Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal and Sufism

Manuscript from Musnad of Imam Ahmad
Manuscript of the Musnad of Imam Ahmad

­­Translated by Ismaeel Nakhuda

(Translator’s foreword: The respect and veneration for Sufism is evident as daylight when reading the words and life of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal. Below is the seventh and final chapter of Shaykh ‘Abdul Hafiz’s Mawqif A’immat al-Harakat al-Salafiyyah min al-Tasawwuf wa al-Sufiyyah which is dedicated to Imam Ahmad’s positive opinion of Tasawwuf and Sufism. Shaykh ‘Abdul Hafiz writes:)

A section from the Muqaddimah of Shaykh Imam Abu Muhammad [Rizqullah ibn ‘Abdul Wahhab ibn ‘Abdul ‘Aziz] al-Tamimi al- Hanbali has been quoted at the end of the second and last volume of Qadi Abu Husayn Muhammad ibn Abu Ya’la’s[1] Tabaqat al-Hanabilah (Ranks of the Hanbalis). The Muqaddimah is regarding Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal’s beliefs (‘aqidah) and the principles of his madhhab (may Allah’s mercy be upon him and may He be pleased with him).

Imam al-Tamimi writes:

Imam Ahmad was once asked once regarding the murid.[2] He replied: “The murid should remain with Allah as Allah wishes and he should leave all which he himself desires for what Allah desires…”

Imam Ahmad would attach great importance to the Sufis and honour them. He was once asked regarding them and was told that they sat in mosques. He replied: “Knowledge is with those who sit with them the most.” Imam Ahmad would forbid music, and the recitation of the Qur’an in musical tones and poetry. He also disliked the playing of the flute. As to the songs of the Bedouin camel drivers, he said: “‘Abdullah ibn Rawahah and many others sang while riding camels, so there is no problem with that.’”

He, may Allah have mercy on him, once said: “Blessed is he whose reputation Allah keeps hidden.” He sent a message to ‘Abdul Wahhab al-Warraq saying: “Always remain obscure (from people) for I have been tested through fame.”

… Abu Bakr al-Marwadhi said, Abu ‘Abdullah told me: “Tell ‘Abdul Wahhab (in other words al-Warraq): Always remain obscure for I have been tested through fame.” I heard Abu Tahir Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-Ghubari al-Faqih (the jurist), saying: “Ahmad ibn Hanbal (may Allah’s mercy be upon him) said: ‘Blessed is he whose reputation Allah keeps hidden.’”

He, may Allah’s mercy be upon him, would forbid from visiting the rich and would say: “Seclusion is far better.”

Having mentioned in detail the creed of Imam Ahmad, Imam al-Tamimi writes:

This is some of what we know about Imam Ahmad’s beliefs and mathhab—may Allah enable us to tread on his way, make him (i.e. Imam Ahmad) His Messenger’s companion in paradise tomorrow, and protect us from slandering and delving into futile things with respect to the imams and attributing to them that which Allah has kept them free from insha Allah.

Imam Hafiz Qadi Abu al-Husayn Muhammad ibn Abu Ya‘la writes in Tabaqat al-Hanabilah (part one, page 36):

Ahmad ibn al-Hasan ibn ‘Abdul Jabbar ibn Rashid, Abu ‘Abdullah al-Sufi. He heard hadith from ‘Ali ibn al-Ja‘d, Abu Nasr al-Tammar and Yahya ibn Ma‘in among many others. He has narrated some things from our imam.[3]

He also writes in Tabaqat-al-Hanabilah (part one, page 77):[4]

Ahmad ibn Abu Badr al-Mundhir ibn Badr ibn al-Nadr, Abu Bakr al-Mughazili, the pious shaykh from Baghdad. He was reliable [in narrating hadith] and was counted among those walis who shunned the world. His title was badr and that was the name by which he was mostly known. Abu Bakr al-Khallal mentioned him. He said: “Abu ‘Abdullah (meaning Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal) used to revere him and bring him forward. Badr also had a collection of hadith narrated from Abu ‘Abdullah which also contained various rulings (masa’il); I heard them from him and also heard hadith from him. When I first saw his house and the way he sat I could testify to his piety and patience in the face of poverty. When Imam Ahmad would narrate some hadith, he would say: ‘Where is Badr?’ Then he would exclaim: ‘These are of your variety,’ meaning the hadiths relating to asceticism etc. Our imam would marvel at him and say: ‘Who is like Badr? He has surely controlled his tongue.’”

Abu Muhammad al-Jurayri said: “One day I was with Badr al-Mughazili when his wife had sold a house belonging to her for 30 dinars. Badr said to her: ‘Let’s distribute these dinars among our brothers and for our daily sustenance let us take each day as it comes.’ On that she responded saying: ‘Will you keep renouncing the world while we continue desiring it? This is something that cannot be.’”

Imam Hafiz Qadi Abu al-Hussayn Muhammad ibn Abu Ya‘la also writes in Tabaqat al-Hanabilah (part one, page 78):

Ahmad ibn Abu al-Huwari.[5] His name was Maymun Abu al-Hasan al-Dimashqi. He narrated from a large group of people including our imam.[6] There are 71 years between his demise and that of al-Baghawi. Ahmad ibn Abu al-Huwari said that Ahmad ibn Hanbal asked: “When were you born?” I replied the year 64. He said: “That is also when I was born.”

Ahmad ibn Abu al-Huwari passed away at the beginning of the month of Rajab in the year 246AH. It was said that al-Huwari threw his books into the sea saying: “What a brilliant proof you have been. Occupying one’s self with the proof after having attained the purpose is impossible.” It was also said that Ahmad ibn Abu al-Huwari studied for 30 years; when he reached the pinnacle of knowledge he carried all his books and cast them into the sea exclaiming: “Oh knowledge, I have not done this in contempt of you, nor do I consider your due light. However, I used to write so that I may be, through you, guided to my Cherisher. Now that I am guided I am no more in need of you.” He would also say: “There is no proof upon the existence of Allah except He Himself. Knowledge is only sought to learn the etiquettes of service.” Junayd would say: “Ahmad ibn Abu al-Huwari is the sweet smelling flower of the Levant (al-Sham).”

He also writes in Tabaqat al-Hanabilah (part one, page 127):

Junayd ibn Muhammad ibn Junayd Abu al-Qasim al-Kharraz (the shoemaker). Some say his title was al-Qawariri (the bottlemaker), while others say his father was a bottlemaker and he himself a shoemaker. His origins were in Nahawand[7] although he was born and bred in Baghdad. It was there that he heard hadith, met scholars, remained in the company of the pious and became famous for remaining in the company of Harith al-Muhasibi and Sarri al-Saqati. Then he preoccupied himself with worship. He narrated hadith from Hasan ibn ‘Arafah. He has also quoted many things from our imam.

From those things which he narrated from our imam is that which ‘Abdul Rahman ibn Mundah informed us about. He said that ‘Ali ibn Jahdam narrated to us in Makkah from Muhammad ibn ‘Ali al-Karkhi, who narrated from Abu ‘Ali al-Rudhbari who said that he heard Junayd say: “A man came to Abu ‘Abdullah Ahmad ibn Hanbal with a handsome young boy. Imam Ahmad asked him: ‘Who is this?’ The man replied: ‘My son.’ So Ahmad said: ‘Do not bring him with you next time.’ When the man left, someone asked: ‘May Allah aid the shaykh, do you do this to a man who is fully covered and whose son is covered more than he?’ Ahmad replied: ‘That which we have intended here is not stopped by them covering themselves. This was the way of our teachers and what they told us of their predecessors.’”

Ja‘far al-Khuldi said that Junayd once said: “Allah has not placed in the earth knowledge that can be attained by people, except He has assigned for me a portion of it.”

Al-Khuldi said: “I heard regarding Junayd that while he would be in the market his portion of worship (wird) every day consisted of 300 units of salah and the recitation of 30,000 tasbih.”

Al-Khuldi said he heard Junayd saying: “For 40 years I have not taken off my clothes to retire to bed.”

  Junayd said: “We have not learnt Tasawwuf through idle talk but through hunger, abandoning the world and cutting one’s self off from pleasures and those things that are beloved, since Tasawwuf is certainly the cleansing of our dealings with Allah and its root is remaining aloof from the world just as Harithah[8] said: ‘I turned my soul away from the world, so I awakened my nights and made thirsty my day.’”

… Al-Khuldi says that Abu Muhammad al-Jurayri said to him: “I was standing by Junayd at the time of his death. It was a Friday and the Persian New Year (Nowruz) and Junayd was reading the Qur’an. So I said to him: ‘Oh Abu al-Qasim, be gentle upon yourself.’ Junayd replied: ‘Oh Abu Muhammad, I do not see anyone more in need of worship than myself at this moment in time. This is the time when my book of deeds will be folded.’”

He also writes in Tabaqat al-Hanabilah (part one, page 137):

Hasan ibn al-Layth al-Razi. He stayed in the company of our imam and narrated many things from him. Among that is that he said that it was said to Imam Ahmad: “Bishr (i.e. Bishr ibn al-Harith[9] ) loves you.” He replied: “Do not trouble the shaykh, it is more correct that we go and visit him.” At this point somebody else said to him: “Shall we bring him.” Imam Ahmad replied: “No, I dislike that he is brought here to me or that I should go to him so he would affect in a goodly way and then I may do the same and then both of us would be ruined.”

Imam Hafiz Qadi Abu al-Hussayn Muhammad ibn Abu Ya‘la writes in Tabaqat al-Hanabilah (part one, page 179):

Abu Bakr al-Khallal narrates that a student of Hurrah al-Adhani said: “I presented myself to Ahmad ibn Hanbal who said: ‘The sign of a true murid is when he abandons every associate who does not intend what he intends.’”

He also writes in Tabaqat al-Hanabilah (part one, page 186):

Mubarak narrated to us from ibn al-‘Ushari, who narrated from Ahmad ibn al-Jundi, who said that he heard ‘Alwan ibn al-Husayn Abu al-Bishr saying that he heard ‘Abdullah ibn Ahmad say: “My father was asked, ‘Why do you not stay in the company of people?’ He replied: ‘Due to the dreariness felt when separating.’”

‘Abdullah said: “There was a bench in our vestibule. When somebody would come desiring that my father sit in privacy with him, he would sit him on the bench. If he did not intend to speak privately, then he would talk holding the doorframe. One day a person came and said to me: ‘Tell Ahmad that Abu Ibrahim al-Sa’ih is here.’ My father came out and they sat on the bench. He then said to me: ‘Greet him for he is from the great Muslims,’ or ‘from the best Muslims.’ So I greeted him. My father asked him: ‘Tell me something oh Abu Ibrahim.’ The man said: ‘I left a certain place and was close to a certain monastery when some sort of illness paralysed me. I said to myself, if I were close to that monastery maybe there are monks within who would be able to treat me. All of a sudden a large wild animal appeared and began heading in my direction until it reached me. It gently carried me up upon its back until it brought me to the door of the monastery. The monks looked at my condition in relation to this beast and all of them, numbering 400, accepted Islam.’ Abu Ibrahim then asked my father to narrate to him. So he said: ‘Five or four nights before the Haj I was sleeping when I saw the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) in a dream. He said to me: “Oh Ahmad.” I awoke and sleep overcame me again and in a dream I saw that I was with the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) once more, who said: “Oh Ahmad perform the Haj.” I awoke up again. It was a habit of mine that when I would intend to travel, I would pack broken pieces of bread in my sack and so I did. In the morning I headed towards Kufa. I reached there at midday and entered the Jami‘ mosque. There I met a pleasantly scented handsome youth who I greeted with salam. Then I felt that my original purpose in travelling for the Haj was somewhat difficult, so when I had completed my prayer I asked the youth: “May Allah have mercy you, is there anyone left who is leaving for the Haj?” The youth replied: “Wait, till a brother from our brethren arrives.” Soon a man who was in a similar situation as me came and the three of us began travelling. While travelling the second man said to the youth: “May Allah have mercy upon you, is it possible for you to be kind to us?” So the youth said: “If Ahmad ibn Hanbal was with us then he would be courteous to us.” At this point I felt that this was none other than Khidhr, so I said to the youth: “Do you have any food?”He replied: “You eat from that which you know and I shall eat from that which I know.” During the journey when we would take food the youth would disappear and then return after we would finish. On the third day we arrived in Makkah.”’”[10]

He also writes in Tabaqat al-Hanabilah (part one, page 189):

‘Abdullah ibn Hadhir al-Razi is from among the old scholars of Ray.[11] He was from the god fearing ones, a person acquainted with the diseases of the souls (afat al-nufus), a man of great standing in Baghdad and from the companions of Dhunnun al-Misri.

He narrated from Imam al-Dunya Abu ‘Abdullah Ahmad ibn Hanbal al-Shaybani (may Allah have mercy upon him) those things that Abu Salih al-Mu’addin al-Nisaburi has mentioned…

Imam Hafiz Qadi Abu al-Hussayn Muhammad ibn Abu Ya‘la also writes in Tabaqat al-Hanabilah (part one, page 195):

‘Abdullah ibn Muhammad ibn al-Muhajir, Abu Muhammad, who was widely known by the name Fawzan…

Al-Burqani said: “Al-Daraqutni said to us that Fawzan was noble and revered and that Ahmad would revere him.” Abu Bakr al-Khallal has mentioned him. He said: “He was from among those companions of Abu ‘Abdullah who would be asked to sit at the front, those he would feel happy with, those with whom he would sit in private and from those he would borrow money. Abu ‘Abdullah died and he owed Fawzan 50 dinars, so he left a will saying that he should be given from the revenue accrued from the imam’s farming land. Fawzan did not take the sum and absolved Imam Ahmad of the debt.”

Abu Bakr al-Mutawwa‘i said that Fawzan said: “After Imam Ahmad was flogged, a youth carrying a bottle containing water smelling of musk visited him in prison. It was the third day and the imam had been severely flogged.” Fawzan continued: “The youth came to him and said: ‘I ask in the name of Allah that you allow me to treat you.’ Abu ‘Abdullah allowed him and the youth poured the water over him and rubbed him. The pain died down and Imam Ahmad felt at ease. When the prison guards saw this they followed the youth and said: ‘If only you would give us some of this water?’ On this the youth replied: ‘That is not possible, this water is from paradise and came down on the mountain of Adam in India and I am from the jinn that dwell at that place.’ He then disappeared from their eyes, leaving the guards terrified.”

He also writes in Tabaqat al-Hanabilah (part one, page 201):

My mother’s maternal uncle Abu al-Qasim narrates from Abu ‘Abdullah ibn Battah who narrated from Abu Hafs ibn Raja’, who said: “I heard ‘Abdullah ibn Ahmad ibn Hanbal say: ‘When Abu Zar‘ah came, he stayed by my father. My father would mention him a lot and I once heard him say: “I have not performed any of the non-obligatory salah but instead preferred the discourses of Abu Zar‘ah over my voluntary worship.”’”

… With the same chain of narration, he (i.e. Abu Bakr al-Mu’arrikh) said: “Hamdun al-Bardha‘i came to Abu Zur‘ah to write hadith. At his house he saw pots and many carpets.” Abu Zur ‘ah Bakr al-Mu’arrikh said: “These items belonged to Abu Zur‘ah’s brother and seeing them Hamdun intended to return and not write from him.[12] In the night he dreamt as if he was on the banks of a lake and saw the shadow of a person in the water who said: ‘Are you the one who abstained from narrating from Abu Zur‘ah? Do you know that Ahmad ibn Hanbal was from amongst the abdal[13] and on his death Allah replaced him with Abu Zur‘ah?”

… Abu Zar‘ah said that Yazid ibn Maysarah said: “One cannot be considered to be completely wise until he leaves all that the body desires.”

Abu Zar‘ah said: “Ibrahim al-Taymi would not eat anything for one or two months. Ibn Abu Nu‘aym would continuously abstain from food for 15 days and Ibn Zubayr would do so for seven days. Sufyan al-Thawri said: ‘I spent 13 nights with Hajjaj ibn al-Furafisah and I did not see him eat, drink or sleep.’”

Abu Zar‘ah said: “The Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) left the world in such a condition that in spite of being able to acquire it he criticised it. He was presented with the keys to the world’s treasures and the ability to spend an eternity in it and then enter paradise but He (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) refused and said: ‘I swear by He in Whose hand is my life, if I wished then the mountains of the world would march along with me having turned into gold and silver.’”

Imam Hafiz Qadi Abu al-Hussayn Muhammad ibn Abu Ya‘la also writes in Tabaqat al-Hanabilah (part one, page 208):

Abu al-‘Abbas Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn al-Salt said he heard ‘Abdul Rahman al-Mutatabbib, who was known as the physician of the sunnah, say: “I visited Ahmad ibn Hanbal when he was ill and asked him: ‘How do you feel?’ He replied: ‘I praise Allah, I am in His protection.’ I then entered on Bishr ibn al-Harith and asked him: ‘How do you feel?’ He replied: ‘I praise Allah I feel like this and that.’ So I said to him: ‘Do you not fear that these are complaints?’ He replied: ‘Al-Mu‘afa ibn ‘Imran narrated to us from Sufyan ibn Sa‘id, who narrated from Mansur, who narrated from Ibrahim, who narrated from ‘Alqamah and Aswad, who both said that they heard ‘Abdullah ibn Mas‘ud say that the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said: “When one expresses thanks to Allah before complaining then the person is not one who is complaining.”’ So I went to Ahmad ibn Hanbal and narrated to him the story. Thereafter, whenever I would ask Imam Ahmad about his health he would say: ‘I praise Allah to you, I feel like this and that.’”

He also writes in Tabaqat al-Hanabilah (part one, page 230):

‘Ali ibn Muwaffaq Abu al-Hasan al-‘Abid. He narrated from Masnur ibn ‘Ammar and Ahmad ibn Abu al-Hawari … he also narrated some things from our imam…

I read in some books that he performed the Hajj 60 times…

I (the author of Tabaqat al-Hanabilah) have quoted from the book of al-Makki who said that ‘Ali ibn Muwaffaq narrated to me: “I saw in a dream that I was entered into paradise and saw a man sat to eat, and there were two angels on his right and left handing him morsels from all the good things there and he was eating. I saw a man standing by the gate of paradise scrutinising faces. He would allow some to enter and refuse others. Then I left these men behind me and went further into heaven untill I saw a man in the enclosure of the throne who had his gaze fixed towards Allah Most High and would not turn away. I then asked Ridwan: ‘Who is this?’ He replied: ‘This is Ma‘ruf al-Karkhi;[14] he worshipped Allah Most High without fearing hell nor in eagerness for paradise but for his love for Him. So Allah has allowed him to look towards him.’ Ridwan mentioned that the other two men in the dream were Bishr ibn al-Harith and Ahmad ibn Hanbal.”

‘Ali ibn Muwaffaq said: “I came out one day to make the adhan when I found a piece of paper, which I took and placed in my sleeve. I performed the call to prayer and the iqamah and made salah. On completion, I read the paper on which it was written, ‘In the name of Allah, the Most Compassionate the Most Merciful. Oh ‘Ali ibn Muwaffaq, do you fear poverty when I am your Cherisher?’”

He also writes in Tabaqat al-Hanabilah (part one, page 255):

Al-Fath ibn Abu al-Fath Shukhruf ibn Dawud ibn Muzahim, Abu Nasr. He was one of the worshippers (‘ubbad) that would travel. He then settled in Baghdad and narrated there from Raja’a ibn Murajja al-Marrudhi the book Al-Sunan from Abu Shurahbil ‘Isa ibn Khalif ibn Abu al-Yaman al-Himsi, and from Ja‘far ibn ‘Abdul al-Wahid al-Hashmi and others. He stayed in the company of our Imam Ahmad; he would sit with him and ask him about many things. From among those things is that which Abu Bakr ibn al-Khayyat informed us, he said that Abu al-Hasin al-Susanjardi informed us that Abu Bakr ibn ‘Abdullah ibn Khalaf ibn Bukhayt informed us, that Abu Nasr Muhammad ibn ‘Isa ibn al-Walid narrated to us that Abu Bakr al-Marrudhi narrated to us. He said: “I heard Fath ibn Abu al-Fath al-‘Abid (the worshipper); and he was a person who had completed reciting the Qur’an around 40,000 times. I know that because ‘Ubayd ibn Buzaygh said that Fath ibn Abu al-Fath said to me: ‘Do you think Allah will punish a man who has completed reading the Qur’an 40,000 times?’ I also heard him say to Abu ‘Abdullah: ‘Who should we ask after you?’ Imam Ahmad replied: ‘Ask ‘Abdul Wahhab, people of his like have the good fortune of being on the truth.’”

Abu Bakr al-Najjad and Abu Muhammad al-Barbahari have narrated from him.

Al-Barbahari said: “I heard al-Fath ibn Shukhruf say: ‘I saw the Most High Cherisher in my sleep, he said to me: ‘Oh Fath, be warned I shall not take you by surprise.’ I wandered in the mountains for seven years.’” Muhammad ibn al-Musayyib said that Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal said: “Khurasan has not produced anyone the like of Fath ibn Shukhruf.”

He died on a Tuesday towards the middle of Sha‘ban in the year 273AH. Badr al-Maghazali[15] performed the funeral prayer over him.

Ishaq ibn Ibrahim ibn Han’i said: “When Fath ibn Shukhruf died in Baghdad, the funeral prayer was performed 33 times over him and at least 25,000 to 30,000 people participated.”

Imam Hafiz Qadi Abu al-Hussayn Muhammad ibn Abu Ya‘la also writes in Tabaqat al-Hanabilah (part one, page 263):

Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn al-Muthanna Abu Ja‘far. He narrated some things from our imam. Among that is that he said: “I came to Ahmad ibn Hanbal and sat at his door waiting for him to come out. When he came out I stood up and he said to me: ‘Do you know that the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said that “whoever likes that people stand for him, then let him make his abode in the hellfire”?’ So I said to him: ‘I have only stood to come to you, I did not stand for you.’ He liked that [answer].” Abu Ja‘far said: “I asked Ahmad: ‘What is your opinion of Bishr?’[16] He replied: ‘Are you asking me about the fourth of the seven abdals or ‘Amir ibn ‘Abd Qays? To me his like is only like a man who stands a spear in the ground and then sits on the spearhead. Do you think he has left space for others to sit?’”

He also writes in Tabaqat al-Hanabilah (part one, page 268):

Muhammad ibn Ibrahim Abu Hamzah al-Sufi. He spoke at the Jami‘ mosque of al-Rusafa.[17] Then he moved to the Jami‘ mosque of the city. He was a scholar of various qira’ah, sat with our imam and benefitted a lot from him. He sat with Bishr ibn al-Harith, Abu Nasr al-Tammar and Sarri al-Saqati. He travelled with Abu Turab al-Nakhshabi,[18] and Muhammad ibn ‘Ali al-Kittani, Khayr al-Nassaj and others narrated regarding him.

Ahmad, a resident of Damascus, informed us from Abu ‘Abdul Rahman al-Humayri that Muhammad ibn al-Husayn al-Sulami narrated to us that he heard Muhammad ibn al-Hasan al-Baghdadi narrate from Ibn al-A‘rabi who said that Abu Hamzah said: “Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal would ask me regarding various legal issues (masa’il) in his gatherings saying: ‘What do you say, oh Sufi?’”[19] I (Qadi Husayn ibn Abu Ya‘la) say: Through his question, he—and Allah is most knowledgeable—intended to acknowledge him if he was correct and clarify for him if he had made a mistake.

Imam Hafiz Qadi Abu al-Hussayn Muhammad ibn Abu Ya‘la also writes in Tabaqat al-Hanabilah (part one, page 318):

Muhammad ibn Mansur ibn Dawud ibn Ibrahim Abu Ja‘far al-‘Abid (the worshipper), who was known by the name al-Tusi. He heard from Isma‘il ibn ‘Ulayyah, Sufyan ibn Uyaynah, ‘Affan ibn Muslim and our Imam Ahmad among others. ‘Abdullah al-Baghawi, Yahya ibn Sa‘id and others have narrated from him. Al-Khallal has mentioned him. He said: “He has narrated from Ahmad things that others have not. He would sit, on account of his piety, in the company of Ma‘ruf and others.”

Ibn Thabit has mentioned him. He said: “It was narrated to me from ‘Abdul ‘Aziz ibn Ja‘far who said that Abu Bakr al-Khallal narrated to us that al-Marrudhi informed me. He said: ‘I asked Abu ‘Abdullah (i.e. Ahmad ibn Hanbal) regarding Muhammad ibn Mansur al-Tusi? He replied: “I only know well of him, he was a man of salah.” I asked him: Did he frequently visit ‘Affan with you? He replied: “And before that as well.” I said: I heard him (Muhammad ibn Mansur al-Tusi) say: “I was with Ma‘ruf, who said to me after completing the evening prayer: ‘I spoke to a man here with whom supper should be eaten. I went to him and when it was dawn he brought a quince to me and began to say: “Do you know where this quince is from at this time of season?”’ Abu ‘Abdullah then said: “That’s enough for you oh Abu Ja‘far.”’”

Ibn Thabit said that Abu ‘Umar al-Hasan ibn ‘Uthman al-Wa‘iz informed us of his story with Ma‘ruf, that Ahmad ibn Ja‘far al-Qati‘I narrated to us, that ‘Abbas ibn Yusuf al-Shakli narrated to us, that Sa‘id ibn ‘Uthman narrated to us. He said: “We were with Muhammad ibn Mansur al-Tusi one day and he had with him a group of the people of hadith and a group of the ascetics. That day was a Friday and I heard him say: ‘I once fasted and told myself that I would only eat what is lawful. My day passed and I didn’t find anything and so I adjoined the second day, the third day and the fourth day. When the time to break fast came on the fourth day I said I would definitely eat tonight with he whose food Allah has made pure. So I went to Ma‘ruf al-Karkhi. I said salam to him and sat until he had prayed the Maghrib and those who were with him in the mosque. Only me and another man was left. He turned to me and said: ‘Oh Tusi.’ I said: ‘Labbayk.’ He said: ‘Go to your brother and eat supper with him.’ So I said: ‘I do not have anything to eat.’ Ma‘ruf ignored me and then repeated the question again, so I replied: ‘I do not have any supper.’ He then did that a third time and so I said: ‘I do not have any supper with me.’ He remained quiet for a while and then said: ‘Come to me.’ So I struggled to my feet even though, due to severe weakness, I did not have any strength to stand. I sat on his left and he took my right hand and entered it into his left sleeve from where I took a quince that had been bitten. I ate the quince in which I found the taste of every excellent food and became free from want of water.” The narrator mentioned: “A man who was with us present asked him: ‘Was that you, oh Abu Ja‘far?’ He replied: ‘Yes, and I can tell you more. Since eating that fruit, I have not ate anything sweet except I have found in it the taste of that quince.’”

Abu al-Qasim ibn al-Busri informed us from Abu ‘Abdullah al-Faqih that Ibn Makhlad narrated to us, that ‘Abbas al-Duwri narrated to us, that Muhammad ibn Ashras al-Harbi narrated to us, that Muhammad ibn Mansur al-Tusi narrated to us. He said: I heard Ahmad ibn Hanbal say: “I saw the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) in a dream. I said: ‘Oh Prophet of Allah, is everything that Abu Hurayrah narrated from you true?’ He said: ‘Yes.’”

… Muhammad ibn ‘Imran al-Khayyat Abu Ja‘far said: “I heard Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Hanbal in his house say: ‘It has reached me regarding my brother Mansur ibn ‘Ammar that he used to say: “Oh Allah, difficulties have engulfed us and You are the One that stores them. Do not punish us for You are capable of forgiving. My Master You have shown us Your strength and You shall forever remain powerful so show us Your forgiveness and continue forgiving.”’”

… Ishaq ibn al-Hasan al-Harbi said: “I heard Muhammad ibn Mansur say: ‘We were with Ahmad ibn Hanbal when a man said to him: “Oh Abu ‘Abdullah, what do you say regarding the hadith that is narrated that ‘Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) said: ‘I am the divider of the hellfire.’ He replied: ‘What is your objection regarding that? Have we not narrated that indeed the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said to ‘Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) that “only a believer will love you and only a hypocrite shall hate you”?’ We replied: ‘Of course.’ So he asked: ‘Where are the believers?’ We said: ‘In paradise.’ He then asked: ‘And the hypocrites?’ We said: ‘In hell.’ He said: ‘So, ‘Ali is the divider of the hellfire.’”’”

Ibn Thabit narrated with his chain of narration. He said: It was said to Muhammad ibn Mansur al-Tusi: “Oh Abu Ja‘far, which day is it according to you today? People are in doubt regarding it. Is it the Day of ‘Arafah or another day?” He said: “Bear patience.” He entered the house and then came out. He said: “According to me it is the day of ‘Arafah.” People shied from asking him: “Where did you get that from?” So they counted the days and nights and at the end of the month is transpired that the day which Muhammad ibn Mansur had said was the Day of ‘Arafah. Abu Bakr ibn Salam then said to him: “How did you know it was the day of ‘Arafah?” Abu Ja‘far replied: “I entered my house and I asked my Cherisher and He showed me the people standing in the mawqaf [of ‘Arafah].”

He also writes in the Tabaqat al-Hanabilah (part one, page 320):

Muhammad ibn Mus‘ab Abu Ja‘far al-Da‘a. I read in the book of Ibn Thabit that Muhammad ibn Rizq informed us, that Abu ‘Ali ibn al-Sawwaf informed us, that ‘Abdullah ibn Ahmad ibn Habal narrated to us, he said: I heard my father mention Muhammad ibn Mus‘ab al-Da‘a. He said: “He was a pious man, he would narrate stories and supplicate standing in the mosque.” ‘Abdullah ibn Ahmad ibn Hanbal said: My father said: “He came to me, wrote hadith from me and sat in the way you are presently sitting on the platform.” He said that among that which he used to say was: “Oh my Cherisher, hide me beneath your throne.”

Abu Bakr al-Mu’arrikh (the historian) informed us by way of reading, that al-Azhari narrated to us, that ‘Ali ibn ‘Umar al-Hafi narrated to us, that Muhammad ibn Makhlad narrated to us, that Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn ‘Umar ibn al-Hakam narrated to us. He said: I heard Muhammad ibn Mus‘ab al-Zahid say: “Whoever thinks that You (Allah) shall not speak, nor be seen in the hereafter, then he disbelieves in Your existence, he has not recognised You. I testify that you are above the throne and above the seven skies unlike what Your heretical enemies say.”

With the same chain of narration, Nasr ibn Mansur al-Sa’igh said: “I heard Muhammad ibn Mus‘ab al-‘Abid, and he was someone whose supplications would be answered. I did not see anyone able to recite the Book of Allah more beautifully than he. I heard him say: ‘I heard Ibn al-Mubarak mentioning from al-Awza’i from Bilal ibn Sa‘d who said: “Do not look at how small a sin is but look at He who you are disobeying.”’”

Al-Sa’igh said: “Ma’mun ordered for Muhammad ibn Mus‘ab to be imprisoned. He was taken to prison where he raised his head towards the sky and said: ‘I swear to You that You will only let them imprison me for one night.’ He was taken out in the middle of the night and performed the morning prayer in his home. He died in Baghdad in the year 228AH.”

Imam Hafiz Qadi Abu al-Hussayn Muhammad ibn Abu Ya‘la also writes in Tabaqat al-Hanabilah (part one, page 333):

Musa ibn ‘Isa al-Jassas al-Baghdadi. Abu Bakr al-Khallal has mentioned him saying: “He was god-fearing, a renouncer and an ascetic. He heard Yahya al-Qattan, Ibn Mahdi and others like them. He would only narrate the fiqh rulings of Abu ‘Abdullah, and somethings that he heard from Abu Sulayman al-Darani in relation to asceticism and piety. He had many of the rulings of fiqh from Abu ‘Abdullah, and Hasan ibn Ahmad al-Qarraq narrated to me a good portion of them. He said: ‘The rest was lost to me and so I went to al-Harbiyyah to the home of his daughter, thinking perhaps we may acquire some principles (usul). We were eager for that but did not get hold of anything.’”

Abu Bakr al-Mutawwi‘i and Abu Bakr ibn Hamma, who was a man of great lofty rank, narrated some rulings from him.

He also writes in Tabaqat-al-Hanabilah (part one, page 336):

Muthanna ibn Jami‘ Abu al-Hasan al-Anbari. He narrated from Sa‘id ibn Sulayman al-Wasiti, Muhammad ibn al-Salih al-Duwlabi, ‘Ammar ibn Nasr al-Khurasai, Surayh ibn Yunus, and our Imam Ahmad from among others. Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn al-Haytham al-Duwri and Yusuf ibn Ya‘qub ibn Ishaq ibn al-Bahluk have narrated from him among others. I read in the book of Abu Bakr al-Khallal. He said: “Muthanna was pious and of a lofty status in the eyes of Bishr ibn al-Harith[20] and ‘Abdul Wahhab al-Warraq.” It was said that he was one whose supplications would be accepted. His way was to shun and expose the people of innovation (bid‘ah). Abu ‘Abdullah knew his worth and right. He narrated some excellent rulings from him.

… I have read in some of the books of Abu Bakr al-Khallal: I heard ‘Ali ibn Bashshar say: “I heard a person who heard Muthanna al-Anbari say: ‘Do not be over anxious about something that has been placed in you trust. For you will become an object of suspicion for the person you are answerable to and remain unhappy with what he allots you in exchange.”

Muthanna said: “I asked Abu ‘Abdullah which person was superior? A man who eats to his fill, performs many prayers and fasts, or a man who eats less and performs less non-obligatory worship but spends more time in meditation? Imam Ahmad then mentioned what had been narrated about meditation, he said: ‘The meditation for a short while is better than the standing in prayer of a whole night,’ or something to that effect. From this I assumed meditation was superior according to him.”

He also writes in Tabaqat-al-Hanabilah (part one, page 381):

Ma‘ruf ibn al-Fayruzan, Abu Mahfuz al-‘Abid (the worshipper), who is famously known as al-Karkhi, which is attributed to the area of Karkh in Baghdad. He was one of those famous for ascetism and shunning the world. The pious would flock to him and the knowers of Allah (‘arifs) would gain blessings from meeting him. He was described as one whose supplications would be accepted and many miracles have been narrated from him. He has narrated a few hadiths from Bakr ibn Hubaysh, Rabi‘ ibn Sabih and others. Khalaf ibn Hisham al-Bazzar, Zakariyya ibn Yahya al-Marrudhi and Yahya ibn Abu Talib narrated from him among others.

He narrated from our Imam Ahmad a story and it is that which al-Walid al-Sa‘id informed from Muhammad ibn Faris who is known as Ibn al-Ghuri who said that Ahmad ibn al-Munadi narrated to us. He said that Abu Bakr ‘Umar ibn Ibrahim narrated to us, who said Yahya ibn Aktham al-Qadi narrated to us: “I heard Ma‘ruf when Ahmad ibn Hanbal was mentioned to him. He said: ‘I saw Ahmad ibn Hanbal as a youth and on him could be seen the effects of piety. I heard him say a few words in which there was a lot of goodness. I heard him say: “Whoever knows that when he dies he shall be forgotten, then he has done well and not bad.”’”

Abu al-Faraj ‘Abdul Wahhab ibn ‘Abdul ‘Aziz al-Tamimi has also narrated this story from Ma‘ruf. He said: “I heard my father say that it was said to Abu Mahfuz Ma‘ruf al-Karkhi: ‘Have you seen Abu ‘Abdullah Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Hanbal?’ He replied: ‘Yes, I have seen him and heard him say two sentences that worried me. I heard him say: ‘Whoever knows that when he dies he shall be forgotten, then he has done well and not bad.’”

Abu Sa‘id ibn al-A‘rabi mentioned that Ahmad ibn Hanbal used to say: “Ma‘ruf al-Karkhi is from among the abdal and someone whose supplications are accepted.” Ma‘ruf al-Karkhi was mentioned in the gathering of Imam Ahmad. Some peope who were present said: “He is of little knowledge.” Imam Ahmad said: “Be restrained, may Allah keep you well. True knowledge is only that which Ma‘ruf has achieved.”

Al-Mu‘afa ibn Zakariyya al-Jariri mentioned: “It was narrated to me from ‘Abdullah ibn Ahmad ibn Hanbal that he said: ‘I asked my father whether Ma‘ruf had any knowledge.’ He replied: ‘My son Ma‘ruf possesses the root of knowledge which is the fear of Allah Most High.’”

Isma‘il ibn Shaddad narrates. He said that Sufyan ibn ‘Uyaynah asked us: “Where are you from?” We replied: “From Baghdad.” He said: “What has that learned man who is among you done?” We asked: “Who is that?” He said: “Abu Mahfuz Ma‘ruf.” We replied that he is well. Sufyan said: “The people of that city shall remain well as long as he remains among them.”

Our Imam Ahmad said to al-Marrudhi: “When you are informed of something regarding the heavens from Ma‘ruf, then accept it.” Ma‘ruf was the teacher of Sarri al-Saqati and Ma‘ruf remained in the company of Dawud al-Ta’i…

‘Abdul Wahhab al-Warraq said: “I have not seen anyone more fearing of Allah Most High than Ma‘ruf al-Karkhi.”

Ma‘ruf said: “A person’s speech regarding those things which do not concern him causes Allah to abandon his aid.”

Muhammad ibn Mansur[21] said: “I one day went to Ma‘ruf. I visited him again the next day and saw a wound on is face. I was afraid to ask him about it but with him was a man who was more courageous than I. He asked: ‘Oh Abu Mahfuz, we were with you on the preceding night, with us was Muhammad ibn Mansur but we did not see anything on your face?’ Ma‘ruf replied: ‘Take the knowledge which we possess and benefit from it.’ He said: ‘I ask you for the sake of Allah.’ Ma‘ruf trembled and said to him: ‘Woe onto you, what need do you have in knowing that? Yesterday night I went to the Grand Mosque [in Makkah] where I offered prayer and then the last ‘Isha. I then went to Zam Zam and drank of it when I slipped and my head struck a door. This is what you see.’”

