Hanbali School (Hanbaliyyah)

Imam Ahmad b. Hanbal (165 - 240 AH)


Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal -1- Sh. Kamal el-Mekki

Hanbali School (Hanbaliyyah) Imam Ahmad b. Hanbal (165 - 240 AH) 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 opinion 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.

History: The Hanbali School of law was established by Ahmad ibn 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 characterized by fluctuations in their fortunes. Hanbali scholars such as Ibn Taymiyya (d.1328) and Ibn Qayyim al-Jawzia (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.


Al‑Madh'hab Al‑Hanbali was the product of the Fiqh (rules and regulations) as taught by Ahmad Ibn Hanbal. As in other Islamic Schools of Thought Ahmad Ibn Hanbal's Fiqh deals with tawhid, elements of faith, elements of worship (pillars of Islam), halal and haram, ethics, dealing with other people (Mu'aamalat).

FEATURES of Al‑Madh'hab Al‑Hanbali

Unlike other Sunni Madh'habs, Al‑Hanbali's School of Thought has almost no use for Qiyas (Analogy) or Raa'y (personal opinion), to such an extent that they even prefer narration of weak Hadith over Qiyas or Raa'y. It emphasizes taking the Hadith literally (blindly) to such an extent that they were called As'haab Al‑Hadith اصحـــاب الحــديت. Ahlul Hadith were known long time before, but As'haab Al‑Hadith was the result of its evolution.

Also like other Sunni Madh'habs, Al‑Hanbalis do not acknowledge the Imamah of Ahlul Bayt, though Ibn Hanbal was very supportive of Ahlul Bayt. Al‑Hanbali School of Thought began its ascendancy with the full patronage of Khalifa Al‑Mutawak'kil around 235H, but it never became widely spread.

IBN HANBAL: ابن حـنـبــــل Head of Al‑Madh'hab Al‑Hanbali: 164H‑241H

Ibn Hanbal was born in 164H in Baghdad at the height of expansion of the Islamic sciences and the glory of its culture. He was an astute and highly intellectual person with distinguished reputation. Ibn Hanbal grew up as an orphan, began his quest for Islamic learning at the age of 15, he learned at the hands of Abu Yusuf for a while, then Al‑Shafi'i. In 186H the 22 year old Ibn Hanbal traveled to Hijaz, Basrah, Kufa, and Yemen in quest of learning though he was in poor financial straits. He learned at the hands of, a) Ibn U'yainah, b) Al‑Zuhri, and c) Jarir Ibn Abdul Hamid among other outstanding scholar students of Imam Al‑Saadiq.

By the age of 50 Ibn Hanbal witnessed severe crushing measures by the Mu'tazila toward those who did not agree with their views that the Quran was Makhlooq (created piecemeal by Allah) according to the need of the time. As'haab Al‑Hadith believed the opposite, that the Quran was whole and part and parcel of Allah. As a result, suppression by the Mu'tazila fully supported by the Khalifas (Al‑Ma′Moon, Al‑Mu'tasim, and Al‑Waathiq) continued for about 20 years. It was a brutal suppression of any intellectual who did not agree with their view, and As'haab Al‑Hadith became the culprit for decades.

In 218H along with many others, Ahmad Ibn Hanbal was arrested and was to be executed by Khalifa Al‑Ma'Moon because he stuck to his own conviction and did not agree with the Mu'tazila point of view. It so happened that Al‑Ma′Moon died on an expedition just before he was to give the verdict for the execution of Ibn Hanbal. The following Khalifa, Al-Mu'tasim, had Ibn Hanbal in jail, interrogated him about his conviction, lashed him 38 times, but somehow he released him later from jail. The Khalifa became lenient with Ibn Hanbal since it is said that Ibn Hanbal was able to circumvent direct confrontation (though others say he was adamant in his views).

As a result Ibn Hanbal's reputation skyrocketed with As'haab Al‑Hadith who shared his views. He became famous later on when Khalifa Al‑Mutawak'kil around 234H took up the cause of As'haab Al‑Hadith against the Mu'tazila, in a move to lure the general public to his side.[15] Ibn Hanbal became the symbol of As'haab Al‑Hadith resistance to Mu'tazila orthodoxy.

