Ahmad ibn Hanbal
Ahmed ibn Hanbal (Arabic: أحمد بن حنبل Ahmad bin Hanbal ) (780 - 855 CE, 164 - 241 AH) was an important Muslim scholar and theologian. He is considered the founder of the Hanbali school of fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence). His full name was Ahmad bin Muhammad bin Hanbal Abu `Abd Allah al-Shaybani (أحمد بن محمد بن حنبل أبو عبدالله الشيباني).
 Youth and Education
He started his career by learning jurisprudence (Fiqh) under the celebrated Hanafi judge Abu Yusuf, the renowned student and companion of Imam Abu Hanifah. He then discontinued his studies with Abu Yusuf in the pursuit of Hadith, travelling around the Islamic Caliphate, at the age of 16. It's said that as a student he highly impressed his teachers. Ibn al-Jawzi states that Imam Ahmad had 414 Hadith masters whom he narrated from. Imam al-Shafi’i was one of Ibn Hanbal's teachers with whom he had a mutual respect.
Imam Ahmad did not suffice himself with seeking knowledge, but he also adorned it with actions, by making Jihad, performing the guard duty at Islamic frontiers (Ribat) and making Hajj five times in his life, twice on foot.
 Expertise in Various Sciences
The Imam spent 40 years of his life in the pursuit of knowledge, and only thereafter did he assume the position of a mufti. By this time, Imam Ahmad mastered in six or seven Islamic disciplines, according to al-Shafi'i. He became a leading authority in Hadith, and left a colossal Hadith encyclopaedia, al-Musnad, as a living proof of his proficiency and devotion to this science. He is also remembered as a leading and the most balanced critic of Hadith his time. Imam Ahmad became a principal specialist in jurisprudence, since he had the advantage of benefiting from some of the famous early jurists and their heritage, such as Abu Hanifah, Malik, al-Shafi'i and many others. Imam Ahmad further improvised and developed upon previous schools, such that he became the founder of a new independent school, that was to be attributed to him as the Hanbali school. Some scholars, such as Qutaiba b. Sa’id, noted that if Ahmad were to witness the age of Sufyan al-Thawri, Malik, al-Awza’i and Laith b. Sa’d, he would have surpassed them all. Despite being bilingual, he became an expert in the Arabic language, poetry, and grammar.
Ibn Hanbal's fame spread far and wide. His learning, piety and unswerving faithfulness to traditions gathered a host of disciples and admirers around him. His teachings plus his books would lead his disciples to form the Hanbali school of jurisprudence.
 The Mihna
The Caliph Al-Ma'mun, subjected the scholars to severe persecution, at the behest of the Mu’tazilite theologians, most notably Bishr al-Marrisi and Ahmad b. Abi Du’ad, mainly to establish the notion that God created Quaran as a physical entity (rather than saying that Quran is God's speech in an indescribable way, as held by the orthodox view).
Almost all of the scholas in Baghdad acknowledged the creation-of-Quran doctrine, with notable exceptions of Ibn Hanbal and Muhammad ibn Nuh. This greatly pained and angered Ibn Hanbal, such that he boycotted some of the great traditionists for their acknowledgement, and often refused to narrate hadith from them. Amongst those boycotted were a close companion and a colleague of Imam Ahmad, Yahya b. Ma’in, about whom, it is said that Imam Ahmad refused to speak to him until he died.
Finally, Ahmad ibn Hanbal and Muhammad ibn Nuh were also put to the test on the order of al-Ma’mun, but they refused to acknowledge the creation of the Quran. Consequently, they were dispatched in irons to be dealt with by al-Ma’mun himself. On the way, Imam Ahmad supplicated to Allah to prevent him from meeting al-Ma’mun. His prayer was answered in the sudden death of al-Ma’mun due to which they were both sent back. Muhammad b. Nuh passed away on their return journey, and there was none to prepare his funeral, pray over, and bury him, except Imam Ahmad.
This was ended, however, by al-Mutawakkil who, unlike his predecessors, had the utmost respect and admiration for the Sunni school. Promptly after assuming the position as Caliph, he sent orders throughout the Caliphate to put an immediate end to all discussions regarding the Quran, released all the prisoners of faith, dismissed the Mu’tazili judges, and more significantly deported the chief insvetigator of the inquisition, Ahmad b. Abi Du’ad along with his family. He further ordered that the Mu’tazili judges responsible for the inquisition be cursed from by the pulpits, by name. Al-Mutakkil is said to have treated Ibn Hanbal in a special way.
 Illness, Death and Funeral
After Imam Ahmad turned 77, he was struck with severe illness and fever, and became very weak, yet never complaining about his infirmity and pain until he died. After hearing of his illness, masses flocked to his door. The ruling family also showed the desire to pay him a visit, and to this end sought his permission. However, due to his desire to remain independent of any influence from the authority, Ahmad denied them access.
He died in Baghdad on Friday Rabi' al-Awwal, 241 AH ([July 31], 855 CE). The news of his death quickly spread far and wide in the city and the people flooded the streets to attend Ahmad’s funeral. One of the rulers, upon hearing the news, sent burial shrouds along with perfumes to be used for Ahmad’s funeral. However, respecting the Ahmad’s wishes, his sons refused the offering and instead used a burial shroud prepared by his female servant. Moreover, his sons took care not to use water from their homes to wash Imam Ahmad as he had refused to utilise any of their resources, for accepting the offerings of the ruler.
After preparing his funeral, his sons prayed over him, along with around 200 members of the ruling family, while the streets were teeming with both men and women, awaiting the funeral procession. Imam Ahmad’s funeral was then brought out and the multitudes continued to pray over him outdoors, before and after his burial at his grave. According to the Tarjamatul Imam, over 800,000 men and 60,000 women attended his funeral.