A man said to Ma‘ruf: “Advise me.” He replied: “Have trust in Allah and greatly remember death until you have no other companion apart from it. Know that the cure to difficulties is keeping it concealed, and that people cannot benefit or harm you or give you anything or stop you.”

  Ma‘ruf said: “When Allah intends good for a slave he opens for him the door of performing good deeds and closes the door of disputes. And when Allah intends ill for a person he opens for him the door of disputes and closes the door of deeds to him.”

He also writes in Tabaqat-al-Hanabilah (part one, page 418):

Yusuf ibn al-Husayn ibn ‘Ali, Abu Ya‘qub al-Razi, who was from the Sufi shaykhs. He travelled greatly and remained in the company of Dhunnun al-Misri, Abu Turab al-Nakhshabi and Abu Sa‘id al-Kharraz. He narrated from Dhunnun and heard from our Imam Ahmad. He came to Baghdad and Abu Bakr al-Najad heard from him there.

Al-Walid al-Sa‘id informed us from Abu Muhammad al-Khallal that ‘Abdul Wahid ibn ‘Ali narrated to me, that Ahmad ibn Salman narrated to us. He said: I heard Yusuf ibn al-Husayn say that he heard Dhunnun al-Misri said: “He whose worth has been made unknown, then his veil has been removed.”

Abu Salih al-Mu’adhdhin al-Nisaburi mentioned that Ahmad ibn ‘Abdullah ibn Ishaq informed us that Abu ‘Amr al-‘Uthmani informed us, that Abu al-Hasan Muhammad ibn ‘Abdullah al-Razi narrated to us in Damascus, that Yusuf ibn al-Husayn al-Razi al-Sufi narrated to me, that Abu ‘Abdullah Ahmad ibn Hanbal narrated to us, that Hilal ibn Suwayd Abu al-Mu‘alla narrated from Anas ibn Malik (may Allah be pleased with him) who said: “The Prophet of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) was gifted three birds of which he ate one and his attendant stored the other two. The next day, the attendant presented a bird to the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) at which the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said: ‘Did I not forbid you from storing anything for the next day? Allah surely provides sustenance each day.’” Yusuf says: “I came to Ahmad ibn Hanbal at the beginning of the rule of [Caliph] al-Mutawakkil. He asked me about my country and said: ‘What do you need and why have you come to me?’ I replied: ‘So you may narrate hadith to me.’ Imam Ahmad said: ‘Has it not reached you that I have stopped narrating the traditions?’ I said: ‘Of course. However, narrate something to me with which I may remember you with and pray for forgiveness with for you.’ He narrated the above tradition to me and then said: ‘It is from your category oh Sufi.’”[22] Abu Ahmad al-‘Assal al-Asbahani narrated this from Yusuf, who narrated it from Ahmad ibn Hanbal, but he did not mention the conversation.

I read in the book of Ibn Thabit: Abu Sa‘id al-Malini narrated to us, that Abu ‘Ali Muhammad ibn al-Husayn ibn Hamzah al-Sufi informed us, that Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Ahmad  al-Qurashi narrated to us, that Yusuf ibn al-Husayn al-Razi narrated to us. He said: “I said to Ahmad ibn Hanbal: ‘Narrate to me.’ So he said: ‘What will you do with hadith, oh Sufi?’ I said: ‘It doesn’t matter, narrate to me.’ He said: ‘Marwan al-Fazari narrated to us from Hilal Abu al-‘Ala (this is what al-Malini said but he means Abu al-Ma‘la) from Anas (may Allah be pleased with him) who said: “The Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) was gifted two birds of which one was presented to him [to eat]. In the morning he said: ‘Do you have anything to eat?’ So the other bird was presented. The Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said: ‘Where is this from?’ Bilal (may Allah be pleased with him) said: ‘I stored it for you oh Prophet of Allah.’ The Prophet said: ‘Oh Bilal, do not fear poverty from the one with the throne. Surely Allah presents the daily sustenance.’”’”

With the same chain of narration, Yusuf ibn al-Husayn said: “In the days of journeying I was in the Levant (al-Sham) holding a staff on which was written:

Travel in the countries of Allah as a wayfarer,

And cry on thy soul in lamentation,

Walk with Allah’s light in His land,

The light of Allah is a sufficient lamp.”

With his chain of transmission, he said: “Yusuf ibn al-Husayn had a bag on which it was written:

Your day shall not forget you,

And your sustenance shall not miss you,

Whoever is desirous of people,

He shall become a prisoner of people,

Let yourself exert in pleasing Allah,

For surely Allah is enough for you.”

He also writes in Tabaqat-al-Hanabilah (part one, page 336):

Mukhkhah, the sister of Bishr ibn al-Harith.[23] Bishr had two sisters aside from her. One was called Mudghah and the other was Zubdah. The three were sisters known for worship and piety. The eldest was Mudghah who was older than Bishr. Zubdah was given the teknonym Umm ‘Ali. It is said that when Mudghah died Bishr greatly grieved over her and cried immensely. This was mentioned to Bishr who said: “I read in some books that when a slave falls short in serving his Cherisher then He takes away his companion. She was my companion in the world.”

Ibrahim al-Harbi said: “Bishr most certainly said this the day his sister Mukhkhah died.”

Abdullah ibn Ahmad said: “Mukhkhah, the sister of Bishr ibn al-Harith, came to my father and said to him: ‘I am a lady whose financial capital is two daniqs.[24] I purchase cotton that I spin into thread and sell for half a dirham and continue to suffice from one Friday to the next on one daniq. Ibn Tahir al-Taif came with a torch and began speaking to the people of virtue. I benefitted from the light of the torch and spun several yarns of thread. Then the light went away and I realised that Allah has a need for me. Clarify the matter for me, may Allah keep you pure.’ Imam Ahmad replied: ‘You shall spend the two daniqs in the way of Allah and remain without any capital till Allah gives you something good in exchange.’”

‘Abdullah said: “I said to my father what if you said take out that which you earned from spinning the extra yarn?” He replied: “My son, her question cannot be interpreted in any other way.” He then asked: “Who was she?” I said: “Mukhkhah, the sister of Bishr ibn al-Harith.” He said: “She came to me from there.”

‘Abdullah ibn Ahmad ibn Hanbal also narrates: “I was with my father one day at home when a person knocked on the door. He said to me: ‘Go, see who is at the door.’ I came out and there was a woman who said: ‘Take permission for me to enter upon Abu ‘Abdullah.’ I sought his permission and he said: ‘Let her enter.’ The woman entered, sat down and made salam to him and said: ‘Oh Abu ‘Abdullah, I am a woman who spins thread at night under a lamp. At times the light goes off so I spin in the moonlight. Is it compulsory on me that I clarify [to my buyers] the thread spun in the moonlight from the thread spun under the lamp?’ Imam Ahmad replied: ‘If you feel there is a difference [in the quality] then it is necessary for you to clarify this.’ The woman then asked: ‘Oh Abu ‘Abdullah is the cry of a sick person a complaint of the illness (shakwa)?’ Imam Ahmad replied: “I feel that it isn’t a complaint of the illness but a complaint to Allah Most High.’” ‘Abdullah ibn Ahmad ibn Hanbal narrates that the lady bid Imam Ahmad farewell and left. Imam Ahmad then said: “Oh my son, I have never heard a person ask such questions. Follow her and see which house she enters.” I followed her until she entered the house of Bishr ibn al-Harith and realised she was his sister. I returned and told him. He said: “It is impossible that a woman like her could be anyone but the sister of Bishr.”

Abu ‘Abdullah al-Qahtabi said: “Bishr has a sister who greatly fasted and prayed. Bishr said: ‘I learned piety from my sister. She would always exert effort not to eat anything that had been prepared by anyone else.” Zubdah, the sister of Bishr, said: “Bishr visited me one night and placed one foot inside the house and the other outside. He remained like that in thought until the morning. In the morning, I asked him: ‘What were you thinking about the entire night?’ He replied: ‘I was thinking of Bishr the Christian, Bishr the Jew, Bishr the Zoroastrian, I was thinking of my soul and my name Bishr.’ So I said: ‘What is that deed of yours that has proceeded ahead towards Him on account of which He has made you special?’ I then thought about his superiority over me and that He makes me from His close companions and clothes me in the garment of His beloveds.”

Here ends the quotations from the first part of Tabaqat al-Hanabilah that is dedicated to the students of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal, those who benefited from his knowledge or heard from him.

Now, Allah willing, we shall quote various other books that are related to the subject of our book, and Allah Who is glorified is the Giver of accordance.

Al-Hafiz al-Imam Abu Nu‘aym has mentioned in Hilyat al-Awliya (part 8, page 337):

Abu Bakr ibn Malik narrated to us, that ‘Abdullah ibn Ahmad ibn Hanbal narrated to us. He said: I heard Musa al-Tusi say, I heard ‘Ali ibn Kashram say, I heard Bishr ibn al-Harith say: “Ahmad ibn Hanbal entered his hand into a blacksmith’s bellow and took out gold that was of a deep colour and some delicately made utensils.” This was then mentioned to Imam Ahmad who said: “Praise be to Allah who has made Bishr happy with what we have made.”

Al-Imam al-Hafiz Ahmad ibn Hajar al-‘Asqallani writes in his book Tahdhib al-Tahdhib (part one, page 445):

Al-Marrudhi said: It was said to Abu ‘Abdullah: “Bishr ibn al-Harith has died.” Imam Ahmad said: “He has passed away, may Allah have mercy on him. There is no equal to him in the Ummah except ‘Amir ibn ‘Abd Qays.”