While Khalifa Al‑Mutawak'kil was the nemesis of Mu'tazila, he included the devotees of Ahlul Bayt as archenemy too. A period of unparalleled persecution and killing began to take place, as a result of which the Mu'tazila intellectuals all but vanished. With the cooperation of As'haab Al‑Hadith a new phase of bloodshed began to take shape against any members or sympathizers of Ahlul Bayt too. Al‑Mutawak'kil took them as a grave threat to his rulership, and he unleashed brutal and very harsh measures to anyone suspected of being loyal to Ahlul Bayt. These measures were to such an extent, that against the Shi'a there unfolded theNaasibi, النواصب (people who earned their living by making perverted stories and pernicious poems in denouncing and damning the Shi'a). Despite this, Ibn Hanbal was brave and outspoken in support of Ahlul Bayt. He was fearless and undaunted by the attitude of the Khalifa or the people around.[16] He even narrated more Hadiths of the Prophet (pbuh) on behalf of Ahlul Bayt than most of the Sihaah Al‑Sittah, for such were his courage, virtue and nobility. And despite the fact that Al‑Mutawak'kil was supporting him with 4,000 dirham every month and the auspicious attention he was giving him, Ibn Hanbal was uncomfortable of the association with the Khalifa, to the extent that he evaded and refrained from the bond.[17] Ibn Hanbal would accept the gifts from the Khalifa but would distribute them secretly to the poor.

Ibn Hanbal was a highly learned scholar in Hadith. He wrote the books of Manasik, (the major and the minor), but his distinction goes more toward the Mus'nad of Ibn Hanbal This book was not quite finished when Ibn Hanbal died at the age of 77, and the task of editing, reviewing, and completing it fell in the hands of his son Abdullah. Mus'nad Ibn Hanbal contained 40,000 Hadiths, of which 10,000 were repetitions, and a good many others were weak. It also contained many fabricated Hadiths that Ibn Hanbal did not put originally.[18] Ibn Hanbal claimed that he selected the Hadiths from among 750,000 circulating Hadiths at his time, the overwhelming majority of which were fake.

As'haab Al‑Hadith took any Hadith literally [blindly] without giving due regard to the circumstances in which it was said nor its inner meaning. Unfortunately As'haab Al‑Hadith abused much of the power at their hands and the destruction of life or property caused by them was instrumental in enraging the general public for a long time, becoming one of the reasons of the limited spread of this school of thought.

HIGHLIGHTS of Al‑Madh'hab Al‑Hanbali

Under Ibn Hanbal many students learned his Fiqh and became famous later on. Chiefly they were Al‑Athram, Al‑Maroozi, Al‑Harbi, Abdullah Ibn Hanbal, and Salih Ibn Hanbal. They were very active in teaching the Hanbali Madh'hab afterwards though this school of thought never spread extensively.

Hanbali School of Thought (Al-Madhab al-Hanbali)

Imam Ahmad b. Hanbal (165 - 240 AH) was born in Baghdad. At the age of fifteen, he embarked on journeys to different countries to meet with various scholars. While in Baghdad, he studied under Imam al-Shafi′i, who inspired him considerably, and Abu Yusuf al-Qadi. At the time, there were two competing schools: madrasah al-athar (the school focusing on texts) and madrasah al-ra'i wal-qiyas (the school based on opinion and analogy), and Ibn Hanbal favored the former.

Although like other scholars, he too relocated to Hijaz, however he was not as well known as the leaders of the other schools of thought because most considered him to be a muhaddith (narrator of hadith) instead of a genuine faqih (jurist).

Ibn Hanbal was a strong advocate of the Abbasid government and when al-Mutawakil came to power in 232 AH, he tortured the Alawiyin and fiercely opposed the school of Ahlul Bayt, but he paid Ibn Hanbal a handsome salary of 4,000 dirhams, and invited him to Samarra to obtain blessings from his presence.38

Ahmad b. al-Hanbal wrote his famous work Musnad Ahmad b. Hanbal under the reign of al-Mutawakil and passed away while al-Mutawakil was still in power. His case was similar to that of Imam al-Malik, whose ideas were also propagated by the Abbasid caliphate, and the Abbasid promoted both of their schools of thought.


For more information: His life:

Hanbali Fiqh: