IBN HANBAL ابن حنبل
The Imam Abu ‘Abdi ‘llah Ahmad ibn Hanbal, the founder of the fourth orthodox sect of the Sunnis was born at Baghdad A.H. 164, A.D. 780, where he received his education under Yazid ibn Harun and Yahya ibn Sa’id. On ash-Shafi’i coming to Baghdad (A.H. 195). Ibn Hanbal attended the lectures delivered there by that doctor, and was instructed by him in the traditions. In process of time he acquired a high reputation from his profound knowledge of both the civil and spiritual law, and particularly for the extent of his erudition with respect to the precepts of the Prophet of which it is said that he could repeat above a million. His fame began to spread just at the time when the disputes ran highest concerning the nature of the Qur’an, which some held to have existed from eternity, whilst others maintained it to be created. Unfortunately for Ibn Hanbal the Khalifah al-Mu’tasim was of the latter opinion to which this doctor refusing to subscribe, he was imprisoned and severely scourged by the Khalifah’s order.
For this hard usage, indeed, he afterwards received some satisfaction from al-Mutawakkil, the son of al-Mu’tasim, who, upon succeeding to the throne, issued a decree of general toleration, leaving every person at liberty to judge for himself upon this point. This tolerant Khalifah set the persecuted doctor at liberty, receiving him at his Court with the most honorable marks of distinction, and offering him a compensatory present of 1,000 pieces of gold, which, however, he refused to accept. After having attained the rank of Imam, he retired from the world, and led a recluse life for several years. He died in A.H. 241 (A.D. 855), aged 75. He obtained so high a reputation for sanctity, that his funeral was attended by a train of 800,000 men, and 60,000 women; and it is asserted as a kind of miracle, that on the day of his decrease no fewer than 20,000 Jews and Christians embraced the faith. For about a century after his death, the sect of Ibn Hanbal were numerous and even powerful; and uniting to their zeal a large proportion of fanaticism, became at length so turbulent and troublesome as to require the strong arm of Government to keep them in order. Like most other fanatical sects, they dwindled away in process of time, and are now to be met with only in a few parts of Arabia. Although orthodox in their other tenets, there was one point on which they differed from the rest of the Muslims; for they asserted that God had actually set Muhammad upon his throne, and constituted him his substitute in the government of the universe; an assertion which was regarded with horror, as an impious blasphemy, and which brought them into great disrepute. This, however, did not happen until many years after Ibn Hanbal’s decrease, and is in no degree attributed to him. He published only two works of note: One entitled the Musnad, which is said to contain above 30,000 traditions selected from 760,000; and another, a collection of apothegms, or proverbs, containing many admirable precepts upon the government of the passions. He had several eminent pupils particularly Ism’il al-Bukhari and Muslim Ibn Da’ud. His authority is but seldom quoted by any of the modern commentators on jurisprudence.
The modern Wahhabis are supposed to follow (to some extent) the teachings of Ahmad ibn Hanbal.
Based on Hughes, Dictionary of Islam