Al-Hafiz Abu al-Faraj ‘Abdur Rahman ibn al-Jawzi has mentioned in his book Manaqib Ma‘ruf al-Karkhi wa Akhbaruhu[25] (part six, in the chapter entitled The Scholars’ Praise of Him):

Among them (those who praised him) was Ahmad ibn Hanbal… ‘Abdullah ibn Ahmad ibn Hanbal said: “Ma‘ruf al-Karkhi was mentioned in my father’s gathering when a person said: ‘He is of less knowledge.’ My father said to him: ‘Withhold from saying further, may Allah keep you well. Knowledge is only that which Ma‘ruf has attained.

… I heard ‘Abdul ‘Aziz ibn Mansur say, I heard my grandfather say: “I was with Ahmad ibn Hanbal when Ma‘ruf al-Karkhi was mentioned in his gathering. Some people who were present said: ‘He is of less knowledge.’ So Ahmad said: ‘Withhold from saying further, may Allah keep you well. Knowledge is only that which Ma‘ruf has attained.’”

… ‘Abdullah ibn Ahmad ibn Hanbal said: “I asked my father whether Ma‘ruf had any sort of knowledge? He replied: ‘Oh my son he has with him the essence of knowledge which is the fear of Allah.’”

Al-Hafiz ibn al-Jawzi has also mentioned in part seven, in the chapter entitled Mention of the Blessings Gained by the ‘Ulama and the Pious Through Visiting him:

A group of the senior scholars and ascetics would flock to him and gain blessings by visiting him. Among them was Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Bishr ibn al-Harith, Yahya ibn Ma‘in and other famous people and some of the pious who were unknown…

Abu ‘Abdur Rahman ‘Abdullah ibn Ahmad ibn Hanbal said: “Yahya ibn Ma‘in came to my father one day and said to him: ‘Oh Abu ‘Abdullah, I yearn to meet Ma‘ruf al-Karkhi and listen to his words. How do you feel accompanying me and we go together?’ Imam Ahmad said: ‘I fear we may trouble him.’ Yahya said: ‘No.’ We then went to him and when Ma‘ruf al-Karkhi saw my father, he honoured him, exalted him and welcomed him. They spoke for a lengthy while. When he intended to leave, Yahya ibn Ma‘in said to him: ‘What is the meaning of the two sajdahs of sahw? Why have they been made a part of prayer?’ Ma‘ruf quickly replied: ‘As a punishment for the heart, may Allah keep you well, when it makes a mistake; why did it commit the mistake and He is in front of him?’ My father then said to him: ‘Oh Abu Zakariyya, this is from your knowledge. Is this in your books or in the books of your companions?’”

The commentator on this book writes in the footnotes to the above passage:

See Al-Kawakib al-Durriyya (part one, page 268) in which it is mentioned that al-Ghazali said: “Ahmad ibn Hanbal and Ibn Ma‘in would visit Ma‘ruf al-Karkhi and ask him things, though there was none well versed as they were in the exterior sciences. They were asked: ‘Do the likes of you visit him?’ They would answer: ‘What should we do if we are faced with an issue which is not mentioned in the Book of Allah or the Sunnah of His Prophet? Al-Mustafa (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) truly said: Ask the people of piety.’”

Al-Imam al-Hafiz Shaykh al-Islam Abu Muhammad ‘Abdur Rahman ibn Abu Hatim al-Razi has mentioned in his book Kitab al-Jarh wa al-Ta‘dil (page 304):

‘Abdur Rahman narrated to us, that Salih [ibn Ahmad ibn Hanbal] narrated to us. He said:  “I came home one day when I was told that my father was looking for me yesterday. So I asked him: ‘Were you looking for me?’ He replied: ‘A man came to me yesterday who I would have loved that you had seen him. While I was seated at the beginning of the midday a man came to the door making salam and it was as if my heart felt at rest and so I stood and opened the door. There I found a man wearing a farw[26] with a cloth over his head. There was no qamis under his farw, nor did he have with him a waterbag, a travel bag or even a staff. The sun had caused him to tan. I said: “Enter.” So he entered the vestibule and I asked him: “From where have you come?” The man replied: “From the eastern areas. I wanted to visit some of these shores. If it wasn’t for your standing I would not have entered this city but I wanted to say salam to you.” I then asked him: “Did you come like this?” He replied: “Yes, I wanted to ask you what abstinence from the world is?” I replied: “The shortening of hopes.” I began to marvel at this man and thought to myself that I did not have any gold or silver to gift him. So I entered the house and brought him four pieces of round bread and said to him: “I don’t have any gold or silver, I only have this from my sustenance.” The man said: “Oh Abu ‘Abdullah, would it please you if I accepted that?” I replied yes and so he took them and placed them by his bosom and said: “I feel that they should suffice my provisions until Raqqa. I leave you in the care of Allah.” I remained standing, watching him till he left.’ He would mention this man a lot.”

He also mentions in his book Kitab-al-Jarh wat-Ta’dil (page 306):

‘Abdur Rahman narrated to us, that my father narrated to us, that Ahmad ibn al-Huwari narrated to us, that ‘Ubayd al-Qari narrated to us. He said: “The paternal uncle of Ahmad ibn Hanbal entered upon Ahmad ibn Hanbal while he (Imam Ahmad) was resting his cheek on his palm. The uncle said: ‘Oh my nephew, what is this sorrow? What is this grief?’ Ahmad turned his head towards him and said: ‘Oh uncle, glad tidings is for he whose mention Allah keeps hidden.’”

Imam Hafiz Abu al-Qasim ‘Ali ibn ‘Asakir mentions in his book Tarikh Dimashq[27] in the biography of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal (volume 5, page 299):

… ‘Ali ibn Abu Fazara said: “My mother informed, and she was paralysed and crippled from the legs for quite some time. One day she said to me: ‘Will you not go to that man (i.e. Imam Ahmad) and ask him to supplicate to Allah for me?’ So I went to Ahmad and knocked on the door while he was in the hallway. He said: ‘Who is that?’ I said: ‘Oh Abu ‘Abdullah, it is one of your students.’ He said: ‘What is your need?’ I said: ‘My mother is ill and crippled and she asks you that you supplicate to Allah for her.’ He said: ‘Oh person, who is there who shall supplicate on our behalf?’ He repeated this many times and it was as if I felt ashamed and so I left and said salam ‘alaykum. Then an old lady came out of his house and said: ‘I saw him moving his lips saying something and I hope he is praying for you.’ I then returned to my mother and knocked on the door. My mother said: ‘Who is it?’ I replied: ‘It’s me ‘Ali.’ She stood up and opened the door. I said: ‘There is none worthy of worship save Allah. What happened?’ She said: ‘I don’t know anything except that I stood on my legs and was surprised by that and praised Allah.’ This happened in the time it took to return [from Imam Ahmad].”

Imam Hafiz Abu al-Qasim ‘Ali ibn ‘Asakir mentions in his book Tarikh Dimashq (volume 5, page 300):

… ‘Abdullah ibn Ahmad ibn Hanbal narrated to us. He said: “My father would never miss the [nafl] rak‘ahs prayed between the two night prayers (Maghrib and ‘Isha), and nor the ones after them. He would quietly recite the Qur’an during his daily portion of the night prayers, and at times loudly.”

… ‘Abdullah ibn Ahmad ibn Hanbal narrated to us. He said: “Each day and night my father would offer 300 rak’ahs of prayer. When he fell ill from the whipping that weakened him, he would perform 150 rak’ahs of prayer each day and night; he was at the time close to 80 years of age. He would recite a seventh portion of the Qur’an each day and finish on the seventh day. He would also complete reciting the Qur’an on every seventh night, and that was apart from the portion he would recite in the prayers of the day. He would pray the ‘Isha in the last hour, sleep a little and then perform salah and supplicate under the lamp.”

Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn ‘Umar said: I heard ‘Abdullah ibn Ahmad ibn Hanbal say: “He remained in al-‘Askar (Samarra) by the caliph for 16 days and did not taste anything except a small portion of sawiq.[28] Each night, he would drink water and on every third night would swallow a handful of sawiq. He returned home and only returned to his former self after six months. I saw that the inner corners of his eyes had receded towards the pupil.”

Imam Hafiz Abu al-Qasim ‘Ali ibn ‘Asakir mentions in his book Tarikh Dimashq (volume 5, page 308):

… Abu Yusuf Ya‘qub ibn Ishaq narrated to us. He said: “I heard Ahmad ibn Hanbal when he was asked regarding placing one’s trust upon Allah (tawakkul). He replied: ‘Abandoning the idea of expecting people’s friendship.’ Someone asked: ‘What’s the proof of this?’ He replied: ‘The words of Ibrahim (peace be upon him) when Jibril came to him when he was placed in the catapult and thrown into the fire. Jibril asked: ‘Do you have a need?’ Ibrahim replied: ‘As to a need from you, I do not.’ Jibril then said: ‘Ask He Whose need you do have.’ So Ibrahim replied: ‘Out of the two possibilities (of staying in the fire or being given respite) the most beloved to me is what is most beloved to Him.’”

… He also said: “Everything has a source of nobility, and the nobility of the heart lies in the pleasure of Allah Most High …”

… Ahmad ibn Yahya Tha‘lab said: “I came to Ahmad and saw a man whose soul was grieving him. He did not wish for it to grow; it was like a fire had been kindled in front of him.”

… Abu al-‘Abbas Ahmad ibn Ibrahim al-Sufi narrated to us. He said: “A man from the people of knowledge, who was good and erudite and known as Abu Ja‘far said to me the night in which we buried Abu ‘Abdullah: ‘Do you know who we buried today?’ I asked who? He replied: ‘The sixth of the five.’ I asked who? He replied: ‘Abu Bakr Al-Siddiq, ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab, ‘Uthman ibn ‘Affan, ‘Ali ibn Abu Talib, ‘Umar ibn ‘Abdul ‘Aziz and Ahmad ibn Hanbal.’” Abu al-‘Abbas said: “I liked what he said and he meant that each was unique in their [respective] times.”

