IMAM AHMED IBN HANBAL r.a.(164 A.H. - 241 A.H.)
Imam Abu Abdullah Ahmad ibn Mohammed ibn Hanbal r.a.was born in Marw [modern day Mary in Turkmenistan which is north of Afghanistan and north of Iran] on the 20th of Rabi-ul-Awwal 164 A.H. [781C.E.]
His father, Mohammed was a warrior (Mujahid) and lived in Basra, Iraq. Imam Ahmed ibn Hanbal was a very intelligent child, keenly interested in furthering his Islamic education. At the age of 16, he began studying Hadith literature. It is said that he learnt almost a million Ahadith by heart. He became a famous Jurist.
Some of his teachers were Imam Shafi' r.a., Bishar ibn Al Mufadal r.a., Ismail ibn Ulayyah r.a., Jarir ibn Abdul Hamid r.a. and Yahya ibn Said r.a..
The great compilers of Ahadith, Imam Bukhari r.a.and Imam Muslim r.a., including his teacher, Imam Shafi'i r.a., have also reported Hadith from him. Imam Shafi'i r.a., in spite of being the most learned in his time, used to refer to Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal r.a. about certain Ahadith.
Amongst his pupils, the most famous were Abu Bakr Al Alhram, Hanbal ibn Ishaq and Abul Qasim Al Baghwi.
Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal r.a.was a very pious scholar who devoted all his life in the Science of Ahadith and Fiqh. He refused to eat in anyone's house who held a governmental post. Being extremely poor with no food to eat at times, he would still refuse to accept charity saying that he had full faith in Almighty Allah.
The most famous among his books are: Kitabul A'maal, Kitabul Tafsir, Kitabul Nasikh wal Mansukh, Kitabul Zahid, Kitabul Masa'il, Kitabul Fadaa'il and Kitabul Mansiq.
His most famous book is his "Musnad, wherein he collected some 50,000 to 70,000 Ahadith.
Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal r.a., in the later years of his life, was imprisoned and tortured by the ruthless rulers who went against him due to their un-Islamic beliefs and practises. Caliph Mutasim forced the Imam to accept the beliefs of the "Mu'tazalis" (a corrupt sect), but he refused, and was beaten to such a degree that his joints were dislocated. He was kept in heavy chains for 30 months in a prison in Baghdad. He still refused to accept the beliefs of the corrupt Mu'tazali sect and was again beaten until he fell unconscious.
On the 25th of Ramadan in the year 221 A.H., [836 C.E.] Caliph Mutasim, in fear of the sin he committed, repented and set the Imam free. Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal r.a. forgave all the people except the Mutazalis. He passed away in the year 241 A.H. [855 C.E.]