Ibn Hanbal, Ahmad

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Ibn Hanbal, Ahmad

Ahmad Ibn Hanbal (ä´məd Ĭb´ən hăn´băl), 780–855, Muslim jurist and theologian. His disciples founded the fourth of the four major Sunni schools of jurisprudence, the Hanbali. Ibn Hanbal's conception of law was principally influenced by hadith which led him to reject the officially sanctioned theology that promoted the dogma of the creation of the Qur'an. He held the view, for which he was imprisoned, that the Qur'an was uncreated and largely abstained from teaching until the revival of Sunnism in 847. While the official recognition of the importance of his work was late in coming, Ibn Hanbal enjoyed wide popular support and was known as the imam of Baghdad. Among his most important works are the Musnad, a major collection of hadith traditions, and the Kitab as-Sunna, in which he laid out his dogmatic position. He advocated a literal interpretation of the Revealed Text, rejecting allegorizing exegesis and anthropomorphism. Belief in God, according to Ibn Hanbal, should leave to God the understanding of the Divine mystery. A derivative of his axiomatic acceptance of the Qur'an as the uncreated Word of God was to stress the dominance of the Qur'an and Sunna. He even objected to the codifying of his thought, for fear of infringing on the authority of these two sources. His political views targeted the dissenting groups within Islam, the Shiites and Kharijis. His thought, as transmitted by Ibn Taymiyya, has inspired many political-religious movements including Wahhabiyya (see Wahhabi) and Salafiyya.

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