Imam Hafiz Abu al-Qasim ‘Ali ibn ‘Asakir mentions in his book Tarikh Dimashq (volume 5, page 310):

‘Abdullah ibn Ahmad ibn Hanbal narrated to us. He said: “Al-Fath ibn Shukhruf al-Khurasani wrote to me a letter written in his own hand. He said: ‘Abu ‘Abdullah Ahmad ibn Hanbal was mentioned in the presence of al-Harith ibn Asad al-Muhasibi.’ Al-Fath ibn Shukhruf said: ‘I said to Harith, I heard ‘Abdur Razzaq say that I heard Sufyan ibn ‘Uyaynah say: “The scholars of this Ummah are three: Ibn ‘Abbas in his era, al-Sha‘bi in his era and al-Thawri in his era.”’ Al-Fath said: ‘I said to Harith: “Ibn Hanbal in his age.” Harith said to me: ‘Ahmad was afflicted with that difficulty that did not descend on Sufyan [al-Thawri] or on al-Awza‘i.’”

Imam Hafiz Abu al-Qasim ‘Ali ibn ‘Asakir mentions in his book Tarikh Dimashq (volume 5, page 311):

… Al-Rabi‘ said: “Al-Shafi‘ went to Egypt and I was with him. He said to me: ‘Oh Rabi‘ take this letter of mine to Abu ‘Abdullah Ahmad ibn Hanbal and bring me a response.’ Al-Rabi‘ says: ‘I entered Baghdad and the letter was with me. I met Ahmad ibn Hanbal in the morning prayer and performed Fajr with him. As he turned away from the mihrab I handed the letter to him and said: “This is the letter of your brother al-Shafi‘ from Egypt.” Ahmad then asked: “Have you looked inside.” I replied no. He then broke the seal and read the letter. His eyes then swelled with abundant tears. I asked: “What is written inside oh Abu ‘Abdullah?” He replied: “He mentions that he saw the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) in a dream who said: ‘Write to Abu ‘Abdullah Ahmad ibn Hanbal and convey salam to him from me. Tell him that he shall soon be tested and called to claim that the Qur’an is created. Do not answer them. Allah shall raise your knowledge until the Day of Judgement.”’” 

Al-Rabi‘ said: “I said: ‘A glad tiding.’ He then took off one of his two shirts that he wore underneath and handed it to me. I took it and returned to Egypt. I had the answer to the letter and gave it to al-Shafi‘ who said: ‘Oh Rabi‘ what did he give you?’ I replied: ‘The shirt that he wears underneath.’ Al-Shafi‘ said: ‘We shouldn’t pain you by taking it from you but why don’t you moisten it and give me the water so that I may join you in it.’”

Imam Hafiz Abu al-Qasim ‘Ali ibn ‘Asakir mentions in his book Tarikh Dimashq (volume 5, page 315):

Salamah ibn Shabib said: “During the rule of Mu‘tasim we were seated one day with Ahmad ibn Hanbal when a man carrying a staff came, made salam and sat down. He then asked: ‘Who among you is Ahmad ibn Hanbal?’ We remained silent and did not say anything. Ahmad then said: ‘I am he, Ahmad, what is your need?’ He said: ‘I have come to you from 400 farsakhs[29] away, from across the sea and land. I was sleeping on Friday night when a person came and asked whether I knew Ahmad ibn Hanbal. I said no and he said go to Baghdad and ask about him. When you see him, then tell him: ‘Khidhr conveys his salam and says that He who dwells in the heavens on His throne is pleased with you, and the angels are pleased with you because you have borne patience for the sake of Allah.’”

Ibn Bahr has increased the wording in his narration that Imam Ahmad then said to him: “Masha-Allah, la quwwata illa billah. Do you have any need apart from this?” The man replied: “I have only come to you for this.” He then left him and returned.

Imam Hafiz Abu al-Qasim ‘Ali ibn ‘Asakir mentions in his book Tarikh Dimashq (volume 5, page 320):

… Abu ‘Isa ‘Abdur Rahman ibn Zadhan ibn Yazid ibn Makhlad al-Bazzar narrated to us in Qati‘ah Bani Jidar (an area of Baghdad). He said: “I was in the city by the Khurasan Gate. We had prayed and were seated. Ahmad ibn Hanbal was present. I heard him say: ‘Oh Allah whoever follows his desires or his personal opinion, thinking it to be the truth, then bring him to the truth so that no one from this Ummah may go astray. Oh Allah, do not preoccupy our hearts with attaining that sustenance (rizq) whose responsibility you have undertaken on our behalf. In respect to your sustenance, do not make us slaves to anyone apart from You. Do not forbid us the good that is with you on account of our wickedness. Do not show us that which you have prevented us and do not deprive us from doing what You have ordered us. Honour us and do not debase us. Honour us with obedience and do not debase us with disobedience’”

Imam Hafiz Abu al-Qasim ‘Ali ibn ‘Asakir mentions in his book Tarikh Dimashq (volume 5, page 324):

… Ahmad ibn Hanbal would say: “Glory is to You. How heedless is this creation from what is ahead of them. The one who is fearful from among them is negligent and the one who is hopeful is weak.”

… Ahmad ibn Hanbal said: “Fear prevented me from eating food, I don’t desire it. When I remember death everything becomes easy for me.”

… Salih ibn Ahmad ibn Hanbal says: “When my father was close to death I sat by him with a cloth with which to dry his lips. He would slip in and out of consciousness. He would open his eyes and make a sign with his hand three times as if he is saying ‘Not yet, not yet.’ I asked him: ‘Oh father, what is this that you are so eager about at this time?’ He replied: ‘My son do you not know?’ I replied no. He said: ‘Iblis is standing in front of me biting his fingers saying oh Ahmad, you have escaped me. I am telling him that I haven’t until I die.’”

Salih also mentioned how Imam Ahmad died, his funeral and many pious dreams about him.

Imam Hafiz Abu al-Qasim ‘Ali ibn ‘Asakir mentions in his book Tarikh Dimashq (volume 5, page 340):

… Hubaysh ibn al-Ward narrated to me. He said: “I saw the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) in a dream. I said: ‘Oh Prophet of Allah, what happened to Ahmad ibn Hanbal?’ He said: ‘Musa (peace be upon him) shall soon come. Ask him.’ When Musa (peace be upon him came), I said: ‘Oh Prophet of Allah, what happened to Ahmad ibn Hanbal?’ He replied: ‘Ahmad ibn Hanbal was tested in both good and bad days. He was found truthful and so he was joined with the pious.’”

… Ja‘far ibn Muhammad, the companion of Bishr, narrated to us. He said: “Bishr ibn al-Harith[30] fell ill and so Aminah al-Ramaliyyah, from Ramallah, visited him. She was there by him when Ahmad ibn Hanbal entered on him to visit him. He said: ‘Who is she?’ Bishr replied: ‘She is Aminah al-Ramaliyyah. She heard of my illness and has come from Ramallah to visit me.’ He then said: ‘Ask her to prayer for us.’ She then said: ‘Oh Allah, Bishr ibn al-Harith and Ahmad ibn Hanbal seek your refuge from the fire of hell, grant them safety.’ Ahmad then said: ‘I then left and in the night a piece of paper fell upon me in which it was written: In the name of Allah, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful. We have done and we have more.’”

… Ahmad ibn Muhammad al-Kindi said: “I saw Ahmad ibn Hanbal in a dream. I asked him: ‘Oh Abu ‘Abdullah, what has Allah done with you?’ He replied: ‘Allah forgave me and said: “Oh Ahmad were you beaten on account of me?” I replied yes, my Cherisher. He said: “This is my face. Look towards it for I have granted you permission to look towards it.”’”

Imam Hafiz Abu al-Qasim ‘Ali ibn ‘Asakir mentions in his book Tarikh Dimashq (volume 10, page 190):

… Ahmad ibn Hanbal say: “I swear by Allah, surely among you is a man who (meaning Bishr ibn al-Harith) for me is no less than ‘Amir ibn Qays.”

… When Abu ‘Abdullah Ahmad ibn Hanbal was told that Bishr ibn al-Harith had passed away. He said: “He, may Allah have mercy on him, has died and there is no equal to him in this Ummah except ‘Amir ibn Qays. ‘Amir died leaving nothing behind him [and he has died and not left anything behind].” He then said: “If he had married, then his matter would have been complete.”

… ‘Abdullah ibn Ahmad ibn Hanbal narrated to us. He said: “I told my father the day that Bishr ibn al-Harith passed away that Bishr had passed away. He said: May Allah have mercy on him. In his dhikr was light or he said tranquility. He then wore his cloak, went out and I went with him. He attended his funeral.” Abu ‘Abdur Rahman ‘Abdullah ibn Ahmad ibn Hanbal said: “Bishr died in the year 227, six days before Mu‘tasim.”

… Muhammad ibn al-Muthanna said: “I asked Ahmad ibn Hanbal: ‘What do you say regarding this man?’ He said: Which man?’ I said to him: ‘Bishr.’ He said: ‘Are you asking regarding the fourth of the seven abdals? Since ‘Amir ibn ‘Abd Qays, to me he is like a man who plants a spear in the ground and then sits on the spearhead. Has he left for anyone any space to sit?’”

… ‘Amir ibn Ghinam said: “I asked Ahmad ibn Hanbal: ‘Who should I ask?’ He said: ‘Bishr ibn al-Harith and I have not seen him introduce an innovation.’”

