Ahmad ibn Hanbal (Makers of the Muslim World) by Christopher Melchert

By Christopher Melchert

Christopher Melchert examines the forefather of the fourth of the 4 imperative Sunni faculties of jurisprudence, the Hanbali. Upholding the view that the Qur'an used to be uncreated and the direct be aware of God, Ahmad ibn Hanbal (780-855) notion that the holy textual content may be learn actually, rejecting any chance for metaphorical or revisionist interpretation. Melchert assesses the significance of ibn Hanbal's teachings and analyses their relevance in smooth Sunni Islam.

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There is no evidence of systematic inclusion or exclusion on theological grounds. The earliest sources offer too few data on traditionists’ precise birth and death dates for early authorities to have relied on them to sort hadith. The precise relationship of Bukhari’s rijal encyclopedia, al-Tarikh al-kabir, to his chief collection of hadith, the Sahih, is unclear but al-Tarikh certainly does not provide enough dates for him to have used it to select on whom he could rely or not. Dates of death are given for only about 6 percent of its subjects and a date of birth for almost none.

The most recent, and best, printed version, edited by Shu‘ayb al-Arna’ut and others in Syria and Lebanon, takes up fifty volumes. Before modern printing, when books had to be copied by hand, it was rare to come across a complete copy of the Musnad. Most scholars had only fragments. A Syrian Hanbali scholar of the early twentieth century reported that many of his shaykhs maintained that the Musnad was altogether lost (Madkhal, 471). To some extent, estimates of its length varied because of differences among manuscripts.

Indd 50 05/06/2006 11:32:49 HADITH 51 but also offers an occasional evaluation. Most evaluations come from Bukhari himself, but Ahmad and a few other critics are also occasionally quoted, Ahmad more often than anyone else. Many quotations from Ahmad are found in al-Jarh wa-al-ta‘dil by Ibn Abi Hatim al-Razi (died 327/938); for example: Ziyad ibn Abi Muslim [also said to be Ziyad ibn Muslim] was highly trustworthy, a pious man; “Abd Allah recalled that he had said of Ya‘la ibn Hakim, ‘trustworthy”; asked of Khalid ibn Ilyas al-Qurashi, he said, “abandoned in hadith”, meaning that no one respectable related hadith of him.

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