desires. This will cause your heart to be detached from what your intellect likes and dislikes. Therefore it is binding for us to be followers, for us to return often to the people of knowledge, to the people of the Sunnah for religious rulings.

    For whatever the scholars of Ahlus-Sunnah detest, then it is an evil thing. That means that you do not classify things as being evil according to your own opinion, nor do you get to know affairs by way of your opinions, rather you must refer to the scholars of Ahlus-Sunnah regarding the current and future affairs.

    This is something that there is no doubt about, since the scholars of Ahlus-Sunnah are the inheritors of the prophets and the guides to the Sharee'ah. They are the ones that Imam Ahmad spoke of in the introduction to his book, "The praise is for Allaah, the One who keeps a group of scholars available during the times when there is no messenger, scholars who bring those who have strayed back to the Guidance, curing their blindness and bringing them back to life using Allaah's Book."

    Therefore, they are the ones we refer to. The affairs are not about, "Is this a bad thing or not? Should I reject it or not? Should I respond or not? Is this correct or not?" These things must not come from a person's independent judgments from his own opinions, rather he must refer these matters back to the scholars of Ahlus-Sunnah.

    Why? That is because these things are affairs of 'aqeedah, affairs of the Religion. Everyone claims that they understand the affair of enjoining good and forbidding evil. The Khawaarij claimed it, and thus stood up against the Imams. The Mu'tazilah claimed it, and thus viewed the opposition of the Imams as being a good thing. Like them, many groups claimed to be enjoining good and forbidding evil, and thus stood up against the Imams. However, the affair is to be according to the judgment of the scholars of Ahlus-Sunnah, and whatever they have classified as being an evil thing.


    TEST YOUR UNDERSTANDING

    Why was Imam Ahmad referred to as being like water that flowed from a spring?

    Who was Imam Ahmad's companion for Hajj? Where did he intend to go after Hajj? Whom did he intend to see?

    What did Imam Ahmad say to his student after noticing that he had not prayed in the night?

    Why was Imam Ahmad afraid of the large gatherings of people seeking him?
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