Imam Hafiz Abu al-Qasim ‘Ali ibn ‘Asakir mentions in his book Tarikh Dimashq (volume 10, page 194):

… Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Hanbal was asked regarding an issue of piety. He answered saying: “I seek refuge with Allah. It is not permissible for me to speak regarding piety for I eat from the crop of Baghdad. If Bishr ibn al-Harith was here, then he is capable of answering you for he does not eat from the crop of Baghdad, nor the food made by the general public. He is far capable of speaking about piety.”

… Bishr used to say: “You shall not find the sweetness of worship until you place between your desires and yourself a steel barrier.”

… Al-Hasan ibn ‘Affan narrated to us: “I heard Bishr ibn al-Harith say: ‘For 40 years I have desired to eat mutton but I never have had money to buy.”

… Bishr ibn al-Harith said: “I have not left desires in abstinence but rather I did not give my carnal self all that it desires.”

Imam Hafiz Abu al-Qasim ‘Ali ibn ‘Asakir mentions in his book Tarikh Dimashq (volume 10, page 223):

… Ahmad ibn Fath said: “I saw Abu Nasr Bishr ibn al-Harith in my dream and he was sitting in a garden eating from a table in front of him. I asked him: ‘Oh Abu Nasr, what did Allah do with you?’ He replied: ‘He shed mercy on me, forgave me and permitted me paradise in its entirety and told me, “Eat from all of its fruits and drink from its rivers. Take pleasure from all that is in it in the way you used to forbid your soul what it desired in the earthly abode.” I asked him: ‘May He give you more oh Abu Nasr. Where is your brother Ahmad ibn Hanbal?’ He replied: ‘He is standing at the door of paradise interceding on behalf of the Ahl al-Sunnah, for the people who say that the Qur’an is not created.’ I then asked him: ‘What has Allah done with Ma‘ruf al-Karkhi?’ He turned his head and said: ‘Oh hoh, oh hoh. Between him and us are many viels. Ma‘ruf did not worship Allah in eagerness to enter paradise or in fear of the fire. He worshiped Allah only with a yearning desire for Him. So Allah has raised him to the level of Al-Rafiq al-A’la[31] and raised the veils between Himself and Ma‘ruf. That is the tried and tested divine antidote. Whoever has a need for Allah, then let him cometo his grave and supplicate. It shall be answered for him insha-Allah.’”

Many dreams of this type have been narrated about him. All of them bear witness to his pleasant status and many have been narrated in the biography of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal.

We suffice with this amount of citations that we have quickly amalgamated while asking the Mawla Most High and Turner of Hearts that He shows us the truth as it is and allows us to follow it, that He shows us falsehood as it is and allows us to avoid it, that He keeps us firm on the Book and the Sunnah, that He gathers all of our hearts on the truth on which is the saved group, the Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jama‘ah, that He grants us all the accordance to obey Him and obey His Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace), exoterically and esoterically, and in all facets of life, that He grants us the intercession of His Beloved (may Allah bless him and grant him peace), and that He resurrects us under his  banner through His kindness and generosity for indeed He is the Most Praiseworthy and Most Glorious.


Contents:

Chapter 1: Shaykh Muhammad bin ‘Abd al-Wahhab and Sufism

Chapter 2: Hafiz Ibn al-Qayyim and Sufism – Part One, Part Two

Chapter 3: Imam al-Dhahabi and Sufism

Chapter 4: Hafiz Ibn Kathir and Sufism

Chapter 5: Hafiz Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali and Sufism – Part One, Part Two

Chapter 6: Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah and Sufism – Part One, Part Two, Part Three

Chapter 7: Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal and Sufism

_____________________________

  1. Ibn Rajab in his book Al-Dhayl ‘ala Tabaqat al-Hanabilah (Appendix to the ‘Ranks of the Hanbilis’) writes regarding the qadi (part one, page 77): “He was a reciter of the Qur’an, a hadith scholar, a jurist and a preacher, he was the shaykh of the people of Iraq in his era … he was born in 400AH, others say it was 401AH … Ibn al-Jawzi said: ‘Al-Tamimi had mastered the sciences relating to the Qur’an, jurisprudence, hadith, literature and preaching. He was handsome and popular among both the elite and common classes…’ Ibn ‘Aqil narrates: ‘Abu Muhammad al-Tamimi was the leader of the students of Imam Ahmad in terms of nobility, leadership and modesty. He was the best of people in explaining theory, bold in writing religious edicts and was a brilliant speaker.’ … Abu ‘Ali ibn Sakrah said regarding al-Tamimi’s scholarship: ‘I have not met anyone in Baghdad like al-Tamimi. I studied a lot under him and it is because of my inability to describe his perfection and superiority that I do not mention him in length here.’ Ibn Nasir said: ‘I have not seen a shaykh aged 87 years old better than him in character, guidance and perseverance. Nor have I seen anyone better in speech, elegant in preaching and quicker in answering than he. He was, as his title describes him, a source of beauty for Islam and a source of pride for the people of Iraq in particular and for the Islamic lands in general. We have not seen anyone like him. While he was a youth of 20 he was the head of many scholars, jurists and those who stayed in the company of Imam Ahmad. What must have been his situation when he had reached close to 90?’” (Shaykh ‘Abdul Hafiz) []
  2. A disciple is one who is stripped of his personal will and hands himself over to a Sufi shaykh for his spiritual development (translator). []
  3. Meaning Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal (Shaykh ‘Abdul Hafiz). []
  4. The first part of Tabaqat al-Hanabilah is dedicated to the students of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal, those that studied with him, heard hadith from him and benefited from his knowledge (Shaykh ‘Abdul Hafiz). []
  5. Ahmad ibn Abu al-Huwari is a great Sufi imam from among the close companions of the great Sufi, Imam Abu Sulayman al-Darani (may Allah mercy them) (Shaykh ‘Abdul Hafiz). []
  6. Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal (Shaykh ‘Abdul Hafiz). []
  7. Nahawand or Nahavand is a city in the west part of modern day Iran (translator). []
  8. This is alluding to a famous hadith commonly quoted by the Sufis (translator). []
  9. The famous Sufi shaykh (Shaykh ‘Abdul Hafiz). []
  10. Note how a lengthy journey from Kufa in Iraq to Makkah in the Hijaz was covered by foot in a matter of days (translator). []
  11. Ray is the ancient name for present day Teheran, Iran (translator). []
  12. This was because it was felt that having so many worldly possessions was against the ethos of a life of abstinence (translator). []
  13. Abdal is the plural of badl. These are certain righteous people who constantly remain in the dhikr of Allah almighty. According to some of the Sufis there are 40 and according to others there are seven in the world at any given time (translator). []
  14. The great Sufi (may Allah have mercy on him) (Shaykh ‘Abdul Hafiz). []
  15. He was one of the close companions of Imam Ahmad as mentioned above (Shaykh ‘Abdul Hafiz). []
  16. Bishr ibn al-Harith (al-Hafi), the great imam, Sufi, exemplar, may Allah have mercy on him (Shaykh ‘Abdul Hafiz). []
  17. Al-Rusafa is that half of Baghdad that is situated on the eastern side of the Rivr Tigris. The west side of the river is Al-Karkh (translator). []
  18. These are four figures from the great imams and leaders of Tasawwuf (may Allah have mercy upon them) (Shaykh ‘Abdul Hafiz). []
  19. Note the love, friendship and affection underlying Imam Ahmad’s words (Shaykh ‘Abdul Hafiz). []
  20. He is the Sufi and exemplar imam (may Allah have mercy on him) (Shaykh ‘Abdul Hafiz). []
  21. He is Abu Ja‘far al-Tusi, the student of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal (may Allah have mercy on him) who was mentioned earlier a few pages earlier (Shaykh ‘Abdul Hafiz). []
  22. Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal did not know that at the end of time a group would allege that Sufism is wrong and that the Sufis are a group which has no connection to Islam otherwise he would not have treated this Sufi with this love and affection (Shaykh ‘Abdul Hafiz). []
  23. Bishr al-Hafi the great Sufi (may Allah have mercy on him) (Shaykh ‘Abdul Hafiz). []
  24. A small silver coin, made up of six dirhams (translator). []
  25. This is an excellent book consisting of information about Imam Ma‘ruf al-Karkhi published by Dar al-Kutub al-‘Arabi (Shaykh ‘Abdul Hafiz). []
  26. A kind of garment lined with the skin of animals, worn especially to save someone from the cold (translator). []
  27. In the footnotes here, Shaykh ‘Abdul Hafiz mentions that his citations are from a shortened version of Ibn ‘Asakir’s work entitled Tahdhib Tarikh Dimashq al-Kabir by Shaykh ‘Abdul Qadir Badran (published by Dar al-Masirah, Beirut). While translating this book, I have largely compared citations with the original books, but have been unable to get hold of the relevant volumes of this work and so referenced the quotes in this section to Ibn ‘Asakir’s original and lengthy Tarikh Dimashq (published by Dar al-Fikr, Beirut, 1995) (translator). []
  28. Sawiq is a meal made of parched barley made into a kind of gruel after having been moistened with water or clarified butter. It is to be supped or sipped rather eaten (translator). []
  29. The farasakh (in Arabic) is a historical unit of distance that varied according to terrain and speed of travel. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, it is equal to four miles (translator). []
  30. He is Bishr al-Hafi, the great Sufi imam, the ascetic and exemplar (may Allah mercy him) (Shaykh ‘Abdul Hafiz). []
  31. This is alluding to a hadith narrated from Sayidatuna ‘Aysha (may Allah be pleased with her) who narrates that the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) supplicated to Allah on his death bed that ‘Oh Allah forgive me, have mercy on me and join me with the al-Rafiq al-A‘la (the companionship of the loftiest companions in Paradise, meaning the Prophets) (translator). []

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